Search & Reputation Management

February 10, 2009
By Lisa Barone in Internet Marketing Conferences

Hey, hey, kids. Ready to talk about online reputation management? Too bad. That’s where we’re at. Suckas!

This time, Chris Bennett, Leslie Carruthers, and Noah Elkin are speaking, I’m liveblogging, Barry Smyth is moderating, and Rae and Rhea have yet to make an appearance on Day 1 of SMX. I guess I drew the short straw in company responsibilities.

Lets go before I get really whiny. I need chocolate.

Noah is up first.

We live in an age of conversation marketing. Conversations are taking place in a variety of platforms, in a variety of different media. If you think you need to manage your reputation online today, just wait. Within three years, 70 percent of all online content will be created by individuals. Yikes. We need to start keeping Rae away from clients, ASAP! ;)

Search engines are important. They’re people’s entry point and that first impression they have with your brand is crucial. What you see in the search results can really affect your brand’s reputation. Search results will have a determining effect on the subsequent actions that people take or don’t take as a result of what they see.  It’s much more than a direct response medium. It’s a branding and engagement medium.  You want to avoid the situation where a consumer decides not to engage with your brand because of what they found in the search results.

7 Reputation Management Rules to Live By

Be Proactive: Use tools to learn where conversations about your brand are taking place. Identify threats and opportunities. Locate brand advocates.

Improve internal procedures before a crisis hits. Appoint a single point of contact for information gathering and dissemination. Organize a cross-platform “rapid response” team. Establish a customer advocate to meet customers on their turf and terms.

Be Relevant: Capture and analyze relevant data. Gain an understanding of audiences and communities. Learn what is motivating issues behind brand perception.

Help your audiences by supplying them with the right information at the right time. Insert your brand’s voice into the dialogue.

Be Tactical: Leverage blended search to get your story across in alternative formats. Create, distribute and optimize multimedia assets. Tap into traditional and online news sites as well as blogs, forums, and social networks.

Use paid media to gain immediate differentiation. Communicate your story to customers on their terms.

Maximize the reach and distribution of your message. Tailor language of releases with content relevant to specific queries. Include tags, links, photos, etc.

Lay in other tactics as needed, like social media.

Be Authentic: Take the opportunity to put a real human personality behind a faceless corporate entity. Communicate clearly about what you are doing. Avoid marketing speak and legalese. Honesty and authenticity will help earn positive attention and that will translate into brand and search engine equity.

Be Accountable: Take responsibility for mistakes. Keep your organization customer-centric. Help employees understand the impact of their interactions on the brand. Remind them that customers always have the final say.

Be Responsive: Sift through conversations to distill common themes. Make an effort to stimulate dialogue and interaction. Build goodwill by rewarding customers for their attention and participation.

Be Responsible: Move beyond crisis management. Make reputation management an integral part of your strategy and planning process. Reshape your organization to respond effectively to the data you gather. Foster corporate and “accidental” advocates. Advance from brand protection to brand extension and engagement marketing. Strive to create balance, not distortion.

Chris is up next.

It’s on you to put the fire out.

When you have an online reputation management issue, it can either grow to be really big or you can kill the story. People will make up the worst story they can think of. You need to give them the correct info. Otherwise, they’ll make it up and fill in the blanks themselves. Train your PR team to know that if a crisis comes up, you can skip hoops and just act.

Respond. Kill the story. Be Pro-active. Be Honest. Be Transparent.

Two years ago they launched a product called Social Media for Firefox. A programmer out of France found some flaws in the tool and it looked like there may have been some weird stuff going on if you knew how to leverage the code. He came out and posted a blog post about it. It was a Saturday morning, Chris was playing with this twin boys, and he saw a story about how his company was spying on people. He was one of the first one’s to comment. He explained the situation and said he was already in works to get it figured out.   Once he found out what the problem was, he wrote his own blog post. His post went hot on Sphinn. The original post did not. And just like that, it was old news.

Even if you don’t have an answer, just tell people you don’t have an answer and that you’re looking into it.

How do you combat negative search rankings?

You need to understand why they’re ranking. Most of the time it’s because of keyword density (mentioning your name a lot in a rant). Google’s algorithm is based on giving you different results from different types of sites.  Next, look at the number and quality of links. How many internal links? The number of phrase repeated? How often is it getting cached? On page factors?

Once you know that, you know what you have to create in order  to rank in front of that and push it down. Whatever they’re doing, do it better.

What Not To Do:

  • Don’t use the same links.
  • Don’t use lightweight content. Do everything for a reason.
  • Don’t create fluffy social profiles.
  • Don’t create false reviews.

Generate Some Buzz: Use social media and viral marketing to your advantage.  Do social media. Link to reviews.

Interviews are a good way to push down negative results. Talk to your PR team and link to them from your corporate site, from your About page, from all other place. That’s the stuff you want to rank anyway.

Social media poaching: Grab all your names on social media. Google allows for the same URL in the top 10.

One of the best ways you can solidify your results is to create powerhouse social media accounts.  You’ll get thousands of internal links.

Next up is Leslie. Girl power!

Why are the ethics of ORM important?

  • censorship
  • misinformation
  • vendetta
  • consumer rights
  • time sensitivity
  • long term reputation
  • $$

Common ORM Tactics – Ethical or Not?

It depends on how you use them and what is important to your company.  Leslie spends a bunch of time going through “the right way” and “the wrong way” of communicating with people. It’s pretty much common sense stuff. Be polite. Put real effort into the conversation. Don’t threaten people. Don’t be a bully. It’s basically everything your mother taught you when you were five and known for biting.

Legal Ramifications of Less Than Ethical Behavior

  • Cease & Desist: Legal, but ineffecitive because the Web sites are protected. It’s not their material.
  • Communications Decency Act: protects forums and blog comments
  • First Amendment: protects most personal posts.
  • Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation: used to quickly end libel and defamation lawsuits
  • Libel & Defamation: Case has to be proven and can be costly in court.

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