Maybe you’re hoping that if you ignore it, this whole “social media” craze will fade away.
Maybe what you don’t know won’t hurt your business.
Whether you like it or not, social media is happening and it’s affecting your business. Your customers and your potential customers are using the web to gather information about everything under the sun. They are then talking about the products and services they’re using. Good or bad, the conversations are happening and now they’re happening online as well as off line.
Conversations about products and services have been going on since humans first began to communicate. Eons ago, Caveman Joe and his friends sat around the fire trading stories of where the best hunting sites were. Fast forward in time and a decade ago neighbors would trade tales of which neighborhood dentist is good and which one is not so good at the PTA meeting. (This was known as word of mouth advertising.)
Today, we’re more likely to go online and do a Google search before we have the conversation in person.
The difference between then and now: back then when those stories were told – they didn’t leave a digital trail. In order for a story to hit the news, a reporter had to hear about it and most importantly CARE about the issue. Long ago, the buzz – or the damage – ended when the sound of the voice speaking faded away. Silence the voice and the story was gone. There was no proof – there was no evidence – if the story was bad, there was the possibility of it fading away and there was ALWAYS the possibility of forgetting the details.
That was then – this is now.
Now, these same conversations are happening online. The stories are being told in a different venue – where they are indexed, compiled and offered up for retrieval at a moments notice.
Now, instead of asking about your business at the PTA meeting – social networking Joe will simply log on and plug in his search terms to see what Google knows about your and your business.
What will he find when he searches for you?
What kind of first impression will you and your business make upon him?
Recently, Belkin – a manufacturer of electronics – got caught in an attempt to play the social media marketing game by gaming those results. Rather than rely on customers to post real reviews of Belkin products- they decided to advertise and offered to pay for post positive reviews. Their advertisement was seen by Arlen Parsa who happened to have a blog. Even though he’s not a reporter, he broken the story like a pro in Exclusive: Belkin’s Development Rep is Hiring People to Write Fake Positive Amazon Reviews. Other bloggers saw this post, picked up the story and carried it as well. Suddenly, Belkin has a PR problem.
Here’s a news flash for everyone who thinks they can do business “as usual” (a.k.a. without an expectation of transparency) in today’s world – an era I’ve dubbed the No Trust Zone. This is a time when there are literally tens of millions of blogs, authored by even more bloggers who are constantly on the prowl for new fresh content:
THE WEB IS WATCHING!
Your customers have access to the web. Even if they don’t have a blog themselves, chances are they either know someone who does or can find one pretty easily and drop a comment. If a blogger gets wind of the story you’d rather not have told- well, that’s the downside to Web 2.0. If that happens, you’d better bring out the bullet proof vest for your PR department – because it’s going to get ugly.
Belkin is not exactly a techno-unsavvy business – yet even with their considerable web presence, a search of Google for their business name “Belkin” returns on the first page a story of the recent scandal: Gizmodo’s post: Belkin Employee Sheds Light On Belkin’s Supposedly Dirty Practices.
In Belkin Gets Caught Buying 5-Star Reviews & My Alternative Recipe for Ratings Success, Andy Beal offers suggestions on how to get HONEST product reviews from satisfied customers. (Unfortunately, according to the Gizmodo post, the whole REASON behind the for the Belkin review payola was that the products couldn’t get positive reviews from real customers!)
Fortunately for Belkin, they “own” their own number 1 listing at Google – otherwise, a scandal such as this cound be the “top result” for a search for the business name for a long time to come.
Unfortunately for Micheal Bayard – Business Development Representative for Belkin – he’s not so lucky. He’s making headlines such as Michael Bayard and Belkin: What’s the Big Deal and Belkin Representive hires people to write positive reviews for their product on Amazon.
Those search engine friendly blogs are great at delivering top results on desired keyword terms, aren’t they? Unfortunately that’s not a good thing for those who thought authenticity was a word used to trip up 6th graders during a spelling bee. The “power of the blog” blade cuts deep and can leave a permanent scar on an online reputation.
This is the new way of the world. The web is watching. “I’m blogging this,” is more powerful than you think. Even a “tiny” blog can get a big voice in a hurry.
Oh, and authenticity is NOT an obscure spelling word – it’s the new “way of the world”.