IMPACT OF SOCIAL MEDIA IN MANAGING BRAND REPUTATION IN CRISIS

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CHAPTER ONE
INTRODUCTION
1.1   BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Social media crises are a reality and a risk that we all face today. We’re all vulnerable to online attacks that threaten having a lasting and damaging impact on our brand’s reputation, both online and offline, and bottom-line. Managing your online risk requires more than just social monitoring of your brand. It requires a plan against them. A social media crisis is an online situation that has the risks of having, a negative and long-term impact on your business or organization’s reputation and/or bottom-line. Social media crises usually involve strong, negative emotions that are relatable and can
easily:
·        Outweigh common sense
·        Get clients, fans, staff, stakeholders and others riled up
·        Provoke viral behavior Social media crises risk going viral very quickly, in a very short period of time, they risk being highly unpredictable and, often, unforeseeable.
When not responded to promptly and in a proper manner, social media crises risk having a damaging and lasting negative impact on your brand’s reputation and bottom-line. A social media issue is a lesser situation than a social media crisis – though one that still needs to be addressed and resolved in a prompt and proper fashion.
Social media issues are negative and potentially viral situations taking place online about your brand, but they do not threaten any severe long-term negative impacts on your brand’s reputation or bottom-line. Some examples of social media issues include, but are not limited to:
Ø Negative comments or discussions being posted about your brand online
Ø Unacceptable comments being posted to your channels
Ø Negative customer service issues
Ø Negative pressIf not responded to in a prompt and proper manner, social media issues risk escalating into more severe social media crises.
However, when responded to quickly and properly, social media issues define a unique and positive PR opportunity for your brand. The best way to prepare your brand for both a social media crisis and a social media issue is to:
-   Assess and understand the risk that social media and the online world present to your business or organization. This is typically done with a vulnerability audit or risk assessment.
-   Take the necessary steps to prevent the preventable risk.
-   Develop a social media crisis management plan to protect and prepare
your company against the unpreventable risk.
-   Train your entire team to be able to efficiently detect, respond and resolve
a social media crisis and a social media issue.
-   No company or organization is immune to a social media crisis – or issue for that matter.
-   A social media crisis can come from anywhere, when you least expect it. It could be the launch of a new campaign, a technical malfunction that leaves clients upset, an angry employee who posts an unwanted video online, or a thousand other scenarios.
-   The best that any brand can do is to be able and prepared to detect the warning signs of a social media crisis as soon as they begin to show themselves.
-   To communicate effectively and in real-time with your market and your staff through the crisis.
-   To resolve the situation in the least amount of time and with the least amount of repercussions to your brand for the long-term.
In life, and in business, reputation is everything. That said, reputation is very fragile and it only takes one mistake to cause irreparable damage to your company’s image. This is especially true in the digital world where radical transparency and high customer expectations reign supreme. Ignoring strong public digital voices isn’t an option any more. Companies have to learn to not only communicate effectively in the social media age, but to truly listen to the social chatter and respond in the way that align with both brand and customer expectations. In the online era, it becomes critical for the business of any size to have a social media crisis management plan – or even better, a crisis prevention plan – in place for those times when things go wrong. And it is truly the matter of “when” vs. “if.” some of the ways to avoid social media disasters, prevent them from escalating, or handle things if everything goes sideways include:    
Listen and Be Present
In the past, companies like The Gap have been accused of not responding to customers’ concerns about faulty merchandise or refund issues – simply because they were not set up to handle customer service problems through their social media channels. Unfortunately, in the digital age, not listening to the social chatter or having presence on social communities can reflect badly on your brand. Even responding with a simple link to the correct website page is helpful – and shows your customers you take them seriously. And listen! Sometimes social listening tools will pick up the chatter about a topic that you may not expect and will give you time to address it before it blows up within the social stratosphere. Most of the brand disasters could have been prevented just by picking up the early chatter and being prepared to address it before it escalates.
Set the Right Expectations If you are a small business or have limited bandwidth to respond to customer inquiries in real-time, then set the right expectations upfront on the timing within which people should expect your response. 24, 48, 72 hours… Be specific and make that expectation visible to ensure it is seen. But always stick to it. Be Transparent Certain companies have been guilty of removing posts they didn’t agree with, ignoring those posts, or else claiming that they had been hacked, when they clearly hadn’t. Trying to cover up or remove justified but negative comments can make you look as if you are ignoring a problem or, worse off, don’t care about the customers. It is critical to be honest and upfront about any issues you or your company may be facing. If you made a mistake, admit it, apologize, and do everything in your power to correct it. We are all human and humans make mistakes. Your customers don’t expect you and your teams to be perfect, just transparent and honest. They expect you treat them like family, a part of your tribe, and that means not betraying their trust with back-peddling and cover ups. Warren Buffet once said: “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
Respond Thoughtfully
It’s worth putting some effort into writing a thoughtful reply aimed at addressing your customers’ concerns. Showing that you care about their experience and are willing to address problems (or even go above and beyond) is a great way of actually winning around critics and turning them into fans. According to The Retail Consumer Report, commissioned by Right Now and conducted online by Harris Interactive in January 2011, of those customers who received a reply in response to their negative review 33% turned around and posted a positive review, and 34% deleted their original negative review. 85% of consumers said they would be willing to pay anywhere between 5-25% over the standard price to ensure a superior customer experience. Caring really pays off. It builds trust and allows you to further nurture relationships with your current customers. Word-of-mouth recommendations from your current satisfied customers are much more influential than your own brand messages, and they will bring new customers in.
Do Not Lose Your Cool – Ever
There may be times when you disagree with your customers. But being rude or attacking them in social forums is absolutely unacceptable. Provide the best information you can and do your best to satisfy every inquiry. If nothing helps and a customer insists on being rude and un-cooperative, just ignore him/her and move on; in those rare times, no matter what you do, nothing will probably be good enough. And don’t take everything personally. The customer isn’t angry with you, (s)he frustrated with the product or a brand as a whole. Don’t take these interactions personally. Just do your best to help them out and move on. Have a Crisis Management Team In Place Going back to my point #1…When you pick up a digital chatter around a specific issue, you have a great opportunity to address it before it blows up in your face. But be sure you have the way to quickly escalate and resolve the issue. This process should be a part of your overall crisis management plan. I suggest forming a team consisting of team members from PR, HR, legal, marketing, and other relevant teams that can come together to quickly craft and post a response that would quite down the chatter and will help solve the issue at hand.
Manage Access To Your Social Media Accounts Carefully
There have been instances of employees posting personal updates to brand accounts not realizing that they haven’t switched to the right account. Making sure you are limiting access to only knowledgeable community managers who have appropriate training with avoid mistakes such as these. And then there is a process for managing access when employees switch jobs or leave the company altogether. When music retail chain HMV laid off a large number of its employees in January 2013, bosses didn’t realize their marketing team – who had been made redundant – still had access to the brand’s social media sites. The team went online to protest at the way the situation had been handled by executives, tweeting statements like “There are over 60 of us being fired at once. Mass execution of loyal employees who love the brand, “Firing”  before they were finally shut down.
Post Moderation Guidelines
Most sites have their own Terms and Conditions, but you can also post your own moderation guidelines on your social media pages to make it obvious what behavior will or will not be tolerated within your social communities. Being up-front about your “house rules” makes it simpler to take down offensive posts by referring to your rules and pointing out how they were violated. Hire Experienced Community Managers There are still some organizations that treat social media communities like an afterthought and leave it to the interns to post an occasional tweet. Your social media is every bit a part of your brand image and reputation – so hire professionals! A community manager should be experienced, know your brand in and out, understand your brand’s voice and personality, and, most importantly, love your customers. Community manager is a critical position that serves as a voice of a customer within your organization, so don’t underestimate it. Plus, a seasoned community manager will know the right way to deal with disgruntled customers, be able to deal with social media take-over attempts, and know when to take the conversation off-line. And Remember… You Will Never Please Everybody Sometimes, as a leader and as a brand, you will have to be willing to be misunderstood. If you strongly believe in what you are doing or in a specific point of view, but some people don’t share the same opinion, you will have to be willing to stand by your decision. In this case you will have to be prepared to be transparent and honest about it, share the reasons why you feel so strongly about the subject, and be prepared to calmly address the questions and criticism that come your way. That is where your social communities become even more important – this is the opportunity for your fans and your tribe (people who share your point of view and believe in the same vision) to chime in and help support your message/cause. In cases such as these organic brand love and advocacy are powerful allies in defending brand’s reputation and spreading brand’s message.  
1.2   STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Maintaining brand reputation is pivotal for the survival and growth of any organization. However, there are moments of crisis in business and customer relation leading to customer negative reaction or comments to the organizations product or services. The resultant effect can be disastrous if not properly managed. It may lead to lose of reputation and brand image of the organization .These therefore constitute the problem  confronting this research to determine the impact of social media in managing brand reputation in crisis.  
1.3    RESEARCH    QUESTIONS
What  constitute social media crisis?
What is effect of social media crisis?
What is the role of social media in managing brand reputation in crisis?  
1.4  OBJECTIVE OF THE STUDY
To determine the nature of social media crisis
To determine the effect of social media crisis
To appraise the impact of social media in managing brand reputation in crisis
1.5   SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The study shall provide a study framework for the measures of managing brand reputation in crisis It shall serve as a source of information on social media crisis.  
1.6    STATEMENT OF HYPOTHESIS
1.     H0   The level of social media crisis is low
        H1   The level of social media crisis is high
2      H0   The effect of social media  crisis is low       
        H1   The effect of social media crisis is high
3      H0   The impact of social media in managing brand reputation in crisis is low
        H1    The impact of social media in managing brand reputation in crisis is high    
1.7     SCOPE OF THE STUDY       
The study is focused on the impact of social media in managing brand reputation in crisis
1.8   DEFINITION OF TERMS
A social media crisis is an online situation that has the risks of having, a negative and long-term impact on your business or organization’s reputation and/or bottom-line.Social media crises usually involve strong, negative emotions that are relatable and can easily:
·        Outweigh common sense
·        Get clients, fans, staff, stakeholders and others riled up
·        Provoke viral behavior Social media crises risk going viral very quickly, in a very short period of time.
They risk being highly unpredictable and, often, unforeseeable. When not responded to promptly and in a proper manner, social media crises risk having a damaging and lasting negative impact on your brand’s reputation and bottom-line.

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