One of the best examples of the convergence happening between search engine optimization, social media and digital public relations is online reputation management. This is a topic very close to home not only because our marketing agency emphasizes these practice areas, but because the need for brand and reputation management continues to increase in importance as consumer time spent on the social web replaces traditional media.
Recently I presented on a panel at Affiliate Summit West on the topic of online brand management and it was eye opening for many merchants and networks what goes into a good brand monitoring program. Companies spend huge budgets, time and resources building their brands and reputation. Not paying attention to that investment can be disastrous.
In my presentation at ASW09, I worked to answer several question. The first of which was, “Why is brand and reputation management important in Affiliate Marketing?” Here are six reasons to consider:
Current affiliates are online – It’s important to know how current affiliates are representing the merchant’s brand. Affiliates become the “face of the brand” for those consumers interacting. However, in many cases, there are very specific limitations to brand name use and both merchants and affiliate networks need to monitor what’s being promoted and how. It’s important to know about how affiliates are using brand names and whether there are anti-marketers or infringement issues.
Prospective affiliates are online – While the world of affiliate marketing is growing fast, many more enterprising marketers are not involved. Established web sites are now, more than ever, looking for ways to monetize content and affiliate marketing is an attractive channel for that. How a merchant’s brand is being represented by affiliates has everything to do with the impression potential affiliates have towards a program. Participation on the social web and the intentional effort towards building a positive brand representation is important and best not left to chance or you may get a “bad rap“. The same goes for affiliate networks.
Customers are online – Customers who find products and services via affiliate marketing channels have various experiences. Many consumers blog, write reviews, make comments and share opinions on social networks. It’s important to have a good handle on customers that are publishing both negative and positive information so the brand can monitor and engage in the right way.
Journalists are online – Public and media relations is an effective marketing/communications channel for merchants, networks and in some cases, affiliates. Journalists are increasingly researching stories online and the way affiliates represent brands can influence whether a particular company is considered for a story or not.
Competitors are online – Brand monitoring online and within digital media provies companies a real opportuniy for competitive research. Discover what other affiliate programs are doing to be effective and whether their affilaites and publishing negative information about your brand in order to attract sales from products and services that offer a higher commission. In fact, it may be the realization that not having an affiliate program leads to affiliate marketers presenting certain brands negatively in order to promote the products that do, to motivate the start of an affiliate program.
Future of your brand is online – However you look at it, the trend towards commerce and information consumption will increasingly involve online and digital communication channels. Where consumers can be influenced, companies need to be present and engaged from both a brand monitoring/management perspective as well as participation.
OK, so reputation management is clearly important for merchants, networks and affiliates, what should they do about it? We’ve posted a number of reputation management articles here on Online Marketing Blog addressing online and digital reputation management from a variety of perspectives:
- Basics of Online Reputation Management
- PubCon: Online Reputation Management
- When SEO Isn’t For Increasing Sales
- Digital Reputation Management with SEO, Social Media & PR
- Online Reputation Management for Individuals
- Online Reputation Management for Direct Marketers
- Book Review: Radically Transparent by Andy Beal & Dr. Judy Strauss
What should affiliate managers monitor? Here’s some sage advice from UK based Envisional Affiliate Monitoring:
- Police inappropriate content and keywords (indecency, obscenity, hate or politics) on your affiliates’ websites
- Enforce compliance with regulatory requirements, company policies and industry codes of practice
- Identify out-of-date or fraudulent offers, wrong or inappropriate marketing material or keywords (e.g. free money)
- Hit back at competitors and criminals who pose as affiliates, divert traffic to their sites and use your domain name or logo to imply authorised status
- Detect copies of your logo, trade marks or domain names that have been adapted or faked and detect any out-of-date logos that are being used
- Evaluate comment on your brand in blogs, forums, news media and IRC sites
- Recruit new affiliates by targeted searching of websites, blogs and forums
- Proactively deal with SPAM from your affiliates
The bottom line for merchants is that by the time a groundswell of negative activity has built momentum and “yourbrandsucks.com” types of sites are starting to rank top ten on the major search engines, it’s going to be VERY time consuming and expensive to deal with. Better to be proactive and begin monitoring more effectively now, as well as pay attention to the creation of content and the aspects of your business that might result in negative experiences. Monitoring can provide an early warning, but it’s best to engage in content creation, the optimization of digital assets, community building and engagement with the social web to foster relationships that result in the publishing of a better picture of what your brand stands for.
If you work in the affiliate marketing world as an affiliate/publisher, part of a network or as a merchant, we’d love to hear your opinions and experiences with online brand management. Challenges and successes are equally welcome.