Brands See Risk and Reward When Automating Reputation Management

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This post is the latest in our “Automating Local” series. It’s our editorial focus for the month of April, including topics like artificial intelligence and marketing automation. See the rest of the series here

With the reviews and other content being posted online about brands coming from an increasingly wide swath of sources, manual techniques for reputation management are no longer viable on a large scale. At the same time, the volume of online opinions bombarding potential customers is making it more important than ever for brands to constantly monitor what’s being said about them online.

How are brands coping with the challenge?

Those companies with the best reputations among consumers—like Amazon, Patagonia, and Disney—have largely transitioned to a blended approach that combines human intelligence with the latest automation, artificial intelligence, and machine learning technologies.

Although the technology is there for brands to completely automate their reputation management, industry insiders are hesitant to recommend a fully automated approach. According to Adam Hildreth, CEO and founder of the online crisis monitoring firm Crisp, human analysts still play an important role in how the best companies manage what is being said about them online.

“There are certainly cons of going fully automated. Human analysts become inundated with alerts, but don’t get the insight into what’s really a crisis and what isn’t. There’s no gatekeeper involved in discerning which potential risks could turn into serious threats, with the potential for small events to turn into larger issues when there wasn’t really a problem in the first place,” Hildreth says.

At the same time, Hildreth is hesitant to recommend a purely manual approach that relies solely on humans, who are also fallible and capable of missing trends that occur during non-business hours.

“With the amount of information online, it’s nearly impossible for humans to sort through every single conversation, tweet, meme, or visual,” Hildreth says. “Not only would this take vast amounts of time, but [it would] require tons of resources to employ the right amount of people and give them the tools to sort through content as effectively as possible.”

Blending automation and artificial intelligence with human analysts, major brands are managing to maintain awareness of the conversations surrounding their products or services online, even after their in-house customer service reps and social media teams have gone home for the night. The most successful hybrid strategies use AI tools for sorting through the noise on social media and to begin to understand when content is threatening, essentially discerning risk from trivial conversation. Once a flag is triggered, human analysts step in to make a determination of whether or not it’s appropriate to react.

“This helps to avoid false alerts and ‘cry-wolf’ scenarios,” Hildreth says.

Yelp reviews and Facebook comments are just the tip of the iceberg for top brands tracking what’s being said about them online. Forty percent of consumers only take into account reviews written within the past two weeks, which means that brand marketers can’t afford to take their eyes off the ball, even for a moment, when it comes to their reputations among consumers.

One solution a growing number of global brands are adopting is proactive crisis monitoring. As Hildreth explains it, proactive crisis monitoring is crucial for brands that want to fully protect their image and customers in advance of negative content hitting the web.

In order to implement proactive crisis monitoring, brands need to have both the tools and the people in place to alert them when negative content hits the web, before that content goes live, so they can act on it as quickly as possible.

“Technology allows brands to determine which content could be potentially harmful, while human analysts determine if there’s real risk involved and provide the next best course of action,” Hildreth says. “Brands need to know when the time is right to actually put a crisis plan into action. The combination of human intelligence and technology is really effective for this and ensures that brands don’t miss a beat.”

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.Rainbow over Montclair

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.