How to Protect Your Brand Online

“Every customer represents an opportunity. That customer will be singing your praises, or doing what I’m doing. Branding You.” – Angela Russell from StateFarmSucks.homestead.com.

Welcome to the Digital Age

Not too long ago, if a customer was dissatisfied with a product or service it would take weeks, months, or years for word of her dissatisfaction to get around – if it got around at all. Today, the rules of the game are very different. Welcome to the digital age where the internet is everyone’s equal opportunity forum.  With the advent of social media, bad news spreads like wildfire and negative press pops up in real time. So, how do you effectively protect your brand online?

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1.  Acknowledge the Power of Social Media

Social media is extraordinarily powerful because it is rapid, searchable and cumulative.   Comments posted by happy or disgruntled customers may be the first thing someone sees when searching online for your business.   Take a good look at the quote I posted at the top of this page. The author, Angela Russell has done an amazing job sharing her dissatisfaction with State Farm Insurance Company using social media. Her Twitter account has over 6,700 followers who happily retweet her posts to their followers.  Her web site, which is linked to her Twitter account, is filled with damning documentation, links, and photographs.  All of this digital information is searchable and available on the internet.  One of Ms. Russell’s Twitter followers, @QueenofTheClick (who has over 34,000 followers herself), wrote, “State Farm will learn the power of social media. I didn’t even look at State Farm quotes when I was looking for home insurance because I heard of your story…”

Acknowledging the power of Social media is a very important first step. It doesn’t matter how big you are, social media is bigger.

2. Get Involved

Open Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, and Google Buzz accounts and use them. Get a blog and write in it weekly. Blogging is by far one of the most influential forms of social media because of the way it shows up on search.  Remember, building a social network requires time and persistence. Like a garden, as you diligently interact with and care for your network, it grows – over time.  Hire a marketing expert to maintain your social media accounts on your behalf or do it yourself.

3.  Be Digitally Proactive

The best defense is a good offense. A great way to protect your brand online is to come up with creative ways to get positive statements about your brand to show up first on natural search.  There are so many ways to do this!  Here’s just one example. I’m a digital reputation manager for Silly Sleds Inc. I create a fully search engine optimized Silly Sleds blog complete with a page for consumer compliments and complaints.  I title this page “Silly Sled Feedback” I get on my SillySleds Twitter and post, “Tell me about your experience with Silly Sleds’ customer service – I want to know” or “What is it about your silly sled which makes you happy?”  People respond on the Silly Sleds blog. Most are happy, some are not.   I respond to each comment personally.  Later, I create blog posts in reference to consumer comments with titles like, “Families Who Sled Together, Stay Together” or “Silly Sleds Saved my Puppy.”   I also use complaints as a springboard and write stories about them as well like “Silly Sleds Keeps Customers Happy!” or “Silly Sleds Understands Customer Service!”

I use of all my social media profiles to encourage customers to continue to post their feelings on the Silly Sleds’ blog rather than go out on their own and market their grudge. This is necessary, creative, and thoughtful work. If possible, hire a digital marketing expert to help you. After all, your company’s reputation is at stake.    Be digitally proactive.

4.  Provide Speedy, Respectful Customer Service

This really is a no-brainer.  No amount of good digital press will offset thousands of angry customers.  If you consistently deliver what you promise as well as respond respectfully to complaints and concerns, you are already ahead of the game.  Quality digital reputation management will market the good job you are already doing.

5.  Listen and Respond

There are quite a few internet tools created to monitor what is being said online. Use these tools and listen to what people say about you, your company, and your products. You can also track negative comments made about your competitors as well.   A negative comment made about your competition is an opportunity for your company to market to a potential new customer.   Take advantage of these opportunities. Listen and respond.

“Social media is media designed to be disseminated through social interaction, created using highly accessible and scalable publishing techniques….It supports the democratization of knowledge and information, transforming people from content consumers into content producers.” – from Wikepedia.