The speed and availability of information online has given more power to the individual to be vocal about their opinions and feelings, both positive and negative. Social media, blogs, forums and online groups can leave you vulnerable to negative attacks if you are not involved in the conversation.
This panel of brand ambassadors, including Jessica L Bowman, Sr. Marketing Manager for Yahoo!, Lauren Vaccarello, Director of Publishing for Forex Capital Marketers, Tony Wright, CEO and Founder of WrightIMC, and Brian Combs, Senior VP & Chief Futurist for Apogee Search, discussed the ins and outs of how to manage both your reputation and brand in the intricate and sometimes hostile environment on the web.
Jessica Bowman kicked off the session, giving a broad view of brand management, stating that as an organization you need to deliver a consistent customer experience to build credibility for your brand.
The ‘halo’ affect is your ability to deliver that positive brand experience across all customer touch points, including your’ in-store location, your customer service line, as well as the interactions your customers have with traditional news, the search engine results, Facebook, MySpace, your blog, Twitter, and YouTube.
Traditional approaches such as your customer service line, in-store experience, and news releases address less than 50% of the ‘halo’ channels, and the ratio continues to decrease as online platforms evolve.
The opportunity for your customers to complain about your brand online gets easier each day. Technology such as the iPhone puts the power to be vocal in their hands.
The main difference today is speed of information, customers can post complaints in the heat of anger, as technology advancement eliminates the ‘cool off’ time.
It’s imperative to train your company to maintain the positive brand.
- Great customer service needs to be the company culture
- Train all employees that interact with your customers on how to handle complaints
- It’s too easy for anyone to complain to thousands of people via Twitter, Facebook, iPhone
Establish boundaries and rules. Jessica urged the audience to add guidelines for online commenting and blogging to your employee handbook.
Grant employees access to social media sites so they can monitor what’s happening and what comments are being made about the brand.
What might an upset customer do to voice their complaint?
- Comment at Yahoo and Google local
- Write a blog post
- Twitter update (which may push out to their Facebook network)
- AdWords ad with the complaint
- Primary purpose to get the attention of a VP who can instill change
Next up is Lauren Backarello, offered tips for maintaining your brand online. Defending your brand online requires both a defensive (preventative) strategy as well as an offensive strategy to deal with negative attacks that occur.
Get the best players
- Buy domains around your target keywords and brand name
- Make sure to own ‘mybrandsucks.com’
- Own your ‘CEOsname.com’
You don’t have to use these brand names, but have them so no one else can.
Don’t overlook social media
- Register your brand name on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Naymz, Wikipedia, and Squidoo.
Know what your competitors are doing
- Know who is bidding on your branded terms.
Keep an eye on your key players
- Create alerts for your brand name, executive names, and key product names.
- Twitter is a great place for people to connect and interact. It is also a great place for people to complain about companies to hundreds of their friends at once. Tweet Pro is a tool that helps you organize the contacts that are talking negatively about your brand
You can use Twitter to help manage your reputation by monitoring tweets for complaints and responding to help them find a solution for their problem.
- Empower your loyalists
- Respond to negative publicity quickly
Brian Combs talked mostly about how to pre-empt a negative attack online, giving advice about online customer service.
Before you have a problem:
- Dedicate resources to online customer service
- Monitor online conversations
- Use consistent Naming conventions
- Create and propagate multiple sites
Upon finding a problem:
- Engage and attempt to diffuse
- May create an online fan
- Don’t be defensive or attempt to strong arm, you’ll make it worse
- Don’t engage with trolls and internet tough guys
- Take it offline if possible
- As if they’ll block with robots.txt (instead of asking to take the negative content down)
- Attempt to scrub the list
Own more real estate in the Search Engine Results page with:
- Sub-domains, product sites, int’l domains
- Social media like Facebook, MySpace
- Articles on their party sites
- Microssites to address specific concerns
- Blended search
- Content must be Unique
- Sites may require link building
- Pay Per Post, ReviewMe (for scrubbing)
- Google Bowling
- Deceptive Practices
- Reputation problems are easier to prevent than to fix
- Customer Service 101: Engage and don’t be defensive
- If you must scrub the listings, take a diversified approach
Tony Wright started off by telling a story about a Paris Texas and a reputation management issue between the local elementary school teacher and the ramifications of a situation that spiraled out of control.
- Emotions can ruin an online reputation
- Sometimes responding makes it worse (if you are emotional)
- If you are an employer, you need to have policies in place to keep employees from responding inappropriately
- Threatening violence on the internet can be dangerous, but most of the time it makes you look like an idiot
- Local politics is very interesting indeed
Reputation, Influence and Branding:
- Reputation, branding and influence are not the same thing but are interconnected
- Of the three, start working on reputation. The others will come if your reputation is good
- Don’t let good branding get in the way of a good reputation
- Monitor your reputation. Create a formula for keeping your reputation solid, deal with snags as they come
Creating a formula for online reputation:
- Items to consider, sign weights to how each affects the brand:
- Reach of the venue (ie: New York Times, vs. unknown blog)
- Influence of the poster (what is the page rank for the blog, how many visitors)
- Tone of the content (Look at the comments to the post, are they all negative?)
- Follow-up on the post (watch for on-topic vs. off topic)
- Viral effects (has the post been picked up on other sites?)
The panel closed with a discussion about the need to have a full time person in the company dedicated to monitoring, managing, and maintain a positive reputation and brand online.
What are your thoughts about having a full time brand ambassador? Does your company have a full time representative dedicated to connecting with customers online?
Check back with the TopRank Marketing Blog for more blog coverage of Pubcon 2008 and the Pubcon photosset on Flickr.