In the age of rampant social media (think multiple company profiles and users accessing these via several devices at all hours of the day) online reputation management is as challenging as ever and as important as ever.
Managing the online reputation of your company online is a daunting prospect, and thinking you can stay in control of everything customers are saying about your brand is beyond ambitious. However it is achievable to act as your own brand guardian and guide the conversation online to a certain degree as this post will explain.
Monitoring online conversations about your brand
It is important that your company remain part of the conversation that is occurring around your products or services and there are a number of ways you can do so.
Manually checking for comparisons
One way to monitor sites comparing your company to competitors is to type in “[insert your brand name here] vs” into Google and then see what comes up (before hitting enter or clicking on the search button). Once searches reach a certain threshold Google provides them as part of their Instant results. It is worth monitoring the first few results that come up and investigating the nature of these reviews in more detail. Customers that are doing due diligence before purchasing with you are likely to scan through these, therefore they can provide valuable intelligence on what objections need to be addressed within the FAQ section of your website.
Setting up Alerts
In order to automate the process of finding any new comments that have been written about your company online at the basic level, we recommend setting up Google Alerts. These return any new results from Google’s index based on the criteria that you enter in. The value of these is twofold:
- Monitoring the occurrences of bad press/reviews, providing your company with the opportunity to respond in a timely manner
- Finding opportunities to add to existing conversations and enhance online conversations from the viewpoint of your company, where appropriate
In order to set up these alerts, simply sign in at http://www.google.com/alerts using a Gmail address or with an email address registered as a Google Account. Next enter the keywords to monitor searches on and how often you would like to be updated on new results. The results will then be sent directly via email at the interval you specify. We recommend setting up alerts to monitor the following initially:
- “brand name vs” (including the quotation marks as provided)
- The www version of your website
- The non-www version of your website
- “brand name”
Topsy, www.topsy.com, is a social search service that can be used to monitor what people are saying about your brand across “the social web” including sites such as Twitter, and Google+. The advanced search feature can be used to further refine the results you want to see and these can be sent to you automatically via email if you sign in using Twitter or Facebook. Initially I recommend selecting to show “everything” and for “all time” to give you an idea of the results the service can generate.
At the advanced level companies that are very serious about their online brand presence can use solutions such as Radian6 (www.radian6.com). The Radian6 product claims to provide the ability to closely monitor brands, industries and competitors online and discover insights from this information right up to the global level for companies with a worldwide presence.
Once you have an accurate picture about what has been said and where, you have several options available to respond to this feedback, as outlined below.
Taking appropriate action to negative feedback
Every brand gets negative comments made about them online. When weighing up whether to respond to these consider these factors:
- Timeliness: how long ago were the comments made? If within the past week it may be appropriate to leave a reply depending on the content of the feedback. However if they are a month old or more the window of opportunity to share the companies side of the story has likely closed
- The nature of the feedback: if a user is just having a rant there may not be many valid points that you can make in response. Where someone is rambling online, it’s often best just leave them to it and let other parties that come across it make up their own mind. Consider your own reaction on a personal level – is this person someone credible that can be believed? Don’t waste valuable company resources adding credibility to their claims by posting an a response on behalf of the company unless it is warranted
- The location of the feedback: consider where the user is posting before looking to respond in any way. If on your Facebook wall a response will be appropriate more often than not. However if the feedback appears on a 3rd party side consider the nature of the site and community before you engage with them.
- Craft a balanced and fair reply: be as diplomatic as possible with your response, tailor it slightly for the medium and look to address and solve problems with your comments.
- Genuine complaints: in some cases lessons can be taken from bad experiences users have had with your product or service. Where a complaint sounds well balanced and plausible – investigate further. We are all human and mistakes can easily be made on a given day. If you are aware of a given shortcoming take the opportunity to address the issue in your response and offer a resolution.
Of course all feedback is not going to be negative, so let’s end this post on a high note! Are there circumstances where you can reply to positive feedback or further leverage this? Absolutely:
- Bloggers giving favourable reviews: if you come across a blogger that gives your product or service a great review make contact with them to tell them you appreciate it and start looking to build up a relationship with them. Many bloggers are underpaid or not paid at all, so consider sending them a sample of your product or inviting them to your next launch party so they can get your news out to their community. As a qualifier you will want to make sure the community they represent is relevant to your target demographic
- If users are leaving positive feedback on social media profiles that you control then engage with them, even a quick message of thanks goes a long way and will fill your wall up with conversations that your brand can be proud of.