Can social media ruin your brand reputation?

Social media and brand reputationWhile the vast majority of organisations have embraced social media and are more or less active in the digital space (see What social media marketing really is, and what it’s not!), there is still a significant minority that prefers good old, tried and tested, traditional marketing to the social world.

To those that are actively engaged in social media and that see the advantages that it brings to businesses ( this might seem almost unimaginable, yet there are reasons why businesses might not feel comfortable in being ‘social’.

The most common fear is that having a social presence could somehow prompt customers to share negative comments about their business. They fear that user generated content could have a negative impact on their brand reputation. Is that a real risk? Honestly, not. That truth is that nowadays whether a company has a social media profile or not, unhappy customers will find a way to complain, and most of the time the complaint will be online. With over 2.3 billion active social media users ( the chances are that unhappy customers will take it to the net to vent their frustration. It could be by using review sites, or by posting on their own blogs, or even easier, on their own personal social media profiles. Either way, they will share their frustration with the World Wide Web.

However, if companies do have a social presence, they also have tools and means to address the complaints and, potentially, even to transform a detractor into a brand ambassador.


First of all, being active on social media gives companies the opportunity to monitor their social reputation, as well as to act and react accordingly. Social media listening tools, like Hootsuite, SocialMention, Radian6, can research and collect user generated content such as blogs, comments, reviews, bookmarks, videos, etc… and alert a business of any negative conversation going on. Furthermore, social listening offers an opportunity for organizations to find out what is happening with their competitors, get the latest news in their own industry, and it’s an effective way to gather useful customer insights.

Social media can also help a business protect their reputation by acting as a very effective customer service solution. Don’t believe me? Let’s imagine a FMCG company, and let’s imagine that one of its customers is upset because the product that they just bought has a defect. Chances are that they will complain about it on the net, probably posting on their social media platform and possibly tagging the company in question, or posting on the company’s profile directly. This is precisely the kind of attack to the company’s brand reputation that we were talking about before. However, rather than an attack, it’s actually a great opportunity for the company to fix the problem quickly in front of an audience of potentially thousands of people.

By having a system in place to address this type of complaints, the company can quickly react by apologising to the customer for the defective product, pass the information to the customer care service to get the matter resolved, and reassure the customer that they will either be refunded or that their product will be replaced. This can all happen in a matter of minutes. The outcome is a happy customer that got their problem fixed quickly and efficiently. So much so that they could become a brand advocate! Nobody likes to spend money on a defective product, but everybody appreciates good, effective, customer care.

Now, let’s imagine what could have happened if the company wasn’t online. The customer would have still complained on digital space but nobody would have been there from the company to listen and address the matter. To get the matter fixed, the client would have to either call or write an email to the company to complain, costing more money for the company to manage the complaint and making the complaint resolution process for the customer longer. All while the audience that heard of the complaint in the first place, the social media audience, most likely never hears of the positive outcome of the matter, even if the customer was refund or the product replaced and that they were satisfied with the outcome. Remember, people are more likely to complain than to write positive reviews!

Also, even if the customer didn’t directly tag the company in question, by having a social media monitor system in place the company would have been able to hear about the complaint and to take the required measures to solve the issue for the customer. And, once again, they would have been able to do it in front of a wide, wide audience.

So, brand reputation is not really at stake when it comes to user generated content. But what about allowing employees to post on the company’s behalf? Is there a risk there for the company’s reputation? Actually, yes.

Here is a list of horror stories from the corporate world, when companies have used social media in an inappropriate way:

It is pretty scary, and unfortunately it can happen to anyone; but there are things that the brand can do in order to prevent or address such issues.

  • Set clear guidelines of what employees can and cannot do on social media while at work and on behalf of the company
  • Train employees on the risks of mismanaging the company’s social presence
  • Establish protocols to manage situations should the worst happen (have a crisis management system in place)
  • Be honest, genuine and apologise when relevant. If things do get bad, people want to hear the brand saying so and want to know what it will do to avoid issues from happening again.
  • Use professionals. As I already mentioned years ago in my article about social media (Stop the social media frenzy (and start paying)), companies should not entrust their social media reputation to a young and professionally inexperienced person just because ‘they are young, they get it’. They certainly understand the gimmicks of social media, but do they really understand the brand, the target audience, how to interact with them and how to properly represent the company? Definitely hire people of all ages that are motived, trainable and eager to learn about the brand!

Ultimately, social media cannot be stopped. However, if brands are aware of the risks and know the right tools, they can use social media to their own advantage.

Need help with your Social Media strategy? Contact me at  

About the author: Giulia Iannucci is a strategic branding and marketing consultant, and founder of KnowThyBrand. From brand identity to logo design, from website creation to digital marketing strategy, KnowThyBrand offers a range of solutions for businesses that are starting their journey and those that are looking to find a new way.

2 thoughts on “Can social media ruin your brand reputation?

  1. Pingback: What social media marketing really is, and what it’s not! – KnowThyBrand

  2. Pingback: Are brands still suffering from Social Media frenzy? – KnowThyBrand

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