An Aberdeen Group study suggests it's not too late to begin tapping into social media to manage your brand reputation online. Not yet, anyway.
Posted Jun 10, 2009
Who would've thought that a bricks-and-mortar pizza-delivery company would one day be an example for companies monitoring their online brand reputations?
It's been six weeks since Domino's Pizza made headlines with its unfortunate Youtube incident. However, the social media kerfuffle raised several interesting questions, among them:
- How much damage can a single public-relations disaster bring to a brand?
- How long is too long for a brand to wait before responding such a disaster?
- What are the best channels through which to reach consumers when attempting to mitgate such a disaster?
Aberdeen Group analyst Jeff Zabin explores such issues — the use of online monitoring tools to increase brand value and to mitigate risks to a company's reputation — in his latest report, "Brand Reputation Management, Using Online Monitoring to Protect a Company's Crown Jewels." (A free download of the report can be found on the Aberdeen Group's Web site.) The report relies on the traditional Aberdeen methodology classifying companies into three categories — best-in-class, industry average, and laggards — but indicates that, regardless of category, all companies can use these online tools to boost their reputations on- and offline.
Just because all companies can benefit, however, doesn't mean they'll all benefit equally. The report states that best-in-class (BIC) companies are more than 12 times more likely than laggards are to experience year-over-year increases in shareholder value when using online monitoring tools. BIC companies are also twice as likely as laggards are to see year-over-year improvements in customer retention rates when taking steps to listen and respond to consumer activity on the Web -- and to improve those rates by 11 percent on average, compared to just 1 percent for laggards.
Perhaps most striking is how much more likely BIC companies are to improve year-over-year performance in return on marketing investment (ROMI) than laggards are — a whopping 400 percent more likely.
"Consumers have more control and influence than ever," Zabin says. "They have the ability to not only drive positive word of mouth in customer advocacy, but they also have ability to do untold damage to a brand." So, in order for a brand to begin damage control, the organization must first establish a strategy for defining (and goals for achieving) social media monitoring. The report states that, once the initiative is under way, it's imperative to link results gleaned from social media monitoring to increased revenue or other financial outcomes. The content must then be integrated into business processes or customer data.
In other words: Once you've got the feedback, you better use it.
"The Domino's story and so many others are illustrating the fact that whatever is being said in the universe of social media and peer-to-peer social networks needs to be taken seriously," Zabin says. "Companies need to really keep close tabs on what consumers are saying because their words could ultimately erode shareholder value." Although social media metrics are evolving, Zabin points to a handful of areas already known to be worth examining:
- Net Promoter score: The NPS has emerged as the industry standard measure of word-of-mouth advocacy.
- Time to brand-threat notification: Companies should measure the time lapse between the identification of a potential threat to a company's brand reputation and the notification of key decision makers. The sooner a threat is identified, the better.
- Incident-response time: With the advent of social media, timing is everything -- and there's no time like real time. Companies need to measure their response rates. Chances are, they're not fast enough.
"When you think about 'What are the metrics to apply here?,' it's the ability to quickly identify any potential issues that need to be addressed and disseminate [that information] to key decision makers," Zabin says. Unfortunately, he adds, few companies today are succeeding at the task -- or even tackling it in the first place. "I don't think very many companies are measuring how quickly they are able to identify and respond to mentions of the brand very effectively or consistently," he says. "But more companies are waking up to the realization that they need to -- because that's going to be the primary indicator of whether a company is able to prevent a threat from ultimately spiraling out of control."
The Aberdeen Group provides the following steps to success for online brand reputation, in ascending order of a company's sophistication:
- Define best practices for acting upon social media conversations to protect the brand.
- Outsource resources for the management of brand reputation. Make sure that the external parties are skilled at social media monitoring.
- Establish time-sensitive performance metrics.
- Use social media monitoring capabilities to identify and measure the value of key influencers.
- Experiment with search engine optimization techniques to bring positive information about a brand to the top of search results (and, by extension, to help bury negative information).
- Appoint employees to engage in online conversations with consumers.
Best in Class:
- Conduct sentiment analysis at a granular level.
- Correlate online brand protection to financial outcomes.
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