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Don't let your social media presence crush your brand's future

Don't let your social media presence crush your brand's future Eric Papczun

 focused on SEO and paid search efforts marketers can take to better dominate search engine results pages (SERPs) and address timely, problematic reputation management issues. Ideally, these strategies drown out less favorable commentary on the web and preserve a brand's online integrity.

A third area of focus marketers should consider in an online reputation management strategy is social media, one of the fastest growing vehicles for online branding and engaging in consumer conversations. Online reputation management is not only about proactively and reactively drowning out less favorable social commentary; it is also about balancing negative opinions with positive opinions. 

Social media drives consumer conversation
A solid, well-rounded strategy is about page dominance and ensuring there are glowing reviews and positive content on the web. Social media is now a major component to successfully executing an online reputation management strategy. According to Forrester, despite the fact that 71 percent of CMOs say overall marketing budgets have been reduced, nearly half -- 47 percent -- of all CMOs intend to increase spending on social media. Given the number of platforms that are available in today's online marketplace and the consumer usage, it's a critical component of staying on top of your brand.

Marketers should focus on creating a message that resonates and communicating that message widely, including social networks in the mix.

Any given domain can only receive one or two listings, so marketers need to have alternate sources of positive, or at least neutral, results.  To help stake out more real estate on the page, use these four key techniques:

  1. Leverage alternate domains: Optimize sibling sites (corporate sites, charitable foundations, etc.)

  2. Link to sites with good listings on page two or three (affiliate sites, positive reviews, neutral results)

  3. Create and optimize new pages on trusted social media sites (Facebook, Wikipedia, YouTube, Flickr)

  4. Optimize all press releases

A strong and well-optimized presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social networks can help a brand own more of this SERP real estate. This, in turn, sends content created by others to lower ranking positions and pages. In doing so, marketers reduce the reach and potential damage that disgruntled consumers, unfavorable media sites, and other negative content can impose on a brand.

In a recent reputation management fiasco, a video of a Domino's Pizza employee doing inappropriate things to a customer's food surfaced online. The pizza giant acted quickly and employed an arsenal of off-site content, including posts on its blog, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and micro-sites to push the video off of the first page of results. When consumers searched for "dominos pizza," the negative video appeared well below the fold of the engine results page.

In another recent PR nightmare, Southwest Airlines needed to recover from negative publicity about a basketball-size hole in the fuselage during a flight. Known for their customer-friendly communications and high level of consumer-brand engagement, Southwest distributed information on Twitter to its customer base. The company used a multi-tweet strategy to keep consumers informed:

  • Tweet one: The official press release

  • Tweet two: Indicated that all planes would be inspected overnight, with minimal impact to the next day's schedules

  • Tweet three: Said that all passengers on the flight would be fully refunded

Tracking your brand's online reputation
Implementing a comprehensive SEO, paid search, and social media strategy to maintain positive brand awareness is essential, but how do you know if it's working? A critical part of managing your brand's reputation is monitoring for publicity -- positive and negative -- that can be easily found on the web.

Aside from searching the internet using brand and relevant keywords, several tools exist to help you automate the tracking and monitoring process. Social media sources can also be integrated into the process by using an RSS reader to combine multiple results from the following sources into one comprehensive feed:

  • Google Alerts, Yahoo Alerts, etc.

  • Google News (for mainstream)

  • Technorati (for social media)

  • Keotag.com (monitors across the social media universe)

  • Blogpulse.com (for hot topics that jump from blog to blog)

  • BoardTracker.com (for forums)

  • Copernic.com (any other site, including competitors)

Various paid services are also available that conduct all the monitoring and provide a dashboard of results, including Radian6 and BuzzLogic. In addition, a marketer will want to monitor its SEO keyword rankings to ensure coverage on target keywords in the major engines. Integration of these tools into other measurement efforts will provide a more robust set of insights for marketers.

Smart marketers know to monitor and measure traditional public relations, branding, or promotional campaigns -- and the same rules apply to online reputation management. Measurement tactics for SEO and paid search are more defined than those for social media because it is a new discipline for many brands. However, setting goals and executing pre-, during-, and post-campaign measurement efforts will capture the most accurate pulse of consumer conversation and sentiment of a brand.   

To discuss any of these social media examples or other thoughts for online reputation management and measurement, email me.

Eric Papczun is vice president of optimization services at Performics.  

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

Eric Papczun leads search engine optimization (SEO) and feed marketing and is responsible for product evolution, operations and service delivery. His team specializes in increasing visibility and traffic to large retail, manufacturer, publisher,...

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to leave comments.

Commenter: Eric Papczun

2010, April 02

Thanks everyone for your excellent comments. It's great to see a lively discussion around this topic.

My goal was to illustrate various examples of how SEO can be combined with a social engagement strategy or crisis response strategy. Ultimately, it's the brand's decision on how they want to engage their customers and the general public. I personally feel that transparency, authenticity, over communication, and quick action is the best recipe for consumer engagement. However, there should be nothing wrong with a brand linking to true stories and content about their brand and products.

For example, Domino's Pizza has been around since 1960 and makes 1,000,000 pizzas a day that our delivered out of over 8,000 restaurants. They are a proud company started by 2 brothers. Sadly, two rouge employees in one franchise did unthinkable things to people's food. It was a criminal act. My point is that there are hundreds of great things about a brand and it should be the full right of a brand to help bring attention to those facts and stories. SEO can help do this using traditional "white hat” tactics such as linking to the content from their site and from other web assets. However, the best approach is to do both: 1.) help truthful and positive content appear in the SERP, and 2) engage participants in the conversation.

Matthew and Megan are right, Southwest did both and is the better example of a holistic and engaging approach.

Commenter: Keith West

2010, April 02

"Ensure glowing reviews"?

If there are glowing reviews, there's nothing wrong in taking steps to help them become more visible. But the only way to ensure glowing reviews is to help create them, and that isn't a good idea. In fact, it's an idea that may come back to bite you.

Keith West
Internet Staffing and Execution

Commenter: Megan Strand

2010, March 31

Solid article, overall, with some useful examples (e.g. Southwest) but wow...I have to say my hackles went up a bit with this line,

"Online reputation management is not only about proactively and reactively drowning out less favorable social commentary; it is also about balancing negative opinions with positive opinions."

The entire reason that social media has become such an important medium is exactly because it allows your consumers to control the conversation - not you. The companies that succeed in today's changing economy will be the ones that embrace a transparent and authentic presence online, not the ones that seek to "drown out" commentary.

The key? If you want people to care about what you do, do something worth caring about. The Southwest example is a good one because they weren't seeking to "drown out" rumor and speculation, they were there participating in the discussion. Appropriately. On time.

The real question is...what is YOUR company doing online? Drowning out your customer's message or lifting all boats with the rising tide?

Commenter: John McTigue

2010, March 29

I agree with Matthew. Social media should be treated as a communication device, not an seo toolkit. Given that real time search does and will have some impact on seo, it can't be a bad thing to be out there being a brand advocate, but deliberately trying to drown out dissenting opinions is definitely a black hat strategy.

Commenter: Matthew Selznick

2010, March 29

Flooding the web with media to "drown out" negative publicity might push those unfavorable links farther down the SERP, but using social media in that way completely misses the point and potentially degrades a brand's integrity and reputation.

Social media is about engagement and real communication between the participants. Of the examples you site, Domino's and Southwest, only Southwest did the right thing by engaging with their customers and taking real-world positive action and responsibility -- that's how you build brand reputation, not by shouting louder than the negative voices.

People who use social media -- and by that I mean the everyday people who are also consumers -- can smell disingenuous social media practices a mile away. The best way for companies to establish excellent reputations online is the same way individuals do it: by being open, honest and behaving with integrity.

Commenter: Michael Phares

2010, March 29

Thank you Eric for yet another well written and poignant article. I appreciate your articles as they provide concrete applications of what you've written that virtually anyone, or any company can do.

Please, let me know where else you write as I'd love to read more of your articles.

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