Lindsey Carnett
Lindsey Carnett

Reputations can be destroyed almost instantly online, and with the power of the Internet, widespread attention is easily given to bad reviews, criticism and accusations. With 81 percent of shoppers conducting online research before making a purchase, negative brand reputation can have a devastating effect on profitability and market share.

A customer who feels they’ve experienced bad service can easily and quickly influence other customers, and with the strength of social media, companies need to identify where their risks lie.

Online reputational management is a timely 24/7 process, and its effective handling will help brands understand their performance and target audience whilst tackling online bullying professionally.

Identifying the bully

As a brand, the faster that identification of the online bully takes place, the better. The bully might be posting anonymously, using the review section of your site to criticize, or use platforms like Twitter to share their distaste on a mass scale. Digital teams should use the data available to identify the individual — taking advantage of location metadata, timestamps, previous posting history and other data to securely detect them.

Is it resonating?

Measuring sentiment and seeing if the bully is having an impact is an important first step in tackling the problem. Look for similar viewpoints and comments from other users to identify if this is a deliberate attack on your brand’s reputation and business. Look for trends on your own platforms and use social media tools like Google Alerts, Hootsuite and ReviewTrackers to help you in this quest.

The financial implications

Financial damage is a serious consequence of the action of an online bully. If their concerns are specific to a product or service, use extra resources to track performance and sales predictions. Measure the impact both short and long term as part of the assessment of any perceived or actual damage.

Seeking professional advice

If the reputational campaign continues, legal counsel should be engaged. This is particularly important if the online bully is engaged in a libelous campaign. Formal steps should be taken to halt reputational and financial damage and cease the online bully from communicating.

Respond publicly vs. deleting posts

Going on the attack isn’t helpful to repairing or defending your online reputation. Best practice recommends responding to reviews or comments with openness and a desire to resolve the problem. It shows your willingness to address a problem and a commitment to good customer service and the desire to improve your services. There is, of course, the risk that the online bully may continue the dialogue, and in this instance, you should try to resolve the issue in a private way, such as email or direct message.

The power of brand ambassadors

Engaging brand ambassadors is a strong tactic to use to take on online bullies. Encourage and work with them to create positive content, sharing good experiences and reviews using photos and videos. Ambassadors and social media influencers with a large reach and strong influence can help to minimize bad press and target new audiences.

Building a fortress of positive reputation

Working hand-in-hand with brand ambassadors and happy customers, constructing a digital fortress of positive reputation can help to deter online bullies. Whether through product incentives or rewards for continued hospitality, brands should use the tools at their disposal to promote good customer service and a positive brand experience. Squashing negative reviews enhances the problem, and instead, reach out to incentivize those happy customers who will organically sing your praises through testimonials on social media.

Taking these steps can help brands tackle online bullies head-on, casting the spotlight on positive customer service and focusing on generating digital dialogue that will strengthen positive reputation.


Lindsey Carnett is CEO and President of Marketing Maven.