Years of work, extensive resources, and loads of money go into the making of a strong brand. In today’s super-connected economy, those brands can be taken down more easily than one might expect.
Not by their top competitors, but by the average Joe behind a computer or smart phone.
You may deliver impeccable service, but occasionally something will slip through the cracks. A sales associate might be having an off day. A contagious illness might cause a location to be short-staffed. You may have an issue with a supplier and run out of stock of an item.
For whatever reason, a customer has an experience with your brand that is not at the level for which you are normally known. Then, they want to vent. And they do. Online.
How much can one, two, or a handful of negative reviews or posts actually damage an otherwise strong brand?
This tale of digital David and Goliath is commonplace: one or two consumers throw stones at your brand online. Thousands of potential customers see their negatives posts and decide against doing business with you. Sales plummet – and often management does not know why.
Without the right monitoring tools and analytical skills, it is difficult for managers to understand what is happening with their brand online. Often they do not discover problems until their reputation has incurred significant damage. Because their customer satisfaction levels are high, they assume online sentiments match.
However, studies show that both B2B and B2C customers are more likely to share negative experiences than positive ones in person, on social media, and on review sites like Yelp. This is particularly troublesome for businesses because the sites where customers are likely to share their negative experiences tend to rank well in search engines. Because of this, potential customers find the undesirable content early on in their research, marring their first impression of your company.
It is easy to imagine how a bad review or two can jeopardize a company’s online reputation – and the statistics support it. In one survey by Dimensional Research, 86% of customers who read a negative review online said that information impacted their purchase decision.
How many potential sales are jeopardized by poor results in Google? While the answer to this question varies by business, online reputation is extremely important for almost all companies. According to a report by Fleishman-Hillard, 89% of consumers conduct online research via search engines before making a purchase.
This percentage is even higher for B2B. Acquity Group’s 2014 State of B2B Procurement Study found that a whopping 94% of buyers complete some sort of online research before making a business purchase. 77% of these use Google.
You can imagine the immense impact just one or a few well-placed negative comments can have on internet searchers’ perception of a brand.
Moreover, vast amounts of information and data are exchanged out of the sight of search engines. Known as the “deep web,” this includes dynamic web pages, blocked sites, unlinked sites, private sites (like those that require login credentials), non-HTML content and private networks. Some estimates suggest the amount of information on the deep web (also known as the deep net, invisible web or hidden web) is 500 times greater than the surface web.
Within the deep web resides another area of the Internet called the dark web (also known as the dark net), where individuals can exchange information anonymously, and oftentimes do so nefariously.
Originally developed by the U.S. Navy as an avenue for secretive communications, today’s dark web is best known as a place for more illicit activities. On the dark web you may find individuals selling drugs, guns, illegal images and videos, and private data.
One important thing to note is that you are not going to wander onto the dark web by accident. You have to download a special browser, so you can’t get there from Chrome, Firefox or Safari and your toddler can’t access it on your iPad. (I can’t say as much for your teenager).
Several commercial insurance executives recently advised that cyber-security is the number one rising threat to businesses around the world. Security breaches, which can bring major reputational hits, should not just be the concern of big-name retailers, online sites like Ashley Madison or political entities like the Democratic National Committee.
Any organization that touches private information – credit card numbers, social security numbers, driver’s license info, medical records, and so on – is vulnerable to a security breakdown which could do irreparable harm to the business and its reputation.
For confirmation, speak with communications managers at Target or Home Depot if you don’t believe this should be a concern of the public relations and marketing professional. When millions of credit card numbers are stolen from a retailer, does this not cross-over from being solely an issue of cyber-security to one that impacts the company’s collective reputation? Of course it does.
Whether we like it or not, as professional communicators we must embrace technology and understand that cyber-security and reputation management are joined at the hip. If you have any questions about your company’s online vulnerabilities, on the surface, dark or deep web, contact an appropriate consultant sooner than later.
The dark web is an area of the deep web where people search and exchange information anonymously. The dark web is part of the deep web, but the deep web is not necessarily dark.
Known as the “deep web,” this includes dynamic web pages, blocked sites, unlinked sites, private sites (like those that require login credentials), non-HTML content and private networks. Some estimates suggest the amount of information on the deep web (also known as the deep net, invisible web or hidden web) is 500 times greater than the surface web.
The dark web is an area of the deep web where people search and exchange information anonymously. The dark web is part of the deep web, but the deep web is not necessarily dark. Yet another place and way your company’s online reputation could be tarnished without your knowledge.
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