Social Media – Information Moving in Real Time

What do the Cash4Gold Social Media Meltdown and the Belkin Social Media Payola Scandal have in common?  They both CLEARLY illustrate that when it comes to Social Media Marketing – what you don’t know CAN hurt you!

Monday Morning Quarterback- Social Media Edition

Social media is truly the natural result of information moving at the speed of thought.  Even a company with a superbly crafted social media strategy will find itself flying by the seat of it’s pants at times.

There are two paths you can take when managing your online reputation.  You can choose to manage your online reputation in a PROACTIVE manner, which is highly preferable to taking a REACTIVE approach to your online reputation management.

Ideally, you should begin managing your online reputation the moment you launch your business.  That would be the PROACTIVE approach to online reputation management.

Would you rather buy a smoke detector BEFORE you smell smoke – or after?  In the case of Cash4Gold and Belkin – there’s a 4 alarm fire raging and there’s the question of whether the fire can be contained.

When it comes to online reputation management, you can choose whether to be PROACTIVE or REACTIVE!

Because most of what’s been done has been done RE ACTIVELY thus far in the case of both companies mentioned above, any positive blog posts uncovered on either company’s behalf are going to be viewed with suspicion and the keyword auto-tweets are like throwing gasoline on a bonfire.

Long ago, when I was an Account Executive with a regional advertising agency, I had a client who came under a media attack.   My client was flipping out and  my wise mentor and boss, Joan Elias, shared these words of wisdom with me to share with my client:

“When you stir shit – it stinks.”

Shit happens – and when it does – sometimes it’s just best to let it lie.  Eventually, it will “dry out” and stop stinking – but only if you leave it alone!

There comes a time in every reputation management campaign to lie low and let the stink dissipate!

The time for Cash4Gold to begin proactively managing their online reputation was February 2008 – about 6 months after launching the website and before they began actively promoting the business. (see the Compete.com graph below)

(Notice – the graph above seems to “mirror” gasoline prices.  Maybe more advertising wasn’t the answer!)

I’m sure the predominate thinking around the Cash4Gold offices back in the first quarter of ’08 was: “Hey, we’re seeing a real window of opportunity here.  Gold prices are on the rise, gas is nearing $4 a gallon and those Hummer owners are going to want to be unloading their gold chains to support their SUV’s gasoline habit.”

Cash4Gold did some BRILLIANT marketing moves along the way.  One of the best was to make the call to action in their television ads for the viewer to visit their website for more information. This would have been the ideal time to begin “inoculating” their online reputation, not only by implementing basic internet marketing and SEO practices but also by setting up systems to  “track” the conversation online around important keywords.

Had there been such systems in place – the Cockeyed Citizen’s blog would have triggered a “hit” and Cash4Gold could have been there to respond.  (Just as Carbonite responded quickly to my online review of their service on this blog.)

As other blogs picked up the story, other “hits” would have registered and possibly alerted Cash4Gold that a SuperBowl ad buy may not be the smartest investment of capital.

One way to begin creating a positive online reputation would be to actively solicit positive feedback.  For example, when the checks were sent to reimburse customers for their gold, there could be a coupon enclosed which asked happy customers to go to the cash4goldreview.com  website.  “Be sure to let us know how we did there and claim your reward.”   When buyers arrive,  they can “rate” their transaction – eBay style.  When they’re done – there’s an online coupon which can be printed and redeemd during their NEXT Cash4Gold transaction.  A $10 “bonus” on their next transaction of $100 or more could have gone a LONG way to making friends and influencing people’s perception of the company.

Studies have shown when customers are encouraged to write postive reviews – they actually become more active “proponents” of the brand.  A little of this could have gone a LONG way in the case of Cash4Gold.

Let’s say that none of this helps.  Perhaps Cash4Gold deserves their ever deteriorating online reputation.   Let’s say that despite the best proactive efforts – a negative blog posts takes the #2 position on Google.  Now what?

If you EVER find yourself in this position, let me tell you what YOU SHOULD NOT DO!

DO NOT SEND AN EMAIL OFFERING TO BRIBE THE BLOG OWNER TO De-OPTIMIZE THE POST!!!!

Where would Matt Drudge be if he would have taken a Clinton aid up on such a bribe?  Heck, where would BLOGGING be if that had happened?

The Cash4Gold story is the blogosphere’s version of Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket with a winning lottery ticket on the side.

I’m sure Rob’s thinking went along the lines of, “You’re paying six figures for a SuperBowl ad and less than a week beforehand, you’re offering me a measly $3k to make my #2 SERP disappear?”

His next thought HAD to be, “Pinch me – I must be dreaming.”

The bribe ranks right up there with the best of the Dateline: To Catch a Predator moments.  In the land of social media – that was the equivalent of showing up at a child’s home with balloons, candy and sensual massage oil.

“People and businesses alike just don’t get it. This is not a pen and pencil, snail mail, wait until the 5:00 news world. Information moves in real time. ” –  Valerie Johnson

What would you do if you were bribed like this?  Would you take the money?  Would you report the bribe on your blog?

Comments

  1. says

    I love your question “Would you rather buy a smoke detector BEFORE you smell smoke – or after?” Puts things in perspective.

    Of course if you’re already behind with the social media, you still need to just start — you’ll only get behind-er.

    When will people understand that social media isn’t optional, isn’t a fad that will go away tomorrow, isn’t something you can “buy” your way into?

    Well they won’t need to. The people that get it will (generally) win in the long run.

    It’s a shame to see otherwise-good companies that might end up losing because they won’t get on board. But then, it’s a shame when a software company makes a great product but sucks at marketing and therefore goes out of business. Same thing!

    Jason Cohens last blog post..Starting up while employed: Admit it

  2. Kathy says

    Exceptional insight – as always Jason.

    “When will people understand that social media isn’t optional, isn’t a fad that will go away tomorrow, isn’t something you can “buy” your way into?”

    BRILLIANT!!!

  3. says

    I am all over for PROACTIVE
    I also agree w/Jason that not too many still believe in the power of social media which strikes me.
    Questions – how can I make a point to make stakeholders buy-into the idea of investing into social media marketing, at least invest in publishing value packed blog for the company?

  4. Would you Rather says

    This is a very old way of looking at PR of any kind. You need to be proactive rather than reactive. I see this more and more every time something goes wrong. It needs to be very transparent for people to have faith in you.