The increased use of social media over the recent years has been a major factor in reducing the control companies have over their brand message. Whether a company has an online presence or not, odds are that customers will still talk about the brand on major social networks such as Facebook and Twitter as well as social review sites like Angie’s List.

Brands are what give products their identity and how people associate a brand against another is up to how well brand managers can position their brand in an era of consumer content creation. Unfortunately, many businesses end managing their online presence with search engine optimization (SEO) techniques and site optimization. Due to the many online review platforms and social networks, companies must now branch out and be proactive in managing their reputation.

Ways to be proactive in managing your brand include:

Create Value

Taking advantage of social networks is one of the best ways a company can create value for their customers. Social media allows businesses to engage in real-time conversations with their closest customers and provide special incentives, promotional codes, and sneak peeks at upcoming products.

One social media campaign that did a great job of this isDomino?s Pizza UK. Domino?s UK produced their ?superfans? campaign, which gave the biggest supporters of their page free

promotional codes. Domino?s kept it dynamic by giving different offers to higher ranking fans and even showed the fans where they ranked against other fans. The best part about the ?superfans? campaign was the amazing way they encouraged the positive word of mouth that was posted on their page from their customers.

Manage Complaints

Even with a great campaign that promotes a positive reaction, complaints will still happen, so be prepared in advance. Social media sites allow customers to tell companies exactly how they feel by posting on their wall or by shooting them a tweet, and when businesses run into negative comments, it is best to handle them with speed and care. Showing the customer you are doing all you can to rectify the situation.

Netflix, a perfect example of what not to do, recently hiked their prices up and split the company into two divisions, separating instant streaming from their DVD delivery service. When news of the price hike hit, customers bombarded Netflix?s social outlets with an extensive list of negative comments.

During the first day, nearly 66,000 negative comments hit their Facebook page, 5,000 comments went to their blog, and the #DearNetflix hashtag received a hit almost every five minutes and Netflix still failed to respond for a whole three days. No, ?we understand? or ?sorry about the inconvenience? or even an explanation, nothing for a whole three days, which outraged fans even more.

Monitor Review Boards

While improperly managing the social outlets you have control of can lead to a complete mistrust of your brand and loss of customers, so can mismanaging social outlets you have no

control over.Third party review boardsbring consumers together on a single platform that allows them to rate and share their experiences with anyone searching the site.

On these sites, companies have little to no control over what comments or reviews are posted and companies can’t simply hide or delete a negative review like they can with their own social channels. A business? best option here is to comment on every negative review and show goodwill to the customer and other potential clients that search these reviews. Keep in mind that not only negative reviews are worth commenting on. Thanking a customer that leaves a positive review is a great way to build a brand advocate and show you care.

If you find yourself lagging on certain review boards, push previous clients to the review boards that need the largest boost and ask them to leave a review. This can simply be done by asking or through offering an incentive, such as a discount on their next purchase.

When managing your reputation it is important to remember that customers want to be heard, whether through social media or on a third party review board. Businesses should be able to provide value to their customers beyond their products and services, as well as be able to provide prompt responses and perform damage control when situations arise.

About the Author:?Matt Polsky is the Reputation Manager forVA Mortgage Center. Matt enjoys providing insights on brand management as well as doing what he can to help our nation?s service members and veterans. Connect with Matt on Twitter @mattpolsky.