There’s no denying social media’s vital role in most brands’ marketing strategies. When used effectively, it can be a valuable tactic to develop a company’s voice, grow awareness for their products and interact with customers. If you’ve already laid the groundwork for a “reputation management” PR program, then social media could provide a huge boost to those efforts. But how?

Keeping Your Finger on the Pulse

As we discussed in this post, a solid public relations strategy is vital to any brand’s well-being. How else are you going to shine a light on your company’s latest achievement or put out the fire that might threaten to harm the positive sentiment that took you years to build?

Having a course of action in place to capitalize on good news or stop the bleeding during a crisis can only benefit you in the long-run. But that’s not all that goes into forging your overall brand reputation. Those bigger moments might feel like the only defining characteristics, but the daily opinions and perceptions surrounding your company help form a more complete picture of your brand reputation.

So how can you be sure that you’re actively keeping your finger on the pulse of your community and remaining aware of both the good and the bad things being said about your brand?

Two words: Social media.

Including social media in your PR strategy is crucial to keeping your tactics up-to-date. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram provide real-time insights into how people actually feel about your brand.

Because of the widespread adoption of social media, every aspect of your brand has the opportunity to be talked about by a wide audience and can easily become part of your story or reputation. Whether it’s used as a way to offer kudos for the charitable event your company orchestrated, or as a way to make some noise about a negative customer service experience, social media doesn’t discriminate. That’s why it’s vital to take advantage of the positives and quickly squash the negatives.

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Today’s social media landscape is one of endless opinions. Consumers are no longer hesitant to voice their grievances (or show their support) on their platform of choice. For example, when a family in Ohio found out that their dog, Cody, had cancer and only a few months to live, they immediately decided to treat him to a cheeseburger from Burger King for each of his remaining days. When the employees at their Burger King found out, they received approval from their manager to gift those cheeseburgers to Cody while he was still alive. The family’s decision to broadcast their generosity over Twitter lead to 976 retweets and 3,988 likes.

Similarly, brand problems can rise from a simple tweet—even for the most social savvy. In 2017, Wendy’s was riding high on a wave of social media glory, roasting naysayers and hecklers left and right, much to the delight of the general public. But what happened next shows just how quickly that positive brand sentiment can evaporate.

In response to a tweet asking if they had any memes to share, they tweeted a meme of “Pepe the Frog” dressed up as Wendy herself. While Pepe initially began life as an innocuous comic strip character, his association with the so-called “Alt Right” movement led to his being classified as an anti-Semitic hate symbol by the Anti-Defamation League.

Wendy's Pepe the Frog

How the shrewd social media managers at Wendy’s managed to misread Pepe’s current associations is puzzling, but regardless of the original post’s intention, Twitter seized on this gaffe quickly and loudly. In order to try and manage their reputation, Wendy’s immediately did some damage control:

Listen & React

The first step in trying to prevent or solve these problems is by listening to your social media channels to see what the general conversation is. Keeping an ear to the ground gives you a chance to keep an eye out for mentions of your brand, but it can also tell you what your competitors are doing right (or wrong) and can help you be one step ahead of the game.

So once you’re listening, what comes next? It’s great to monitor channels so that you know what’s going on, but the only way to build real relationships is to actually respond and join those conversations.

A successful brand knows that it’s vital to be involved with any conversation surrounding your brand. Monitoring social media means that you’re checking your mentions and DMs or keeping track of a specific hashtag or phrase related to your company. If the moment feels right to offer your insights or commentary, it’s important to strike while the iron is hot. But also make sure you read the room: jumping in to a conversation uninvited—especially if you’re taking a sales-heavy angle—could backfire magnificently.

By monitoring your company’s social media platforms, you’ll be able to quickly see and respond to any questions, compliments or complaints that may arise. Using a service like Sprout Social or Hootsuite can help keep all those mentions, comments and more in one place, meaning you don’t have to jump around from platform-to-platform.

A service like Sprout Social can help you keep track of your mentions and conversations across platforms.

As much as your social media channels can act as a way for customers to voice compliments and concerns, they also function as a modern-day customer service avenue. Brands can no longer afford to ignore attempts by customers to track down the answers to questions or service requests over social media. While we sympathize with the extra effort required to keep up with those demands, it may do your brand more harm than you’re aware of to ignore them.

Social media can provide your brand endless opportunities to grow your relationship with your audience and tell your own story. It’s time to stop shying away from the massive influence that social media holds over a brand’s reputation and start using it to your advantage.

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