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The Importance of Digital and Social Media Governance and Reputation Management: Tips for Getting Started

Digital Boundaries: How everyone takes control of their digital world

Despite all your sleek brand activations, customers will develop their own understanding of your brand based on what they encounter online, not only the experiences that you have designed for them, but everything your employees, partners, advocates, detractors and others say about you in social media, review sites, etc. In short, your brand’s digital presence consists not only of your own branded digital footprint, but also all the things others are saying about you online.

Let’s look at those two categories: Your Digital Footprint and What Others Say About You.

Your Digital Footprint

When a customer is at the point where they are actively seeking you out online, everything that they find should elevate your brand and provide a responsive and helpful experience. It is difficult to convince a prospective customer that your goods or service are going to be a pleasure to use if they have to wade through a swamp of abandoned, fake, or just bad online assets to get there. You will certainly need a strategy to proactively manage your online footprint, but at some point early in the process while your strategy is still taking shape, you need to conduct a digital audit.

A digital audit provides a snapshot of your brand properties online. It should inform you what is out there, what is working, and what needs to be retired and taken down.

To start your digital audit, use a spreadsheet to record all of your known websites, social media accounts, blogs, YouTube channels, etc. Here is a free digital audit template to get you started. The audit should include things like: URL, traffic or followers, activity, purpose of the asset, and any other easily collectable metrics that will help you determine which accounts are worth keeping.

Once you have listed all of the accounts that you know about, it is time for things to get interesting. Start running google searches for your brand and your products. Add anything new that you find to your spreadsheet. Go through the same exercise on each of the social platforms (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, etc).

Depending on your brand, this could be anywhere from a 30-minute project to a weeks-long endeavor. If the scale becomes completely unwieldy there are agencies and tools that can help you with this. I recommend though, that at least once, someone with significant knowledge of the business do this manually. If you have a larger business or have been around for a while, it is likely that you will stumble upon “branded” properties that you never would have guessed are out there.

Once your audit is complete, (pro-tip: it is never really “complete,” monitoring for new rogue channels is an ongoing activity) you should start with the low-hanging fruit. Any channels that are abandoned, have few followers, and are off brand should be taken down. If you do not have credentials for a social media account, check with your account rep for that platform if you have one. (another pro-tip: This process gets a lot easier if you are doing paid social media and you have a dedicated rep.) Otherwise you will need to submit a takedown request.

Going forward, you can require that any new social media account or other online asset go through an application and approval process. By using clear standards and KPIs it will be much easier to keep your online properties on-brand and effective.

Social Media Monitoring

Traditionally, CMOs and Communications teams had seen their brands as something that they constructed and controlled. There were always instances when a journalist might release a story about the company, but even in those cases there were relatively limited outlets, and journalists often contacted the company prior to publication.

But in the era of social media, where everyone is a publisher, and discussions about a company can quickly escalate, the traditional approach is no longer sufficient. Now brand perception is a complex amalgamation of everything that everyone is saying about you.

The first step in understanding and directing this conversation about your brand is listening. If you are not actively monitoring social media and review sites, there could be thousands of customers complaining about your products on Reddit or Yelp and you may never know.

Fortunately, there are many tools to help you with this, ranging from the free and somewhat DIY tool, Google Alerts, to robust enterprise-level tools, which include things like sentiment analysis, influencer identification, and customizable alerts. It is OK to start simple, as long as you are consistent in your monitoring. The results you receive and track will determine what level of resources will be needed to stay informed of all the buzz around your brand and products.

It will be helpful to record all your results as you go so that you can put any new flare-ups into context.

This Is Just Step One.

Auditing all your online assets, setting up an application and approval process for new digital initiatives, and creating a social listening program can seem like daunting tasks, but they’re essential to brand protection in today’s digital world where the majority of the customer experience takes place online. This “Discovery Phase” will provide substantial insights into the health of your brand. Then the fun begins. You can now start to strategize and engage to help strengthen your brand’s reputation. Because you have already done the legwork, you are perfectly positioned to monitor and optimize your efforts, engage with your audience, and better manage your brand online.

Casey Hall

Casey Hall

Casey Hall is the founder of Lumberjack Social (https://www.lumberjack.social/). He helps companies use digital channels to connect directly with their customers and prospects. He has managed global social media programs for large enterprise organizations, developed and deployed highly successful employee advocacy programs, and works directly with executives to build their online authority and influence. Casey is a regular and sought-after conference speaker and panelist at industry events. Casey began his career as an attorney and enjoys log-rolling, martial arts, curling, and mountain biking. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife, two sons, and two dogs.

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