Health insurance companies have an uphill climb in the battle for online reputation management. Historically, the press has painted the picture of high rates, low payouts and difficult customer service for the insurance industry as a whole. Many companies have fought this reputation successfully but the damaged image lingers in the minds of consumers.
User-generated content (UGC) online is quickly growing as the major reputation builder or destroyer for products, services and the companies that provide them. Some companies are already taking action by responding to blogs, posts, comments and tweets directly, curtailing the wildfire of negative feed back. When negative comments are posted online, health companies in particular don’t have the luxury of letting them go unanswered. However, in such a highly regulated industry most are struggling with how to engage.
Online Reputation Management
Online Reputation Management (ORM) is the awareness, research and analysis of online content and it’s effect on your brand, and the preventative and reactive steps taken to control the outcome. While literally every company in business today needs an effective ORM plan, steps can be taken now to review and understand your current online reputation and help you analyze appropriate ways to influence it.
In the pre-internet age some believed that no news is good news but today that belief can mean an irreparably tarnished reputation and a significant decrease in sales. Legitimate problems, slander, and unanswered questions can negatively impact your bottom line even if you’re not aware of its presence as user-generated content spreads across the web.
At the very least, you’re missing valuable opportunities to interact directly with consumers and reinforce a positive image. Without that presence, consumers will turn elsewhere.
Steps to Take
By monitoring social media regularly, analyzing threads that pertain to you and utilizing online avenues to influence the result, you can successfully manage external effects on your online image and lay the groundwork for a positive reputation.
First, you must have a plan in place to monitor and track mentions of your company, products and services online. Perform regular search audits on your brand. Social media sites such as Twitter and YouTube have built-in search options to help you find new mentions pertaining to your company. Google Alerts will send you an email every time your name is mentioned in a blog or website. Social Mention allows you to search across all social media platforms for the most relevant results. Use these and media-site specific search tools to stay abreast of online comments.
Once you’ve established where users are talking about you and what you’re saying, you must determine what to respond to and how to respond effectively. Good mentions deserve your attention as well as negative press. People like to know they’re making a difference, so appreciate good comments, especially during waves of negativity. Analyze negative comments to determine if they’re legitimate, such as a bad product or experience, or if they’re simply slander. Problems should be addressed publicly and respectfully.
Slander should be addressed by politely requesting the poster to remove the comment or post your response as a follow-up. If the slanderer does not comply, turn the matter over to your legal team.
Create a plan for responding to UGC online. Have a clear system in place and make it known to all employees and vendors what they can expect from you in the event of negative press. Once you’ve identified the need to respond, simply hit-or-miss answers and inconsistent information will not benefit your company; it could in fact do more damage. Have clear roles defined for responders and hold them and yourself accountable for your reputation.
Your influence shouldn’t start nor end with responses to existing comments. Take control of your reputation by creating and regularly updating a blog, building brand awareness over social media outlets, and creating a community that you can control for consumers to discuss your products and services. Once a comment is made outside your own online sphere, you stand on the power of an established online presence and already have the forum in place for your response.
Your scope of influence should include your marketing team. A company that works together online and offline to create a strong brand will be recognized and respected by consumers. Ensure your marketing, legal, and customer service departments are aware and supportive of your online efforts.
The risk involved in ignoring your company’s need for ORM is significant, and the benefits of ORM might surprise you:
While it might not seem so important at first, user-generated content and it’s effect on your online reputation can be substantial enough to cripple even large corporations. By taking the time to plan and implement the above steps, you’ll successfully take the reigns of your online reputation back from the consumers.