Painting the picture:
We’ve all been in the situation where we hear of a brand and want to learn more about their business. Just like any savvy online shopper, the next logical step would be to Google their name and look at the top results. This is a perfect scenario for any business that has a good online presence. Ideally, the potential customer will click through to the main site and learn what the company is all about. This is, after all, the goal of branded SEO.
But what if the main site is crowded by a number of review sites in the search engine review page (SERP)? Here, the potential customer is likely to notice this and want to investigate further. In this situation, the potential new customer will either be persuaded to give their business to the brand, or become weary and look elsewhere depending on the content of the reviews. With an abundance of review sites on the web these days it’s almost inevitable that a brand will run into this problem at some point. Take for example a local coffee shop I recently heard about:
Seeing all of the review sites ranking so high, I was moved to look at the reviews and make sure it would be worth my time to visit this shop. Review sites are mostly built from user-generated content that is out of the brand’s control, but there are ways to somewhat sidestep this issue by taking over as much result page real estate as possible.
In past times, the use of subdomains were a powerful SEO tactic to gain more real estate in the SERPs, however this is no longer the case. Previous Google algorithms were known to allow for two results per host, subdomains included. If all of these assets were ranking for the branded terms, competitors or negative review sites would be pushed down below the fold essentially making them irrelevant. Unfortunately, this method was abused by brands to monopolize the SERPs and the term “domain crowding” was born. This forced Google to push in the direction of greater “SERP diversity” taking away the previous advantage of subdomain usage. Subdomains still hold their place in the web design world for organization of giant sites but in terms of SEO or reputation management, their value is dwindling with every algorithm update.
Sitelinks have been used for quite some time now and are, for the time being, still very helpful in terms of regaining SERP real estate. But what new tactics can be used to take place of the no-longer-useful subdomain usage? Fortunately, the concept of gathering assets to force competitor or review sites down the ranks is not all lost. However these days, instead of using subdomains or multiple top-level domains, brands would be wise to use social media assets and local search. If the business has physical locations, Google+ Local is your best friend. Once your Google+ Local account is set up correctly branded search results will contain a map with the locations nearest to your set location.
If your business has social media accounts like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. these pages will show up in results pages as well. As an added bonus, if your rel=”author” and rel=”publisher” tags are set up correctly, you can get nice pictures of the author or company next to the results. And if you are active on Google+ and have all of your SEO/SM ducks are in a row, you can gain a giant info box on the right side of the SERPs. As a comparison to the SERP screenshot above, the results for a Starbucks query showing good use of both Google+ Local and Google+ are below:
As you can see, other than the Wikipedia entry, Starbucks owns the vast majority of this SERP. Below the fold and not seen in the screenshot are more local listings, the official Starbucks Twitter and Facebook pages, and because SERP diversity is still in effect, some related news articles. With this much real estate under a brand’s control, it becomes far more difficult to notice any bad reviews or competitors. It is important to note that it’s not as simple as creating an account on as many social media platforms as possible. Each account should be managed closely and used often if they have any chance of ranking high enough to beat out the popular review sites like Yelp or Urban Spoon.
Although SERP diversity makes it harder for brands to completely control branded SERPs, there are still plenty of ways to regain any lost real estate. With the growing importance of Google+ and other social media platforms, we will continue to find ways to once again dominate the branded SERPs.
Customer service is hard. Just walk down the hall to the CSR “wing” and listen in to a couple of calls throughout the day. Customer service on social media platforms, however, adds a whole new level of drama to the experience simply by taking place in a public forum. Social media marketing allows for a direct line of communication, hitherto unavailable to the common consumer, and it’s public- suggesting that the user holds great leverage over the actions of the brand. Sometimes these public posts are legitimate inquiries regarding products/services. Sometimes, however, users just want to stir the pot. Here are a couple of guidelines to follow when determining whether or not intervention is necessary.
Here are three tricks of the trade when managing customer service on social networks:
1) Don’t feed the trolls. This cannot be mentioned in community management/customer service class enough times. As University of Central Lancashire lecturer Claire Hardaker so eloquently points out at the bottom of this infographic, the only way to combat trolling is to ignore it.
2) Elongate the conversation. This simple practice will weed out the trolls after your first or second response (trolls are too busy for an actual conversation). A good way to do this is to institute a character limit on yourself in your responses. You won’t be able to provide the full detailed resolution in your first 100 characters, which will allow you to carry the conversation over multiple comments during the resolution process.
When responding to legitimate inquiries (read: not trolls), always include a question to finish your response. 90% of the time (strong estimate) you, or the customer, do not know what the inquiry actually is. Don’t assume that the customer is entirely familiar with your product or your brand. This simple practice will cover most bases when managing your page; extracting all details, determining validity of the claim, showing personal attention in a public forum, etc.
3) Assume a “first name basis” with everyone. Always use the inquirer’s first name in your response. You will surprise yourself at how disarming something this simple can be, and the respect given will show throughout the conversation. It is not recommended, however, to use your own first name when representing the brand publicly. Use initials publicly, and your first name when responding in private messages.
Incorporate these three tricks today, and your community will silently thank you!
How often do you perform an internet search to verify some of the outrageous claims posted on Facebook or Twitter? Have you ever fallen victim to, what I like to call, the social media sharks that prey on the gullible social media surfers? I’m rather embarrassed to admit this, but I have…on more than one occasion.
I am obsessed with anything and everything Kardashian….so naturally, my heart stopped when I read on my Twitter Feed that Kris had died this past summer. I was quick to believe it because a good friend of mine is the one who made the Tweet. Rude, right? And I thought I could trust her!
Although I’ve never really been big into politics, many of my “friends” on Facebook have been posting propaganda for both parties these last few months. Having minimal knowledge about the candidates, it has been hard for me to decipher what is actually true. After digging a little deeper, much of the information included has turned out to be false. Many social media users, however, do not take the time to research these issues and end up passing this bad information along to their friends and followers.
Take a few moments to scroll through your Facebook or Twitter Feed and see if you can recognize the posts that have the potential to be false. Extreme political ads, celebrity news, 9/11 conspiracy, local gossip, and death hoaxes are just a few examples of things that are commonly spread. Sharing bad information is so common today that often times we don’t even think twice about it. Many people take the easy route and click the “share” button rather than going to a reputable source to find out if what they are about to share is actually factual. This behavior diminishes the credibility of the person posting the information, anyone who shares the information, and the social media platform it is shared on.
Through my many anxious and embarrassing experiences I have learned a few tricks to avoid being fooled and, more importantly, to avoid being a part of the problem:
1. Validate information using multiple sources.
If what you are reading on Facebook or Twitter is not in the mainstream media, chances are it’s probably not true. Do a quick Google search of the material and if a big name news source does not pop up you are probably dealing with a hoax or rumor. Often times, searching will result in the hoax being revealed in the title of a search result.
2. Take into account how well you know the person making the post.
Does this person constantly spread bad information on their social media account? How long have you known them? Are they just an acquaintance? If it really mattered, would you take their word on it?
3. Cite your sources and make sure they are reputable.
Make it easy for your friends and followers to view the source with their own eyes. Adding a link to the news article where you obtained your information will take the guesswork out of it for them. Should they believe you? They don’t have to believe you; you’ve cited your source.
Follow these three rules and you will help minimize the effect of social media abuse.
For today’s post, I was torn between writing about content marketing strategies and online etiquette. Online etiquette won since I’ve seen one of our clients doing a stellar job to align their team as they are facing some challenging behavior by a competitor online.
There have been blogs, books and many articles written full of advice to guide individuals and brands when it comes to online etiquette and reputation management. One of my favorite sites has been Debrett’s Social Netiquette Guide. While our client’s situation isn’t as severe to require an in-depth study of etiquette rules, and their own management of the situation hasn’t escalated the issues unnecessarily, there are still a few best practices that everyone can benefit from.
- Work to establish and update your very own best practices and go back to these as your guiding principles for what your company will and won’t do online.
- In keeping your best practices up to date you are always ready to manage your own reputation online when you are faced with a dilemma so you don’t compromise on your principles.
- Don’t lose sight of your company culture and the sincerity of your own messaging.
- Don’t say or respond to anything that you wouldn’t respond to face-to-face.
Remember, having an online presence is a way to enhance your brand. Replying defensively to rude or bad behavior can make it appear you too are stooping to an unattractive level of behavior. Always refer to your best practices or get them updated to help your team. Coach your team to use common sense and while you can’t control others behavior online, you can manage your reputation with your own common sense approach to messaging and online behavior.
So does that mean that you just let the bully, trolling or bad behavior continue? Of course not, but you don’t always need to take matters into your own hands. Most social networks have guidelines in place to help you report threatening or menacing behavior and I recommend employing that help whenever needed.
If you’d like more information on how to develop best practices for your brand online, contact us.
It’s a problem that social media professionals have seen time and time again. No, it’s not a rogue tweet or a poorly worded Facebook status update. It isn’t even a lack of an editorial calendar. It’s being caught without a social media crisis management plan. So why do so many companies fail to learn from these lessons and put a plan in place?
The latest so-called victim is Progressive Auto Insurance. One simple Tumblr post by New York-based comedian Matt Fisher has turned into a social media nightmare for Progressive. Fisher, whose sister was a Progressive policy holder, used simple elements of creating viral word-of-mouth. He unleashed a compelling heading - My Sister Paid Progressive Insurance to Defend Her Killer in Court – and paired it with a simply told story of consumer vs. swimming-in-money corporation. How can that NOT go viral?
What’s key about Fisher’s post is that his voice is calm and rational. He writes with common sense, laying out the facts, rather than some extremist nut-job who is all about brand bashing. This “I am just like you” point takes a personally trying time that anyone with a soul can empathize with and makes them want to turn against Progressive.
The most interesting part of the situation, however, is that Progressive is not responding. People are tweeting at Progressive almost every ten seconds. Their Facebook wall is being inundated with irate consumers. Even Mashable has covered the story. Their lack of response confirms everything that Fisher has said. From the perspective of social media, transparency and open communication is everything. By staying mostly silent and providing only robotic, soulless tweets about the situation, Progressive is guilty as charged, without the benefit of clarifying their side of the story.
So what would your business do in this situation?
Many companies house their social media marketing in the marketing department. But is marketing really the best equipped to deal with a crisis that is playing out in public? How fast can you get your PR team involved? And, is your PR team tuned into how your typical social media fan base is most effectively reached? Are you ignoring the expertise of your community manager and his/her effectiveness at leveraging brand ambassadors?
In my experience, I’ve learned that most executives and decision makers know that they should think about a social media crisis plan, but they don’t want to believe it can happen to them. Most companies have many policies in place with regard to how their employees can use social media, but very few policies about how the company should use social media.
In the case of Progressive, the social team has been ignoring pretty much every comment on Facebook and on Twitter. By ignoring, I mean either no response at all or a terrible canned response that is copied and pasted at will. This is not a crisis management plan, nor is it effective PR management, nor is it any way to do social business.
If nothing else, take the time to think about how your business would react if accusations against your brand spread around social environment. What would you do? Who would you call? How would you protect your brand?
Please Join us on August 22, 2012 as we co-sponsor a webinar with Infegy, Inc. that we title:
Value Based Listening
Here’s just a teaser to wet your palate for what you will hear more about on August 22, 2012:
• Have you been wondering where to get started and how to approach setting up a social listening campaign for your organization? Ben Hagedorn of Infegy, Inc. will speak on Social Analytics. Take advantage of what Ben will share about one of my favorite tools – Social Radar and how different industry verticals have solved problems even before they became problems by having a value based listening plan in place.
• There is more on how you can benefit from attending this, (did I say free?) webinar….
Search and social media are more integrated than ever now and things will continue to move in that direction. Paying attention to algorithms from best practices standpoint is necessary, but don’t lose sight of the real prize…adding value. I’ll be happy to share my common sense, service-minded approach to standing up a value based listening campaign that can start at a grass roots effort by the organization underdogs while adding value all stakeholder organizations. Finding your brand vigilantes and evangelists is easier than you think.
• To wrap things up for us, my colleague Dylan Price and I will share a case study example or two of successful listening and engagement campaigns. Don’t miss out on some of the best of the best big or small brands have to offer.
We look forward to hosting you on August 22, 2012.
Register for our webinar now: https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/312780610