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How To Use Twitter to Avoid a Online Reputation Disaster

Are you responsible for managing your company’s corporate Twitter account? Or, are you managing a Twitter account for your own small business? Whatever, your role, there’s SO much value in using Twitter as a reputation management and brand building.

I think one of the things about social media that terrifies huge corporations is the loss of control. In the old days, if you pissed off a consumer, they may have sent a few angry letters, made a few irate phone calls and told a few friends about your awful experience (wow, now that I’ve typed it, those things sounds pretty bad). But, seriously, how many people could you possibly impact using those methods? Your ability to make those bad feelings viral and spread them beyond your circle was pretty limited.

Fast forward to today’s current social media environment – Twitter, Facebook, blogs, YouTube (remember the guy whose guitar was broken by the airlines?), and your ability to make your dissatisfaction known to a global audience is unlimited. How does a company respond to that? They can’t make a video response pleading their case or defending themselves on YouTube – no one is going to watch a boring corporate response to a hilarious song about their crappy service. They can’t blog seed any PR outreach efforts about a crisis – no blogger worth their salt is going to post that message without adding their two (and possibly contradictory) cents. The company blog? Forget it – that’s just as boring as the YouTube video AND, it’s generally preaching to the choir. Even if you’re Apple, the only people faithfully reading your blog are your hardcore fans and tech journalists. Facebook? You can do some things there, but that too is usually your hardcore fans – they normally love you so much they tend to jump in there and manage your reputation for you – how awesome is THAT?! So, that leaves us with…Twitter!
For so many reasons, it’s the perfect tool to not only effectively manage crises that can impact your brand reputation, but to also proactively manage your brand reputation.

1. There are so many Twitter tools that allow you to monitor what folks are saying about your brand and identify trends, both negative and positive and jump into the conversation as it occurs. These tools allow you to show that whether the conversation is good or bad, you are listening to conversations about your brand and interested in participating in the discussion. Ahh, the great listening platform that we’ve heard so much about – it’s POWERFUL!

2. Twitter armies. Similar to how your Facebook fans will defend your reputation for you, if you build a network of Twitter followers and actively engage them, they’ll not only loyally defend you when something negative is said, they’ll spontaneously tweet about why they love your brand AND re-tweet your PR messages about your green initiatives, charitable efforts or whatever other PR news you choose to tweet.

3. The main reason Twitter is my favorite tool for reputation brand management? Because Google indexes it in real-time search results, of course! Say you do have a crisis – if it becomes a heavily searched topic, rather than having it blow-up like the Nestle Facebook crisis (if you remember my last post, I’m clearly obsessed with how tragic this was), Google will also index Twitter results in the real-time search. You can use your corporate Twitter to get out the real facts and have them index alongside the negative Facebook conversation. That’s much preferred to having your Facebook community manager engage in a battle of words with the rabble-rousers. And, it gives your network something to re-tweet or a reason to tweet their own positive opinions. Everyone loves to show up in Google search results! And, there is no crisis, it provides an opportunity to proactively manage your reputation. E.g. if your company has always taken great strides to be green and environmentally-friendly, then tweeting about green initiatives on Earth Day, when there’s a high likelihood for your company’s tweets to be indexed in Google’s real-time search, can help build or maintain positive brand reputations.

Of course, you can’t do any of this effectively without being active on Twitter. Look at this screenshot of a search on Google for “oil spill.” (Just in case you’ve been under a rock somewhere, that BP oil rig that exploded in the Gulf is pumping huge amounts of oil into the ocean – SUCKS! I LOVE the bayou. Anyhoo…)

BP is buying paid search to explain their response to the crisis and how they are helping (good job with that since YOU spilled it). See “Latest results for oil spill?” You know who is NOT in those results? BP!!! Where you at BP? “Oil spill” has been indexing in Google’s real-time search results since the spill was first reported – WHY isn’t BP there? It’s their crisis and they are letting news outlets (see CNN above) control the conversation. And, do you see the tweet about the sick “sock-puppet” corporate shill Lisa Murkowski who doesn’t think BP should have to pay for full clean-up of oil spill? You can’t have that conversation occurring and not participate. You certainly can’t just buy paid marketing placements and hope that people are going to be as responsive to that as they are to what their friends and influencers are saying in the social world. Word-of-mouth is always more powerful as an influential communication than a paid placement. It seems a little cold and heartless – not only did they make a huge mistake and pollute the environment, they are totally out of sync with how to manage the aftermath in today’s socially-wired world.

I wonder if they are even monitoring this conversation on Twitter? Remember that’s the first step. Although as a Comcast customer, I’m no fan of the brand, they definitely have the listening platform on Twitter to manage conversations of their brand down to a science. I read this really interesting blog post about a case study of Comcast use of Twitter for customer service and brand management – they are killing the game in using social media to manage brand management and customer satisfaction. Look at this screenshot – it only took them 11 minutes from the initial post to jump in this conversation – that is AWESOME!

And, not only did they win this customer over and end with her thanking them and saying she was going to write a blog post about Comcast’s Twitter reputation management, Frank Eliason, who is in charge of Comcast’s Twitter strategy, also followed the conversation to the blog post that she finally wrote and provided a second mea culpa in the comments to her post. Look at this (be sure to actually go to the post and see ALL the comments – Comcast is putting their Twitter army to work outside of the channel).

That’s fantastic! And, do you see the date? This was almost two years ago and they’d already figured it out! What are the rest of these big brands waiting for? I think that most of them are ignoring these channels and hoping that Twitter, Facebook and all of these social media tools go away and that they can regain control of their brand identities and messages that are disseminated about their brands. But, guess what? It ain’t happening!

A word to the wise – figure it out! We’re already a few years into the game; the sooner you figure it out, the easier it will be to develop an effective strategy. So, understand corporate Twitter best practices and identify a listening platform for your company. Don’t have time to do it? Don’t worry, I’m all over it! I’ll be blogging about it later this month. Until then…I’m out!

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3 Responses to How To Use Twitter to Avoid a Online Reputation Disaster

  1. MacSmiley June 15, 2010 at 10:59 pm #

    How can you possibly mention brand reputation, BP, and Twitter in this article without mentioning @BPGlobalPR??

    That’s like breakfast without orange juice.

  2. bROWN June 25, 2010 at 6:25 pm #

    Fabulous piece. Will share =)


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