Of Trust & Reputation in Social CRM


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Human race is pretty fickle actually when it comes to trust. It doesn’t take much to lose trust in someone. That someone would have gone to any lengths to build a reputation & trust. But that doesn’t matter.

And since a brand’s reputation means a lot in terms of business (goodwill) it makes sense to manage it. Its pretty difficult in the web 2.0 & social media world which has proliferated abundantly and is myriad. Hence there are online reputation management tools available for that very same purpose. [Read this PDF on ORM for more]

Trust is an important aspect to manage ones online/digital reputation. And in cases of inadvertent destruction of trust/reputation the best a person/brand/entity can do is to retract gracefully, explain your situation & apologize for any inconvenience caused.

Facebook did bungle by making some unsavory changes to its Terms & Conditions a couple of months back. The changes allowed it worlwide perpetual license for all content, even user generated. There was a backlash. Facebook then retracted, apologized & finally set up a voting system for a new terms of service. The new terms have been approved by around 65000 members from the user community.

However, one cannot do that if they do not even listen to what the community is saying. Look at what happened to Domino’s recently when a couple of its employees posted some “prank” videos showing how they defile the delivery food. They posted a response video on YouTube & propagated that via twitter.

Some people say the damage could have been thwarted faster had Domino’s been listening in on the social media. Some say it was too little too late. Domino’s has now been forced to incorporate ORM into its business.

So yes, on social media, listen first & then talk. 🙂 And if no one is talking about you yet, ask first & then talk! This is how businesses can provide customer service via the social media channel. Comcast does so on Twitter.

Before Comcast came on to Twitter, most I had heard about them was people dissing it and ranting about problems with the service (I am not from USA, so was unaware of the service myself). Not many raves in the tweets. But now I see so many tweets about how they have been successfully providing customer service on twitter. Surely their social media strategy helped Comcast in building trust too?

Tools like SM2 from Techrigy, Radian 6, Socialeyes, etc. do help in “keeping your ear to the ground”. They help you collate information from across the web 2.0 world pertaining to your brand (and also your competition, which makes good sense too). Using sentiment analysis & other natural language processing (NLP) techniques, they even provide you some analysis of the tone of the conversations around your brand. With improvements in NLP, expect these sentiment analysis tools to get only more useful in determining the sentiment of the market about your brand.

Once you are aware of the market sentiment about your brand you can plan to affect changes to these sentiments, which some of my colleagues at work call as sentiment correction. Sentiment correction is nothing but the actions that you take to change the sentiments about your brand in the social media. You might want to change it from negative to positive or positive to more positive.

For want of a better term, I stick with the term Sentiment Correction for now. Correction tends to make one feel that you are righting a wrong. However, there need not be any wrong sentiments for you to decide to change the sentiments in the market.

So, the three simple steps to manage your reputation:

1. Listen to what your customers are saying about you.

2. Analyse the sentiments behind what is being talked about your brand.

3. Influence the market’s sentiment through relevant conversations.

And then rinse & repeat.

Do you think these 3 steps will suffice, please do let me know. 🙂

Prem Kumar Aparanji
SCRM Evangelist @ Cognizant. Additional knowledge in BPM, QA, Innovations, Solutions, Offshoring from previous roles as developer, tester, consultant, manager. Interested in FLOSS, Social Media, Social Networks & Rice Writing. Love SF&F books. Blessed with a loving wife & a curious kid. :)


  1. Hi Prem,
    You’ve made some good points about reputation management – as you rightly identified too many companies only start to get this once they have a crisis on their hands.

    Having been examining the social media monitoring space for some time now I get the impression from your post that you view ORM/SMM as being limited to marketing or PR? I argued this point with Amber Naslund (@ambercadabra) from Radian6 last month after she commented that social media monitoring (or what you refer to as ORM) is something best left to the MAR/COM or PR types. I argued then that this was a short sighted view of how companies can engage in active listening as the role of listening to the voice of the customer is one that every employee needs to take on (led by the CEO preferably).

    I think your three steps idea could be expanded to 4. The model we promote is:

    1. Listen
    2. Analyse
    3. Contribute
    4. Influence

    I know you mention contribute in the 3rd step but I argue it needs to be a separate step so that the organisation understands and respects the value of unencumbered contribution.

    I think your influence ripples diagram is great – good work on that.

    Sentiment Correction – wow, I understand the want of a better term but sentiment correction kind of reeks of 1984…

    Finally on the tools front, I suggest you also add Scout Labs (@scoutlabs) and Infegy (@socialradar) to your list.

    Cheers Mark

  2. Thank you Mark for the kind words as well as the insights! 🙂

    I am completely in agreement with you that Social Media Monitoring should be the “moral” responsibility of each & every employee & not just the MarComm or PR departments.

    With the Millennials getting into the workforce in growing numbers it is but inevitable that growing numbers of the workforce would be deeply rooted into the social web.

    This however requires that the employees are educated & empowered by defining appropriate policies & setting up supporting processes. It is a cultural change that we are talking about, not merely a process or policy change.

    Also, ORM still requires that MarComm or PR folks are still involved in doing the sentiment “correction”. [Yes, its very 1984ish :)]

    I believe there is a difference between SMM & ORM. Where SMM should be everybody’s “moral” responsibility & every employee can practice ORM to a certain degree, empowering the employees should be driven by the PR group.

    I am neither in MarComm nor PR group of my organization, but have been recently involved in a “containing” exercise on twitter when there were false rumors of one of our offices having caught fire. Reality was that there was a fire drill & some enlightened person on twitter sent out tweets stating that our office building had caught fire.

    We being a human intensive business (offshoring) whose main resources are our people & the IT infrastructure, it can be very damaging to our image if such rumors spread. Clients will be anxious about the safety of their code & data in addition to the disruption to their services that are run out of our offices. Stocks will take a hit & our investors will have to suffer too.

    The tweet was noticed by our CKO & he called me to check on the facts. I in turn asked the admin for details and came to know that this particular facility was undergoing a fire drill.

    We both immediately started sending out tweets to the person who originated the tweet as well as to all those who had retweeted that original tweet.

    In a span of an hour it had trended a bit & then subsided. Thanks to the timely action by our CKO & self. The CKO is no way related to MarComm/PR neither am I, yet we handled the situation right when it was still small.

    So yes, I agree that SMM should be everybody’s responsibility but MarComm/PR should be the enablers.

    Prem 🙂


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