Guest blogger Brittney Gilbert offers some practical advice for companies wanting to guard against bad buzz from the blogosphere.
When widely read blogger Jeff Jarvis of BuzzMachine, AKA Internet Rockstar bought a Dell computer that bit the dust on him, he took to complaining about it on his website. He wrote several entries about “the lemon” he bought that basically exploded on him and the sucky customer service that came when he contacted the company about his dilemma. Jarvis’ posts quickly climbed their way up in Google’s rankings, one even topping Dell’s own website in the search results for “Dell”. A quick recap at Jarvis’ blog.
Soon Dell got a clue and began cleaning up their web woes by offering a full refund to Jarvis, communicating with the blogger, but more importantly by starting a blog of their own. It took a while for this PR move to soothe the beasts within the blogosphere, but they eventually came around. Even the harshest and most hardened bloggers can be swayed by a transparent move by a company who learns from its mistakes, all the while having good intentions. It’s hard to keep yelling in the face of that.
Here’s the thing, though: Dell could have prevented most, if not all, of this. Sure, they learned a hard lesson, and hard lessons are often the most effective kind, but who wants to be a constant example of what not to do in new media marketing and customer service? Had Dell had the foresight to invest in blogging by paying someone to write one for them full time–someone to act as a voice for the company, someone who would act as a listening conduit for the corporation and, maybe most importantly of all, someone who could scour the web looking for mentions of “Dell computer” or any permutations thereof–they could have prevented being an example in this and many other blog posts about what not to do.
Had Dell hired someone to immerse themselves in the blogosphere to be a voice of their brand that is authentic and honest, someone who is a regular reader and commenter of web dialog, they could have gotten ahead of the bad buzz. Dell’s blogger, had she been watching her Google alert feeds or Technorati results, would have had the ability to tackle the complaints head on instead of sitting back and watching the negative feedback blow up in their face. So to speak.
Companies, set up Google Alerts to be sent to your inbox or track them through your preferred feed reader. Google Alerts are, according to the search giant, “email updates of the latest relevant Google results (web, news, etc.) based on your choice of query or topic.” So, for instance, if a Dell blogger set up Google alerts for search results based on queries like “Dell laptops,” ” PowerVault NX1950,” “Vostro,” “OptiPlex” or even the misspelled “Del computer”, she’d know almost immediately of any self-published complaint or concern a customer had about her employer’s brand. It is important to get alerts for as many varied search queries as you can imagine. People talk about companies and their products in ways you wouldn’t expect, which is why I mention the misspelling. Be exhaustive, and you’ll not overlook a potentially damaging post.
Google Blog Search is another great way to see what other people are saying about you. Sometimes entering the name of your company into the Blog Search brings up results you might not get as quickly from your Alert. Google’s Blog Search can scan blog sites based on what was written just within the past hour, which gives companies unparalleled immediacy in identifying and addressing concerns from customers–concerns that can have unwanted (and maybe even unwarranted) ripple effects.
Companies should, in essence, stalk themselves. They should know what people online are saying about them, preferably before too many others do. That’s when bad buzz gets out of hand. But with a stalker’s mentality it’s easy to stay ahead of the game. In this case ego searching is essential.
Brittney Gilbert is a writer and professional blogger who has been self-publishing online since 1999. A seasoned corporate and personal blogger, Brittney was editor and author, until June this year, of the highly popular Nashville Is Talking and is now copy editor for Blog Magazine, which is dedicated to covering “the magazine industry at large, news of brand-new or dying periodicals, hot content and trends in coverage as well as covers”. She hates the word blogosphere, but uses it anyway.