Online reputation is all about how individuals perceive your brand. That’s why there’s no better place to develop your brand reputation than social media, where you can directly connect with an influence fans, customers, and consumers in general.
While we’ve seen that there’s a great potential for brand reputation failure on social media with epic meltdowns, out of control hashtags, and poorly chosen posts, the positive potential for brand building on social media outweighs that of big mistakes.
Many brands are effectively connecting with consumers through social media. They’re showing a side of their corporate personality that’s often not available in traditional advertising, and they’re using social media as a tool to build their brand’s online reputation in a positive way.
Of course, building a positive reputation on social media isn’t as easy as just throwing up a few posts and replying to a handful of customer service requests. Rather, the most successful reputation building campaigns are a concentrated effort, designed to offer a positive connection and experience for those that engage with the brand online.
“Reputation on social media for any brand is contingent upon the content it posts,” explains Suzan French. “Brands affect their reputations by posting content that their followers want to receive. It needs to be relevant, informative, entertaining and engaging enough to spark sharing or conversation.”
French warns against believing that throwing up a post a few days a week will work for social media reputation building. Instead, she recommends careful consideration of the organization’s goals and objectives and strategy to achieve them.
If you’re developing a social media reputation strategy for your brand, the best way to learn is by example. There are a number of brands doing a great job developing their reputation on social media, and we asked experts to share their favorites. They include seasonal campaigns and viral sensations, as well as ongoing social media reputation strategies. Read on for a master class in building reputation right on social media.
The Campaign: Who hasn’t noticed what the ALS Association has done on social media? Thanks to the incredibly popular ice bucket challenge that went viral on social media, the ALS Association reports receiving more than $114 million in donations.
The Impact on Reputation: The challenge did more than just bring in donations, though — it gave the ALS Association a chance to be in the limelight for a moment. The challenge allowed the organization to shed light on a disease that many aren’t aware of or don’t understand. It also called for scrutiny of the charity’s reputation, but through the campaign, the ALS Association was able to carefully defend their accountability to naysayers.
Why it Works: “The Ice Bucket Challenge absolutely dominated social media throughout the
summer,” says Mark Runyon. “It was hard to wade through your feed without seeing someone you knew getting doused. It was such a simple campaign, but getting celebrity buy-in and keeping the videos short for easy digestion was the key to this viral sensation.”
But perhaps more importantly, participants were able to dramatically show their support for ALS on social media, earning bragging rights and the attention of friends, family, and colleagues. After all, isn’t social media all about showing off, anyway? The ball kept rolling by one very important detail, as well: participants who successfully completed the challenge were asked to call out others to join the cause and perpetuate the challenge.
The Campaign: With the Lay’s Do Us a Flavor campaign, consumers have been tasked with developing ideas for new potato chip flavors and choosing the one they’d like to see offered on a regular basis. So far, more than 7 million people have voted for flavors, and that number continues to grow with more than 20 days left to vote for flavor finalists.
“The new flavors of Lay’s potato chips that are flooding your grocery store are courtesy of a Facebook campaign by the company,” explains Runyon. “Munchers were asked to create their favorite mythical flavor, and those taste bud tinglers were pushed to the production line via likes and shares.”
The Impact on Reputation: Food manufacturers develop new flavors all the time. They may even do it with the help of consumers through opinion panels and similar programs. But by placing research and development squarely on the shoulders of the public, Lay’s is sending a clear message: they care about what their customers think.
Yes, of course this is a ploy for attention — and a good one. But who doesn’t like telling a huge corporation what to do with their products? Lay’s is giving consumers a chance to speak out and be a part of product development, and consumers are clearly happy to do so.
Why it Works: Adding social media to the campaign has been integral to Do Us a Flavor’s success. To vote on a flavor, participants sign in through a social media site (the default is Facebook). Voting shares a post on the site, telling friends and connections what the individual thinks is the best flavor. It’s a fun way for consumers to get involved — and it’s an easy way to spread the word about the campaign to get others to buy different flavors and share their vote as well.
“By making their customers a stakeholder in the decision making process, they created intrigue and boosted sales in the long dormant product,” Runyon adds. “Best of all, they increased customer investment in the Lay’s brand.”
The Campaign: Taco Bell’s efforts on Twitter are an ongoing campaign to connect with consumers online. The fast food restaurant regularly posts to promote new products like Taco Bell Breakfast, or projects like Teen Scholar.
This doesn’t sound much different than what most reasonably successful brands are doing on social media, but Michael Melfi says they really stand out, simply using basic tweets, gifs, and memes to connect with customers and the general public.
The Impact on Reputation: Taco Bell is a well established brand, one that might be tempted to simply use Twitter and other social media channels as a customer service outlet and not much more. But the restaurant has taken the opportunity to have fun with Twitter, and that says a lot.
Melfi points out that Taco Bell takes a multi faceted approach to reputation building on Twitter. While some of their tweets are easy to relate to and laugh about, others show their support for the community, promoting Taco Bell Foundation charity projects on Twitter, Vine, and Instagram. Social media is also used to promote new products available at the restaurant — but sales certainly isn’t the focus of Taco Bell’s social media efforts.
Why it Works: Taco Bell’s social media outreach is more than just business. It’s fun. Typically lighthearted tweets from the restaurant’s social media accounts are easily approachable — which is not always natural for a major brand. “Even though they are a well known brand, their content is short sweet and captures the attention of everyone,” says Melfi.
The Campaign: Denny’s is another social media brand that stands out as successful to Melfi. The brand has an ongoing campaign to connect with restaurant patrons in an unusual way — more than just simply advertising and serving food.
Rather, Denny’s has a satirical Twitter account that’s designed to appeal to younger generations. In fact, it mimics what millenials sound like on Twitter, with funny, young, and carefree posts.
Melfi shares an example: “Sometimes, the account tweets one word like “sausage” and gains nearly 800 retweets. Their no-rules strategy works for them and they are a great example of non-traditional branding through digital
The Impact on Reputation: Denny’s target audience is arguably made up of senior citizens who visit the diner for specials and early dinners. This is a population that is largely not online. So why should Denny’s care what people on the Internet think? The fact that they do care is exactly why this campaign has a strong effect on Denny’s reputation.
Connecting with millenials and other younger generations is an unusual move for the brand, and making an effort to do so says a lot about Denny’s as a company. They care to connect with all of their customers, not just the ones that are typically filling diner seats.
Why it Works: Denny’s connection works because it’s primarily lighthearted and fun. It’s obvious that whoever’s at the helm is tuned into what millenials are interested in — and they are clearly targeting younger users with this successful strategy.
The Campaign: Though Starbucks regularly connects with the public on social media, the recently introduced campaign for their Pumpkin Spice Latte stands out as particularly successful.
The coming of fall is an exciting time. It signals cooler weather following a brutal summer, delicious seasonal recipes, upcoming holidays, and a change in the air. And now for many, the coming of fall is signaled by the arrival of the Starbucks pumpkin spice latte. This seasonal treat is eagerly waited for and sought after by Starbucks fans — and the brand has capitalized on that with a special campaign just for this particular drink offering.
Starbucks has made a Twitter account just for the pumpkin spice latte, as well as the #PSL hashtag. Cecily Trowbridge notes, “The account is upbeat, hilarious and entertaining, rife with video skits, pop culture references and phrases that come “from the PSL” which has been personified.”
The Impact on Reputation: Trowbridge points out that by personifying the pumpkin spice latte and making a special account just for the seasonal drink, Starbucks is stepping way beyond go to strategies. Typically, Starbucks might post something like interviews of student employees receiving education benefits from the company — and this account takes things in an entirely different direction.
Rather than business as usual, Starbucks’ pumpkin spice latte campaign is fun and lighthearted, and a celebration of fall — something that practically everyone can get on board with.
“If nothing else, this solidifies the notion that the company is “young,” “fun” and doesn’t take itself “too seriously,” says Trowbridge. “It also perpetuates the idea that the pumpkin spice latte itself is, first and foremost, a Starbucks brand despite competitor drinks of the same nature.”
Why it Works: Every year, pumpkin spice latte lovers talk about the drink on social media anyway, but this time around, Starbucks has capitalized on it. Those that enjoy the drink are likely to be excited that it’s available again, and now there’s a social media hashtag where they can share their excitement. Starbucks has given consumers an easy way to get connected and have fun with the company on social media.
The Campaign: No discussion of social media brand reputation is complete without recognizing social media as a tool for excellent customer service — and in turn, for building customer trust and reputation. Airline JetBlue is a great example of a company that’s made a concentrated effort to offer great customer service not just through traditional channels, but on social media as well.
Many companies use Twitter as a way to quickly respond to customers in need of help, but JetBlue takes things a step further, really going the extra mile to connect and make absolutely sure that customers are happy after their interaction. In one Twitter customer service support interaction, JetBlue studied the profile photo of a disappointed customer so they could find him in the airport terminal and follow up in person. And that same customer later tweeted about how amazed he was that JetBlue gave him such an exceptional customer service experience.
The Impact on Reputation: No one expects an in person follow up from a customer service tweet, but JetBlue delivered even when they weren’t asked to do so. Bold moves make news, and taking the extra step to offer exceptional customer service is recognized and appreciated by customers. Actions like these don’t go unnoticed, and they serve to develop a strong reputation of trust and customer care.
Why it Works: Customers are increasingly frustrated with customer service. Endless phone trees and hold times, customer service emails that go nowhere, and other roadblocks to help are infuriating. Many turn to Twitter to get a connection instead, hoping to reach a real person that can help. JetBlue’s Twitter customer service encourages customers to connect and promises to deliver on a positive experience.