Protecting your brand’s reputation with strong community management

Giulia & James

Q&A with Giulia Tan and James McAndrew

Why a digital community management strategy is crucial to brand reputation, how proactive it should be, how to deal with responses and moderating your online channels. Icon’s Giulia Tan, Senior Account Director of Content, and James McAndrew, Social Media Manager, share their insights on social media management.

How important is it for brands to take a serious approach to reputation management on social media like in other channels such as the news?

James: You should approach it like any other channel, just as seriously. When anything goes wrong, whether it's in the news or not, people will flock to social media platforms to find out more, so having answers and even posts available, or posts that address what you'd like to do to defend your reputation, is crucial.

Giulia: For a lot of people, their first exposure to what a brand is saying in terms of their reputation is through their social channels: it's one of the entry points. It is extremely vital now for brands to have a consistent tone of voice because most people's initial exposure to a business (especially a brand in crisis) is online. It is increasingly happening on social media rather than a website.

What are the key steps to designing a community management strategy?

Giulia: The most important thing is that community management should be a part of the overall communications plan to manage a brand’s reputation. I see a lot of brands approach community management as if it were separate from the rest of their communications. They see it as customer service, but it's important to start by looking at a specific brand's overall campaign objectives and goals, then moving on to understanding the different audiences that would be using social media channels. It’s important to do all this before designing a community management strategy, framework or KPIs.

That’s the biggest thing for me: community management needs to be a part of everything else and not be disconnected.

What mistakes have you seen in your experience to protect brand reputation and how would you avoid it?

James: The worst mistake, especially in terms of reputation, is when something happens and the brand takes too long to respond to the problem. The longer you wait, the more problematic it is. That’s why planning ahead and having pre-prepared content or templates is important, to ensure you can respond within at least a 24-hour time frame.

It is also critical to provide your audience with high-quality, consistent material. If a brand does not publish on a frequent basis, they will not be at the front of people's minds, which may harm their reputation.

What are your do's and don't when responding to a disgruntled community on social media?

James: Being transparent with your consumers is critical, as is ensuring that when replying to inquiries you maintain your brand's tone of voice. Whether the community is upset or not, it's critical that you follow the community management standards.

Nowadays, people expect quick replies, so I believe you should aim to answer questions from your community within 24 hours. To encourage this, automated replies to respond to people's queries are a friendly and helpful thing to have, but providing another alternative for consumers or clients to report to if the situation is very time sensitive is also a good idea.

When do you allow the community to 'self manage' vs. respond?

James: Self-management can be beneficial if you have a highly engaged audience that responds positively and favourably to the majority of your material. Sometimes, there is no need to intervene as a brand can disturb the natural flow of interaction.

If there is a really negative comment that has to be addressed, you may choose to hide it, especially if the commentator was threatening the rules of your community or the social media platform. However, hiding comments should be one of the last resorts. On Facebook for example, the post will say how many comments there are including ones that are hidden - which is an inauthentic look if most of them are not visible.

Giulia: One thing for a brand to take into consideration is how engaged the audience is and also the sentiment of the conversation that is happening. If the engagement is negative, it is less likely the brand would let the community self regulate. It would be helpful for the brand to interject with a single source of truth to help navigate the conversation. There is no one-size-fits-all approach; one of the key aspects of effective community management is assessing situations on a case-by-case basis!

What are common risks involved in managing a social media community and how should companies mitigate them?

James: Online trolls are one of the most prevalent threats. Setting up moderation filters to restrict phrases you don't want showing on your platform, which you can do automatically or manually, is one way to mitigate this. This will automatically conceal any information on your profile that contains those phrases.

Another danger is providing your customers with inaccurate information about the brand. It is critical for a brand to be open and honest about what it offers and sells.

Giulia: It's all about examining your community management standards on a regular basis, as well as the community’s sentiment, and continually optimising. It's not just about establishing a framework that will be used for a long time; it's about ongoing assessment of the community’s needs and alignment to your brand objectives.

A community management checklist for every social media strategy:

Ultimately, having a strong community management strategy will protect your brand and its reputation.

1. Have a plan and be prepared: all brands can go through a “bad reputation” moment. Make sure you have a plan in place so your brand can react quickly and appropriately.

2. Let your audience engage but don’t forget your guidelines! Know when enough is enough. Take action if necessary, moderate certain terms and control those trolls - remember, deleting a post should be a last resort.

3. Be transparent and honest: No customer likes to be lied to. Don’t promote something you can’t offer to your customers or clients. Honesty and authenticity helps to build a strong, engaged community so people know they can trust you.

If you are faced by a potential crisis online, seek counsel early on.

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