One of the major concerns of companies that have presence is the Internet resides, in addition to obtaining maximum visibility, to offer an online image as clean and positive as possible. The problem is that the network is not all smiley emoticons or live in a paradise of peace and love, but daily we must face negative criticism from customers and the dreaded trolls. How to do it intelligently is the crux of the matter and the leitmotif of this article, because online reputation is not a subject that we can leave for September.

Carving a good digital image is an arduous and laborious task, destroying it in one stroke only depends on a bad decision that acts as a trigger for a “domino effect”. Learn the rules of the game well if you do not want to leave “touched and (what is worse) sunk”.

Why is the philosopher’s stone not in my power if I am the alchemist?

The brilliant evolution of the Universe 2.0 is causing customer service to have gone beyond all frontiers to extrapolate to a virtual reality, where the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) of the search engines store and retrieve the different online mentions of our brand having a direct impact on your digital image

An unfortunate management of an online reputation crisis can haunt us for years even if it is a one-time mistake. And is that the professionals of a brand must “have the greatness to admit their mistakes, enough intelligence to take advantage of them and be disciplined to correct them,” paraphrasing the leadership expert John C. Maxwell. Thus, any entity must know how to fit the criticism with sportsmanship to face them with maximum diplomacy and without getting carried away by the heat of the moment.

Coinciding with Cristina Aced, I dare to confirm that the main challenge facing corporate communication on the Internet is the loss of control over the message. The information provided about us no longer depends directly on our team, but on the users, clients or not, who quote us in their public interventions and which Google then indexes.

SOS, they are squandering my brand, what do I do?

The first thing is to stay calm and NEVER take the comment as something personal, but to situate ourselves in the distance and from humility, in the most impartial way possible, try to empathize with the user. We have all felt at some point disappointed or mistreated by any brand or company.

The best thing is to set a strategy and react quickly with an immediate response , preferably in the same channel, so that our company sees the least possible damage. The great advantage of responding on the same site is that the user who lands on it through the search results will know your version and defense before judging you.

In addition, we will always avoid responding with arrogance, arrogance, direct attacks, etc. If we have made a mistake, the first thing is to recognize it and ask for forgiveness (if King Juan Carlos has done it, why not us?), But not too much, because we will be giving it more importance than it should have.

1. Strategic Crisis Management Plan

As in any customer service or after-sales service, the first thing we should do to properly manage our reputation is to have an action protocol. In this we will indicate the basic guidelines for certain emergency situations (for sure you will hear the expression “put out fires”). In this practical guide we must stipulate aspects such as when a comment should be deleted, what communication channels we will use in each case, when to call a crisis cabinet, etc. The RTVE style manual for Social Media professionals is a good model to get an idea. With time we will adapt the norms, expanding or correcting it according to our experiences.

2. Monitor comments to prevent crisis

There are tools to detect the comments made about our brand such as Google Alerts, Online Semantics, BackType, BlogPulse, Google Blog Search, Technorati, Monitter, TweetBeep, Socialoomph or Twitter Search, among others.

3. Identify the user or «Who said what and why»

When we come across a negative comment, the first thing is to investigate it and gather as much information as possible to determine who its author is and what he is looking for.

If it is a dissatisfied client or with a real problem, we must act exactly as we would in a direct contact: offering solutions and a very careful treatment (we must pamper them!). Most users are willing to give us a second chance if they do not feel ignored and treated with consideration. Only by doing our own problem can we recover our confidence.

Be decisive and redirect it to our customer service channel to give a personalized and private treatment will be the best option. However, if the complaint has been made by a public channel, you should always receive a public response, through the same platform, that demonstrates that the issue is settled and that a solution has been given. The shadow of doubt is also harmful to your brand.

A very different case is if we come face to face with a troll (yes, yes, that majete that by H, B or Z has proposed to make our lives impossible and destroy that mark that we engender with so much love and see every day).

These users do not make spontaneous comments, the result of disagreement, disappointment or bad experience with a service or product, but malicious. After them the competition is usually hidden, a former employee “burned”, the member of a campaign of negative reputation against us or similar. Its objective is to undermine our public image at any price.

These are the most complicated cases to treat and, once detected, it is best to ignore them after weighing the consequences, either unmasking them or even denouncing them.

4. Tell me how you criticize me and I’ll tell you what kind of troll you are

Learn to detect them to act in the most effective way in each case.

  • The Intellectual , which can carry out constructive criticism, with education and, perhaps, even reason. This is the most positive case because, if we manage to win them, all their negative force can change, becoming our great evangelizers. In this case we will always attend to them, treating them with special delicacy to avoid them becoming invasive, providing solutions or explanations through the same channel and, if necessary, dialoguing with them in private.
  • The Invasive , which harasses and pursues through all channels, even with several pseudonyms and with the sole purpose of discrediting your brand. In this case it is best to ignore it by making an effective management of our silence, because he only portrays himself, since he is usually impolite and loses credit with his interventions. However, we will not rule out other types of actions depending on the platform.
  • The Specialist , who is convinced that he knows our brand better than we do and, often, only tries to expose the presumed ineptitude of its managers and employees, or that of the Community Manager himself. Sometimes we are facing a technical or intellectual professional of our professional branch who, perhaps, knows better than us some aspects of the product or service in question. Therefore, we will listen to you assuming a sincere, direct and humble position. Even indicating (always in the same channel) that we will transfer your problem to the “technicians”, to the “department X”, etc., “and we will give a studied answer to the case”. We will wait for the time to pass and, if it does not proceed, we may never respond.

5. Different scenarios, different scripts

Negative comments should also be classified according to the place and context in which they are issued. Depending on the platform used we will have more or less power over them and their degree of impact will vary. The first will be to assess the scope, audience and consequences, as well as the tools available to address it.

  • If the comment is made in “our” pages (corporate, social networks, blog, etc.):It will always be the best option and the easiest to manage because we can moderate and even censor (depending on the content and tone, but not for defect) comments. It will be easier to detect them than on other platforms.

    In addition, comments are excellent feedback through which to gather information about our target audience and recognize possible failures of our products, services or strategies. These criticisms can be tremendously positive and help us improve. Users tend to detect our mistakes more easily, so the answer to these comments will be to give them a personalized solution, thanks and make an amendment proposal based on their suggestions.

    Our social media management team will evaluate whether, when they are moderated, they are published or not, it will depend on the benefits / damages they may cause. However, if they are published we should not eliminate them because the censorship could trigger a Streisand Effect and the user can spread the negative comments through other channels (“we will have a brown relationship”, gentlemen, beware of potential trolls!).
    If we deal with a Twitter user, we can ask you to become a follower to send a message in private (DM) requesting more information about the problem in order to help you.
    If you are a Facebook user , with the new Timeline we can send private messages from our Fanpage or offer you different email addresses to redirect the conversation and deepen your problem.

    A critique can be a fantastic opportunity to communicate with our potential or real customers and build loyalty.

  • If the comment is made on other pages (blogs or forums of third parties)are the most dangerous cases and over which we have no direct control. Precisely here lies the challenge. The most advisable thing is to analyze its scope and relevance.

    If it is worth it and it is not an offensive or foul attack, we will ask the administrator to be users and we will respond in the same channel as transparently as possible, firm and with solid arguments that dismantle the criticisms.

    In case we come across an invasive troll, we will alert the administrator of the blog or forum of what happened, explaining in detail the situation and requesting that it moderate or censure the injurious interventions. The administrator can demand a rectification, expel or block a user of that type, in fact, it is a common practice.

  • What happens if the moderator himself attacks us?We will maintain this same strategy by directing ourselves to him to demand a rectification or withdrawal of the slanderous information. If he refuses to negotiate, we will evaluate the damage caused to study a complaint for insults and slander. But we already know that by judicial means, “palace things go slowly”; so, in parallel, we will create an online reputation campaign through content marketing. That is, generating information of interest that has SEO as an ally to position itself in the search results.

In short, the Internet is an open platform where brands are socialized by opening direct communication channels with their customers, and, as such, they must learn to manage them intelligently. Responding in public, but talking privately is the key.

In a digital society, online reputation is increasingly important, is our letter of introduction, capable of rising or sink, because even the Titanic was unsinkable at the end of an iceberg.