Trust and Reputation Management

Do you know what your customers are saying about your brand online? You should. It doesn’t matter what your brand is or what you’re selling, chances are someone is saying something about you online. Building trust amongst your consumers, online or otherwise, is essential to have a long-lasting, successful brand.

I’ve always thought it is better to be part of the conversation rather than ignore it. But as I learned this week, it’s more important to listen to what people are saying about you. This means, not always being the conversation starter. In the PR Newswire white paper, Amplifying your social echo, learning to first listen to consumers and then speak to them is a point that can benefit any brand. Learning what people are saying about your brand or related-topics that could influence your brand, can help you engage with more consumers (hopefully leading to more conversions), help with research and things like brand development. Is there a brand that you feel would not benefit from monitoring online conversations?

Despite the rise in popularity of social media in the business world, at the healthcare organization where I work there are still people who believe healthcare and social media do not mix. I disagree. And in the last couple of years in developing our social media presence I have proven it is a fit and it does benefit our brand. In fact, this Mashable article highlights the important role social media is playing in the healthcare industry. Most significant to me is the fact that one-third of consumers are now using social media for health-related information. That number includes those broadcasting views about specific doctors, hospitals, and organizations. I’ve helped to create awareness for community events via social media, made organizational changes public via social media, and resolved many patient care issues via social media. By listening to what people are saying about us, true or false, enables us to monitor these comments and engage, if necessary. I think overall it’s helped our reputation and build trust in the communities we serve. Have you resolved a customer issue via social media that otherwise might not have been addressed?

Of course, being part of the conversation means being prepared for both the good, the bad, and the ugly. It didn’t really surprise me that only 40 percent of companies on social media feel they are prepared to deal with a social media-based threat. Many businesses create social media pages simply because “everyone is doing it” with no strategy or plan behind that decision. This can lead to an inactive page or unresponsive brand, and that is never good for building a relationship with consumers.

The bottom line is that building trust with consumers takes a lot of effort. Brands need to have a plan in place and make reputation management a priority. Those that don’t will be left in the dust. Ling Lui and Weisong Shi discuss the importance, as well as, benefits and challenges of reputation management in this article. And one key challenge they highlight is trying to take those negative experiences and using them in a positive manner. My organization has tried to do this by taking negative comments about patient care and rethinking the way some of our processes function, whether impacting one patient or thousands. We take each concern or complaint seriously. There are, of course, also people who will post malicious, untrue, or fake feedback for a variety of reasons–and no brand is exempt from this risk. But again, I feel like if you are monitoring what’s being said about you, it may be easier to assess what is true and what is false. If you’re not listening, there is no way of knowing or of controlling the conversation. What are some ways you think businesses could use social media to better measure performance? Can there ever be a direct link? Why or why not?

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9 thoughts on “Trust and Reputation Management

  1. Now that’s a tough question. A company that wouldn’t benefit from from monitoring their echo? Wow.

    I’ve actually seen a TON of articles about social media in the healthcare world. They’re easier to find than ones surrounding music! I have spotted – and solved – many customer service issues via social media, mostly Twitter, and a couple of times on Facebook. By remaining an active part of the conversation, I come across issues with broken merchandise (which I can directly address and replace) and broken links- an obvious piece of feedback. What I don’t get is when we send out a eBlast with an issue – say, an incorrect download link – and people comment on Facebook about it. Why not reply to the customer service account listed in the email? Sometimes fans confuse me.

    One of the things I feel a lot of businesses overlook is just asking. It’s not always necessary to pick through conversations, hoping to glean feedback. Most users appreciate a brand that cares. Come right out and ask what people think about your latest campaign, post, or product. Offer incentive (at random, so people aren’t as likely to falsify feedback just to win). I’ve been surprised by how many people are willing to take a few seconds and let you know what they think.

    I don’t honestly think that a direct link between media and effects can ever exist. There are just too many outside factors at play. Although the whitepaper seemed confident that it would one day exist, I remain skeptical.

    • I agree asking questions can be the best way to engage an audience. That has proven time and time again successful for my organization. In fact, I’m already thinking ahead to Heart Month in February (which I’m in charge of planning the marketing strategy for) and asking our social media audiences the kinds of topics related to heart health that they’d like to know more about. Is some new advanced procedure really going to gain us more market share or is a physician video discussing the management of heart disease and diabetes a better way to reach our community of consumers? I’m not sure, but I’m hoping to find out!

  2. Like you, I believe the healthcare world and social media world can mix just fine. There just needs to be policy as to what is off-limits. Obviously medical information of patients is a no-no, but what about patient success stories? What about the new-and-improved surgical technique offered? What about announcing new hires? The list goes on and on.

    I think healthcare providers have been conditioned to resist anything social media related by attorneys who have no idea what they are doing to the hospital or practice’s “outer face.”

    Those attorneys are worried about lawsuits from privacy breaches via Twitter or Facebook. It’s easy for them to disallow any social media because that’s the easy path when in reality, there’s a lot of good which can come from a healthcare provider’s social media page. And isn’t that the point? Doing something good for the public?

    • Dave, I’m glad we’re on the same page when it comes to social media and healthcare. The examples you mentioned are many of what we do everyday. Another great use of social media from my perspective is promoting our new physicians. While we still use print advertising to announce their arrival or new service, we are using social media more and more to promote new physicians’ skills or training. This outlet also allows our fans to ask questions about the providers. That open dialogue can help us build relationships with new patients or current ones before they ever enter the door of a physician practice.

      I do think people have been jaded by legal issues and a few horror stories. But I feel like a strong policy and guidelines helps to avoid such issues. It also help to have engaged social media managers who can guide those not as familiar with the does and don’ts of social media. I think education and training are the key to running successful business pages.

  3. I think companies could use social media to better gauge performance by asking questions. If a company is already listening and doing their best in that way, asking questions is the next logical move. Or setting up a live Q&A on Twitter so that customers can ask them questions knowing they’ll get almost immediately. This would increase the feeling of transparency and make people feel like they have more of a say.

    There could be a direct link, but it’s determining the exact cause and effect that could be difficult.

    I have dealt with some customer/fan issues via social media when it comes to in-game live streams that otherwise would have gone unresolved.

    • Casey, questions are the key to engagement, but you’re right they could also lead to performance measurement in the right situation. In healthcare it’s sometimes hard, as we tread a fine line with privacy, but like anything else it could also be beneficial.

  4. Laura,

    I can’t seem to think of a company that wouldn’t benefit from using social media. Actually I take that back- maybe plants and manufacturing companies would have a hard time benefiting from using social media. Also, I have another perfect example: the workers compensation industry! Prior to leaving my last job, I had a hard time trying to figure out ways the company could benefit from using social media. After much debate and discussion, the CEO & VP of the company decided that going to conferences and online website marketing was the best fit for the company.

    I think it is amazing you implemented social media in the healthcare sector. I think it is a good idea because I always want to know information about a doctor before I go to him/her. I think more providers should take advantage of social media.

  5. Oh and I’ve never had to interact with a customer via social media but I am looking forward to it. I want to make sure I have a plan for handling both positive and negative feeding in place before I do.

    And I think companies can measure a lot via social media. I think they should offer incentives or implement reward programs for customers who log on to social networking sites and talk about their positive experiences. What do you think?

    • Tammy, I agree plants and manufacturing companies probably wouldn’t benefit that much from social media. But they could have pages targeted toward employees that included announcements etc. Or they could promote new products. What about “behind the scenes”? People love those! I think you could make an argument for any company to have a social media page. The important thing to remember is to have a plan and a strategy. Goals in business should translate on social media as well.

      Incentives work sometimes, but depending on the type of business it can be hard. I know my organization can’t really do contests because we are not-for-profit that technically gets money from the government (it’s complicated) so our legal team has advised us not to do freebies. But we do try and promote our services in fun ways and talk conversationally with our fans to generate engagement.

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