A few weeks ago, in a post titled Online Reputation Management: 10 Minutes a Day To Monitor Your Company’s Online Reputation, I talked about how important, and easy, it is to monitor your online reputation. We focused on how to keep track of what others are saying about you and how to add to the conversation and build your presence in search results while doing it. Now, as the holidays approach and Black Friday, the reputed “biggest shopping day of the year,” approaches, I’d like to discuss the missing piece of my last post—responding to your online reputation. Or, more accurately, why the utmost restraint is necessary to avoid sabotaging your own online reputation.
Let’s start with a recent example—a festive Black Friday, holiday shopping example. The Friday after Thanksgiving, affectionately termed “Black Friday,” is notoriously a major holiday shopping day and the focus of many of the inaugural holiday sales and deals for retailers, big and small. Mega-retailer, Wal-Mart, is a powerhouse when it comes to Black Friday sales and specials. Last week, before the scheduled release on November 24th,Wal-Mart’s Black Friday sales advertisements were leaked on the web. The news hit fast as search engine spiders did their jobs, the advertisements circulated and created quite a buzz. Certainly not the plan of attack Wal-Mart envisioned, but in this economy, what harm can the extra publicity do? Well, probably not much—unless of course, you choose to turn the buzz marketing blitz into a corporate battle ground.
Wal-Mart, in an attempt to stop the flyers from circulating, issued a DMCA take-down notice to a search engine and coupon publisher, SearchAllDeals.com, as well as other sites posting the advertisements. The legalities, though interesting here, are really irrelevant. Wal-Mart wanted to remove postings of their Black Friday deals. SearchAllDeals.com was not too happy about the Wal-Mart take-down notice and responded by posting the notice for all the spiders to crawl and all the world to see. As you can see by reading just a few of the articles and blog posts on the subject, people saw Wal-Mart’s reaction as an inappropriate scare tactic and pointed out that Wal-Mart completely misunderstood the power of viral and buzz marketing as a positive influence.
To read more about the Wal-Mart Black Friday ad leak, or to see the take-down notice, take a look at this article in MarketingVox.
The lesson here, which is also possibly the most important in online reputation management, is to use the highest level of restraint when responding to your online reputation. Whether it’s negative things said about your company, rumors, flyers or other things being uncontrollably disseminated online, there are very, very few instances where your reaction could have a positive impact. There’s a reason we didn’t add time to our 10 minute-a-day reputation management program for responding to negative or uncontrolled online conversation—you really shouldn’t get involved in that. Here’s why:
#1 – You Make The Source Credible. Readers will assume that if it was worth your time to respond in some way, the negative discussion is somehow credible, in some way true, or for some reason threatening to your company.
#2 – You Look Like a Corporate Bully. As with Wal-Mart, you can end up looking like the big company beating up on the little online guy just exercising his right to say what he wants. And, this doesn’t just apply to big companies. Businesses of almost any size can be viewed by the web audience as “corporate bullies,” it’s all in the interpretation.
#3 – The Buzz About Your Reaction Will Outlive The Rumors. Whatever it was that was said about your company, or whatever situation it was that you think might harm you or your reputation, chances are a reaction from you will get a lot more attention than any rumor or negative comment. The Wal-Mart leak was certainly noteworthy because it was a big oops for a big corporation, but the leak of the Black Friday flyers didn’t get near the amount of attention, most importantly negative attention, that their response did. Until Wal-Mart responded with legal force, the story had no real negative affect on Wal-Mart—the outcome for them could’ve been very positive. The leak could have created quite a buzz about their holiday sales and the extra press attention certainly wouldn’t hurt. Instead, a poorly designed reaction turned a positive into a big negative for the company—and that story has spread like wildfire.
Now, certainly there will be a rare occasion where a response may be necessary. But this should be carefully assessed. Consider whether an item has a negative affect on your reputation, in what ways could you respond, and what is the likely outcome of your response? Consider all possibilities and remember the Wal-Mart case–proceed carefully. In most cases, careful monitoring is all you need to do. And, if you have been following the procedure in the first post, Online Reputation Management: 10 Minutes a Day To Monitor Your Company’s Online Reputation, your positive participation in the online conversations and efforts to shape your online reputation will outshine the occasional negative item that can pop-up.
Do you have thoughts, ideas, questions, or good/bad examples of online reputation management? Leave a comment and let us know what you’re thinking!