A while back I did some social media work for a 3rd-party headhunting and sourcing company. They wanted to increase their brand exposure and awareness to hiring managers and recruiters. During a typical online audit, I found that not only do recruiters and hiring managers apparently loathe the model of 3rd party headhunting, but there was some public distaste online for this specific company — all of which was more than 3 years old and lived primary in forums and discussion groups. When I did a search for the company name, I came up with a lot of negative associations on the first and second pages of the associated search results. They didn’t have any content assets in their library, they didn’t blog and they weren’t on social media.

negative mentionsB2C marketers with a large number of inbound brand mentions can use robust monitoring tools like Radian6 to manage their reputations online. But what if you’re a B2B marketer and you don’t have thousands of mentions online every day? In fact, in the atypical case of the company above, they only had a handful of mentions in a couple of years.

The fact is that social media is about conversation and relationships. Even if you only have a couple of public brand detractors out there, it’s good business to know what they’re saying and where they’re saying it.

How do B2B marketers overcome negative mentions online? Here are a few tips:

  • You can’t “overcome” obstacles you aren’t aware of. Monitor your current inbound mentions online with a free tool like Mention or Google Alerts. If you want to see archived mentions, search within the “blogs” category in Google for mentions of your brand, products, names of leaders in your organization, and competitor company names and product names.

  • Respond to new negative mentions. A recent study found 71 percent of customers who complained about a brand on Twitter were not responded to by the company. If you have ever had a bad flight on a carrier like American Airlines or Southwest and let them know about your experience through social media, I’m sure you know sometimes all it takes is knowing someone is listening to calm you down. Your negative mentions online could be caused by misinformation or a general misunderstanding about your company and its reputation. Respond to incoming negative mentions by replying to comments on blogs, tweets, Facebook updates, and other media with an email address or other contact information so you can address their concerns in a not-so-public forum. You might be able to turn a brand detractor into a promotor with a simple conversation. Make sure you use positive language and thank them for their feedback. Your response will also show onlookers that you’re willing to listen to critics of your brand.

  • Bury old negative mentions with new content. An overwhelming majority of B2B marketers use content marketing to generate leads. Starting a blog, publishing regular content like white papers, webinars and infographics, and getting involved in social media can help bury those negative comments about your business online.

  • Take a look at your company and products/services. If you’re noticing an unusually high ratio of negative comments about your company and/or your products and services, it might be time to do a customer or prospect satisfaction survey to see if your problems are bigger than content.

  • Prioritize. If you know your company is ethical and you have a quality product or service offering, then prioritize the importance of negative mentions online. If searches for your company do not regularly turn up outright negative mentions or if people are largely positive about your brand online, don’t spend too much time listening in for negativity — focus on content. Offer your audience useful, positive knowledge through regular content generation and respond genuinely to new negative messages as they come in.

Don’t let negative mentions online cloud your brand’s reputation. Take control and develop some new content to take over the search results … or, take a good, hard look at your company’s ethos and product quality and make sure you’re playing for the good guys.