Web 2.0: Judith Lewis

Online brand reputation management
Why should businesses monitor the web? People say happy and sad things. Consumers are out there talking, blogging, it’s not just word of mouth, it’s much more pervasive – blogs go much further out. Need to commit time and resources to doing this because search results are your company brochure. People see negative messages via Google, don’t even need to go to the website.

Search results for Starbucks, Dell and Land Rover Discovery – lots of negative sites. People search, and often confronted with negative messages and it’s important that businesses know what’s going on.

Was searching for a Starbucks logo, found one in Google Images but it was linked to from a page called “witchcraft and abortion” – not a great association!

Consumerist, shows a lot of negative news or issues. Important to know what’s going on, either to manage expectations and explain what’s going on, or to learn what you need to change.

What should you be monitoring? Lots of stuff going on – websites like Consumerist, ComplaintsBoard, PissedConsumer – which is a lot of competitor-bashing, rather than real consumer issues. Also blogs, Digg, Reddit, etc.

Need to look not just at your companies, but at your key people. Set up alerts.

Example, headline about a guy called Paul Polman from Nestle was poached by Unilever. So did a search on him, found a lot of negative stuff about Nestle, as opposed to Paul, which comes up very highly in search. Digg also has every negative links on it, as does Reddit. Reddit is used, in the US at least, by very politically active people they tend to be more willing to act.

Have to be aware of what’s out there and make a decision on whether to engage. On Reddit, would never engage them because they are crazy and the negativity would mushroom. But need to know where stuff comes from.

This isn’t about panicking and being worried, but be aware.

Use something like Bloglines, or can create Google and Yahoo email alerts. Use shortcuts to quickly monitor, so bookmark a search. Use RSS to manage into. Maybe hire a professional firm if you’re a large corp with a big problem, and make sure that they can show you what they’ve done before. Don’t just use a PR company who think they can do this.

Use misspellings, associated phrases.

Do your PR in a way that it can be instantly repackaged without having to reword it, so put in your links, make sure that the link phrases are relevant, don’t make it look too corporate. Use that to get linked into your sites and push bad stuff down. Make sure that when you need to you can squish that negative message below the fold or onto the second page.

Link press releases with website pages dedicated to the news but use different copy. If you want news to get out, use different copy on your website to the news sites so that it will show up.

Don’t undervalue your company’s achievements. Talk about what you’re doing, press release it. Someone will pick it up – don’t be shy about talking about your achievements. Newswire helps you get stuff out. But do not use more than one service – journalists see that as spamming. Do not spam journalists. Use one service, target your press release carefully.

Corporate blogging, if you’re going to blog as a business, make sure that the voice is still authentic. People won’t read your press releases on a blog. Don’t turn off comments. Make sure you’re talking to people, be involved. Don’t engage trolls, if negative feedback appears, don’t delete it, check and see if you need to respond, don’t get into an argument in a public forum, unless you need to counteract negative information but avoid emotive language.

It is possible for a CEO to blog, but their time is usually limited to consider making it part of a larger project where more than one person is blogging – share the load amongst many people to get a better readership – different voices will attract different people and the people who are blogging will enjoy it more. Example, McAfee CEO uses a personal voice and only blogs when there is something to say – sometimes months between posts. Uses first person, his own personal story.

Moo is a great example – follow overheard@Moo on twitter and it’s hilarious and gives you a feeling of being closer to the people in the office, e.g. when they had too many pies (they were pied out!). It was lovely to be engaged at that level even though I don’t work there.

Feature your bloggers (like IBM) – don’t be afraid of exposing your bloggers to external people.

Are laws now that say it is illegal for businesses pretend to be someone you aren’t.

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