Product Development Archive


Negative Blog Comments: How to prepare for and handle a bad Consumer Generated Media Thread

What is the best way for a company to handle a bad Consumer Generated Media thread and how can you avoid this from happening in the first place? A senior marketing executive recently asked me this question during a panel discussion at the Frost and Sullivan Sales and Marketing conference in Alexandra, Virgina. The best way to handle a bad consumer generated media thread is to first be prepared to act quickly. If a response is warranted, be transparent, and address the person from a sincerely helpful and curious point of view.

The way I would define a bad Consumer Generated Media thread is one person negatively comments, blogs or forum posts about a company or product and that entry generates a string of follow-on comments within the initial thread that are generally skewed in a negative way against the company. In more severe cases the thread will spread via pickup from outside blogs and ultimately make its way to more traditional forms of media, and social consciousness. Negative threads are inevitable for large companies and are a threat to any company concerned about its public image.

Usually this question comes up after the negative thread has started. What can you do then? The best advice is to evaluate who started the thread, how it started and who’s participating in it now. Is it someone anonymously trolling for a fight or was it an influential blogger trying to be constructive and engaging?

As Mack Collier writes, you can either Ignore them, Antagonize them, Attempt to pacify them, or Address them. I agree with Mack when he says "Address them, This is always the best course of action. You can't please all your customers all the time, but you CAN listen to them. Let them speak their peace, and see if they are trying to bring to your attention problems in your business processes that can be addressed and corrected." Read carefully what the blogger is saying and ask questions.

Sometimes it is best not to feed the animals. However, I believe that a negative thread handled well can take a potentially negative situation and turn it into something really positive. This is because avid bloggers are the ones who influence the discussions in social media. They tend to appreciate when a company is transparent, listens, asks questions, comes clean in some way or at least shows a little social media savvy in their approach. When a company addresses a blogger’s concern it says to that blogger and to the lurkers in that community something about your company. It says we’re human, we’re listening, we’re concerned because you’re concerned and we’re trying to make things better.

Being prepared for these questions requires research and monitoring of RSS feeds and forums. The way to be prepared is to research the blogosphere and develop a landscape of the blogosphere that matters to your business most. Think about your target audiences and segments. Use social media search tools like Technorati.com and IceRocket.com and blogsearch.google.com that index RSS feeds and profile the important blogging communities, social media networks that attract these audiences and bloggers that influence the discussions around your brand, products or services. Within these communities you will find key influencers and a number of active blogs. Create a dossier of profiles of the individual blogs and their bloggers, and the blogs that they read. A profile could contain what they write about, who reads it, a rating of their relative popularity and influence within a given community. This is research your marketing and communications and PR teams should have anyway. If they do not, it’s a good way to broaden everyone’s sphere of market intelligence and influence.

Start monitoring all your important sites and keywords with a feed reader tool. Adding a feed into a tool is simple. We like Google Reader. A good RSS feed reader will allow you to efficiently scan content for conversations (or threads) that may have a potential impact your business. This research is the foundation for a number of benefits. Here’s an abbreviated list…

  • It will prepare you with a starting point for who should be on your radar.

  • In a crisis situation this will save you time. Time is the difference between watching helplessly from the sidelines and having an opportunity to steer or influence the discussion in a positive direction.

  • Share the information with internal communications. Monitoring and paying attention to social media will give your team and your company a better sense of the community, what they like to talk about, who’s talking, and (most important for later when disaster strikes) how to communicate with them. The value of listening goes beyond marketing and communications. Product developers will be better informed about the customers needs.

  • This process will enable you to stay on top of the major discussions so you can be informed about the hot topics. More immortality, it will also improve your sensitivity to potential minefields that are unique to consumer generated media best practices and the particular social media community.

  • Part of the question is how to avoid negative threads. Since you are actively monitoring you will often see an opportunity to add value by commenting on a recent blog post or its ensuing thread. Go ahead and make your comment but don’t come off as a huckster by making a smart comment or giving advice then writing something self promotional at the end. Take the Good Samaritan approach. Offer advice and look for nothing in return. Your name and link are usually included with your comment and that’s all you really need. If you can participate and establish some connections with bloggers and communities before the next bomb drops it may give a boost in goodwill points with that community. They will be more receptive to see your side.

  • Goodwill from participation will also position you to divert negative threads from happening in the first place.

Maybe your company is considering a social media strategy of its own someday. This process is the logical first step into educating your team in how consumer generated media really works and how to participate in it.

Tags: Consumer Generated Media, crisis communications, how to handle a negative blog comment or post about your company
Filed under: Blogging Strategy, Blogging Tips, New Communications, Product Development

Posted by Stephen Turcotte on August 4, 2007 2:29 AM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)

The Ups and Downs of Multiple Website Identities

I recently responded to a business reporter who posed a question to PR Newswire’s Profnet. The reporter asked to “speak with small-business owners who have more than one Web site up-and-running, to understand the pros and cons of establishing more than one online identity”. I wrote to her saying that I have some insight on this since I am a small business owner who manages a few different websites for my own company and clients. She responded asking “Could you tell me more about your different websites?" I responded to that request, but never heard back from her. No problem. She was probably too busy on deadline to acknowledge my response. That disclaimer aside, I’d like to share with you the jist of what I wrote in my email.

Backbone Media, Inc. owns and operate two websites.

BackboneMedia.com – This is the website for our main business. It provides information about all of our website development, website design, search engine marketing, and blogging services. This website address has been our company URL since 1996.

ScoutBlogging.com -  Scout is a new blogging service for companies. The website launched in March 06. We created the new website in order to provide a unique identity for Scout.

The upside to having multiple websites is that the Backbone Media service offering already covers a wide range of website services. I did not want the new Scout Blogging Service to get lost within the Backbone umbrella website. I also wanted to really promote this as a new and different branded service. Another factor in the decision Also, I did not think visitors would really understand the importance of the Scout Blogging Service if it was simply featured as another department of BackboneMedia.com.

Many people will probably focus on the branding implications of multiple websites. Those are definitely important, but I also think there are some serious SEO implications of starting new unique domain. Link popularity plays a big role in where a website is listed in the search engine rankings. The topic of inbound links is the biggest downside to having multiple websites. A company has only so much bandwidth to spend promoting a website. In most cases I think it’s better to focus your efforts into generating high quality links to one website rather than spreading your efforts over two or several different websites. The theory here is that there is more Search engine optimization power in concentrating 700 inbound links to one website rather than spreading them over multiple websites. It usually takes several months for a new optimized website to be indexed appropriately into the Google organic listings. The existing website may have already established a decent Google Page Rank that can be used as a plank for quicker inclusion in search results. A new website will have to start from scratch.

I have some anecdotal proof of this. Back in the spring of 2005 we conducted a survey for a paper called Corporate Blogging: Is it Worth the Hype. We used Zoomerang survey software and posted the survey questionnaire (within a frameset) at this address on our established domain www.backbonemedia.com/blogsurvey/. This page quickly ranked in the top 5 Google listings for the search phrase “corporate blogging”. We later replaced that page with the html version of the survey results and links to the paper's PDF. It now holds a steady #3 position in Google’s organic search engine rankings.

That being said, there are also good SEO implications to having multiple websites. The biggest benefit to multiple websites is that search engines attribute a lot of weight to the content in the root index page (default home page) of a website. To make a long story short, there are several key content areas of the home page that a search engine will look to see what the page is about; domain name, title tag, text headings, first sentence, body copy and internal links and anchor text. If your website is selling multiple categories of services, (such as our Search Engine Marketing, Website Development, Website Design, and Blogging Services) there is little room to promote all of them without having to demote some of them to a lower position in the pecking order. A website entirely devoted to one subject (in Scout's case "corporate blogging services") allows the site owner to really emphasize the primary / root phrases and support keywords for that service, and also expand into the long tail of keyword phrases.

Another observation: While conducting the survey we also created a blog dedicated to discussing the results of the survey and corporate blogging in general. The domain for this blog was actually a sub domain of backbonemedia.com -- address http://blogsurvey.backbonemedia.com . It is worth noting that this blog (setup as a sub domain) maintains a lower position on “corporate blogging” even though there is considerably more activity around the subject of corporate blogging.

Here’s my explanation of why the sub folder url backbonemeida.com/blogsurvey/ ranks higher than blogsurvey.backbonemdia.com.

  1. Backbonemedia.com has been our company's official address since 1996.

  2. At the time the lauch of the blog survey in Spring 2005, the site had a page rank of 7

  3. It already had hundreds of inbound links (decent link popularity).

  4. The frameset page was optimized for the term “corporate blogging".

  5. The announcement of the survey created many relevant links to the page from the blogosphere. 

  6. Once the page appeared in the top rankings it probably generated a favorable Click Through Rate (CTR) since it was a relevant result.

In summary: starting a new website is not ideal if you’re eager for short term search engine position results. It's better to leverage your existing page rank and link popularity by creating a section in your existing website (as long as you have a related website that is in good standing with the search engines). However, if brand differentiation is more important than search engine rankings, go with a new domain (not a sub domain).

Tags: multiple+websites search+engine+optimization, new+brand, new+web+site, new+website
Filed under: Product Development, Search Engine Optimization

Posted by Stephen Turcotte on February 1, 2007 10:04 AM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)

SCOUT Launches First Client Blog - The Big Time a Spherion career blog

SCOUT Blogging is very proud to announce the launch of our first client blog -- The Big Time, a Spherion career blog. It officially launched today with this press release titled Spherion Hits The Big Time with First-of-its-Kind Career Blog; Leading Staffing Firm's CEO to be Among Regular Contributors and this post by Spherion's CEO, Roy Krause.

The Big Time Career Blog Logo

I want to thank the leadership at Spherion for keeping with its tradition of being an innovator by recognizing and being the first corporation to engage SCOUT's full package of corporate blogging services. For anyone that's interested, the SCOUT service starts with a comprehensive Assessment of the blogging community and a suggested Strategy that's tied with company marketing, PR, thought leadership and SEO goals. Then SCOUT provides Creative, Messaging, Design, Development Blog Hosting and most importantly, ongoing Blog Monitoring, Blogger Relations Consulting and daily SCOUT Reports that highlight blog posting and commenting opportunities. The clients are required to write their own blog posts and comments.

At this point, the SCOUT Corporate Blogging service has been in development for over 18 Months. It's very satisfying to launch a blog so we can FINALLY get to the REAL VALUE of SCOUT, which is helping our clients become great bloggers. Without getting too sentimental here, I have to deeply thank all the members of Backbone and the SCOUT team for rising to the challenge of launching this blogging services company while maintaining a successful and busy SEO and website development agency. David Neuman, Kristine Monroe, Dave Naggar, Eben Bathalon, Steve Abramowitz, Ryan Mulloy, Olga Krivchenko, and especially John Cass and Magen Dickinson. Thank you for making the launch of our inaugural corporate blog something we can all be proud of.

So far the site has been received well by career industry bloggers. Here are a few links to related blog posts as of 8/15/06

1. Jim Durbin from StlRecruiting wrote a nice post listing the things we did right and this after the column titled "Things they did wrong : Um, so far, nothing is wrong...." You can't pay for that kind of blogging. Thanks Jim :)

2. Jim Durbiin also posted this on an other blogRecruiting.com Check out Jim's post. He wrote some some more nice things about Spherion's new blog and continued with "Spherion is not the first staffing firm to have a blog (Volt was first), but they certainly seem to be the first to take it seriously enough to promote it and pitch it is as part of their long-term marketing strategy. " Thanks Jim, We'll take that as our second thumbs up in a row. Ok, Ok, enough with the mushy stuff and the self-congratulations. We thank Jim for his early recognition and kindness, but we also welcome critical or constructive suggestions from anyone in the blogosphere who has any ideas or suggestions for making The Big Time even better.

Tags:
Filed under: Blogging Strategy, Blogs Developed By Scout, New Communications, Product Development

Posted by Stephen Turcotte on August 15, 2006 9:21 PM | | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (0)