Brands, products and people are discussed ad nauseam with very little regard for the imprint being made on a reputation. With relative ease, I can join a discussion and watch my comments rise to prominence. For example: I had dinner out last night and the service wasn’t very good. As a matter of fact, it was pretty bad.
I can go online and post comments about my experience. The next time someone Googles that restaurant, there is a good chance my comments will be found. With that one simple move, I can forever alter the perception and equity of that restaurant. No ID check and no validation I really ate there, all hidden behind the cloak of my online alter ego.
The social world, with its roots in forums and chat rooms of the past, is meant to foster discussion and the exchange of ideas. But in many cases, what is found is more of a diatribe than a two-way conversation. Let’s also not kid ourselves into thinking it is not being manipulated. Any solid brand manager with a modicum of online experience is engaged. They’re out there rebutting claims against them and starting new conversations about their strengths and the weaknesses of their competitors. Of course when they do this, they rarely leave their name and title!
So how do you combat this? You can’t remove it, and in most cases, rebutting each claim against you does not really undo the damage. What you must do is look at the inherent weakness of the attack against you. Think back to my negative restaurant review. I can write it. I can be as mean and as vengeful as I need to be to assuage my irritation for dropping $200 on a mediocre dinner for two. But in the end, the ability of my comment to have a meaningful effect on the business requires that it be found. In other words, you can’t remove the, um, filth, but you can cover up its stench!
So how do we go about truly combating the negative conversation that is taking place? We don’t. We simply engage in a louder, more orchestrated, positive one. My agency has been engaged in online reputation management services for some time. As an offshoot of our SEO offerings, we help companies that face the occasional negative commentary stay hyper-engaged.
What does this mean? Instead of focusing on gaining rankings for just the client’s website, we focus on a stable of assets that may include upwards of 25 web properties. We’ll use social sites like YouTube and MySpace. We’ll penetrate industry blogs and trade groups. We’ll even go after personal assets like the alumni page of a key executive. In the end, what we are trying to do is provide Google a multitude of positive options to choose from when deciding who to award the top 10 spots.
Once you have established the foundation and have a portfolio of assets all penetrating the top organic results, you simply monitor the landscape and react when necessary. When done properly, you end up engaged in the most social of exchanges; a dance. And while you may not lead the dance, you must skillfully respond to each movement and make it all look natural. The strategies vary widely.
Negative videos need to be countered with other video assets. Consumer review sites and sites that handle petitions require unique strategies. Blogs can be countered in a number of ways depending on how they operate. There is no single silver bullet and there is no way to make it all go away.
What is needed more than anything is a keen awareness by the business that customers are making decisions based on the reviews and comments of anonymous “experts”. These days, anyone can seem authoritative and strike fear in your constituencies, impacting whether or not someone transacts business with you. It is your obligation as a steward of the business to bury the, um, filth, as deep as you can, so its stench has no opportunity to penetrate the noses of those who seek you out.
— Express your opinion, comment below.