The downside of digital: coping with negative feedback


Claire Donnelly

August 5, 2014

British bosses say dealing with negative content online is their biggest business concern

Bad reviews, malicious comments and mis-judged social media posts can all damage a firm’s digital reputation and commercial value.

And managers say dealing with negative online content is now the number one digital concern for three quarters of UK firms.

One in five bosses says tackling ‘bad’ content has now become the main focus of their online strategy – ahead of winning new followers, generating sales or raising brand awareness.

More than half (52 per cent) admit their business has already suffered because of damaging posts, while ten per cent say they are unhappy with the way their firm is portrayed on their Google page one.

The results are taken from a new, nationwide Reputation Report commissioned by reputation management specialists, Igniyte.

It found that negative comment created by competitors was the worst problem, affecting 43 per cent of companies, followed by malicious postings from disgruntled former employees (42 per cent). Poor reviews are also causing problems for 41 per cent of businesses, while almost a third (30 per cent) feel their online reputation has been affected by the online activity of existing employees.

Negative media coverage is also an issue for one in six (17 per cent), while one in ten reveal they have suffered because of critical or offensive social media posts.

Of those who haven’t yet been affected, a third (31 per cent) are worried about facing negative posts, comments and reviews in future.

And there is a real-world cost attached to this type of virtual content. As well as wiping out sales, the Reputation Report found negative postings had a direct impact on company value – prompting average losses of £46,815.

Almost one in ten (nine per cent) have lost between £50k and £100k as a direct result of negative content online, while close to a quarter (24 per cent) are up to £10k out of pocket.

Another one in five (20 per cent) says poor their online reputation has cost them closer to £50k.

Despite this, two thirds of UK managers and company owners still have no idea how to remedy the situation.

And while there is growing awareness around the importance of maintaining a positive profile online – an overwhelming 88 per cent say it is of vital important to their customers – taking effective action against damaging content is still a tricky issue for many UK companies.

A staggering 45 per cent of those quizzed said they’d tried and failed to remove damaging posts, with more than a third (36 per cent) attempting to engage with critics themselves.

Another 12 per cent wanted to take action but didn’t know where to start.

Only a third of bosses felt they had all the skills they needed to keep their company’s online reputation up to scratch, with one in ten admitting they had no idea how to protect themselves.

As a result, one in ten companies now outsource managing their digital profile to an expert agency.

“What this research shows very clearly is the damaging effect negative online content can have and the high cost to reputations and businesses,” said Igniyte director Caroline Skipsey.

“Companies work hard to build reputations in the digital space but once they have that presence it needs to be monitored. When posts can be made and shared within seconds, how can you maintain a positive online reputation?”

Getting It Right – Building a Positive Brand Reputation

1/ Be Proactive

Invest in PR and Content. Ensure that you monitor and maintain your business’ reputation online now to protect against future problems or crisis.

2/ Search Yourself

Knowing how you are being represented online is essential. Type the name of your company into Google, review what appears and check back regularly.

Set up Google Alerts and use online software to monitor for content ranking for your company name and relevant search terms. Encourage positive mentions to travel further and react swiftly to negative mentions.

3/ Create Your Own Positive Digital Assets

Take control of your online profile by creating a strong portfolio of digital resources and content – corporate websites, online brochures, blogs, and social media profiles for platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

Ensure these are regularly refreshed with unique and relevant content; publish articles about your company on other industry blogs, circulate news releases to the media, and take advantage of social media to launch products online

4/ Harness the Power of the Press

Online news stories from local, national and international press can boost the digital profile of your business – and counter negative press if the content is optimised for your company name.

5/ Communicate and Partner Up

Your employees, trade associations, suppliers, customers, business partners and associates are your closest audience. Connect, communicate and share company information and News with them. Increase traffic online to your digital assets by driving this audience to relevant content online. Use partners and customers to jointly promote PR and content.

6/ Legal Options

Legislation such as section five of the UK Defamation Act 2013 & Electronic Commerce (EC) Directives 2002 can be used to challenge defamatory content and reputable websites will often remove content contravening their terms and conditions.

The larger social platforms will look at malicious content seriously, while Google’s Removal Tool can help delete offending material from platforms it owns, including Blogger and YouTube.

7/ Social Media Monitoring

Monitoring social media networks is essential for companies who deal with customers online. Proactively manage reviews and ensure they deal with recurring issues, encouraging customers to come to you directly where possible.

8/ Consider the Individuals

Chief Executive Officers, directors and senior employees are central to helping an organisation promote itself online. Their internet profiles can be a key factor in helping win new business and increase revenue.

If you are fortunate to have a member of staff who is also an industry leader, utilise their skills and networks to promote your business to a wider audience.

Encourage senior executives to create professional profiles, which will enhance the company’s digital assets and promote the company along with their thought leadership.

The European Court of Justice’s ‘Right to be Forgotten’ ruling applies to individuals and not companies or brands so could be used by employees.

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