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Posts Tagged ‘Reputation’


3 Ways to Avoid SERP Casualties and Aid Online Reputation Management

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3 Ways to Avoid SERP Casualties and Aid Online Reputation Management was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

Upset clients are an inevitability. To protect yourself against angry rants, you need to be vigilant when it comes to online reputation management. Learn how to make sure negative comments aren’t associated with your brand in the SERP.

1. Rank for your business name.

(Own page 1 of the SERP — and page 2 and 3, if you can).

When users search for your business on Google, you want them to find your business website, your Twitter account, your Facebook page, your Google Places for Business entry, articles on your business, your LinkedIn profile, blog posts from your business, praise from customers — literally, anything that relates to your business except negative comments and bad press (neither of which, in a best case scenario, even exist).

2. Target negative keyword phrases.

SupermanTake a moment to think about negative remarks an irate customer (or crafty competitor) might take to the Internet with. Let’s say your Superman, and Lex Luthor has been trolling Web and writing “Superman sucks,” and “I hate Superman” — maybe he’s even gone so far as to say “Superman is a super fraud.”

Well, the man of steel just can’t tolerate such slander. But, like any smart superhero, he knows that if he can manage to bury Lex’s accusations beyond page two (or even three) or the search, chances are slim that no one will every read Lex’s unsubstantiated claims. How can Superman do that? By creating content that targets those very phrases: “Superman sucks,” “I hate Superman,” and “Superman is a fraud.”

For example, Superman can ask Lois Lane to whip up some optimized blog posts entitled “10 Reasons Superman Doesn’t Suck,” “I Hate Love Superman” and “Why Superman isn’t a Fraud.” (And, of course, as a savvy writer and knowledgeable content creator, Lois will create quality blog posts that are at least 400 words, offer useful information and are optimized for their respective keyword phrases).

What might your business’ enemies try to slander you with? Beat them to the punch by ranking for any negative keyword phrases that could be associated with your business.

3. Snatch up negative domains Superman

Similarly, Superman would want to own any domains that tarnish his good name, such as www.SupermanSucks.com. SEO Man (a.k.a. Bruce Clay) implements this practice. Type in www.BruceClaySucks.com and you will be redirected to www.BruceClay.com. That’s because Bruce owns www.BruceClaySucks.com. Which means someone who wishes to do him digital harm can’t own it. Neither Bruce nor Super Man would have it any other way.

Bruce Clay Blog

Fresh and Sizzling at Applebee’s: Social Media Reputation Management

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Fresh and Sizzling at Applebee’s: Social Media Reputation Management was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

Applebee’s is serving up a lesson in social media reputation management and crisis communications this week. There are multiple layers worth exploring in this story.

There’s the Reddit community whose mob mentality infected this story as it traveled across social media channels.

There’s also the social media marketing industry that has raised its voice against how Applebee’s handled the situation.

Herein I attempt to look at both because, of course, they’re overlapping and related.  Yet because this story is deeply layered and complex, I merely skim the surface. Still, I think it’s enough to add a few things to your business’s guidelines for online discourse if and when your brand ever comes under fire.

To recap what happened with Applebee’s:

  • An Applebee’s customer, Alois Bell, rejected the automatic 18% tip for a large party, opting instead to leave a snarky comment with a religious allusion. Update: In an interview with Alois after the controversy broke, she says her group left the 18% tip in cash on the table.
  • An Applebee’s employee named Chelsea Welch – not the server of this delightful customer – posted the customer’s note to Reddit’s atheist section.
  • Reddit had a grand time making fun of the customer and her religious affiliations. Welch was fired by Applebee’s for breaking rules regarding customer privacy.
  • Applebee’s issued an apology for the incident on Facebook. Across social media networks, outrage rang out over Welch’s firing.
  • Applebee’s defended their position in a middle-of-the-night Facebook posting and tens of thousands of comments accumulated. Nearly all comments are negative, and many point to a failure in using Facebook and social media for public relations and customer communications.
applebees.com home page

Mentions of Applebee’s on Twitter focus on the customer tipping scandal that rocked the company’s social media profile this week. Don’t tell Chelsea Welch they’re hiring because they let her go after she posted customer info on Reddit.

The Arguments Against Applebee’s

I think Applebee’s is being crucified for reasons beyond the incident that went down in a St. Louis restaurant on January 25.

To start, it’s my feeling that Reddit can get pretty uppity. Any action taken against Welch would have been met with righteous indignation regardless of Applebee’s reasoning. The social media community had elevated itself to a mob and would have attacked any argument — and this attack mentality spread to Facebook and Twitter. At this point it was Applebee’s against the haters across the Web.

These haters looked to any opportunity to call foul on Applebee’s. When the company explained Welch’s firing as the result of her violation of the customer’s privacy, this is how the debate that went down:

Applebee’s: “We don’t post customer’s personal information.”

Angry hoard points to a January 12th Applebee’s Facebook posting of a photograph of customer praise with the customer’s name included: “Look, look! You did so post a customer’s personal info!”

What Applebee’s should have said next: “Let us rephrase. We don’t publish customer’s personal information to tar and feather them in the public eye.”

Based on the facts we have, Applebee’s acted well within appropriate boundaries in letting the employee go and in its initial explanations and apologies about the situation on Facebook.

Some social media marketing industry insiders have argued otherwise, pointing to these actions as a lack of planned crisis communications strategy:

  • Posting in the middle of the night
  • Needlessly repetitive copy-and-paste responses
  • Replying to critics as responses rather than definitive status updates

These are all judgment calls in my mind, with no clear right or wrong without the aid of hindsight.

Of course, regardless of what Applebee’s was being persecuted for, the fact is that they were under attack in social media. So…

Could This Have Been Avoided?

If Applebee’s had a social media crisis response plan, could this nightmare have been avoided? It just so happens that two years ago, Jessica interviewed Applebee’s then-social media director Scott Gulbransen about the company’s social media policy.

When he talked to BCI in 2010, he explained the current state of Applebee’s social media strategy as “evolving” with “a ways to go.” What he described was a corporate social communications department that was trusted by company leadership to interact and engage online.

He explained, “We’re in the process of getting more folks in cross-functional roles trained to respond and participate appropriately in social channels with our guests and employees out the in field.” In that level of development, after a year with Applebee’s odds are good he established crisis response guidelines, or at least equipped his predecessors with the needed ideas and background to act appropriately in a critical situation.

He called the company’s voice “real, authentic and transparent,” and as comfortable making jokes as “pointed remarks.” To that point he said, “[W]hen people Tweet at us or post on our Facebook page comments or content that is pushing the limits, we don’t mind calling them on it.” If a brand isn’t “real” in social media, they aren’t worth listening to. If a brand is stiff and always agreeable, people have no reasons to connect.

The Cost of Being Real

So when I hear people arguing that in this instance Applebee’s demonstrated failure in a high-pressure social media situation, I’m wondering if what they expected Applebee’s do is roll over and take a flogging. That’s not a brand I can relate to. Applebee’s established its corporate voice as one who calls out people who push the limits, and as both a social media marketing professional and a social media user, I respect that.

Now add to that, with the facts we have, I don’t think Applebee’s acted out of turn in terminating employment of a staff member who posted a customer’s personal information for the purpose of mocking on the Internet, and you can see how I find Applebee’s in the right on this one.

Was their room for improvement? Sure. Lessons I’ve taken from this are to create a plan of defense before saying anything. It could cover how to respond to individual comments, or if that should be done at all. And a pre-planned blueprint would probably rule out posting at 3 am, an unsacred hour when late-night trolls are just waiting for something to dig their teeth into.

Other than that, Applebee’s should keep calm and carry on. Although tens of thousands of people hated on Applebee’s online this week, how many of them do you think are Applebee’s diners who will now boycott their normal happy hour spot? …See you tomorrow, Applebee’s.

Bruce Clay Blog

Manage Your Reputation

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How much value do you place on your good reputation?

If we looked at it purely from a financial point of view, our reputations help us get work, make money, and be more influential. On a personal level, a good name is something of which you can be proud. It is something tangible that makes you feel good.

You’re Everywhere

As it becomes increasingly easy for people to make their feelings known and published far and wide, many businesses are implementing reputation management strategies to help protect their good name.

This area used to be the domain of big business, who employed teams of PR and legal specialists to nurture, defend and promote established brands. Unlike small business, which didn’t have to worry about what someone on the other side of the country might have said about them as it didn’t affect business in their locality, larger entities were exposed nationally, and often internationally. It was also difficult for an individual to spread their grievance, unless it was picked up by mainstream media.

These days, everything is instant and international. Those with a grievance can be heard far and wide, without the need to get media involved. We hear about problems with brands across the other side of the country, or the world, just as easily as we hear about them in our own regions, or market niches. If someone is getting hammered in the search industry, you and I probably both hear about it, at roughly the same time. And so will everyone else.

Media stories don’t even have to be true, of course. False information travels just as fast, if not faster, than truth. Given the potential, it’s a wonder reputation problems don’t occur more often that they do.

This is why reputation management is becoming increasingly important for smaller firms and individuals. No matter how good you are at what you do, it’s impossible to please everyone all the time, so it’s quite possible someone could damage your good name at some point.

Much of the reputation management area is obvious and common sense, but certainly worth taking time to consider, especially if you haven’t looked at reputation issues up until now. When people search on your name, do they find an accurate representation of who you are and what you’re about? Is the information outdated? Are you seen in the same places as you competition? How does their reputation compare to yours?

Also, some marketers offer reputation monitoring and management as an add-one service to clients so it can be a potential new revenue stream for those offering consultancy services.

The Indelible Nature Of The Internet

In some respects, I’m glad the internet – as we know it – wasn’t around when I was at school. There were far too many regrettable nights that, these days, would be recorded from various angles on smartphones and uploaded to YouTube before anyone can say “that isn’t mine, officer!”

You’ve got to feel sorry for some of the kids today. Kids being kids, they sometimes do stupid things, but these days a record of stupidity is likely to hang around “forever”. Perhaps their grand-kids will get a laugh one day. Perhaps the recruiter won’t.

Something similar could happen to you, or your firm. One careless employee saying the wrong thing and the record could show up in search engines for a long time. If you’re building a brand, whether personal or related to a business, you need to look after it, nurture it, and defend it, if need be. We’ll look at a few practical ways to do so.

On the flip side, of course, the internet can help establish and spread your good reputation very quickly. We’ll also look at ways to push your good reputation.

Modern Media Is A Conversation

People talk.

These days, no matter how big a firm is, they can’t hide behind PR and receptionists. If they don’t want to join the conversation, so be it – it will go on all around them, regardless. If they aren’t part of it, then they risk the conversation being dictated by others.

So a big part of online reputation management is about getting involved in the conversation, and framing it, where possible i.e. have the conversation on your terms.

Be Proactive

Most us haven’t got time to constantly monitor everything that might be said about us or our brands. One of the most cost-effective ways to manage reputation is to get out in front of problems before they arise. If there is enough good things said about you, then the occasional critical voice won’t carry as much weight by comparison.

The first step is to audit your current position. Search on your name and/or brand. What do you see in the top ten? Do the results reflect what you’re about? Is there anything negative showing up? If so, can you respond to it by way of a comment section? This is the exact same information your customers will see, of course, when they look you up.

If you’re not seeing accurate content, you may need to update or publish more appropriate content on your own sites, and those sites that come up in the top ten, where possible. More aggressive SEO approaches involve flooding the SERPs with positive content in an attempt to push down any negative stories below the fold so they are less likely to be seen. This is probably not quite as effective as addressing the underlying issues that caused the negative press in the first place, unless the criticisms were malicious, in which case, game on.

Next, conduct the same set of searches on your competitors. How does their reputation compare? Are they being seen in places you aren’t? Are they getting positive press mentions that you could get, too? How does your reputation stack up, relatively speaking?

Listen

You can monitor mentions using services such as Google Alerts, Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, and various other tools. There’s another big list of tools here. Google runs “Me On The Web” as part of the Google Dashboard.

Monitor trends related to your industry. Get involved in fast breaking, popular trends and discussions. Be seen where potential customers would expect to see you. The more other people see you engaged on important issues, in a positive light, the more credibility you’re banking for the future. If you build up a high volume of “good stuff”, any occasional critical voice will likely get lost in the noise, rather than stand out. A lot of reputation management has to do with building positive PR ahead of any negatives that may arise later. You should be everywhere your customers expect to see you.

This is a common tactic used by authors selling on Amazon. They “encourage” good reviews, typically by handing out free review copies to friends, in order to stack the positive review side in their favor. The occasional negative review may hurt them, but not quite as much as if the number of negative reviews match the number of positive reviews. Some of them overdo it, of course, as twenty 5 star reviews, and nothing else, looks somewhat suspicious. When it comes to PR, it’s best to be believable!

Engage

Create a policy for engagement, for yourself, and other people who work for you. Keep it simple, and principle based, as principles are easier to remember and apply. For example, a good principle is to post in haste only if what you are saying is positive. If something is negative, pause. Leave it for a few hours. If it still feels right, then post. It’s so easy to post in haste, and then regret it for years afterwards.

Seek feedback often. Ask people how you’re doing, especially if you suspect you’ve annoyed someone or let them down in some way. If you give people permission to vent where you control the environment it means they are less likely to let off steam somewhere else. It may also highlight potential trouble-spots in your process, that you can fix and thus avoid repeats in future. I’ve run sites where the sales process has occasionally broken down, and had customers complain. It happens. I make a point of letting them vent, giving them more than they originally ordered, and apologizing to them for the problems. Not only does going over-and-above expectations prevent negative press, it has often turned disgruntled customers into advocates. They’ve increased their business, and referred others. Pretty simple, right, but good customer service is all part of the reputation management process.

Figure out who the influential people are in your industry and try and get onside with them. In a crisis, they may well help you out, especially if they see you’re being hard done by. If influential names weigh in on your behalf, this can easily marginalize the person who is being critical.

Security

Secure your stuff. Check out this awful story on Wired:

In the space of one hour, my entire digital life was destroyed. First my Google account was taken over, then deleted. Next my Twitter account was compromised, and used as a platform to broadcast racist and homophobic messages. And worst of all, my AppleID account was broken into, and my hackers used it to remotely erase all of the data on my iPhone, iPad, and MacBook.

Explaining what happened and getting it published on Wired is a pretty good crisis management response, of course. When you look up “Mat Horan”, you find that article. Separate your social media business and personal profiles. Secure your mobile phone. Check that your privacy settings are correct across social media. Simple stuff that goes a long way to protecting your existing reputation.

What To Do If You Do Hit Trouble

We can’t please everyone, all the time.

A critical factor is speed. If you spot trouble, get into the conversation early. This can prevent the problem festering and gathering it’s own momentum. However, before you leap in, make sure you understand the issue. Ask “what do these people want to happen that is not currently happening?”.

Also consider who is saying it. What’s their reach? If it’s just a ranter on noname.blogspot.com, or a troll attempt, it’s probably not worth your time, and engaging trolls is counter-productive. Someone influential, of course, requires kid glove treatment. One common tactic, especially if the situation is escalating beyond your control, is to try and take it offline and reach resolution that way. You can then go back to the online conversation once it has been resolved, rather than having the entire firefight a matter of indelible public record.

It’s illegal for people to defame you, so you could also consider legal action if the problem is bad enough. You could also consider engaging some PR help, particularly if the problem occurs in mainstream media. PR can be a bit hit and miss, but reputable PR professionals tend to have extensive networks of contacts, so may get you seen where it might be difficult for you to do so on your own. There are also dedicated reputation management companies, such as reputation.com, reputationchanger.com, and reputationmanagementagency.com who handle monitoring and public relations functions. NB: Included for illustration purposes. We have no relationship with these firms.

Practical examples of constructive responses to negative criticism can often be seen in the Amazon reviews.

For example, a writer can respond to any reviews made about their book. A good approach to negative statements is to thank the reviewer for taking the time to provide feedback, regardless of what they said, and address the issue raised in a calm, informative manner. Future customers will see this, of course, which provides yet another opportunity to sway their opinion. One great example I’ve seen was when the writer did all of the above AND offered the person providing the negative review an hour of free consulting so the reviewer could get the specific information he felt he was missing! One downside of this strategy, however, might be more copycat negative reviews aimed at getting the reviewer free consulting!

The same principle applies to any negative comment in other contexts. When a reader sees your reply, they get editorial balance that would otherwise be missing.

It’s obvious, yet important, stuff. If you’ve got examples of how you’ve handled reputation issues in the past, or your ideas on how best to manage reputation going forward, please add them to the comments to help others.

I’m sure they’ll remember you for it :)

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