This week’s social media blog posts:
Monday: Seven ways to doom a Social Media program.
Tuesday: Co-Creating with Social Media.
Wednesday: Building Brand Evangelism through Social Media.
Thursday: Social Media and Reputation Management.
Friday: Now that you’ve engaged, it’s time to re-engage.
(This is the 21st in our series of Social Media posts for the month of October. We look forward to your feedback on this series.)
Remember when your grade school principal used to threaten you with the idea that your transgressions would go on your “permanent record?” As school kids, we all envisioned this “permanent record” as a granite slab that duly recorded every spit wad, hair pull and rubber band gun for all mankind to see.
Thanks to the Internet, there is another form of a “permanent record” that we have to come to grips with. Once something is said online or some news article or blog post goes out, it’s being indexed by the major search engines. And when you Google or otherwise search for a company, what you get is a long list of relevant postings regarding that company or individual.
The much-dreaded permanent record.
One of the core tenets of Social Media is that the user is in control of the communication. The organization has a voice, but it is only one of many. Communities are about the members, not about the organization.
Too often, companies don’t like to even admit that negative things are being said about their brand. Their attitude seems to be, “If I ignore it, maybe everybody else will, too.” The problem with that kind of thinking is that customers today have a lot of ways they can express their displeasure.
And while you can’t control what people are saying about you, you can organize that speech by highlighting the good stuff and rationally responding to the not-so-good stuff. You can organize it by embracing the people who love your brand and challenging them to speak up and share the good word.
So when some dissatisfied customer or vitriolic ranter decides to go off on your organization or its products, what do you do? First off, accept that negative things are going to be said about you online…if not in the forum you set up and enable, then somewhere else just out of your sight. The web allows for a “comfortable anonymity” of its users, which makes them less inhibited, in both a good and bad way. You think less about moderating your comments when you’re sitting behind a computer screen hiding behind an email address, avatar or IP address.
Welcome to the art of Reputation Management.
The key to Reputation Management is to accept that knowledge is power. If you don’t know what is being said, you won’t be able to address it. Make it a best practice to survey major social networks and blogs for comments about your company, products or competitors. Free tools such as Google Blog Search or icerocket.com can help you get started. Here is a sample search results page for a marketer who gets lots of attention from bloggers, both good and bad—Walmart.
Negative commenters can be broken down into a few groups. The first (and the one that scares marketers the most) can be referred to as “trolls.” These are contributors who have a chip on their shoulder and who just want to complain, if not about you then something else. Most of the time, their complaints are baseless and often over the line (as an example, check out the comments on YouTube videos). Generally, it is best to just ignore this group, as their comments will be seen for what they are.
The second kind of negative comment generally comes from people who have an ax to grind against your company. They had a negative encounter with you at some point in the recent (or distant) past, and just aren’t willing to let it go. Acknowledging that you “hear” these folks will generally appease them to the point where they back off.
The third group of complainers can be very valuable to listen to. These are folks who have encountered some sort of legitimate problem or hiccup with you and are looking for a solution. These are customers who are “winnable,” and by listening to them and facilitating some sort of solution, you can often turn these negative customers into satisfied customers and in some cases into brand evangelists.
The advantage of knowing what’s being said about you, good and bad, is that it gives you an opportunity to respond immediately. And by “respond,” we’re not talking about arguing, justifying or trying to bribe commentators into pacification. It is more of an acknowledgment that you’ve heard the person, and you are open to helping them work through their issues.
You have a lot invested in your good name. It’s worth taking a little pro-action to protect it online.
If you’ve enjoyed the series so far, and are interested in what’s going on here at QMD/IQ, I invite you to visit our Facebook page and become a fan, or just comment on what you see. It’s all good.
Posted by Mickey