How To Manage Your Online Reputation & Social Media Monitoring Lessons with Andy Beal

Andy Beal joins us for another exciting episode of Inbound Now, HubSpot’s social media and inbound marketing podcast!

Andy is the founder of Marketing Pilgrim. He is also the CEO and founder of Trackur, an online social media monitoring tool. He’s the co-author of a book called Radically Transparent. Some would say he’s the Indiana Jones of online reputation management.

In this episode, we chat about:

  • How to monitor and keep your online reputation clean
  • An online reputation management nightmare
  • Social Media Online response time
  • Dealing with negative search engine results
  • Advice on starting monitoring programs
  • Inventive ways to use monitoring tools

Transcript

David: Hey, everybody. Welcome to Episode Number 24 of Inbound Now. Today I have a very special guest with us here, Mr. Andy Beal. Andy is the founder of Marketing Pilgrim. He is also the CEO and founder of Trackur, an online social media monitoring tool. He’s the co-author of a book called “Radically Transparent,” and some would say he’s the Indiana Jones of online reputation management. I might have actually got that from his Twitter background. So maybe it’s self-proclaimed, but let’s see.

So Andy, welcome to the show.

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Andy: Thank you very much for having me on. Actually, it’s not self-proclaimed, but I liked it a lot. Someone said to me one time that, I think they actually tweeted it, “Andy Beal is the Indiana Jones of reputation management.” I’m like, “That’s kind of cool. That’s different, so let’s run with that for a little bit.” So I do have it on my Twitter background, yeah.

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David: Nice. Yeah. No, it’s a cool accolade I would say. I want to be the Shaquille O’Neal of something. But anyway, so I wanted to get you on the show today to talk a little bit about online reputation management and why it’s so important for businesses to start thinking about it, and also some of your insights you gleaned away from working at Trackur with social media monitoring and how companies are listening into the social web. So, sound good?

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Andy: Oh, yeah, that all sounds for me. Yeah, let’s get started.

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David: All right. Let’s do it. So in your book, “Radically Transparent,” you explain why the Internet is so important for companies and brands, like their reputation. So a company kind of new to the online space, dipping their toe in the water, what’s the story here? What should they really be paying attention to and keeping their reputation clean online?

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Andy: Really, when you think about it, your online reputation is now probably more important than your traditional offline reputation, especially for companies that have any kind of online presence, but certainly just about anybody. I mean, we don’t go the local Starbucks and meet up with a couple of friends anymore and complain and gripe about a company that was rude to us or their product sucked. We go online. We reach, even if it’s just a few hundred people on Twitter, that’s far more people than we can speak to at a coffee shop or around a water cooler or something like. So it just makes it easier for us. I think that consumers and individuals and companies are realizing as well that they’ve got a voice there. They know that they can get some attention. If that customer service email goes unanswered for 10, 20, 30 minutes, then they head online and start asking there. Or it takes them 20 minutes to write a blog post that ends up ranking in the top five of Google. So it really is important to understand your reputation online. What is it currently? What are the potential damaging situations that could happen? What’s your Achilles’ heel? Then listen to those conversations, get feedback and improve. Be better than your competition. So it’s absolutely vital.

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David: Right. So what are some of the horror stories that you’ve seen of people not paying attention online to their reputation and it actually hurting their brand?

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Andy: Gosh, there’s lots of them.

Dave: What’s your favorite?

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Andy: We talk about Dell in the book, but that’s kind of old now. The one I like the most it the Motrin Moms, where Motrin launched a campaign to talk about basically how moms that wear these baby slings end up getting backaches. But they were kind of like a little bit condescending in the message, and the momma bloggers, and the Twitter users took offensive at that and really just out of nowhere created this campaign. I think that’s the thing with social media, it’s very incendiary. It doesn’t take much of a spark to get people rallied around a cause. They generally don’t even know why they’re doing, but they can do it, so they do. So these moms all got together. Rightly or wrongly, you could say they overreacted or not, it doesn’t really matter. They felt offended, and that’s the key thing.

Motrin launched this campaign on a Friday, went home for the weekend. Nobody responded or listened for the whole weekend, and came back to a big reputation crisis on Monday and had to fix that and had to apologize and pull the campaign and work to repair that reputation. Reading the official comments, they clearly did not take into account what the reaction was going to be. They didn’t think that this was going to be a problem. They didn’t see this coming. When hindsight’s 20/20, it’s very easy for us to say, “Hey, you should have seen that coming. You should have brought on a focus group of mothers that use Twitter and Facebook and blogs, and see what they think about this campaign.”

It’s very easy to do that in hindsight, but you never really know. It’s almost like a tornado. They come out of nowhere. You don’t really know where they’re going to touch down, and they do a lot of damage and they’re gone. So that’s one thing to keep in mind with a reputation attack, they can do that much damage that quickly.

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David: Right. I think the key takeaway of that story is they let it fester over the weekend and they had this huge storm. But if they were paying attention to these social channels, then it could have been avoided. Right?

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Andy: Exactly, yeah. The rule that used to be for PR, at least the rule that I was always taught, is if you’ve got bad news, you release that late on a Friday because everybody’s gone home and there’s nobody around and you’re hoping it will just blow over. Well, to release a social media campaign like that on a Friday and then just to go home and have nobody assigned to monitor it or no plan for how to capture it, it just goes to show that the social media side of that promotion was an afterthought rather than part of the main campaign. Because it’s like, “Oh, okay. So let’s turn on the social media campaign now for the weekend and we’ll see when we check it.” They wouldn’t do that if it was a TV commercial or a print ad. Nobody would say, “Okay. Well, let’s just run it and then leave it a couple of days. We’ll come back and see what the response is.” That would just never happen.

So there’s a lesson learned by, not only them, but by everybody and that’s the key thing. With every reputation crisis that we see, we all, myself included, get to learn something new. We get to understand a little bit more about the landscape. How we should react, how we shouldn’t react. What are some of the best practices? Should we dive straight in and respond? Should we listen for a bit? Should we use the same channel that they used to complain? There’s all kinds of different things. It’s a work in progress.

Unfortunately, there are the trailblazers, and you don’t want to be a trailblazer when it comes to reputation management. You don’t want to be that company – the BP or the Tiger Woods – where you’re the one who’s coming under attack. You’re the one that becomes the case study, and everybody else learns from you. This is one of those situations where when it comes to, certainly, a crisis, you don’t want to be on the cutting edge. You don’t want to be ahead of the bell curve on this one. You want to be sitting back and just hoping that you learn enough, you gather enough information, you learn from everybody else’s mistakes so that it doesn’t happen to you. That’s really the first step. It’s kind of like an insurance policy, right?

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David: Right.

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Andy: You kind of take out an insurance policy on yourself to make sure this doesn’t happen to you, put things in place. But then as you mature in reputation management, your goal is to be proactive. Your goal is to build a good reputation, engage your customers, engage your employees, your stakeholders, shareholders, whoever it may be and build on that. That’s what we’re starting to see in the industry now. We’re starting to see more and more companies doing that.

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David: Right. So start by listening in, getting the pulse, so if there is something that’s going on. So you talk about responding in a certain time frame, right? Is there a rule of thumb there, or if there is someone just saying something that’s totally not true about your brand and it’s a crazy person, you don’t really have to respond? Or is there a way to prioritize that?

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Andy: Well, you want to decide on an appropriate response quickly. But that response may be no response. So if you do have the Internet troll that’s just always attacking you and just has nothing better to do for the afternoon and they’re always on your case, that may not necessarily require you to respond, because if you do respond, you could end up with what’s called the “Streisand Effect,” which is when Barbara Streisand didn’t like a photographer taking an aerial photograph of her house and filed a lawsuit to get it removed. Nobody even knew about the photograph until she filed the lawsuit and brought attention to it. So it’s now forever called the Streisand Effect. So you don’t want that to happen if it’s just a troll who’s got 50 Twitter followers and nobody reads his blog. You don’t want to put a big spotlight on it.

But at the same time you need to look at this to see, “s this something that we need to respond to quickly? What is the appropriate response?” Even if you don’t have a completely formed plan, then at least let people know that you are listening, you’re hearing it, you’re investigating it. One of the things that we do with my own company is if someone finds a bug or if there’s a problem, we say, “Hey, look, we’re hearing you. This is not acceptable. We’re investigating this right now. I’m going to keep you updated until we get this resolved.” Don’t let it fester. Don’t let that person just kind of like, “Well, does this company even care? No one is responding.”

It could be that you’re working really hard behind the scenes. If you think about a swan on a lake, all you see is the swan just effortlessly gliding along the lake. You think there’s nothing to it. What you don’t see are the two legs kicking furiously under the water. So you’ve got to let people know that you’re kicking furiously to correct this and to resolve it. So you do have to have some kind of response, but you do need to look at every situation and say, “Is this something that warrants a response? What kind of response is it?” You do need to move quickly relative to the magnitude of the crisis.

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David: Gotcha. Would you say by responding to detractors it’s actually a way to turn them into an evangelist if you’re responding in a meaningful way?

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Andy: Absolutely. In the book, we talk about this. I can’t remember the source of this, but we’ve all heard about if you do something good, your customers will tell five other people. If you do something bad, they’ll tell ten people. So that kind of makes sense.

Well, there’s a step further. If you do something to really annoy or upset a customer but then fix it to their satisfaction, that they feel like you really cared, they’ll tell 20 people how great you are because you took those extra steps to fix the situation. So absolutely, you kind of want to turn these people into evangelists by fixing the situation and never being so bold as to say, “Hey, now we’ve solved your. Could you tell the whole world how great we are?” But just delighting them to the point where they can’t wait to get back online and tell everybody how great you were at fixing the situation.

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David: Right. So online reputation management doesn’t just live in the social space. It also is really prevalent in search, right?

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Andy: Yeah.

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David: This is kind of after a company, they see a search result that they don’t particularly like or it’s detracting their brand. What can companies do in this bad situation? Other than fix the problem in the first place and have it not happen to begin with, what can they do once it already has?

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Andy: Right. Your reputation is only an extension of your character. So you can’t fix it beyond the integrity and the authenticity of your company’s character. So that’s one thing to keep in mind. Otherwise, it’s just a game of Whack-a-Mole. You clean one thing up and then you make another screw-up and somebody else complains.

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David: Right.

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Andy: So the reason why we focus on social media, or at least I do for a lot of things, is because that is where it generally starts. So if you can nip it in the bud with that first tweet or that first Facebook update, before they then write a blog post, or if you can get to that blog post and get them to update it or delete it before it gets indexed by Google. So really the end result is going to be, as far as reputation management, the worst thing that could happen online is that it then shows up in Google. Generally, when stuff shows up in Google, it’s because it’s more relevant and more popular than anything else that has ever been written about you, and especially small businesses, they don’t have a lot of publicity. They don’t get a lot of things written about them, and they don’t take a lot of time to create content outside of their own corporate site. So then they have this scandal. A semi-popular blog writes something about it. It attracts a lot of links, because we buy newspapers when there’s a scandal on the front page. We link to blogs when there’s a scandal on a blog, so it’s the same concept. Then all of a sudden, it jumps into the top ten, top five, top three, and before you know it, it’s costing you business, costing you customers. So trying to nip it in the bud early, trying to resolve it early is the key thing.

But then if it’s already made it into Google, you’ve really got to look to create content that is more relevant and more popular. I’m kind of trivializing Google’s algorithm. It’s got a couple hundred different components to it. But it really boils down to how relevant is the page to the keyword and how popular do other sites think it is, and how relevant do they think it is? So that’s really what it boils down to. So we just need to combat that. That’s when being proactive helps because you don’t want to be building this content and trying to get a blog ranking or your Facebook page ranking in Google, or you launch a new Tumblr site, or something like that, you don’t want to do that when you’re knee deep in a crisis because it could take weeks before it starts showing up in Google, because you’re not going to attract as many links as quickly as the negative blog post does.

So you need to be proactive. You need to do it now. You need to put your name or your company name into Google, and you need to be satisfied with the top ten results that show up, that this would look good whether you’re showing a customer or whether you’re showing your boss or whether you’re just showing your mom.

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David: Gotcha. So making those sites before the crisis happens, it makes total sense. So what about registering your companynamesucks.com or dot-org or whatever? What’s your opinion there? Is that something that’s necessary, or that’s kind of like we’re wearing tin foil hats now? What do you feel about that?

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Andy: Well, it’s a tactic that gets mentioned a lot by us reputation management consultants, whatever you want to call us. Just don’t call us a guru, don’t call me a guru. But it’s a tactic that gets thrown around because it’s an easy tactic to say, oh, go ahead and register yourcompanynamesucks.com and that kind of stuff. But really, unless you’re launching a company or you have an existing company where you know that there’s likely to be negative press written about you, and really it’s a little bit overkill to go ahead and just register all of those, because where does it stop? Do you get the dot-net and the dot-org of that?

So really, my advice is to get your dot-com, get your dot-net, dot-org if you can. Any real common misspellings, try and get those. But for the most part don’t worry about that, because really you’re going to see that it could be any page on any kind of domain name that doesn’t even include your company brand in any of the URL structure that ranks in Google. The tactics I prefer, for example if you’ve got the dot-org and it’s just sitting there, it’s just pointing to your dot-com, not doing anything with it, create a site that talks about your community relations or your charitable efforts. If you make a sizable donation to the Red Cross each year and you volunteer your time, create a site that talks about that. So it’s going to rank well, because now it’s got legitimate content. It’s got a legitimate reason for existing because you’re talking about your charitable efforts.

I also like the subdomain approach. If you’ve got a legitimate reason for putting some of your content, so for example, your investor’s page, put all of that onto investors.companyname.com. Or maybe your jobs page, so now you’ve got careers.companyname.com. You can’t have the duplicate content, and you need to pass the manual review, if you like. If Google ever took a manual review of this content, would it stand up to that review in that you could honestly say there is a real reason for you having that subdomain and there’s enough content there? But those are some of the tactics that I like to use because now you’re piggybacking off of the company name in the dot-org or you’re piggybacking off of the company name in the root of the subdomain. So those are some good tactics I like.

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David: Okay, cool. The idea is to push, if there was anything negative or just to keep it out of showing up when someone googles just the company name, out of the first one or two pages of Google, right?

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Andy: Yeah. Generally, only about 80% of people are going to go beyond the first page. So if you can get something negative out of the first page, you’re good. I often tell people that they should monitor at least the first 20 results, preferably the first 30. It’s not because you want to dominate that many results, but you need to be aware of anything negative that is starting to move up. You don’t want to be blindsided by a result that’s negative that all of a sudden jumps in at number eight, when really it didn’t just come out of nowhere. First of all it was number 29, and then it was 24, then so on and so forth. So you just need to be aware of that. But when I was doing Google reputation management for clients, a success was getting everything negative out of the top ten.

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David: Gotcha, cool. So switching gears a little bit to talk more about social media listening.

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Andy: Okay.

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David: So you wrote a guest post a while back on a top ranked blog, basically “The Six Critical Steps to Take Before Starting Your Social Media Monitoring Initiative.” You talk about how companies, and to quote C.C. Chapman, “How they’re starting to listen to the social telephone, listen in on the conversation.” What advice would you give to companies starting out their monitoring programs there?

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Andy: Well, first of all you’ve got to understand what your goals are. It doesn’t do your company any good to go out and spend a couple thousand bucks on a monitoring firm or a piece of software and just say to yourself, “Hey, we’re monitoring. So now we’ve got that covered. Let’s move on to better things.” So you’ve got to understand what your goals are. What are you trying to achieve? Are you trying to improve the company reputation? Does the CEO have a tendency to get negative press and you’re kind of listening for that? Are you trying to increase your stock price? What is it that you’re really looking to achieve?

Other things that you want to do, as well, is understand your brands. So for example, where are we going to come under attack? So, your company name, your CEO’s name, your products, that kind of stuff. Then just test it. There’s nothing wrong with signing up for Google alerts and just listening and seeing what’s being discussed about you. Or type in your name into Google News or IceRocket or some other social media or news search engine and looking to see what’s being said about you. Get a feel for it. Then try and manage it yourself, because then that way you’re going to get an idea of what your needs are. Do you need all of the fancy charts? Do need you need sentiment analysis? What are your needs here? Do you need something that is just simple, or do you need something complicated?

Then once you’ve got all that understanding, then you can go out and look at, who are the vendors that are available? Trackur is my company, and we offer an affordable, simple solution for monitoring. But there are plenty of other companies out there that offer features that might be better suited to a particular customer.

Then probably another critical thing is to not silo that information. So it’s one thing to collect it, but what are you going to do with it? So just don’t sit on it and just let it go by the wayside. If you’re seeing common critical feedback about your product, get that to the R&D department. If you’re seeing people love a particular feature, get that to the sales team so that they can focus on that as a selling point. So just make sure that what you’re collecting is not siloed.

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David: Right. And grabbing those sound bites and customer stories, I think that’ll move the needle inside an organization as well. It’s kind of proof that, “Hey, we should start really doing this because there’s a lot of people talking about it.”

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Andy: Yeah, exactly. Because now you’ve got social proof, right?

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David: Right.

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Andy: If you’re trying to get a decision made or get a change made internally and you’ve got social proof to back that up, that makes it a lot easier. Then also, another thing to be monitoring as well is your competition, don’t overlook that. Keep an eye on what they’re doing. What do people like about their products? What is it that they’re saying about their services? If they come under attack, do an audit. Could you potentially come under that same attack? Do you have that same weakness, or are you so strong there that you launch a new publicity campaign around that strength? Not necessarily pointing out your competitions weaknesses, but highlighting that you’re not weak there, that that’s a strength for you guys.

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David: Gotcha, cool. So running Trackur, you must see a lot of interesting search queries and what have you. So what are some inventive ways that you’ve seen companies using the listening tool? Because a lot of people, they’ll listen to their brand terms and then competitors and a couple of other things, but what have you seen that you’re like, “Wow, that’s actually a really good search query to find interesting stuff”?

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Andy: One of the things I really like, when I launched Trackur, it wasn’t ever really one of the features that we wanted to offer and we still don’t really talk a lot about it. But we have a lot of SEOs that sign up for Trackur, because what they do is they take the either anchor text or the keyword, whatever it is that you want to call it, that they what to get their clients ranking for and they monitor conversations surrounding those keywords. So if it’s iPhone ring tones, you’re monitoring that keyword and anytime you see an influential blogger or a news site write about it, then reaching out to those people and seeing if they would be interested in writing about your client, maybe you can get a link from them, different things that you can do to aid in link building there.

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David: Right.

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Andy: If you see someone talking about a particular trend or industry keyword on Twitter, reach out to them, tell them about your client, and see if you can get some publicity, that kind of stuff. So there are some cool things there around that.

Competitive intelligence is another one that I like. Just industry insights, just kind of keeping abreast of what’s going on in your space. You don’t need to have a RSS reader with multiple different feeds. Just tell us exactly what industry keywords are important to you. Tell us about your industry, and we’ll bring you all the news straight into a single dashboard. So there’s a lot of cool stuff that you can do.

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David: Cool. One of the things that I noticed you pull in the Klout score into Trackur, right?

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Andy: Uh-huh.

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David: I wanted to get your feedback on Klout. Do you think it’s a viable metric to actually gauge influence, or is it just kind of the best thing out there right now? What are you thoughts?

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Andy: Well, look, here’s the thing. I know that these kinds of influence scores come under fire, but it really doesn’t matter how accurate it is. It’s how people perceive it. So if I drive a Porsche 911, which I don’t, I’d like to, but I don’t, but if I drive a Porsche 911, you’re instantly going to have an idea or you think you’re going to have an idea of the kind of character I have, the kind of influence I have, the net worth that I have versus if I drive an old Yugo or a Mini or something like that, right?

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David: Right.

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Andy: Everybody has that perception. It’s flawed. I could be leasing the Porsche and be living in an apartment that I can’t afford and am about to go bankrupt. Those are the flaws, but it’s still generally accepted that the nicer the car you drive, the more affluent you are kind of thing. So you bring that back to kind of scores like that, yeah, they all have flaws. Nobody’s ever going to get it right. But it’s the best we have, and Klout has done a really great job of positioning itself as having the best of the scores and also the one that everybody seems to be adopting. So that’s the key thing. Is my Equifax credit score really a true gauge of my financial wherewithal on my ability to pay a loan? Maybe not, but everybody’s accepted that that is a good way to determine that. Klout has done a really good job of putting themselves in that space. So, yeah, Trackur partners with them for Twitter because we want to give people an insight as to how influential someone is on Twitter.

Then we calculate our own score for blogs and news sites. Again, it’s not perfect, but it’s better than taking a wild guess as to, “Is this site a site that’s going to cause me damage to my reputation? Do I need to worry about it? How influential are they?” So plenty of room for fine tuning across everything, and I think we’re going to see fine tuning and it’s just going to continue to improve.

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David: One of the things that I’ve notice is it helps to prioritize if you do have a number of people, like if you’re a big brand and you can kind of prioritize down that list, it kind of helps vet that list a little bit if you run into time constraints.

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Andy: Think about it. At least Klout’s score is a score out of a hundred. SEOs in particular have been obsessing over a page rank, which is a score out of ten. How accurate and relevant is that to the value of a particular sight? Yet Google did a great job of making us all obsessed over it and believe that is the be all and end all of how worthy our website is. So that was a score out of ten. That just proves that all you need is the general perception that this is an accurate score that everybody needs to measure themselves against for it to takeoff and be the standard.

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David: Okay, cool. So let’s see here. So you run MarketingPilgram.com. It’s one of my favorite marketing blogs. I’ve been reading it for a while now.

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Andy: Thank you.

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David: What are some of the resources you look to? What are some of your favorite marketing sources that you pull from and get inspiration from that you can share with the audience?

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Andy: Yeah, so Marketing Pilgrim, we’ve been around, gosh, since 2005, and before that I had another blog. I can’t take all the credit. I mean, right now Frank Reed is our Managing Editor, and we have Cynthia, and we have Joe, and we have a lot of great writers that really just do a good job of just finding things that are of interest. But one of the things that’s allowed us to be popular and have success –and really, we don’t have the largest audience, but measurements have shown that we have a very affluent C-level kind of audience – so one of the things that allows us to do that is we don’t try to break the news. We say, “We don’t break the news. We break it down.” So when everybody is scrambling to get the scoop and break the embargo and all that kind of stuff, and offering a superficial kind of look at it, we try to look at the angle that people are not talking about. What does this mean for you as a business owner? What does this mean for the advertising industry? What are the things to be aware of here? So I encourage a lot of cynicism. I encourage a lot of sarcasm. I need to stand out from the crowd. You’re going to be reading the same old boring news over and over again. I want to give you something that’s going to make you think, make you smile.

Another thing we decided very early on is half the people who read Marketing Pilgrim do so because they want to know what they’re going to disagree with us on for that particular day. So let’s get the conversation going. That’s absolutely fine. Tell us your side of the story.

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David: Awesome. Yeah. I like not breaking the news, but breaking it down, and the cynicism and the edginess I think that helps out as well. Awesome.

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Andy: Thank you.

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David: So Andy, where can people find you online?

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Andy: Everywhere.

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David: Everywhere?

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Andy: Yeah, I’m always online. So the best way if you don’t know who I am or what my background is, go to AndyBeal.com. I’m on Twitter at Andy Beal. My passion right now is Trackur.com. We have a free plan. It’s low cost. If anybody wants to do some more monitoring and get started very quickly – you’re up and running in 60 seconds – then go to Trackur.com.

But yeah, you’ll see me a lot of places online. Flickr, I love photography, so you’ll see me on Flickr a lot. I’m on Facebook, but I’m not one of these “hey, let’s see how many friends we can get” kind of guys. That’s more for if we get to know each other and become friends and I really want to know what you had for breakfast and I really want to see those cute baby photos, then we’ll be friends on Facebook. But for the most part Twitter’s a good place to find me if you just have a question or you want to reach out and say hi, or if there’s anything I can do to help you.

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David: Awesome. Well, thanks for coming on the show, Andy. I really appreciate it.
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Andy: Yeah, it’s been a pleasure, David. Thank you for having me on, and hopefully we’ll get to catch up in real life soon, but it’s been fun doing this Skype video.

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About the Author

David is Founder of Inbound Now and a Fanatical WordPress Designer & Developer. He believes that the internet is a magical place where wonderful things can happen. Say hi to him @DavidWells

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