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5 Ways Your Customer can use the Internet Against You

September 20, 2010

Over the years, I’ve always wondered what it would be like to have learnt a trade; something useful for “real-life” predicaments. How great it must be to be an engineer, a builder, an electrician, or a plumber. Why didn’t anyone tell me this in school?

Then I stumbled into search marketing, and I landed on my feet without even realizing. Only these past few months, in the midst of a bad experience, it came to light how useful my newly found trade could be. I think Rae Hoffman said it best: “Do not f*ck with a SEO”.

Combine this with the power of social media. Before customers would tell one person about a good experience, and 10 people about a bad one. The Internet turns all of that on its head. Instead of ten, try 100’s, 1,000’s, or in Dave Carroll’s case, 9 million.

As search and social media marketers, we may be a bit more equipped than the average Joe when it comes to Internet onslaughts, but there are many examples where the average Joe has prevailed in his cause. This got me thinking about reputation management and the many different ways your customers can use the Internet against you. Companies beware.

1. YouTube

In one day, YouTube will serve up over 2 billion videos. With access to video becoming more of a commodity (on our computers, phones, iPods, not to mention cameras built for the purpose of uploading video to YouTube), it makes it even easier for anyone to record video and post it for people to see on the world’s biggest video sharing site. And when videos go viral, companies have felt the wrath, including Dell’s exploding battery, Nestle’s palm oil, Warner Music’s soundless videos, and of course United’s broken guitars — to name but a few.

2. Facebook Pages

More than 500 million active users spend over 700 billion minutes per month on Facebook. Like it or hate it, Facebook stats are impressive. Users can easily set up their own pages, calling foul on companies. More often though, companies have found their own pages being hijacked. Back in May, human rights activists protested about conflict minerals on Intel’s Facebook page. Intel’s decision to delete comments and then shut down posts to its page led to an irreversible public relations nightmare. It’s not the first time it’s happened, and by no means will it be the last.

3. Twitter

Twitter has well over 100 million users, and every day another 300,000 users will sign up. With over 600 million search queries made per day, you’d be naive to think that you’re not amongst them. Although the user base is only a fraction of Facebook, we’ve seen time and again that word can spread like wildfire on Twitter, particularly if it gets picked up by the Twitterati.

Fake Twitter accounts have also been known to make the rounds. The @BPGlobalPR satire account has amassed close to 200,000 followers following the Gulf oil spill — 10x more than the official BP company account.

4. Review Sites

People trust reviews, even from strangers. So before I make a purchase, no matter how large or small, the first thing I do is search the web for ratings and reviews. Most of the people I know do exactly the same.

So you can bet your bottom dollar that someone who has had a really bad experience (especially if it’s service-related) will go out of their way to let people know. And if they are savvy, then they will share it on those review sites that appear on the first page of the SERP.

5. Sucks.com

One of the first things I learned when starting out in Internet marketing was:

  1. Own [yourcompanyname].com
  2. Own [yourcompanyname]sucks.com

Yes, it is a schoolboy lesson, but you’d be surprised. You need to protect your brand. Don’t assume that the person you’ve disgruntled isn’t smart enough to figure this out before you.

Being a customer on the receiving end, I learned an important lesson to take with me when sitting with my company hat on: Yes, sh*t happens. But sometimes it’s how your company deals with the situation that matters most. The best form of reputation management? Do right by your customers.

If you want to learn more about reputation management, check out Managing Your Google Reputation. I also recommend following Andy Beal.

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