Your brands may have shifted radically from top of mind to bottom of the pile in your customers’ lives – all thanks to social media. From premier to ordinary just in a few clicks thanks to the dozens forum reviews, blog posts, Twitter bursts, even text messages. These tools and your customers’ increasing comfort level with using them are word of mouth on steroids.
The average consumer uses the Internet as an essential product research tool. We may purchase off line, but we surely enjoy the wealth of information we find online, especially any insights from other people who’ve gone through the same process. And here’s where social media comes in.
It may not be enough anymore to have a company web site that is easy to use, displays clearly what you want to highlight with compelling content, and points people in the right direction. Although that is still seen as a priority for many companies, the rest of the organic search results that pop up when people enter key words that describe your business may very well be blog posts or forum boards. People will go visit those sites.
You may think that you don’t need to monitor those search results for various reasons. Let me give you two main reasons why it’s a good idea to do so – and to decide what you will do about your findings.
The first and most obvious reason is that if someone writes something negative, people will read it, even if it sounds preposterous and untrue. Without mentioning the considerable training we received from main stream media, humans are naturally drawn to negative news. That’s why it sells. If you’ve made someone really unhappy with poor service today they don’t only get mad, they tell everyone they can about it.
Social media serves as an amplifier. In some cases the news will spread and collect further testimonials along the way to snowball into this gigantic and unwieldy monster – a case against you. This is different from being a blip on the customer service line, even if recorded. If you discount what people say on blog posts, think again. A well written and balanced post, could lead to a major main stream media story with the research behind it and the distribution of a major corporation.
You will want to have an active role in the conversation to show you care, which is always a gesture of good faith. There is a secondary benefit to participation — you may actually be able to set the record straight. The reason why people pore over forum boards and exchange tips with each other is probably because they got no help from you in the first place.
The second reason is of a positive nature. Someone may have written something about your product, service or business practice without knowing it has become inaccurate or obsolete over time. You want to correct that perception or it will damage your business. A case in point is from personal experience. I wrote a post that reported information shared at a live event.
My write up about the company was positive, yet one of the data points I used had since been changed into a different business practice. Because when people googled the company name my post came up third in the search results, business prospects demanded that a service include something that was no longer part of the company’s business. The owner contacted me and asked me to revise my post, which I was happy to do after understanding the circumstances.
Two reasons, same advice. Pay attention to what your customers write about you online — other customers, and prospect are.
Valeria Maltoni • Conversation Agent • Philadelphia, PA • www.conversationagent.com