June 03, 2009

Online Marketing Tips Video: Online Reputation Management

By Li Evans

This week's online marketing tips video is all about online reputation management in social media and search marketing.  It's a little different look beyond just monitoring with Google alerts and buzz monitoring tools (the first tip).  Buy building relationships and loosing your grip, these tips can also help you with your reputation online.

Reputation Management Online Tips Video Transcript after the jump....

Continue reading "Online Marketing Tips Video: Online Reputation Management" »

October 06, 2008

Reputation Management starts in the past

By Simon Heseltine

So you've decided that it's time to monitor your online reputation.  You've read about RSS feeds, and alerts, and you're sure that you know what terms you want to monitor.  Heck, you've even gone as far as to write out an engagement plan, identifying what you're going to do when you find people talking about you.  Maybe you're going to contact the evangelists and reward them in some way, maybe you're going to attempt to engage the detractors, so that you can:

  1. understand their issue
  2. engage them to at a minimum move them to a neutral stance by addressing their concerns

Great, but is that going to be enough?

Continue reading "Reputation Management starts in the past" »

July 28, 2008

Sentiment Analysis in Reputation Management

By Simon Heseltine

One of the primary determinants of a reputation management issue is the buzz about a company / product / person.  If the buzz in primarily positive, then the chances are that the online reputation is fine (although the negatives still have to be examined to determine whether they have the potential to overwhelm the positives in the future).  If the buzz is negative, well then, there's an issue or multiple issues that need to be resolved.

Continue reading "Sentiment Analysis in Reputation Management" »

May 15, 2008

Trolls or Upset Customers? Do You Know the Difference

By Li Evans

Fairytaletroll Shining a bright light on a troll isn't always the wisest thing to do (especially when they are certifiably crazy, or have had issues in the past).  You have to be careful because sometimes they will steal your goat, or steal your baby (as those old fairy tales would tell us) or they will flame you in a community or even write nasty blog posts about you, your product or service.  Trolls do that because they have a limited scope of view, most only see the world through their own tunnel vision of how they demand the world to work. 

Then you have customers, customers who are vocal, and customers who are passionate.  These customers aren't certifiable, they are normal everyday people who've been wronged in some way or some form by your company, your employees or maybe your product or service.  At times, their passion can be mistaken for something that's "troll like", but if you take the time to look, you'll definitely see the difference 

How do you tell the difference between the Troll and the Upset Customer?  I've been asked this by many clients stepping into this new online world that includes social media and search marketing.  With fears of negative comments, blog posts or being flamed in a community, understanding the difference between a passionate (but upset) customer and a troll can mean a huge difference in time spent on resources to defend accusations and opportunities to turn a focused detractor into a passionate advocate.

Here's a few tips to tell the difference:

  • Look at their past conversations in the community.  Does the person seem to contribute in a conversation?  Have they asked sensible questions in the past, and have the participated in a manner that shows there's the ability for a normal conversation?  If so, you likely just have a passionate customer on your hands.

  • Are their past conversations on the community are consistently accusatory of other members of the community?  Are their past conversations seemingly self centered, or focused just on one thing?  If someone disagrees with their point of views and they claim "hurt" right away?  This is really "Troll Like" actions, so be forewarned, you're most likely dealing with a troll.

  • Take a look at the person's blog.  Do they constantly seem to invoke drama?  Do they announce that they are leaving their blog, and then few hours or days later they announce their triumphant return and apologize for the drama?  Do they flame others and then take down the posts?  Do they lambaste people in their comments who disagree with them?   You are most likely dealing with a troll in this case.

  • If you look at the blog and it seems like the blog is engaging in great conversation.  Informative posts, interesting opinions and great conversation in the comments, this is when you'll want to stand up and take notice if they are writing a post about you that isn't so nice.  You've got a passionate customer on your hands.  Take the time to notice they've taken the time to write about their experience and engage this person in professional manner to help resolve the situation.  You could turn that angry customer into a passionate brand evangelist.

  • Look around the communities to see if this person who's speaking "ill" of you does the same things on each community.  Are they constantly crying "foul".  Do they have inappropriate conversations on professional marketing channels?  Do they stir up drama wherever they go on the social media sites?  Do they seem like attention hounds on the sites?  If you can answer yes, then you've likely got a Troll on your hands.  They feed on the attention of inappropriate comments on Twitter can get them, or the constant change of relationship status on Facebook garners them.  Don't waste your time on feeding the Troll.

  • If the person engages in normal conversations on the various social networks and communities, leaves normal comments, or updates at what seems like a normal rate on Facebook and then all of a sudden now starts chatting up how bad their experience was with your brand, you might want to pay attention to this person.  This is a passionate customer and you've got an opportunity to fix the wrong.

Trolls are time and resource wasters, really you should just leave them under the dark bridges where they live.  Knowing how to spot them can not only help your bottom line, but can also allow you to spend more time focused on helping those customers who've truly been wronged by an experience with your brand, product or service.  Customer Evangelists are what every company wishes for, all you have to do is listen for the opportunity to create one!

* Illustration Credit (Troll under bridge):  Mitchell Cotie

January 17, 2008

Target Apparently Doesn't Understand New Media

By Li Evans

File this under "Stupid Responses from Public Relations Departments".  Target, apparently only deals with "Traditional Media".  Wow, talk about being in the stone-age. Hat-Tip to fellow local twitterer, Annie, for this piece.  Gawker Media has a short piece about a letter sent to Target calling them out about their latest ad campaign, and also the rather, rude reply.

Target Ad in Times Square, Photo Credit to Flickr User Bennet4SenateAmy Jussle, who runs a blog called "Shaping Youth", blogged about and contacted Target about this ad, that's being featured in Times Square in New York City.  Whether you agree with Amy's position on the ad being subversive or exploitive, isn't really why I'm bringing it to the attention of this audience.  Target's reply is what I want to bring to the forefront.

via Gawker (emphasis mine):

"Good Morning Amy,

Thank you for contacting Target; unfortunately we are unable to respond to your inquiry because Target does not participate with non-traditional media outlets. This practice is in place to allow us to focus on publications that reach our core guest.

Once again thank you for your interest, and have a nice day."

*just blinks for a few minutes*

Target is now in for a rather rude awakening I think, they are apparently rather clueless to the online marketing world around them.  It's not the "traditional" media that's going to affect them, those pesky "non-traditional media outlets" like ummm lets say.... bloggers .....that are going to be their problem.  A few prominent bloggers have just got wind of this and well lets just say, the power of the blogosphere is a heck of a thing to contend with.  I wonder how long the PR Idiot at Target that decided to respond to Amy with that response will have their job after this?

Photo Credit: Flickr User Bennett4Senate

December 13, 2007

What Social Media Isn't - 10 Misconceptions

By Li Evans

Public_relations As I delve deeper and deeper into Social Media and it's practical uses in online marketing, I'm just amazed by the lack of understanding, especially by PR Firms and Advertising Agencies.  I've worked in PR, one of my degrees is in it, and when I see other PR Professionals just jumping into the Social Media waters without even thinking things through for clients, I just want to stand up and scream "Hold On A Minute!" 

Sometimes the PR Agencies and Ad Agencies gloss things over with how many awards they've won, not with the true success stories they have had in social media, and that's unfortunate for the companies that look to them for their social media strategies.  Social Media is an entirely different animal, and it needs an entirely different school of thought to be successful in.

There are so many things that Social Media is, and covering those would take a rather long time and make for rather long post.  However, I felt compelled enough after researching and dealing with social media strategies, to address what 10 things Social Media Isn't.

  • Social Media Isn't:  Easy
    So many public relations professionals, advertising agencies and even search marketing firms see Social Media as this "bright, shiny, new medium" that's easy to just throw things out there and think it will automatically just work.  If it were only that easy!  Social Media takes a lot of hard work and it also takes time (the next bullet item).
  • Social Media Isn't:  Fast
    "I put it out on Digg, it should hit the front page in an hour!"  If you have worked in Social Media, and heard anyone say that, more than likely you've snickered at hearing a statement like that.  Only in the very rarest of situations does social media take off like a rocket.  Most plans take time, effort and planning to make them successful.
  • Social Media Isn't:  A Substitute for Sound SEO Practices
    Not ranking in the Search Engine Results?  Think Social Media will shoot you up to the top in no time flat?  Think again!  There can be some cases where it might happen (the keyword "purple and blue polka dotted widgets" comes to mind here), but for any competitive keywords, Social Media alone just won't cut it if you want to rank for keywords.  Websites still need sound SEO fundamentals if they are going to compete in competitive markets.
  • Social Media Isn't:  A Substitute for Sound PPC Practices
    Just like still needing sound SEO fundamentals, if you have a PPC campaign, don't abandon it just because you're dabbling in Social Media.  Social Media can be fleeting.  You can hit big one day and it may last 2-3 more, but then you can sink like a rock for weeks to come.  Abandoning your PPC would only hurt your online marketing efforts.
  • Social Media Isn't:  A Practice to be Done by Interns
    If you are a big company looking at interns to "play around in Facebook", please stop.  Actually, maybe you should, then, you can call a professional (like me, or many of my fine colleagues) to fix up the mess your intern created.  Seriously, Social Media is serious business, stop and think, do you REALLY want to leave your brand's identity in the hands of a college or high school intern?
  • Social Media Isn't:  Another Place to Distribute Your Press Release
    If your public relations company is saying "Oh we'll send this out to the social media outlets, too", run, run far far away.  Ever hear of the "Bad Pitch Blog"?  If your PR Firm or Advertising Agency is offering this, you'll end up there in no time flat!  Then you'll be paying the PR Firm (or it might be better to hire a social media or search marketing professional) to dig you out of the mess the PR Firm created in the first place.
  • Social Media Isn't:  Something That Will Work if Your Site is "Broken"
    How is your conversion rate now?  Are people reading what you want them too?  Are you getting the subscribers you want to your email list?  If your site isn't working - forms are broken, links are broken, shopping carts are difficult to use, etc., Social Media won't fix that.  In fact it might make things even worse, or make you believe your Social Media plan isn't working. 
  • Social Media Isn't:  Something To Send Out Mass Emails For
    This really, absolutely, makes experienced bloggers irate.  Your email gets dumped in the trash.  If you send out a mass email with the same exact wording to bloggers, word will get around and you will likely end up on that Bad Pitch Blog.
  • Social Media Isn't:  Something You Can Do Without Participation
    Many marketers are under the assumption they can just submit things to social media sites and they will have success.  This is where their thinking/judgment errs.  Social Media is about .... *drum rolls* .... being social.  Without a conversation, without being part of the community, the community will backlash and "out" you for what you really are, a marketer.
  • Social Media Isn't:  Something You Can Do in Disguise
    You might want to ask Edleman, Walmart, Sony and Microsoft about this one.  Social media communities can smell a fake right away, and when they out you, it isn't pretty.  Even a year later, we're still pointing to these major snafus as what "not" to do, that should be enough to show you, be transparent from the get go.

Ad_agencies_buttons I could probably add about 5-10 more, but I think these points drive home the point, it takes more than just luck to work with Social Media.  If you are a company that is employing a PR Agency or and Advertising Agency who "Just started a social media practice", please stop and rethink this approach. 

Don't look at the awards they won - awards won't get you conversions or make you reach your "engagement" goals for users.  Look at established internet marketing firms - ones that have experience in how to optimize a website, some of the same principals carry over to Social Media, and having someone that knows that is invaluable.

September 26, 2007

Blogs: Making Your Pitch - What Not To Do

By Li Evans

As a blog gets older, grows in audience and continues to put out content that proves it is an active blog, it's inevitable that the blog will get pitches about stories "they must" cover.  Coming from a PR background, I really wonder where some of these PR practitioners learned their trade, based on the couple of pitches SMG receives a day.

A few weeks ago Lee Odden at TopRankBlog posted a great list of "How Not to Pitch a Blog".  I'd like to add a few more bullets to the list, or give a different perspective or meaning to some of his bulleted points.

  • Blogging Investigate the Blog:   Learn everything you can about the blog, check out the "About Us" section, reader the bloggers profiles, find out if they even take pitches. 
    • Who owns the blog?
    • Is the owner of the blog a writer?
    • Do the contributing writers have their own blogs?
    • Can you contact the writers' individually?
    • Has the blog written about you before?
    • Has the blog written about your industry before?
    • Does the blog or blogger(s) subscribe to your service?
  • Don't Email Blast Your Press Release:  If you want to pitch a story, email the blogger.  Bloggers are rather unique individuals and like the personal touch.  To be honest, we hate the canned automated messages, especially ones that have "Error! File Name Not Specified". 
    • Pitch the blog before you mass email your press release
    • Make it personal - address the blogger individually, point out why you believe the story would be important to them.
    • Don't send the same message to all the members of the blogging team, especially if only one contact email is listed for the blog.
  • Don't Treat Bloggers as Just Another Press Release Outlet: Don't just email the press release.  Unless of course your Google, Yahoo or Microsoft, you will just annoy the writers, editors and owners of the blogs.  Again, it goes back to making it personal. 
    • Bloggers are not just another outlet to mass email your press release too
    • Unless the blog has a general email they say "send press releases to this address", resist the urge to add that email you see to your distribution list.
  • Take the Time and Email and Establish a Relationship with the Blog:  Yes, I know, this takes a bit of time. However, if you know anything about Public Relations, it's about establishing relationships.  A blogger can become an important resource for you, if you take the time and nurture the relationship.
  • Public_relations Remember, Bloggers can Tarnish Your Name, Just as Fast as They Praise It: Piss off a blogger with your email blasts about your boring product launch, and it's likely a blogger will out you, your client or company.  They might even dig for information on something your don't want to be reported.
  • Remember, Bloggers Talk to Other Bloggers:  Especially in niche industries that might not be that large, it is even more prevalent.  Like minded people like to bond over subjects they have in common.  It takes one conversation of "hey did you get that press release from WYZ Company?" and the bloggers discover they were both pitched in the same way.  That gets the ball rolling for other bloggers to just unite and possibly join against you and your PR Strategy.
  • Lastly, Don't Leave Your PR Blog Strategy to Interns: You may think, contacting bloggers is something so simple you can just pass it off to your interns to do.  Resist that urge.  Instead, have the interns do the research on which blogs you should contact and also the research on why you should contact the blog.  The relationship with the blogger should be established by the Public Relations professional within the company, as they are the most experiences about the services, products and reasons the story should be pitched.  Remember in one fell push of the publish button, a blogger can start a campaign against your company, rather than for it, and that could spiral out of control rather quickly.

Public Relations professionals really need to stop and think about their strategies when dealing with bloggers.  Bloggers are NOT your typical news outlet.  Bloggers, in most cases, don't answer to editors, or multi-million dollar conglomerate owners.  Bloggers usually have one boss, their own conscious.  Working with bloggers requires more time and investment, which involves cultivating a relationship. 

Taking the time to cultivate the relationship could possibly be your best break in helping to get your story out to the masses, so don't leave it to just an intern, canned messages or email blasts.  Invest the time and resources and you will find that your PR Blogging Strategy could be a your best bet when getting your story ideas covered.

July 29, 2007

Athletes and Their Blogs, Websites & Reputation Management

By Li Evans

Donovan_mcnabb_blog_on_yardbarker_2 Donovan McNabb, quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles, had one more word to say as he left his first pre-season press conference yesterday, that word was "Yardbarker".  It may sound a little odd, but it was Donovan's way of sending a message to the press that, if they want to find out what's going on with him on a more regular basis, they need to visit his official blog on Yardbarker.

What I found interesting about this, wasn't the fact that Donovan's got a blog, more to the point, it's where he chose to launch his official blog.  His blog is now hosted within a niche social community for rabid sports fans of all types.  Believe it or not, McNabb is a savvy guy when it comes to his image, he's got his own website with his name and more recently he's really step out from under the Eagles' PR Thumb to handle a lot of his own Public Relations with the help of a PR Specialist he hired.

Unless you're an Eagles fan, you wouldn't know the story about the blog on his site, so I'll fill you in (since I am after all an EaglesChick to) - it's run by "Mama McNabb".  During last season when McNabb's season abruptly ended with a torn ACL and Jeff Garcia stepped in and led the Eagles to the NFC East championship, a lot of controversy swirled around some of the things Mama McNabb was posting on that blog

So from reputation management I can see why Donovan McNabb took this step.  He's gone to a place where he can reach a highly targeted audience, but can speak his mind without being filtered by the Eagles' PR machine and probably little issues with Yardbarker's editorial staff. It also doesn't have the stigma of what his "mama" wrote all last season.

Greg_oden_yardbarker McNabb isn't the only athlete that Yardbarker has, they have Greg Oden, the NBA rookie from the Blazers and a few other athletes - boxers, football & basketball players alike.  I can only see this as a great relationship for both parties.  Yardbarker is an up and coming sports community and people love to hear straight from their favorite athletes, personally I can only see this list of athletes as growing for Yardbarker.

What's a little disturbing is how little most athletes monitor their reputation on the web.  In just doing a casual search for different players' websites and blogs more often than not I found a lot of sites that were "garbagetrage" and obviously not owned by the athlete.  Whoever is handling them, should contact a good Search Marketer (hey I'll even toss my hat in that ring) and get their clients on the right track.

I'm sure there's a few athletes who take their "Reputation Management" seriously, for example, take a look at Matt Leinart's site/blog - he's the Arizona Cardinal's QB.  Here's a guy who's figured it out.  Now if only Michael Vick would have taken these steps, who knows, maybe the mess he's in could have turned out a little more differently.

May 15, 2007

Walmart - Why Bother?

By Li Evans

Walmart I used to be one of those loyal customers of Walmart.  I loved the convenience the stores offered, but more than that, I really liked the friendly people I always encountered when I went to the store.  Back in my hometown and then when I lived over in West Chester, both of the Walmarts near where I lived were clean, uncluttered and had super friendly people.

However, it takes one "rotten apple" to ruin an entire opinion.  When I moved, the closest Walmart to me was in Pottstown.  I found myself immediately turned off when I first entered this store.  The store is tightly packed, cluttered with boxes and inventory blocking aisles, dirty feeling and if you found one person beyond the greeter smiling or being friendly, it'd be a rarity.  The aisles are really cramped, overall - it really started to sour my opinion of Walmart, but not enough to write about it.

That all changed tonight.  Reminiscent of my father's experience at Radio Shack back in November, I left Walmart completely disgusted and totally with Seth Godin's "Why Bother" post in my mind.  What got me in such a mood?  They eye appointment area.  On Saturday I went in and made an appointment, the appointment taker plainly said to me "Monday's are usually filled, lets get you in Tuesday".  She asks if 6:15 is o.k., I confirm, I ask for a card with distinctly says 5/15 at 6:15 p.m. 

Workingdaze_customer_service Tonight I show up a little after 6 and the same lady looks at me like I'm from Mars, when I say I'm there for my appointment. "I don't think so, the Doctor leaves at six,"  in an attitude and voice that really made me take a step back.

I then proceed to say, well my card says right here 5/15 at 6:15 p.m.  She was having nothing to do with the card (which she wrote on Saturday and gave to me saying 'don't forget!'), she heads over to her little computer and pulls up the schedule to prove to me I wasn't on there for 6:15.  Where does she find me?  For yesterday, Monday - the day she told me was all booked up.

She was not apologetic in any way.  She was rude and actually rather mean.  At a point where she should have said "I'm sorry for the mistake, could I reschedule you?" she was more worried about proving me wrong.  When she asked who scheduled the appointment and I said "you did, on Saturday" while she was at the computer, she was even more on a mission.

Needless to say, I stopped and said "You know what, you just don't get it.  You have just lost a rather loyal Walmart customer," and with that, I walked out.  I then proceeded to pull out my phone and call my friend to ask if there was a Lenscrafters or Pearl Vision center in the mall close by, and to my luck there was.

After I relayed my tale of Walmart-badness to the women at Lenscrafters, they squeezed me in.  I have to say, the Doctor (Dr. Carol Lachencko) there was the nicest eye doctor I'd ever had.  She answered questions I hadn't even formulated in my mind quite yet.  When that "puff of air" test wouldn't work for me, she offered an alternative that worked.  When it was all said and done, I came away with a new pair of glasses, a pair of sunglasses, and a year's supply of contacts.

Walmart could have had that business, instead they lost it because of an employee who hasn't got one iota of a clue what it means to keep a customer.

High5 So, now here's some food for thought.  How do you treat your clients if you have a misunderstanding in services or deliverables?  Is it their fault?  Do you have to prove them wrong? 

Just stop for a moment and think - a little bit of kindness and a sincere attempt at an apology can go a long way.  It can mean the difference between your client dropping your services in lieu of another firm, or for them signing on for a longer term contract with additional services.

April 17, 2007

Twitter's 140 Characters Teach Wonderful Lessons

By Li Evans

Twitterlogo 140 characters can lead a lot of marketers to learn a lot of new lessons.  Enter into the world of Twitter and you'll see why.  Tweets fly through Twitterdom faster than it seems an email can land in my email box.  Hitting the enter button, can forever preserve a thought that can be totally taken out of context, twisted and used for other purposes.

Those 140 characters can also point out just how free flowing and "not thought through" statements can be.  Just ask Steve Rubel about his lessons learned from Twitter.  Last week, without even putting a second thought he passed a Tweet into Twitterdom that couldn't be clarified beyond what he posted.

"PC Mag is another. I have a free sub but it goes in the trash."

What Steve didn't clarify in his "Tweet", is that he does read PC Mag - only online and via RSS Feed.  However, none of that got related through this space of flying messages on Twitter, and the folks at PC Mag responded in a rather harsh manner.  Steve, in return, admitted his wrong, in an open letter to PC Mag's editor-in-chief, Jim Louderback

Twittergirl It brings an interesting predicament to the forefront.  When using these social media technologies, we get so engrossed in how easy it becomes to communicate that we forget others can be listening and come into the conversation without the entire story.  Limited messages can have an entirely different meaning than what was intended.  Then there's the whole cultural boundaries, what someone is saying in the US can be totally offensive to someone in another country. 

This is where businesses venturing into social media and web 2.0 tools need to tread carefully, especially with tools like Twitter and there instantaneous nature.  I'm not advocating companies put a gag on their employees utilizing the service, but perhaps a quick lesson in "when talking about the company, think twice about what you are sending across Twitter." 

Is there a lesson a business or a PR company can take from Steve's experience?  Most certainly there is.  It can take less than a second to send a "Tweet", but one "Tweet" can have your entire PR department working for days to clarify, quantify and apologize.

If you'd like to add me to your Twitter, feel free to!

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