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Protecting organization’s reputation in the era of social mediaIntroductionBusinesses build their reputation from customers comments and feedbacks. From these feedbacks many companies have found themselves under the public spotlight, where their reputation has gone viral. The internet and social media are being used to share ideas, draw attention to issues and drive public opinion. For this reason, it is critical to protect the organization’s repetition form negative actions. In fact, creating a good reputation has become one of the most important intangible assets for an organization. Elliot Schreibe, who is  clinical professor of marketing and executive director of LeBow College’s Center for Corporate Reputation Management, believes that companies with better reputation do better financially, and in case of a downturn in the market these companies are able to raise again more faster(youtube video). With this in mind, how can an organization manage a crisis when a competitor trashes their products anonymously on a consumer review platform? How can they respond to the right people at the right time? To avoid damage from such issues, a key aspects is to include a social media crisis plan for the organization to prepare it in handling such problems. In this research, we aim to protect the organization’s reputation from online attacks by providing guidelines for how organizations can prepare, respond and recover from online attacks. We will also include an exemplary case study of how social media impact an organization’s reputation and how the company dealt with it.Understanding Social Media and ReputationDefinition of Digital ReputationAccording to a marketing agency which provides online reputation management, known as Prime Reputation Management,  the definition of digital reputation is “online behavior and the content you post about yourself and others. It can be compared to your reputation in society; the way your family, friends and other members of your hometown or city view you based on your behavior. This applies to both individuals and companies.” ()Definition of Social Media In the nineteen nineties, websites had only one way of communicating with visitors because it was only able to speak to the visitors and provide information to them. In the early two thousands, Web 2.0 was introduced. It refers to a two way communication, which means that the website provides information to its visitors and at the same time allows the visitors to upload, comment and contributing content. Therefore, Web 2.0 is known as “user generated content”. Social media is the next step. It allows users or website visitors to communicate with each other. In other words, social media facilitate the conversation between the users of the website. To have a better understanding of the term social media, a formal definition is given as “Social media are web-based communication tools that enable people to interact with each other by both sharing and consuming information”.(14)  Most traditional online media uses social media websites and applications. Here are some examples of mainstream social media platforms: Social Network: Facebook, Social Curation: Reddit, Social bookmarking: pinterest.Social Media Vs Traditional mediaSocial media allows news to travel fast among the public and from that it became an important source for storytelling and engaging audiences. Unlike mainstream media which selects what gets printed or released by the press, on social media there is no control over the content being displayed and anyone can  post information  about any individual or organization. Because the means of social media gives an area for the dissemination of false information, organizations share the same social media risk which is reputation damage(15). Does this mean that mainstream media is dead and it does not have an effect on an organization’s reputation? The answer is no. It is important to keep in mind that people need a trusted source of information. Mainstream media is still considered to have higher quality content then social media. According to a case study supported by the National Science Foundation that “the majority of the events discussed in social networks have been first announced in the mainstream media”(13). We can conclude that social media is not replacing traditional media, instead, social media is considered communication tool which enables you to communicate with the customers effectively. Online Reputation managementPrepare for a crisisContinuous monitoring of the company’s status is important in stopping reputation damage before it escalates. Reputation in social media is mostly affected by user generated content which is made available by search engines, also known as “reputation aggregators”. (rule book)Therefore, one way social media can assist in managing organization’s reputation is by profile building, which means having ownership to most of the available usernames for your organization in any social network. Organizations should not only claim ownership but also maintain regular activity in these accounts. The reason is because the more content you can add, the more likely search engine spiders will notice you. According to Tamar Weinberg, who is an expert in internet marketing consulting, “With regular engagement, social media profiles may help influence the search engine results. This strategy works well because most social networks are trusted by nature of their heavy use”. ()This will improve your social media profiles ranking in search results which will create value for your organization and increase its visibility to its customers. It will also help the company take control of the search results. Another way to manage reputation is by effectively monitoring or listening to online conversation about the company(bok). The information you can discover through listening to  customer discussions can help you identify issues early before they turn into a crisis. Listening should be through  generic consumer sites like or that allow consumers express their thoughts on different kinds of services and topics. Before the company starts listening, it should know what is it going to listen to? According to an online reputation management expert, Andy Beal,in his book  there are 12 observations you should listen to online. Your company’s name,your brand names, your company’s executives,your slogan or marketing message, the competition, your industry,your weaknesses, your business partners,your clients, and finally you should always be aware of the  reputation of your own name.(book rule) There are reputational monitoring services that track consumer feedback to provide corporations with meaningful information from those feedbacks. Radian6 is an example of a listening platform which provides “real time intelligence” about the reputation of a service or a brand.(17) Lastly, the organization should classify different categories of threats based on their probability of happening and their impact on the reputation of the organization. These categories should include the seriousness of the issue, how is it going to influence the company and finally how often is it being said  or how visible is it?(rule book)Response to a Crisis Regardless of well-laid plans or actions to prevent a crisis, crisis could accrue to a company at any time, and social media poses additional risks as they threaten companies in unexpected ways. Once an issue is recognized, the first step the company should take is to identify the category of the problem. After the company specifies the category of the issue and understands its impact, it must respond quickly before it escalates. Charlie Pownall,who has a twenty years’ experience in Public Relations, states in his book, Managing Online Reputation, “Many crises start as lower level issues but go unnoticed, are ignored, or are allowed to escalate until they become high level crises”.(p156) He also believes that responding fast in social media sends a clear message that the company is aware of the problem and is taking action to resolve it. It is also important to note that the message you establish in your response is ” just as important as how fast you move”(p173). The message should be convincing and the company must make sure it is heard by the public. After you send your message, now the organization should focus on listening by watching people’s feedbacks and participate in online conversations.  From that the audience will understand that their thoughts are important and you are listening to them. Pownall believes that listing is important in this stage because while listing you can know how much support you have and where is your support coming from. From this information you can solve a problem by measuring the reaction of your actions.(book) During a crisis rumors often spread about the crisis that hit the organization. unfortunately , social media enables rumors to spread very fast and their source is mostly anonymous. Another advantage of online listing is that it enables you to track rumors.(book) There are two main types of rumors you can track and they are untrue rumors and partially true rumors.()  Pownall states that organizations should “shoot down manifestly untrue rumors quickly” and responding to these rumors will depend on the motivation behind them and the impact they have on the company.(ref) The second type of rumors are partially true rumors and the best way to deal with them is “not to respond to partially true rumors during a crisis, as intervening often only gives more cre-dence and visibility to the most harmful part of the rumor”(185).Recover from a crisisAfter the crisis, reputation recovery is critical.The ultimate goal for the recovery stage is to retrieve trust and loyalty from the public during a short period of time. The reason is because the more time it takes the company to rebuild its credibility the higher cost they will have to pay. Therefore, the organization must build a root cause analysis and ensure awareness, to make sure things don’t get out of control. Then it must be able to return the  business on a consistent basis, and this mostly requires marketing and advertising(). In addition, the company must rebuild its relationship with its loyal customers and stakeholders. In order to accomplish that, the company must convince its stakeholders and customers that it works for their best interest.(book)Pownall states that “real support is best achieved when people feel they are involved and have a stake in your recovery.”(200) Finally, the organization could turn this crisis to something that could serve their interest, especially if they have already had the attention from the press.  The company can  implement campaigns and give promotions or offers to invite new reviewers and encourage old reviewers to give them a new chance. Social media Crisis Case Study British Petroleum – Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico The Case:In 2000, BP launched a public relation campaign “Beyond Petroleum” to raise an impression that the company is environmentally-friendly. The campaign won a gold Effie from the American Marketing Association, which contributes to a brand’s success in marketing and communication. This campaign boosted the brand’s awareness from 4 percent to 67 percent from 2000-2007(ref). Because of the campaign, heavy cost-cutting was needed in order to develop the company and regain profits. The cost cutting seemed to affect the safety routines, which might have had an impact on incidents in the years that followed. Even Though, BP states: “BP is committed to providing all BP employees – and those of other companies working on our premises – with a safe and secure work environment where no one is subject to unnecessary risk” (BP – Code of Conduct, 2009; 18) In April 2010,  a well drilled by the Bp oil company blue out causing the largest marine oil spill in history and killed eleven workers in the horizon rig. The company lost $82 billion of its stock value and had to sell numerous assets to contaminate the disaster(ref).When the BP crisis occurred, mainstream media devoted most of its attention talking about the oil spill. Infact, CNN devoted 42% of its airtime on this story(16).  However, the topic was not given as much attention on social media for the first 100 days(16). More than two months after the crisis, in July 12 , the story showed up as the number two story discussed on Twitter(16). From this case, it is clear that the case went viral on the mainstream media first, and mainstream media did have an effect in directing the way people felt about the story. People then used social media to express their thought about the crisis. From this example we can see that real amplification still requires traditional media.BPs response through social Social Media BP did not only have a major environmental-crisis on its hands but also suffered reputational crisis as well. When the case began to appear publically, their public relation made some missteps. At first,when the company responded to reporters, they downplayed the severity of the crisis and because of that it hurt their credibility in eyes of the public(ref). Another misstep they made is when CEO Tony Hayward stated in an interview “we are responsible, not for the accident, but we are responsible for the oil and for dealing with it and cleaning the situation up” (LA Times, 2010). Such Statement showed that BP deflected the blame of the accident which provoked a wave of criticism towards the company. People were not happy with the way the BP company handled the crisis, and that was clearly reflected in the public’s response in social media. In addition, the company did have a Twitter and Facebook account, but these accounts were not very active and did not have a large number of followers. There was no regular engagement in these profiles which resulted in not being able to control what was being said. Even Though, the company did start to engage in social media activities a month after the explosion, the company waited so long to tell their story on social media, while others took the lead and told their story for them. (ref paper) BP was using their official twitter account to provide information about the crisis, and this account had only 15,000 followers(ref). On May nineteenth of the same year a fake twitter account went viral(18). The fake BP Twitter account ,@BPGlobalPR, was established with parody post that could be confused with the real account. In fact, many people believe that the fake account was true. The fake twitter account was impersonating the company with tweets like: “Congrats to BP’s Mother of the Year 2010! It’s just oil people! Take the kids out and enjoy the beach!.” (Robin Wauters,techcrunch). Unfortunately, this account had more followers than BP’s official account(ref). This example shows how the fake account was able to ignite rumors about the company because there was a lack of social media presence prior to the crisis which restrained BP’s ability to respond to @BPGlobalPR. According to Pownall Social media is sustainable. By sustainable he means conversations on social web are not limited by space or time, and the more controversial the topic is the more likely it will appear in search engine results(book). This feature had an impact on the BP’s reputation. In 2010, if you googled BP PR, one of the top result was @BPGlobalPR.(ref) Having this fake account on the top search result will allow more people expose this account which will lead to having more damage on the  company’s reputation. In June, one month after the fake account went viral,  BP was trying to control this problem by buying several search terms related to the company from Google.(abc) For instance, if you searched for the term “oil spill”, the first result you will get is BP’s site containing the company’s effort in managing the crisis. (abc news) BP’s spokesperson,Toby Odone , said “We have bought search terms on search engines like Google to make it easier for people to find out more about our efforts in the Gulf and make it easier for people to find key links to information on filing claims, reporting oil on the beach and signing up to volunteer”(the telegraph). However, according to a British daily broadsheet newspaper, The Telegraph, this approach has only increased criticism from the public and @BPGlobalPR tweeted “We’re paying Google a lot of money to make sure you only have access to the best possible info on the oil spill: our info” .(the telegraph) We believe that they have failed to control their public message on social media because they did not follow the first two important steps in responding to a crisis. First, they were not quick and they waited very long before taking appropriate action and respond to the public. The second mistake is the message. CEO Tony Hayward’s message did not include what the public needed to hear, which is convince them that it works for their best interest.Conclusion management begins before there is an issue.There’s no argument that social media development is on the rise and it created unprecedented opportunities to connect companies with customers.In addition, online image and impression management is a vital value for the success of an organization.”All it takes is one major issue to destroy a reputation,” says Samsung’s European Communications and Digital Director, Greg DawsonYears can be spent building a strong brand and yet its reputation can be shattered in a single moment in one sweep of online comments, and many companies still fail to understand the damage that poor online reputation management can do to their business, choosing to be reactive rather than proactive in protecting their brand. Social media management has become a major ORM element because many users participate in the most popular social media platforms and because of features that quickly help create significant changes in a company’s online reputation.the object of this research is crisis management that contributes to protect organization’s reputation on social mediaUnderstanding how social media works and building an online presence before a reputation collapse occurs, as well as training the necessary personal to effectively use those tools, can determine survival. At the same time, on an individual level, understanding how these companies saved face can be mirrored in your own attempts to combat a negative online image and reputation. No one is bullet proof when it comes to bad things happening, so it is important to take heed and get to work now. The more preparation and planning that is placed into protecting yourself can only help you down the road when you may need to promote a more positive image of a reputation entity. use this in introduction:Management  of  social  media  requires  procedural  andtechnical  controls,  i.e.  policyand technology. One size does not fit all, and thatincludes the assessment of risk as eachorganization  has  a  different  risk  appetite  and  maytake  different  approaches  to  riskmitigation,  transfer,  avoidance  and  acceptance.  Theearliest process to be performedshould  be  a  risk  assessment  of  social  media  that  will  identify  the  risks  showing  thethreats,  possibilities  of  the  threat  occurring  andthe  impact  on  the  business  should  thethreat occur.Part  of  the  risk  assessment  will  be  to  identify  thethreats in terms of vulnerabilitiesand  exploits.  This  is  a  challenge  as  the  key  ingredient  of  risk  is  uncertainty.  There  arecommon areas of social  media risk that should be considered in the  risk  assessment andshould at least provide a good foundation and starting point.               A former web editor of Management Today magazine, Rebecca Burn-Callander states that”more than half of British companies have been the victims of malicious reviews or criticism”(ref). She also reports that thirty percent of UK businesses have spent nearly twenty thousand pound to deal with online comments.(ref)