Protect your brand’s reputation on Social Media

9 Minutes

Social media has revolutionised business communication, therefore, it is crucial to protect your brand’s reputation on social media channels.

Readers who began their working lives before the mid-2000s will remember the main ways to communicate with clients was by phone, email, and even the occasional letter. Nowadays, many organisations do not provide a telephone number for contact purposes. Client communication often happens via social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Tik Tok, Instagram, and WhatsApp. Business owners are now able to respond to client queries, feedback, and general comments instantly, and in a manner that creates friendly, sociable relationships. Social media also provides enormous platforms for marketing and advertising, with businesses collectively spending £3.6 billion per year on the latter.

However, you do not need us to tell you that alongside all the benefits it provides, social media comes with a sting in its tale. As we recently saw with BBC Newsreader Huw Edwards and former ITV presenter Philip Scholefield, careers and personal lives can be destroyed in an afternoon if the social media mob get a taste of blood. Companies can also face the wrath of social media users, and to be fair, sometimes it is for good reason. For example, Adidas created a furore in 2013 when it tweeted “Congrats, you survived the Boston Marathon” just after the event was hit by a terrorist bomb that killed three and injured 281.

To ensure your company can protect its brand reputation on social media whilst getting the most out of its social media strategy, below are our top tips for managing your accounts.

One – Take cybersecurity seriously

Social media announcements do not have to be accurate to cause reputational damage. In May 2019, shares in Metro Bank plunged 11% before it could shake off inaccurate social media rumours that it was facing financial difficulties. Hackers can cause enormous damage if they get control of your organisation’s social media accounts, especially if they fraudulently use your brand name to run scams. Consider setting up two-factor authentication across your social media accounts and third-party tools. Doing so gives you a second line of defence between your accounts and cybercriminals.

Employees’ personal social media accounts are a gold mine for hackers, who use information gleaned from staff members’ social accounts to infiltrate companies. This can seriously damage your brand’s reputation on social media. Training employees on the importance of password protection and the consequences of posting information about the company they work for is vitally important; however, this has to be balanced with ensuring you, as an employer, do not impinge unreasonably on your staffs’ private lives. You can create a social media policy that clearly states employees must not engage in any online activity which may damage your organisation’s business or reputation, or post material, which is offensive, abusive or derogatory. However, although you can declare that these rules apply to work and personal social media accounts, whether you can enforce the latter will depend on the circumstances of the case.

Two – Undertake regular risk assessment and analysis exercises

The social media landscape is constantly changing. Comments that no one would have battered an eyelid at five years ago can now be career ending. Tweets concerning gender identity can be particularly controversial. Investing in social media monitoring tools such as Hootsuite or Talkwalker will provide the data you need to create a risk management plan that includes emergency response procedures if a post does inadvertently cause offence.

Data protection and privacy laws must also be part of your risk assessment and management plan. For example, if your company has a social media landing page designed to encourage visitors to opt-in to a newsletter or free download, to ensure your business complies with the GDPR visitors must be able to accept your privacy terms prior to opting into your offer.

Three – Have detailed policies on dealing with negative comments

Does responding to negative comments about your business help protect your brand’s reputation on social media? The common consensus is yes. After all, social media is designed to be ‘social’, and these platforms give your organisation an opportunity to engage with clients from all over the globe. Deleting negative comments is also not a good idea as it can give the impression that you have something to hide, not to mention risking enraging the original poster.

It is best practice to have a dedicated social media manager either inhouse or external to manage your accounts. In addition, your social media strategy should include a set of standards for responding to incoming notifications and messages. Response times should be made clear and whoever manages your accounts should have on-brand template responses available to answer FAQs.

The difference between criticism and harassment should also be clearly defined. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other major sites all have policies regarding making complaints about abusive behaviour. You can also block accounts that harass you or your followers.

Final words

Social media is a blessing and a curse for businesses. However, with a comprehensive risk management plan, robust policies and procedures, and staff training, you can use your accounts to build a strong, engaging brand.

Also, remember that something that may initially look like a social media disaster can, with graciousness and ingenuity, be turned into a positive situation and protect your brand’s reputation on social media. In 2012, Waitrose launched a social media campaign inviting people to respond to the tweet “I shop at Waitrose because”. They received a stream of responses and media attention. Highlights included:

“I shop at Waitrose because darling, Harrods is just too much of a trek mid-week.”
“I shop at Waitrose because their colour scheme matches my Range Rover.”
“I shop at Waitrose because when you buy a full tank of helicopter fuel you get 10% off champagne. It’s a recession after all.”

Waitrose responded perfectly to the incident, stating:

“We like to hear what people think. We’ve thanked everyone for the genuine and funny tweets.”

It goes to show that sometimes there is no such thing as bad publicity.

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The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article, please contact 43Legal.