Managing Your Company’s Reputation with Social Media
While many insulation businesses are evaluating the promotional power of social media—sites where users swap videos, online communities where groups engage in discussions, and blogs where the mighty and the meek opine—they also need to grasp its perilous darker side. Unfortunately, careless exposure has the ability to damage or destroy a business.
Domino’s Pizza learned this lesson the hard way earlier this year when a video depicting its employees smearing mucus on sandwiches was posted—and went viral—on YouTube (www.youtube.com). The site is the number one destination for swapping and talking about videos and features virtually every subject matter imaginable.
The Domino’s video, a staged joke made by two of its employees with nothing better to do, was tossed up on YouTube as a lark. For Domino’s, it was anything but.
Within days, the reputation tarnisher was viewed more than a million times, became a topic du jour on the micro-blogging service Twitter (www.twitter.com), and showed up numerous times in the top 10 Google search returns for keyword “Domino’s.”
“It sickens me that the actions of two individuals could impact our great system,” says Patrick Doyle, Domino’s president, who made his apology about the incident in a video Domino’s posted on YouTube.
Bruce Arnold, founder of Caslon Analytics (www.caslon.com.au), a Web marketing firm that counsels clients on managing company reputations online, says no company and no industry is safe from people with bad intentions on social media sites like YouTube, Facebook (www.facebook.com), MySpace (www.myspace.com), and the like.
“Some (posts) are little more than a repository for juvenile humor: graffiti, comments that ‘X’ is the devil, animations of creatures urinating on the corporate logo,” Arnold says. “Others feature detailed and sometimes persuasive critiques, including ‘insider’ documentation, and are associated with newsgroups.
“Financial analysts have attributed falling share prices to particular campaigns, noting that some domains claim a regular audience of 20,000 to 50,000 visitors, and that information on those sites has been accepted and echoed by the mainstream media.”
For insulation businesses, the take-way from Domino’s rude awakening is to proactively develop a reputation management strategy before the horror occurs and be ready to pounce when a silly joke—or worse—threatens to go viral. According to an April 2009 study from the Aberdeen Group, companies that embrace a reputation management strategy not only guard their brand against ne’er-do-wells, but they’re also much more likely to increase shareholder value compared to companies that ignore the social media space. Specifically, the report, “Brand Reputation Management: Using Online Monitoring to Protect the Company’s Crown Jewels,” found that companies with top-notch reputation management plans are more than 12 times more likely to increase shareholder value year-over-year than their tone-deaf counterparts.
“The benefits of online monitoring and analysis in the context of brand reputation management are clear and compelling,” says Jeff Zabin, the report’s author and a research fellow at Aberdeen.
Such a monitoring strategy, Web marketing experts say, needs to encompass social media in all its forms, including video sites like YouTube, social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, and micro-blogging services like Twitter. (With Twitter, users communicate with one another in short bursts of text exchanged over the Web.)
Fortunately, there are a number of tools and service providers companies can use to protect brand image.
Do It Yourself
One of the easiest ways to get a general idea of what’s being said about your company on the Web is to monitor the major online communities, mailing lists, and blogs—all places where those looking to shape public opinion tend to congregate. The quickest way to begin the process is to sign up for Google Alerts (www.google.com/alerts), which enables you to track mentions of your business name, including mentions on YouTube.
You’ll also want to sign up for an account on Twitter, which you can use to monitor the posts there. Signing up for an account will also prevent someone else—including a dissatisfied customer—from grabbing your brand name and masquerading as a company representative.
One caution: if a company representative does begin to post on Twitter for your brand, make sure he/she knows the neighborhood. Essentially, you need to be transparent. You can’t hide. You can’t be disingenuous. If you’re not transparent, you’ll be found out, and there will be a backlash. You only get one chance to be who you really are.
Meanwhile, posts on Web blogs—the modern-day answer to personal journals—can be tracked with the free blogwatch service Technorati (www.technorati.com), which has been around since the blog phenomenon went large. It does a great job of monitoring what’s being said and keeping track of newly created blogs.
Boardtracker.com, a free service that monitors buzz on the countless discussion boards on the Web, is also an essential do-it-yourself tool.
It’s also a good idea to keep tabs on anything that may be cropping up about your company on podcasts, the grassroots, often homemade radio-show type productions beginning to crop up on the Web. PodcastAlley (www.podcastalley.com) offers an excellent overview of what’s going on in that space.
You may also want to check out other free reputation management tools:
- BlogPulse (www.blogpulse.com) tracks blog posts
- Keotag (www.keotag.com) tracks keywords, including company names, used in tags on the Web
- SeekingAlpha (seekingalpha.com/tag/transcripts) tracks the postings of conference call transcripts on Web sites
- Yahoo’s Upcoming (upcoming.yahoo.com) tracks notices of upcoming new conferences by keyword
- Google Trends (www.google.com/trends) tracks the most popular keyword searches on the Web
- Compete (searchanalytics.compete.com/site_referrals/) tracks the top Web site referrals for any keyword search.
Reputation Management Service Providers
If do-it-yourself daily monitoring becomes overwhelming, look into more comprehensive services:
- BlogSquirrel by CyberAlert (www.cyberalert.com/blogmonitoring.html) will monitor blog postings containing your company’s name and/or other keywords and send you daily reports via e-mail. The service also offers tools to ensure you’ll receive fewer alerts about posts you consider irrelevant. Plus, you’ll be able to maintain a “digital clip book,” which you can refer to when necessary.
- Webclipping.com, a long-established service, will track what’s being said about your company on the Web, keep you apprised of competitors’ activities, and send out alerts about copyright or trademark abuses.
- Nielsen Online (www.nielsen-online.com) combines the auto-monitoring of blogs with human analysis. One especially interesting feature: its software is programmed to include analysis of “natural language,” so you’ll be sure to find positive or negative posts about your company, even if those posts are rendered in poor grammar.
- Factiva Insight: Reputation Intelligence (www.factiva.com/factivainsight/reputation) monitors what’s going on with your brand across virtually all media. Offered as a joint venture of Dow Jones and Reuters, Factiva tracks company mentions in mainstream media (radio and TV) and on Web sites, blogs, and discussion groups. The firm’s “reputation analysis tool” automatically sifts through all mentions of your company and churns out reports about potential problem areas. Reputation Intelligence can also portray such data in graphical form for easier dissemination companywide.
- Radian 6 (www.radian6.com).
- Visible Technologies (www.visibletechnologies.com).
However you choose to do it, you need to be monitoring social media. It’s free to sign up, and you can’t afford not to be part of the conversation.