Strong brands are built by fostering relationships built on trust with your target audience. This process takes a great deal of time and effort on the part of the brand custodian or company. If something happens to break this trust, the fall out and subsequent impact on your customer’s perceptions of your brand can happen at an alarming rate and potentially be devastating.
The potential positive impact of social networking on increasing brand awareness and building brand equity is indisputable. Research shows 94% of corporates use social media and 85% say that it’s given their business more exposure (source MBA programmes). Brands strive for increased interaction with their target audience as they build relationships with their customers and customers look to online channels to extend their brand experience. While online touch points offer huge benefits to brand development they do so while adding considerable complexity to brand risk management.
Managing Brand Risk Online
The essence of successful brand risk management lies in taking a proactive approach to preempting potential threats or compromise to the brand and putting in place contingency plans to mitigate any problems that may arise. Online brand activities are far more challenging to control because so much of the communication taking place about the brand is done by external stakeholders; consumers, commenter’s, competitors etc.
While companies cannot control what others say about their brand online, steps can be taken to monitor, manage, reduce potential risks and positively influence the online activities that shape the brand’s reputation.
1. Internal Management Platform
The integration of an effective internal management platform is important to ensure that those managing company online brand accounts do so in a structured, focused and controlled manner, one that fits into the overall brand strategy.
Cadbury’s Crème Egg Facebook page is accessed by an audience of 2.3m which is as much made up of a younger audience as it is by adults. The brand has a responsibility to ensure its younger audience is protected. Those who manage Cadbury’s social media accounts encourage user-generated content and monitor activity in a way that posts and Tweets are always kept appropriate, engaging, and brand relevant
2. Streamline Multiple Profiles
The greater the number of online profiles a brand has e.g YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Linkedin and Google+ etc. the greater the level of potential risk to brands. When conversations are spread out across multiple social channels, it is easy for companies to quickly loose track of what is being said about their brand. It’s also often difficult to keep track of which profiles have been updated and if videos and content have uploaded correctly. Brands should be selective in their use of social media applications and focus on the platforms which best suit the needs of their target audience and fit within the brand’s communication strategy.
3. Social Media Monitoring Platform
Social media’s most damaging potential impact is on reputation. The wider the brand’s social media reach, the higher the need to balance the benefits and risks of social media engagement in order to effectively protect the social media perception and reputation of the brand. Software and online programmes, can be employed which not only enable users to effectively monitor and manage the conversations and engagement taking place around their brand but also allows them to co-ordinate social media strategy and activity across multiple platforms. Lack of structure and monitoring of conversations in this way leaves companies particularly open to the greatest of risks.
4. Be Proactive: Respond Quickly & Effectively When Issues Arise
The potential to rapidly spread negative word of mouth online can be hugely threatening to a brand if issues arise. The lightning speed at which things happen in the social space is something that all companies need to be fully aware of when putting their social media strategies in place. The team or individual responsible, in a company, for interacting on the brand’s social media profiles needs to be capable of quickly monitoring and effectively dealing with any issues that arise.
5. Employee Training
While you may be risk averse in your general business strategy does the same apply to how you and your employees engage in social media? Social media activity needs to be considered when outlining acceptable behaviour expected of employees. If they are perceived as representatives of your brand or somehow connected to your brand then how they interact online can be viewed as a reflection of your brand. Educating your employees on the potential repercussions of their online behaviour on the brand, empowering them to be positive brand ambassadors online and training them in how to be vigilant about social media both personally and for your business can reduce risks to your brand.
[Tweet issued by Chrysler after the following tweet sent by an employee: “I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to f***ing drive,” read the tweet of a Chrysler employee though the F-word was uncensored]
Online Risk Assessment
As with offline brand risk assessment, the various risks associated with social media use need to be identified and quantified before contingency plans can be put in place. Your brand risk assessment strategy needs to take into account the likelihood and potential damage resulting from negative online occurrences such as employee defamation, negative consumer feedback, as well as any other risks to which social media use exposes a brand. Risk assessment also involves identifying the controls that are already in place, together with those which should be introduced to reduce any other jeopardizing elements.
It is critical that brands expand current risk management policies to include social media. Once risks have been identified, it should be apparent whether, and where, the brands risk management strategy needs to be expanded in order to better address the risks associated with communicating online.
• Does your brand have a strategy specific to its online activity?
• Do you have a contingency plan in place to deal with the potential repercussions of negative online brand communications?
• Have you assessed the current risks affecting your brand’s social media activity?
• Are your employees training in business-specific social media management?