In the world of corporate online reputation management one mistake can have drastic consequences, as River Island proved this week when their controversial ‘gag’ product blew up on Twitter.
How can companies protect themselves from this substantial risk in the social media age?
When we consider corporate online reputation we usually think about matters such as employee use of social media accounts and the leaking of private data, however the product or service you supply can pose just as big a threat to your online reputation and consequently, your bottom line.
Generally, if you advertise a new product you’ll do so on your company website. Considering the fact that it is your official website, Google sees it as authoritative and therefore nearly always ranks it on page one for your search term. It’s the most viable platform for natural SEO.
However, if your new product offends a large section of your consumer base, it could be disastrous. As disgruntled customers often do, they’ll vent their outrage on social media – which also often ranks on your search terms page one, due to it’s natural inclination towards SEO. This perpetuates the issue, driving away potential customers from your website and your brand.
What Were River Island Thinking?
This week the case of the River Island “Domestic Anti Nag Gag” perfectly illustrated how one ill-considered product can seriously impact your online reputation.
The “Domestic Anti Nag Gag” is unfortunately exactly what you think it is; a joke gag marketed at men who want to keep their girlfriends/wives quiet during the football. With a caption that read “will you put a sock in it!!!,” is it any wonder the product was quickly branded as sexist!
Of course in the social media age, it went viral, as people took to their Twitter accounts to vent their fury. With angry customers tweeting the @RiverIslandPR account, it was soon inundated with nothing but angry tweets.
One posted by actress and comedienne Jenny Bede read “Found this in @RiverIslandPR today. Stunned. @EverydaySexism pic.twitter.com/o7puwCH1kC.” Notably the @EverydaySexism project has over 142,000 followers who picked up on the story, ensuring it made national headlines. Now River Island’s page one is a disaster.
The Importance of Market Research
While the impact of an offensive product on your page one can be mitigated (through a steady stream of optimised news, PR content, blog posts etc.) there are preventative measures you should take to make sure it never reaches this point. Namely, conduct extensive and frequent market research, so that you know what your consumer base finds offensive before you post.