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Online Reputation

Your Reputation Online

December 17, 2009

As one of Charmian Ingram’s recent pupils I was the invited speaker today at this month’s City Speakers lunch.  She had managed to secure the British Library’s Business and IP Centre as the venue, and there was a good turn out.  Charmian’s events are popular as the format of a speaker imparting some knowledge interspersed with networking with potential quality contacts is a successful formula.

Deciding what to include and what to exclude from a 30 minute talk on Reputation monitoring was not easy.  Here are my slides:

Your Reputation Online

View more presentations from Azrights.

I opted to tackle the subject by first painting a negative scenario illustrating the difficulty in having something undesirable about yourself removed from the web. Then, I gave an example of the positive power of web 2.0 to catapult a business to success.  Dr Helaine Smith, a US dentist whose e-book Healthy Mouths Healthy Sex has been downloaded thousands of times, has quickly established her credibility as an expert, to the benefit of her dental practice.

My aim was to communicate that brand protection and brand promotion are different sides of the same coin.  If I were addressing an audience of larger brand owners, I would focus on brand protection.  For smaller businesses who may not yet have much of a brand to protect, I place the emphasis on using web 2.0 to build the brand, and attract business.  However, the same basic approach outlined in the talk is relevant whether promotion or protection is the focus.

I gave some pointers to beware of when seeking to protect brands online – specifically how not to fall victim to the Streisand Effect.  Use lawyers who understand the web, and can forewarn you of unintended consequences.

There was little doubt among the audience that social media is not a fad, and is here to stay.  All agreed that we are at the beginning of a revolution.  Clearly the message in this video about Social Media has therefore reached far and wide but as I really like it and it communicates the power of the web well, I am embedding it here:

So, social media is changing the rules in many industries, and I mentioned the marketing and advertising industry in particular.  New rules of ‘engagement’ on social media are replacing the old rules of so called ‘interruption marketing’.  My ideas are more fully expounded in the opening chapter of my new book, a book I am publishing gradually  through the blog as explained more here (When someone asked a question about protecting intellectual assets from copying and theft, I did explain that although I want to get content and ideas out into the public domain, I take care to protect some ideas by withholding them.  They will only be available to those who buy the book).

The rise of search engines as the first port of call for many of us looking for products and services, means there are huge opportunities for those whose content appears in front of their potential buyers at the time when these buyers are seeking it.  So for social media to yield benefits, it is important to understand your customers.  Otherwise, social media is unlikely to yield much business, and will just be a waste of time.  So a strategic approach is the aim.

By strategy I mean being clear about your positioning, how you differ from your competitors, and what you uniquely offer to the market.  This is a difficult subject, that many businesses could be grappling with for years.  It  is easier said than done. Generally, the narrower you go the more likely you are to identify your niche.  Then developing an understanding of potential buyers, and the words they use to look for solutions to their problems should be easier, as should keyword research.

Also anyone who wants to use social media marketing for their business should establish a blog.  It’s the most powerful way of producing content that potential buyers will be interested in.  However, to reap the benefits of blogging, the aim should be to produce remarkable content at least sometimes.  So, before beginning a blog, listen to other blogs, comment on some maybe, and then when you’re ready set one up.

Finally, I ended by discussing monitoring, by using Google alerts to keep track of mentions of your name, your keywords, and that of competitors.  The results could be received by email or, if you have a large number, sent through an RSS feed to Google reader – a free service.

There were a number of questions, including one by someone who had experienced a situation where an advertiser on Google had used their company’s brand name in the text of an ad, and sent the ensuing traffic to its own website.  This was felt to be deceptive, and wrong.

The topic of Google Adwords and Google’s policies has many dimensions.  The basic position is that Google’s policy will “not disable keywords in response to a trademark complaint” (see here). This is an overall policy that applies across the board. The legality of some of Google’s policies is awaiting the decision of the European Court of Justice. (In the meantime, the advocate general  has submitted an opinion as discussed here. We have also discussed Google Adwords in other blog posts hereherehere, and here.)  From this it may be guessed that this is an involved subject.

As regards the question raised at the event, Google will investigate the use of trademarks belonging to third parties in ad text. Google has made it clear that this will depend on the territory – for a list of the countries where such investigations will occur see link.  Also, the US policy is slightly more lenient allowing some ads to be ‘displayed with a trademark in ad text if the ad is from a reseller or from an information site’ (US Google trademark policy).  Not knowing more about the facts of the case raised at the event, I can’t comment further.  However, if further facts can be added here, or others have further comments, questions or remarks please leave them here.