Social media is great for monitoring your online reputation, but it also opens up doors for hurting it. That's not just because your brand is vulnerable to criticism. Sometimes, even your most loyal fans may unintentionally damage your brand.
Patrick O'Keefe, owner of the iFroggy Network brought up some good points on this subject in a recent interview with WebProNews. "From following a lot of music artists and from even writing about a lot of them, I find that there are some that will do things like for example, if somebody says something negative about them, they'll retweet it, and then of course their fans, which can sometimes number hundreds of thousands, just go in on that person - like really attack them - really say nasty things at this person - like all day. Their Twitter stream fills up all of a sudden."
"These are people who are used to receiving maybe a few replies a day," he explains. "All of a sudden the celebrity's entire fan base is just coming down on them."
"So I think you need to be aware that there are fans out there who will take it too far, and it's not your responsibility, but they will do it in your name," O'Keefe continues. "So they do tarnish your brand, and the record industry is a good example, where you have fans of artists who get angry when the artist's record isn't put out in time, so they inundate the label with phone messages."
"Now some would say that's a good thing in some cases because it gets attention, but some would say it's a bad thing because it annoys people and causes further damage," he adds. "So I think the important thing is to just be consistent, try not to feed into attacking people and retweeting people who attack you, and saying 'this person needs to be attacked' - just trying to keep it generally positive and appropriate for your brand."
While the music industry's susceptibility to this may be greater than the your industry's, that doesn't mean the similar circumstances can't unfold, even if on a smaller scale. They say with social media, your fans act as your salesforce. Well, there is a great deal of truth to that, and unfortunately not all of them are necessarily going to be good salesmen.
"And all criticism isn't bad," O'Keefe notes. "I notice with a lot of artists, they seem to breed blind fans, where everything that you do, they will love. The problem with that - with that mentality - is that...you end up being surrounded by 'yes men' and enablers. Part of getting better is experimenting and having people tell you that what you're doing right now isn't that great, so you need to be open to those thoughts as well - be able to filter nastiness with legitimate criticism and feedback."
Of course, it's not just fans that you have representing your brand. You may have hired an agency to help you manage your online presence, and it's possible that they can do more harm than good if you don't hold them accountable.
"You need to be careful if you're an ethical person that you hire an ethical agency," says O'Keefe. "Picking the right agency and keeping an eye on them and making sure they're doing things that are consistent with your brand...make sure you receive reports from them."
"When they mention your brand online, how are they doing it? What are they saying to who? Insist upon reports so you can see everything that they're doing," he adds. "Don't just hire an agency and say, 'go crazy," because what they do - just like the fans - is in your name...I think we all have to be accountable for ourselves, and be careful who we hire and who we enable to promote on our behalf."
In other words, your online reputation starts with you. The more control you have over your brand message the better, but you can only affect what you actually do control. If you get that part right, the rest can only do so much damage.