The case for social media monitoring has been made demonstrated repeatedly in recent years. A study from the London School of Economics last year revealed that a 2% reduction in negative word of mouth boosts sales growth by 1% and Dell has attributed a monetary value to this: their average customer is worth $210; their average online detractor costs them $57 and their average online promoter earns them $32.
While it’s not clear how Dell calculated these figures, it’s telling that negative comments posted online have almost double the impact of positive ones. As in traditional media, good news tends to be a by-line; bad news resonates and spreads. What’s different about the web and, in particular, the social web, is the speed of it’s spread.
When two Domino’s Pizza employees posted a disgusting spoof video onto YouTube last year, it was two days before senior management at the pizza giant became aware of it. Inexperienced in the ways of online reputation management, they chose to ignore it and expected it to blow over – as it most likely would have done had it been a press story. By the time they had realised their error, created a Twitter account and posted their own response onto YouTube, the original video has been viewed over 1 million times and the damage to their brand was done. There are few better examples of the destructive viral power of social media.
The irony of this example is that, by using basic buzz monitoring services for social media tracking – many of which are available free of charge – Domino’s could have greatly minimised the damage caused by the incident. At the same time, while this example focuses on a global brand, where the risk would have justified significant expenditure in social media monitoring tools, analysis and engagement, most companies remain reluctant to spend money on what is effectively a form of social media insurance.
So for companies looking for a low cost solution, here’s our five-step guide to social media reputation management on a budget:
1. Decide what you want to track
What are the primary ‘keywords’ relating to your company that you want to track in online conversations? These are likely to include:
- Company name
- Company website address
- Names of products
- Names of senior employees and Directors
- Names of close competitors
- Common expressions – e.g. “[Company] is rubbish”, “company is great”
2. Set up accounts with free social media monitoring tools
There are hundreds of tools available. We have listed a few of the most popular ones here:
- General mentions – Google Alerts (www.google.com/alerts), MonitorThis (www.monitorthis.info)
- Tracking social media – SocialMention (www.socialmention.com), Whostalkin (www.whostalkin.com)
- Blog monitoring – BackType (www.backtype.com) Blogpulse (www.blogpulse.com)
- Monitoring Twitter – Monitter (www.monitter.com) Tweetbeep (www.tweetbeep.com)
- Tracking links – Wholinkstome (www.wholinkstome.com)
- Monitoring forums – BoardTracker (www.boardtracker.com)
- Mentions of senior staff – Naymz (www.naymz.com)
3. Set up your alerts and searches
You then need to run regular searches, or better still, set up alerts or RSS feeds that notify you when your keywords are mentioned. This works best when you have an RSS reader or homepage where you can aggregate all of this information, to make it easier to read and review. We recommend setting up an iGoogle (http://www.google.com/ig) or Netvibes (www.netvibes.com) homepage to display your feeds and alerts.
4. Set up your own social media accounts
When you’re alerted to a comment about your company, you need to be in a position to respond quickly. The beauty of many of the paid monitoring services is that they provide both the interface (homepage) for your feeds and the ability to respond directly to comments from that same interface. If you’re doing it for free, you need to set up accounts on all the key social media platforms, including: Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr and any industry-specific or consumer forums where people are likely to talk about your company.
How you respond to comments and posts people make is up to you, but there are certain rules of thumb:
- Act quickly – the beauty of social media is it’s real-time. You can snub out misconceptions and fix problems instantly through a quick, smart reply. Never expect things to go away. Blog posts and forum comments linger in search engine results forever, so you need to make sure your viewpoint is there too.
- Be nice – you really want to avoid getting angry or making threats. Try and reason with detractors and understand where they are coming from. By showing that you’re listening, you’ll win respect and support from others.
- Be pro-active – when discussions arise that relate to your industry, get involved nice and early with your perspective. This encourages promoters to back you and takes the wind out of detractors’ sails.
We hope this is a useful summary. We’ll be having a full discussion about the latest techniques and issues in social media reputation management at Monitoring Social Media 09 taking place in London 17th Nov. Everyone’s welcome.