I don't understand some of these social media agencies and "gurus." There's so many of them out there that offer a range of services that I don't think they can possibly deliver on. Let's look at the one that really irks me. Brand Reputation Management
What they say: "We'll manage the fallout when something bad happens and you're getting negative press."
The Reality: HOW? How can you possibly manage something you didn't create. You're going to suppress negative press? If I have negative press chances are I deserve it and *I* need to react and respond to it. If my product is crap or lots of customers have a bad experience, a certain percentage of them are going to let the world know about it. That's just how the game works today. With Twitter, Facebook, etc the consumer has become infinitely more powerful than they've ever been before and we, as brands, are much more accountable to our consumers (this is a good thing). If we put out poor product, poor customer service, make bad decisions then we're going to get called out in a very public manner. If you pay someone to bury this negative press, two things will happen 1) it won't work; it's impossible to bury all that negative buzz no matter what underhanded tactics are used, and 2) someone is going to find out what you're trying to do, expose you and you'll suffer even more damage to your brand.
The key to winning here is three-fold:
Create good products and experiences - Duh. This is a no-brainer. If you're creating good product and experience, the chances of that product or experience failing is substantially lower, thereby minimizing the risk of a user (or several users) getting upset and taking their grievances online. Look after your customers' best interests ahead of your own and it's highly unlikely you'll ever need brand reputation management "services".
Create genuine brand evangelists - When something goes wrong or someone criticizes you on a public forum (blow, facebook, twitter, message board, etc), it's relatively easy for you to go on there and respond with "NUH UH!! That's SO not true!" But there's so much more credence and relevancy and pure power if your users, your customers, your FANS do this on your behalf because they feel genuinely compelled to do so. If 10 of your customers immediately jump to your defense, the original criticism will immediately be discredited AND you'll actually enhance your brand with that public display of loyalty from your users. And you didn't have to do anything. So focus on creating something people genuinely love - the rest will take care of itself.
Listen to what's being said and REACT when something goes wrong - If you're a young brand without legions of brand evangelists, you may need to take action yourself. If the criticism or complaint is true then hold your hand up and admit to it, apologize, explain the problem and what you intend to do to fix it. If it's not true then counter with polite, fact-based argument and do your best to reconcile with the complainer. Reconciliation isn't always possible, some people are just haters. But at least you tried and that attempt is out there for the world to see. But remember, people have to be pretty upset before they start putting time and energy into talking smack about your brand online. That means that they've probably expressed their frustrations, be it directly or indirectly, in the past i.e. they've given you a chance to remedy the situation. You can't heed these warning signs if you're not looking out for them in the first place. So be aware where the conversations about your brand are taking place, monitor the chatter, and react when necessary. Keeping in constant conversation with your customers means you almost always have an opportunity to nip any service delivery issues in the bud.
Have you ever needed brand reputation management services? Why? How did they work? Let me know in the comments below.