Managing Brand Reputation: Using Social Signals to Build Trust and Credibility


By   |   April 26th, 2016   |   Reading time: 6 minutes Communications & PR

News has evolved in the age of new media. For most firms, this means reputation is now incremental. As information spreads faster than ever online, a story can reach a huge audience before anyone has a chance to respond.

This is why social listening is vital, not just for brands but agencies as well. By taking an active interest in discussions on social, you can identify trends and important stories as they emerge. Taking swift action when a story breaks shows that a firm or agency is proactive and cares about its reputation among audiences and customers. For instance, when Netflix’s customers alerted it to the fact that “Daredevil” – a Netflix original series about a blind superhero – didn’t have audio description for visually impaired viewers, the company took action and added this facility within four days. While some customers were disappointed the feature wasn’t there to begin with, the fact Netflix responded quickly showed that it was listening to audiences and cared about their feedback.

Social signals can help brands and agencies sort the good from the bad, identifying the stories which necessitate a response. Here’s how to do that.

Step 1: Follow the conversation

Reputation management begins with knowing what that reputation is. There is the image projected through your own PR and marketing, and then there are the conversations driven by everyday users on social. Listening to this audience and taking stock of their thoughts and concerns helps to deepen your understanding of a firm or brand’s reputation. In turn, this will help identify stories which might affect that.

NewsWhip Spike allows you to take a good look at engagement on social. You can figure out where your audience lives and which channel brings in the most interaction. These are the channels you want to watch when a story is breaking. If the story is drawing considerable engagement on a channel frequented by your audience, it’s advisable to respond.

Try Spike for free and see how your audience drives engagement around your brand.

Step 2: Identify stories – and possible threats

By setting up panels in Spike, you can monitor different social signals in real-time. Spike’s different time view options mean you can track recent content (e.g. that published within the last hour or three hours) as well as older stories (published up to a month ago). Spike Alerts will notify you when stories are performing highly or gathering social engagement at a rapid pace. The “Influencers” and “Authors” tabs indicate which voices are driving engagement in your particular sector. This allows for a granular understanding of talking points, influential channels and key figures around your business. In other words, if a potentially prejudicial story appears on any of these radars, you’ll want to take note.

Say a negative story appears in one of your panels in Spike’s 1-hour view. It’s just been published, but how are social users responding? The default metric in Spike’s “sort by” box is highest velocity. This will give you an instant idea as to how much engagement that particular story is generating.

Image of content sorted by highest velocity in NewsWhip Spike

You can benchmark this against other stories to get a feel for how it’s performing against similar content. If the velocity score is high, you may wish to prepare a response. Alternatively, you can do a URL search to measure social engagement around that specific article only.

Image of a URL search in NewsWhip Spike

The advantage of responding to a story while it’s still developing is that it shows awareness and, what’s more, trust in audiences. You’re being open and upfront about the issue. By acknowledging it, you have an opportunity to clarify and shape the narrative as it unfolds. If you choose to reach out to an influencer or author, you can open up a dialogue and strengthen relationships.

Step 3: Know when not to respond

Not every story immediately requires a response. A potentially negative piece of content may appear on your radar soon after publication, but days could pass before it prompts any discussion on social. If the total velocity score on a story is low, keep monitoring it. Adding a story to your watch list is one way of doing so. Clicking on the “Watch List” box underneath a story adds it to a dedicated tab, where you can keep track of noteworthy stories.

Image of watch list tab in NewsWhip Spike

See how it develops over the ensuing hours or days. If it looks like a conversation is building in your social spaces, plan a response. Taking time to plan your communication strategy means you’ll be well-prepared if and when the story does merit a response.

Chipotle, for instance, responded to reports of people falling ill after eating in its restaurants within a few weeks of the pattern first being identified. Despite the seriousness of the situation, the company’s response was praised by PR experts, who lauded its “proactive, people-before-profits mentality”, describing it as “right on brand”.

To give another example, in early 2015, a firm in the financial services sector received word of a potentially prejudicial story. It reached out to its agency, a NewsWhip client which immediately checked the story in Spike. Spike indicated that the story’s social velocity score was very low, so the agency advised the firm not to comment as this might only draw further attention to it. This is a deft illustration of Spike’s value to agencies and communicators.

Step 4: Don’t miss out on positive opportunities

One advantage of being plugged into the social sphere? Being able to swiftly capitalise on opportunities. There’s a tendency to focus only on the bad when thinking about reputation management, but it’s important to take advantage of positive stories and developments too.

Here’s an example. The restaurant chain Red Lobster got an expected wave of publicity when it was mentioned in Beyoncé’s song “Formation”. The song was released the day before the Superbowl, a time already ripe with engagement prospects. The, er, colourful context of the mention meant social users were clamouring for Red Lobster’s response almost instantaneously. Here’s how the company’s mentions on social surged after the song was released:

NewsWhip Analytics screenshot

And to give you an idea of exactly how much engagement Beyoncé herself drives on social: early in the week of February 1st, mentions of the singer drove about 572,000 total interactions on Facebook. In the space of two days following the release of “Formation” and her performance at the Superbowl, that number soared to a total of 8,227,672 interactions.

However, Red Lobster didn’t capitalise on this as well as it could have. Look at that graph again. See the way mentions tapered off shortly after the Superbowl itself? Here’s another graph, looking at the number of articles mentioning the company in the same time period.

NewsWhip Analytics screenshot

Interest declines quickly in the immediate aftermath of the event. This is why it’s important to be quick when looking to harness a mention.

Red Lobster posted a response about eight hours after the song appeared. This is a long time in the social media world. While their tweet did get a large amount of engagement (over 30,300 mentions at time of writing), it was far from the juggernaut it could have been.

Closely monitor your mentions, and when you see an opportunity for wider engagement be swift. To be fair, not all of us can expect a direct name drop by a global megastar in a hotly-anticipated song. But by keeping an ear to social and taking note of major mentions, you’ll be equipped to respond quickly and boost your brand or client’s reputation. This can make all the difference among your audience on social.

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