Sales & Support 1-888-220-7361

The Reciprocal Consulting Blog

You are Browsing the August 2010 Archive:

Reputation management is a type of marketing that can either be handled proactively 24/7 or it can be forgotten until you need it. I don’t recommend the latter course. It’s too important to leave to chance or fate.

But I do believe that everyone is involved in reputation management to some degree. You may not know it, but you are managing someone’s reputation even if not your own. Care to know what I mean?

As it goes, every activity you perform online helps someone. It might even hurt someone. Search engine optimization, social media, pay per click advertising, you name it, all of it is benefiting someone. And if you approach your online marketing initiatives in the wrong way, you could just be benefiting the wrong people.

For instance, let’s say you are chatting it up with some friends on your favorite social network. Someone says something and you retort. Unfortunately, you didn’t think about what you were about to say in time and you make an embarrassing comment. You can’t take it back. Your competition could have just scored a point.

That’s how serious this game of reputation management is. One little slip up could cost you in terms of potential business, mass perception or in other small ways.

You can’t afford to be nonchalant about your reputation. Manage it well and it will help you. Mismanage it and it might haunt you forever.

If you run pay per click marketing campaigns and you aren’t checking in on them every single day (or more often) then you are probably losing money. You cannot run a PPC campaign and just let it sit.

Managing a PPC campaign is time consuming. You can’t just allocate money for your campaigns, select your keywords, write your ads and then forget about it. It requires constant monitoring.

To manage a PPC campaign effectively you’ve got to narrow down your keywords and see which ones are working for you. You can’t do that if you aren’t checking in. You should check your campaigns at least once daily. Find out which keywords are most profitable, which ones are getting the click-throughs and which ones are leading to sales. In essence, you want to know which PPC campaigns are most profitable for you.

Until you know these things, you cannot be effective in pay per click advertising. It’s not a set-and-forget deal.

If you are considering jumping into Internet marketing to see if it might work or to satisfy your curiosity then you might want to reconsider.

I don’t mean to discourage you, but Internet marketing has grown into its own little niche profession. It’s not like in the old days when you could throw up a website in a couple of hours, write a few articles and distribute them around the web and then just sit back and watch the money flow in. Even then, there was more work involved than your typical guru will lead you to believe.

Today, however, there is a lot more work involved. You need to have a solid plan before you even begin.

There are so many different Internet marketing strategies to choose from that you will not likely employ them all. At least, you likely won’t employ them all on your first go at it. In fact, I would recommend focusing on a few strategies to start then adding others as you become more familiar with Internet marketing as a whole. You can make money online, but you have to work hard and study long.

Competitive intelligence is one of the most important aspects of doing business online. If you don’t know your competition then chances are you can’t beat them. You might win a few terminal successes along the way, but you won’t win the competitive rat race in the long run. You can’t be No. 1 in the marketplace unless you know the competition.

But how do you get there?

Competitive intelligence is a process. You’ve got to outline the process and work it strategically if you expect to excel. Here are five steps you can follow to better competitive intelligence in any industry.

  • Decide which areas of market intelligence are most important to your strategic positioning.
  • Make a list of companies in your industry that excel in those functions or that have an upper hand to your business – these should be companies that you want to know more about and/or that you want to study for the purpose of beating in the marketplace.
  • Collect information on each company regarding those areas of market intelligence you identified in step 1; compile information from the SEC, press releases, trade journals, articles in the media, credit reports, clients, the companies themselves, trade associations, government offices and anywhere else you can get information on the companies that is legal and ethical.
  • Start a file on each company and keep all compiled information on each company in their respective files.
  • Rank the companies in order of most proficient for each market intelligence category you are tracking then rank your own company for each of those same tracking metrics to know where you stand against the competition.

The whole idea behind competitive intelligence is to know where you stand against the competition. If you are not No. 1 then you should target your efforts to overcome obstacles and challenges that prevent you from besting the competition. But it starts with knowing who you’re up against.

Google has announced that businesses with Google Place pages can now respond to reviews about their business if they have a verified account. This is actually good for businesses and can serve as a reputation management tool of the highest order.

Already, if you are listed in Google Places with a link back to your website then you have a much better chance of achieving high rankings for your keywords than if you don’t have a Google Places page. The reviews will further make optimization for your keywords and company brand an important part of doing business online, especially for local businesses.

I share Frank Reed’s concern about responses to reviews on third-party sites:

From what I can gather this response mechanism is for reviews that are done in Google Maps only (I am willing to be wrong here if someone from Google would like to let me know). This would limit the ability for the business owner to truly manage his / her online reputation completely but it is a very good step in the right direction to make the Google Place Page an even more important part of every local business’s online presence.

On the other hand, the reviews are not there necessarily for the benefit of reputation management. Business reviews serve multiple purposes, but generally they are to help consumers get an idea of what to expect from doing business with a company based on what other consumers are saying. Allowing a business to respond to reviews simply gives potential customers more to go on in making a decision.

For instance, a business’s response to a review can tell a consumer whether the business takes feedback from customers seriously. It can also allow the business to provide more information to a particular case so that potential consumers can determine the true value of the complaint (after all, not all negative reviews have equal merit).

So while I share the concern for opportunities in reputation management that Frank Reed mentions, I’m also aware that businesses have that opportunity even without the ability to respond to reviews on third-party sites. Maybe not as much, but it’s there. Still, this is a good move by Google Places.

An article on BusinessWeek’s website asks if online reputation management services work. It’s a legitimate question and one worth considering. Just what does a reputation management company do and does it work?

First, you need to understand that if someone goes online and makes a negative comment about your business that you can’t make it disappear. Once it is online then it is a permanent record. Period.

Having said that, there are some things you can do to help diminish the impact of negative information about you online. One of the things you can do is try to use search engine optimization to push negative results down further and to increase the exposure of positive information about your company. Honestly, though, that’s not a perfect solution and it’s getting harder and harder to accomplish.

Another thing you can do is respond to information about you that you feel may be unfair to you. This is typically the response of companies that have grown in stature and want to be viewed as reputable.

It’s almost inevitable, once you grow to a certain size then you’ll encounter negative reviews of your company. It used to be that information spread by word of mouth and you had no way to control or monitor it. Now, it quickly makes its way online, which is a benefit to a business owner because you can actually read what people are saying about you and not just hear the rumors. That make it easier to respond to.

Online reputation management is not a cure-all panacea for every negative information you find about yourself. It is part SEO and part PR. But its purpose is to aid you in telling your story in a positive manner.

You have to hand it to the companies that create these applications for Facebook where you can play games, send gifts and enjoy the company of friends in far away places right across your Internet connection. Zynga is one of those companies that has truly made a name for itself in social gaming.

Virtual gifts through these gaming applications has really caught on. But what if you could send real world gifts through these games, would you? If you could make real world purchases through social games, would you do that?

32% of social gamers said they would.

I don’t know about you, but I think that’s enough of a market that social gaming creators could introduce the opportunities and see what happens. Here’s a quick example of numbers:

Let’s say your social gaming application has 100,000 users. If you create an opportunity for them to make a real world purchase through the game and 32,000 of them do so within the first year. If you make just $1 profit off of each of those gamers then that’s a nice increase in your bottom line. Grow your application by 10%-15% per year and in just a few years you’ll have a pretty nice income from one real world purchase opportunity. Diversify and, well, you know ….

What’s your take? Do you think social gaming and real world commerce have a chance? Is this the new wave of social media optimization?

It seems that Google Places has moved in on Yelp’s turf. And Yelp isn’t happy about it.

Specifically, Google’s strong moves into local with their new Places push seem to be going right at Yelp’s core. Sure’s it’s potentially about more than just local venue reviews, but that’s a huge part of it. And that’s what Yelp is all about.

So, Google and Yelp had a deal. Then Yelp pulled out of it. It seems that Google thinks it doesn’t need a deal after all. Perhaps that is why they introduced Google Places. Perhaps Google feels it can do local reviews better than Yelp. But it’s using Yelp content to draw in searchers. Is it sending traffic back to Yelp?

I can’t imagine that Yelp isn’t getting any new traffic from Google Places. It may not be as much new traffic as they’d like to get, but Google has far more users than Yelp has and not everyone who searches for local businesses knows about Yelp. That equates to a good thing. So I’m not sure what this is about really.

Is it just me or is Yelp over reacting? Perhaps they just need to focus on quality search engine optimization.

Android … iPhone … iPad … we could go on. Mobile phones, text messages, Twitter. It seems the whole world is going mobile. Or is it?

Well, it might seem that way to some people. And the increase in mobile apps certainly does nothing to quell that impression. However, all things said and done, mobile marketing is not necessarily the Holy Grail many online marketers thought it would be. Sure, there are opportunities to reach new markets (and to stay in touch with old markets) through mobile marketing, but I still think the best opportunities for most marketers is online. Laptops, social networks, search engines, etc.

This isn’t a proclamation so much as an observation. Mobile marketing has its place and I do believe it can be used successfully. But for most small businesses – even local businesses – it could just be a channel that you’ll want to monitor but not sink too many dollars into.

The bottom line, really, on any type of marketing is whether or not you have a reasonable expectation to reach the right market. If so, give it a try. If not then don’t bother. Only you know your business and your customers. What do you think?