Tag Archives: reputation

Social Media for Tragedies

As the recent tragic events at the Boston Marathon were discovered on Twitter by a colleague, and then unfolded before me, it was a sharp reminder of the need for compassion, tact and etiquette when it comes to Social Media.  During tragic times, people are looking for information, contact from loved ones, where to get help, or how other people can help.  What people don’t want to see are insensitive Facebook posts or Tweets, either scheduled or manually posted, according to other agendas.

Like other similar events of the past, brand marketers and individuals were guilty of either conscious or unconscious acts of insensitivity.  The unconscious posts are typically either scheduled earlier in day, triggered to be spread out over time.  The conscious ones are posted by marketers attempting to take advantage of the event, sometimes complete with event hashtags, to increase visibility of their brand.  The conscious variety create Social hating for that brand, the most famous for the Boston event was Epicurious, the publisher of food and recipe content.

The Epicurious tweets were later apologized for, but after the damage was already inflicted.  Individuals will have already formed an opinion for that brand or person, and it will be a long road to rebuild that trust.  Epicurious should have learned from the past mistakes of others, take for instance the Gap’s tweets during Hurricane Sandy.

The Gap, knowing that folks were monitoring the hashtag #Sandy, took advantage of this and tried increase their business because of it.  Nasty stuff, and clearly the wrong way to engage during tragic times.

So what is the best approach to take?  That is a tough question, and one there may be no one answer.  I think you must put yourself in the position of someone directly affected by the tragedy, and gauge how they might respond if you were standing next to them and spoke your tweet.  At the very least, or if in doubt, brands should simply be silent rather than inserting foot-in-mouth.  Perhaps you could offer your condolences, but why clog Facebook or Twitter feeds posts from car dealerships who have no connection to the tragedy, simultaneously apologizing?

For the scheduled tweets or posts, that is a much simpler, but often overlooked fix.  You simply turn the, off as quickly as you can.  Or perhaps as Gary Vaynerchuk advises, don’t use them ever!

I don’t know if I would go as far as Gary advises, and never use scheduled posts, but I think you get his message.  Effective Social Media needs to feel as personal as possible, and scheduled posts rarely hit that mark.  If you are late in discovering a national or local tragedy, and scheduled posts have already gone out, simply stop the posts and issue a quick and sincere apology.  People are human, and they will understand that not everyone gets news at the same time, and something can always slip out.

So when can you resume your posting and tweets as normal?  Again, I’m not sure there is any single answer.  Once more I would advise to put yourself in the position of someone who has been affected, and get a feel for how long to wait.  Perhaps you slowly ramp back to your business-as-usual activity.  If you or your business is located near the tragedy, that may mean waiting a bit longer.

Of all the scientific and metric-driven activities we do, Social Media during and after a tragedy takes patience, tact, and compassion.  Your opportunities can wait, your audience will still be out there, have empathy, relax, and count your blessings.

Outrun the Bear

Likely you’ve heard this old joke: Two campers walking through the forest encounter a grizzly bear, who rears up and lets out a terrifying roar.  Both campers are frozen in their tracks.  The first camper whispers, “I’m sure glad I wore my running shoes today.”  “It doesn’t matter what kind of shoes you’re wearing, you’re not gonna outrun that bear,” replies the second.  “I don’t have to outrun the bear, I just have to outrun YOU!” he answers.

For many dealers in competitive markets, their approach to Online Reputation Management (ORM) should keep this old joke in mind, since knowing where your competitors rank is critically important.  That is not to say our only goals is to make sure we only have a few more reviews, and one-star more than their ranking.  The goal should be to capture as many positive reviews as possible from customers doing any and all transactions with your store.  Not only people buying vehicles, but also people in your service, parts, or body shop.  Ideally you have a system that allows you to intercept negative reviews before they ever make it online, to keep your ratings as high as possible.

To quickly review a basic approach to ORM:  Customers who have a positive experience with your dealership will most likely just smile and drive away, and never leave you a positive review online.  Why?  Think about your own behavior.  Most of us only leave reviews when we experience poor service, and want to vent to the rest of the world.  If you leave ORM up to nature, unless your staff never, ever disappoints a picky customer, you will likely have more negative reviews vs. positive reviews.  Getting a strong online reputation requires proactive work.  You must both encourage, facilitate, and follow-up to make sure your happy customers share their great experiences.

There are many great-published approaches to get this done.  My vote goes to the approach that gets you the best results, which means you must have a solid solution to measuring how you’re doing.  You set an initial benchmark where you start, determine how often you ask for a review vs. how often you get one, and then measure how your ranking evolves over time.  It would be great if there were only one review site, but of course there is Google, Yelp, FourSquare, DealerRater, and many more.  Depending on which site is most relevant on Page 1 of your local search results (which changes daily), you need to balance the number of reviews you’re getting from each site.

When potential customers find your store online, they will likely find it listed along with your top competitors.  So your goal should be to constantly monitor how you’re competitors are doing with online reviews, and make sure you are consistently beating them on each of the specific review sites.  This way, “outrunning the bear” doesn’t become the goal, as much as “outrunning your competitors”.

Online Reputation Management is not overly complicated; in fact in principle it is very simple.  However, the amount of activity you need to generate, and the high level of required monitoring can get pretty cumbersome.  You can easily hire one or two people to encourage customers to give you reviews, respond to published reviews, and to monitor how your ratings compare to your top competitors.  There are also great software solutions out there that can automate this process.  Whichever path you choose, just make sure your strategy includes closely monitoring how well your competitors are doing, to make sure potential customers continue to choose your store.

Don’t ignore your online reputation, since I can guarantee your top competitors are putting plans into action.  Get started today, and let me know if I can help with more ideas.  Got your running shoes on?