Voor mijn afstudeeronderzoek naar de markt voor online reputatie management in Nederland, en voor mijn eigen blog Brandmerck, mailde ik enkele weken geleden met Andy Beal, wiens boek Radically Transparent ik onder anderen gebruik als theoretisch kader voor mijn onderzoek.
In eerste instantie verwachte ik, net als bij andere (nationaal) gerespecteerde experts op het gebied van PR en Reputatiemanagement die ik eerder mailde, niet snel een antwoord te krijgen. Andy verraste mij echter met een snelle positieve reactie op mijn verzoek tot een interview en stemde in met het beantwoorden van enkele vragen over onder anderen ORM, SERM (’search engine reputationmanagement’) en SMO (’social media optimization’).
Voor de minder ‘afkortingsgezinden’ onder u; Ik vroeg Andy dus naar zijn visie op de manier waarop organisaties hun reputatie kan beschermen op het internet, waar eenieder tegenwoordig via blogs, profielen, fora en andere media invloed uit kan oefenen op het imago van hun merk...
Na de ‘lees meer’, de vragen en Andy’s antwoorden in het Engels.
Andy Beal is an internationally-renowned consultant, author, and speaker specializing in online reputation management, search engine optimization, and social media marketing.
Considered one of the world’s most respected reputation management experts, Andy has worked with many brand-leaders including Motorola, GlaxoSmithKline, SAS, Lowes, and NBC.
Andy’s current projects include his new book Radically Transparent: Monitoring & Managing Reputations Online, his blog Marketing Pilgrim, & Trackur, an online reputation monitoring tool.
I was able to ask Andy some questions on Online Reputation Management, which I’m also going to use in my graduation thesis:
1. Other than in Europe, we think that in the United States a well-developed professional consultancy industry already exists for Online Reputation Management (ORM). How did this develop over the last years and what is your personal point of view?
I actually believe that the ORM industry in the United States is still in its infancy. While I, and a few others, have offered ORM services for a number of years, it’s only been in the last 6-12 months that there’s been a significant increase in the number of firms offering reputation management solutions.
I think the US will lead the way simply because there’s a huge spotlight on American businesses. The world watches for their success and, equally, their failure. With this in mind, US companies are more acutely aware of the importance of a good reputation.
2. In which phase of development do you think ORM consultancy is at this moment in the USA? Do you feel like there is more room for growth in the future and that companies should make ORM a more important part of their online communication strategies? How do you envision this process?
There’s plenty of room for growth. American businesses are just starting to realize the immense value that comes from maintaining positive sentiment of their brand. With the increased adoption of social media, we’re seeing businesses of all sizes look for ways to monitor, build, and manage their online reputation.
Most companies are at the stage of listening and learning. That’s why we built Trackur.com, to enable businesses to monitor the social web for conversations that relate to their reputation. Just the act of listening can help companies to improve their products, discover new opportunities, and correct mistakes–before they become headline news.
3. I am convinced that companies that have a so-called ‘interactive online profile’, and are known for their online presence through blogs and social networks, have a head start when it comes to any unforeseen online reputation crisis. Could you tell something about the way you advise your clients when they want to create an interactive online profile?
I absolutely agree with you. When a company creates an interactive online profile, it’s effectively telling its stakeholders–customers, investors, employees, etc–that it cares about the community and wants to be a part of the conversation. When an online reputation crisis hits, companies that have an social media profile are more likely to be given the benefit of the doubt and more likely to be able to respond quickly, within that channel.
I advise my clients to look for the “centers of influence.” Where are their stakeholders hanging-out online? When you understand the types of social media your stakeholders are using–maybe they prefer blogs over forums–you’ll increase your chances of successfully engaging them.
4. Do you advise organizations when they already have problems with their online reputation? Can you give an example of a case, and your approach in that matter (the name of the company can of course remain anonymous)?
Right now, most companies only react to an online reputation crisis when they see it having an adverse effect on their Google reputation. When a negative blog post is on the first page of Google’s results, for your brand name, you tend to take notice. In these cases, I simply work with clients to help create and optimize positive web content. Our goal is to try and provide Google with positive web content that is more relevant, thus suppressing the negative pages.
The very smart companies are realizing that simply managing their Google reputation is akin to placing make-up over a cancerous mole. You have to treat the underlying cause–not just the symptoms. It’s with these companies that I work to help them address and fix the actual complaints their stakeholders have with their business.
5. An important part of Online Reputation Management is of course Search Engine Reputation Management (SERM). Do you think this part of ORM can only be managed by SEO/PPC search experts? And would you advise Searchmarketing agencies to make SERM one of their main services?
I think we’re already seeing many SEM firms adding SERM to their mix of services. It’s a service that is in demand and search marketers have the skills to implement such a campaign. As the industry matures, we’ll see the need for more than just SERM–which some SEM firms may not be able to offer. For now, it’s a hot topic and there’s plenty of opportunity there.
6. You recently developed the online reputation monitoring tool ‘Trackur’. What was your motivation for developing your own, instead of using a similar tool that already existed? I’ve noticed a lot of attention goes to monitoring tools, and I understand it’s an essential part of Online Reputation Management. Do you think other parts of the ORM-process will be automated in the near future?
I spent five years trying to find an online reputation monitoring tool that could accurately monitor the web, and not cost thousands of dollars per month. In the end, I gave-up looking and decided to build it myself. With Trackur, we’re offering a sophisticated, yet simple-to-use, online reputation monitoring solution–at a fraction of the cost of some other services. In fact, you can use Trackur for just $18 a month!
As for automating other components of ORM, I think the opportunities will be limited. ORM is kind of like public relations; sure you can automate some of it, but it’s mostly a manual process that comes from engaging your stakeholders and holding conversations with them.
A big thank you to Andy off course, for taking time to answer my questions!