6 Digital Marketing Mistakes Can Seriously Harm Your Online Reputation

For all practical purposes, the line between digital marketing and “analog marketing” is gone.

Increasingly, marketing is digital. Some 89% of U.S. consumers use Google to research local businesses at least once per week, according to HubSpot. The proportion is just as high (or higher) in many other countries.

6 Digital Marketing Mistakes Can Seriously Harm Your Online Reputation

Why Effective Digital Marketing Matters

It’s impossible to overstate the importance of those searches.

Prospective customers form judgments in the blink of an eye. Positive results often lead to sales within minutes or hours — per HubSpot, 78% of local mobile searches result in offline purchases, and one in three such searches occur right before the customer walks into the shop.

Negative results are just as dramatic in their effects — perhaps more so. Derogatory mentions, such as bad reviews or complaints filed with regulatory authorities, can permanently sour prospective customers on affected businesses. Recovering from a serious hit to your online reputation isn’t impossible, but it takes time: months, sometimes years.

It’s up to you and your marketing team to avoid digital marketing mistakes that harm your organization’s reputation or turn off prospective customers in other ways. These 6 digital marketing mistakes are all too common — here’s how to prevent them.

1. Responding Inappropriately to Negative Reviews or Comments

Never, ever take the bait.

Negative reviews or comments can feel like personal attacks on you and your team. The urge to respond — and respond strongly — is perfectly natural.

Responding Inappropriately to Negative Reviews or Comments
But fighting fire with fire usually backfires. Whatever the merits of the original complaint, an aggressive response is sure to escalate the situation further. Plus, when you respond in a public forum, you invite the whole world to follow along. You’ll come off as small and vindictive, even if you’re in the right, while the negative reviewer looks like the aggrieved party.

2. Taking a Cautious Approach to Social Media Management

That’s not to say you shouldn’t respond to reviews and social media engagement — just that you need to respond appropriately.

Taking a Cautious Approach to Social Media Management
Actively engaging with reviewers and those who mention your brand online is a great way to boost your visibility and burnish public perceptions of your brand and team. Remember, the best response to a negative review or social mention is usually a neutral, de-escalatory one: “Sorry to hear about your experience,” followed by a request for a direct message, email, or some other form of private communication to continue the conversation.

3. Hewing to Low Editorial Standards

Hewing to Low Editorial Standards
“Quality content” is a relative term. The best way to ensure that your public-facing content is up to snuff is to audit your closest competitors and set goals that exceed their standards.

4. Posting Offensive or Off-message Content

Every organization’s audience is different. Know yours.

Posting Offensive or Off-message Content
Your digital marketing content must always be on brand and audience-appropriate. Even if it’s not outright offensive to most consumers, content that’s perfectly acceptable for entertainment venues or apparel makers catering exclusively to mature adults might be woefully inappropriate for family-oriented businesses.

And it goes without saying that you need to avoid content that’s offensive on its face. Your social media properties are most vulnerable to dashed-off offensiveness — specifically Facebook and Twitter, both of which facilitate rapid-fire updates that sometimes outpace your team’s appropriateness filter. Prevent mishaps with strict guidelines for your social media team and harsh penalties for those who run afoul.

5. Mixing Personal and Professional Personas

Recent history is littered with unfortunate examples of personal streams of consciousness ending up on public-facing marketing channels.

The infamous “KitchenAid debate tweet” debacle perfectly illustrates the pitfalls of a too-cozy relationship between your team’s personal and professional online personas.


When a KitchenAid social media manager tweeted an intensely personal jab at former President Barack Obama during a 2012 Presidential debate, the Twittersphere exploded in condemnation. To its credit, KitchenAid quickly apologized for the mishap and fired the offending employee, who meant to tweet from a personal account. But the damage was done; KitchenAid lost valuable sponsorships and thousands of dollars in revenue before the storm passed.

6. Ignoring Valuable Feedback

Last, but certainly not least: Digital marketers ignore feedback — good and bad — at their peril.

Ignoring Valuable Feedback
Even if you lack the resources to respond to every single positive review or engage with every single customer who mentions you in their social media feed, you can’t afford not to have a system for collecting and processing their feedback.

Wherever possible, you should incorporate this feedback into your operations — whether that means tweaking a product in response to specific, persistent complaints, or retraining your account management team to better serve an evolving customer base. And you shouldn’t be shy about letting the world know that you’re listening. When customers feel like they’re being listened to, they’re likelier to remain loyal.

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