How To Manage Your Online Reputation
When you offer a service or sell a product, either people are talking about you, or no-one is. If they’re talking about your brand, it may be positive or it may be negative. If no-one’s talking about you, perhaps they should be.
There are many examples where a brand’s reputation has been massively damaged, simply because a negative mention of a brand snowballed and was not spotted in time.
One such example is when a blogger from America bought a computer from the large computer manufacturer Dell in 2005 and paid for a four year home service support plan. Soon after, when the machine needed seeing to, Dell told him to return the computer, which left him without the machine for 10 days. When he wrote a short blog post about the poor service, it generated over 200 comments within a few days. This then resulted in 10 follow up posts and over 2500 comments that sparked so much opinion that it led to the phrase “Dell Hell” becoming a household term. Imagine is this post had been spotted in time – perhaps the massive damage that the brand received could have been limited.
Following an internal training session on Brand Identity Tracking run by our Head of Online Marketing, Drew Davies, I thought I’d write and share a few notes about how to discover what people are saying about a particular brand, how that can be tracked over time, and how the information can be used to improve brand identity.
Why Do Companies Choose To Track Their Brands?
Companies generally want their brand tracked for predominantly one of four reasons:
- New product / service: The company is launching a new product in the marketplace and wants to see the attention the brand will be getting online over time.
- Bad reviews: A brand has been getting bad reviews on the web, and the company would like to see the extent of that damage done to the brand.
- Good reviews: The brand is already receiving positive reviews on the web, and the company would like to see what is being said and use it to create more products and engage with the happy consumers.
- No reviews: The brand has been around for a while, but the company feels that nobody’s talking about it, and so that company wants to see where their competitors are being talked about and work out how to enter those forums.
How To Benchmark Your Online Reputation
We use a three step process here at Chameleon Net to benchmark the online reputation of our clients’ brands:
Step #1: GATHER – scouting the web for mentions of specific keywords relating to the brand in question, and recording how positive or negative the conversations are about the brand. Keywords here would include variations of the brand name, categories, and competitor brand names where appropriate.
Step #2: ANALYSE – working out what the comments mean according to pre-defined metrics, and benchmarking this information over time and against competitors.
Step #3: ENGAGE – making amends where there are grievances about the brand, and reinforcing positive comments about the brand on behalf of the client.
Tracking Your Online Brand Identity – For Free!
There are already a number of free tools that companies can use to find out what people are saying about their brand online. Tools offered by Google include:
- Google Search: visit http://www.google.co.uk, type in the name of the brand into the search box, and see a list of the websites that mention your brand.
- Google Blog Search: visit http://blogsearch.google.com, type in the name of the brand in the search box, and see a list of the blogs that mention your brand, along with the date of when it was mentioned.
- Google Alerts: visit http://www.google.com/alerts and sign up for alerts that will notify you by email about the latest web and news pages that mention your brand.
Limitations of using these free tools for tracking your online brand identity
If you have a good internal team who have plenty of time on their hands, information on conversations about the brand can be gathered fairly simply using the free tools listed above.
However, although the tools are good for finding the raw data, that’s where it stops. The next step is to analyse the gathered data with metrics to make sense of it, which requires a natural human touch.
Recently we tracked the brand identity of one of our clients in the not-for-profit sector who wanted to see how they are perceived online. We benchmarked our findings over time, and against similar charities in the sector.
Engaging: handling negative comments
So what happens if you discover negatives comments about your brand? What can you do to recover from an online reputation crisis?
The article at http://www.marketingpilgrim.com/2008/01/five-steps-for-recovering-from-an-online-reputation-crisis.html suggests the following steps:
- Respond from the top
- Admit your mistakes and apologise
- Host the conversation
- Seek resolution
- Turn detractors into evangelists
To recover from even the severest of mistakes, base your crisis communication on sincerity, transparency, and consistency.
Engaging: encouraging more positive comments
Suppose you find positive mentions of your brand at the websites and blogs that you find, how do you leverage that?
Simply go to those websites and say “thank you” in the comments section. Then suggest other innovative ways that your product or service can be used.
Engaging: starting a conversation
Sometimes, you’ll look around the web and find that no-one’s talking about your brand. What can you do there to create positive exposure?
Well first highlight where you want to be mentioned, and then build an innovative ePR campaign to get more people talking about your brand.
Is ‘Online Reputation Management’ ethical?
Some may refer to this process as controlling their message, while others may look upon it as ‘gaming the system’. What do you think? Is online reputation management ethical?