How travel companies can manage their reputation on FacebookNewsBy Viewpoints | March 31, 2011Share This article was originally published on NB: This is a guest article by Josiah Mackenzie and Edwina Dendler, industry analysts at ReviewPro.Facebook has around 600 million users connected to an average of 80 community pages, groups and events.And with 10 million comments posted every 20 minutes site-wide, there are tremendous levels of conversation happening about travel.It’s more than likely your travel company is being mentioned in these discussions.As the reach of Facebook continues to grow, so does its importance as a way for consumers to express their thoughts and share sentiment.Let’s examine the process you can use to manage your reputation on Facebook.Stage 1: Consolidate your presenceBegin with consolidating your presence into one official page. Make sure to configure your username – facebook.com/BRAND – for visibility and search optimization. (If someone else is using your name, you can report trademark infringement to Facebook.)Too many travel companies have too many pages on Facebook. It’s especially true in hospitality, with hotels often having a number of different pages for the same property.This could be the result of typical social media policies over the past few years: different interns, consultants or agencies were told to work on Facebook without a bigger strategy in place.Yet unauthorized pages can also appear when other people create new pages for your brand. While this may be fine if the creator is a fan of your company and is using the page to build your online community, it can be damaging if the creator has malicious intent or the unauthorized page appears higher in search results than your own page.To limit negative consequences, be sure you are aware of all official and unofficial pages that exist for your brand on Facebook.Community pagesAs if profiles, groups, and Pages weren’t enough, Facebook introduced Community Pages in April 2010 to support a key feature of the new profile layout at the time: the ability to add and share personal interests. They described them like this:“Community Pages are a new type of Facebook Page dedicated to a topic or experience that is owned collectively by the community connected to it.Just like Official Pages for businesses, organizations and public figures, Community Pages let you connect with others who share similar interests and experiences.”Facebook then automatically created 6.5 million Community Pages based on the “Likes and Interests” and “Work and Education” sections of personal profiles.It was meant to be "the best collection of shared knowledge on a topic", pulling information from Wikipedia and showing related posts from your friends.In many ways, these pages could be reputation nightmares waiting to happen because many travel companies have no idea they exist.In November 2010, Facebook finally started allowing companies to claim Facebook-created Community Pages, and this is a step we recommend you take. Claiming Community Pages gives you the opportunity to merge duplicate pages and have more control over the content.Stage 2: Understand the dangersWhat are the dangers to be aware of as you monitor your Facebook presence? We see reputation threats in two categories: community activity and company actions (or inaction).First, the community part of reputation management. Anytime you have so many people interacting online, there tend to be a few that abuse the system. Fortunately, Facebook has closer ties to personal identities than earlier discussion forums, and less anonymity can encourage people to act more responsibly. Yet there are a few items to be aware of. Comment slander – Derogatory comments on items you post that may or may not have any truth to them. It’s one thing to respectfully disagree in a comment, but some comments may be outside the boundaries of good taste.Abusive photo tagging – Tagging was intended as a way to share moments with friends, but can also be manipulated for slander or spam. Keep an eye on the photos being tagged with your brand, since these could show up in your newsfeed and damage your reputation.Inappropriate photo uploads – Photo contests are becoming increasingly popular for travel companies, but must be monitored closely to avoid objectionable content being added. Then there are reputation dangers caused by ineffective page management. Outdated information – Old or inaccurate information can mislead visitors or give the impression that a company doesn’t care about the community there.No interaction - Time after time we have seen fans of a Page ask a question or make some other request and receive no response. Questions that are missed or ignored can lead to negative word of mouth.Censorship – Deleting all criticism can cause negative reactions. It’s fine to remove select abusive comments that violate a community policy you’ve posted. But an impression of censorship can lead to negative PR and the complaints being published elsewhere. Nestle encountered this last year on its Facebook page, where they tried to police the use of their logo: If your company sets up a Facebook Page, it must make a commitment to actively monitor, update, and provide service through it – or the Page can turn into a reputation liability.Phase 3: Set up your systemsBegin with strategyAny social media activity should begin with a strategy. What will be your company’s approach to Facebook? In the case of hotels, will you have separate pages for each property – or just one brand page? How will each page interact with the other ones? What content will be posted to which page? What types of content would you like fans to be sharing with you and others in the community?Clarify the routine and permissionsOnce your management team has agreed on the purpose for the page, define your Facebook monitoring routine and then delegate it to the right people. Give your Facebook managers a policy guide that illustrates how you expect them to act as representatives of your brand, and how they should respond to common scenarios.Facebook communities are based on interactions, and to encourage these, there must be appropriate permissions in place for community posting.Companies with the most engaging pages usually have open posting permissions to encourage conversations, and have assigned someone on their staff to be watching these interactions carefully.Set your page permissions at a level that reflects how actively you will manage it. If your organization cannot commit to active participation, you may need to put limits on the content your fans can post.Several brands have setup insufficient page permissions, and their “set it and forget it” approach resulted in the page being hijacked by spammers and other damaging content. Make sure this does not happen to you.Use alerts and monitoring systemsWhile time and resource constraints may prevent your company from having someone monitor your Facebook Page around the clock, you need to know about items as they come up.This is where technology can help. Facebook provides basic notification emails to let you know of new comments on your page, but to be fully aware of any brand mentions you may need to look for an additional supporting tool.Configure a set of alerts systems that will notify you instantly when your company is mentioned so you can take the appropriate action.All of this must work togetherFor effective reputation management on Facebook, you must have a strategic roadmap, proper page setup, correct posting permissions, the right team in place, and monitoring technology to support them. Leaving any one of these items out of your plan can cause reputation problems for your company in the future.Travel companies that can do all of this well will be able to realize the benefits in terms of positive word of mouth, increased loyalty, and stronger community.NB: This is a guest article by Josiah Mackenzie and Edwina Dendler, industry analysts at ReviewPro. 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