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Archive for October, 2010

26 Oct
Posted by Kay

Reputation Management Part Four: what happens next

By now you know why it is important to monitor your online reputation. You know how to set up basic Google Alerts and advanced Google Alerts, so you know how your business is perceived, and what sort of reputation you have. This is all well and good, but you also need to know what to do with this information.

Reputation management is part of your public relations strategy. But it is also part of your crisis management strategy. While nobody likes to think about crises to which they must respond, it is well to plan for them just in case. It is unlikely that there might be a big negative stir about your business online; but ignoring the fact that it is possible is a bit like turning yourself into the proverbial ostrich.

As with any element of business management, knowing when and how to respond is important.

You also want to know how to proactively manage your business’s reputation, and grow it in a positive way. Here are some tips that will help you make the most of the information you are now being emailed each week.

The sorts of things you need to look for

At the most basic level, your Alerts will help you to preserve the value of your business. You need to keep your eyes peeled for:

  • creeping crises, like potentially negative rumours about your business
  • slow-burning crises, like internet activism, slander, or complaints
  • positive comments that you might be able to use in your marketing
  • similar businesses, doing similar things as you do, in order to keep an eye on your competition.

How to address negative things

There are a lot of ways in which you can respond to commentary about your business. The important thing is that you do respond. There is very little point in burying your head in the sand and hoping it will go away.

If the comments are on blogs that allow comments, add your own comment. Make sure it’s calm and accurate; that the spelling is correct; that it is timely. And don’t ever belittle anybody else that has made comments.

A good example of how a business responded to potentially damaging internet commentary was in the Bonsoy debate that occurred on food critic Lisa Dempster’s blog. In one small post about the health effects of drinking Bonsoy, Lisa gained a huge number of comments. It included comments from the makers of Bonsoy themselves. You can see the post here

By engaging with disgruntled people in this way, you have the opportunity to correct untrue allegations, to engage in further business improvements, and even to gain new customers. As those in market research know, some of your most valuable customers are those who complain – because if you win them back, they are fiercely loyal.

If you find that the online commentary about your business is broader than one or two blogs or forums, it may well call for a media response. This is why your reputation management strategy needs to embrace the notion of crisis management on a more general level. There might come a day when you need it.

Using positive commentary

On the flip-side of all of this, you might find that people are sharing your content, being enthusiastic about what you do and offer, and generally making a bit of a positive ruckus on your behalf. It’s a great feeling when you find things like this! And you can use it to your advantage. You might:

  • jump in on blog comments, thanking people for their lovely words, and engaging directly with your market – on someone else’s site
  • find people who can guest on your business blog
  • create new networking opportunities and partnerships
  • gain comments or a ‘vibe’ that come in handy for your marketing campaign
  • gain testimonials, if you are confident enough to ask.

If there is no commentary, though? What then?

Well, this can go two ways. Either you’re not making a big enough splash, or people are quietly content. Congratulate yourself for not having disgruntled customers who splash your name everywhere.

On the other side of this, you might want to revisit your marketing strategy, to see if you can make a bigger impact.

You might also find that your Alerts gradually show you other people doing substantially the same thing as you, but who get a great deal more notice. In this case, it’s a great opportunity for you to see what they are doing online, and compare it to what you are doing. At the very least, it’s a great exercise in reviewing your competition.

21 Oct
Posted by Kay

Reputation management part three: Advanced Google Alerts

The basic Google Alerts are all well and good. But there are additional, or ‘advanced’ features that help you to get more out of them.

These include tweaking your Google Alert set up, and tricks to writing effective search queries.

First things first: tweaking your Google Alert.

Managing your Alerts

Whenever you want to manage, or tweak, your alerts, go to this location: www.google.com/alerts. It’s a good idea to bookmark the link, in case you ever forget it.

When you go to your alerts page, you get a list of all of the alerts you have set up. For each one, you have:

  • the search terms (the query)
  • type (everything, news, blogs, etc)
  • how often you receive it (once a day, once a week, or as it happens)
  • how long are the emails you receive
  • where it is delivered (email or RSS)

And for each one, you have a small ‘edit’ button to the right. Click this to change any settings of the alerts. The lovely thing about editing your alerts is that you can edit the alert immediately on this page. 

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Writing effective search queries

Being able to edit everything all on one page makes it easy for you to tweak your search queries. This can be very useful if, after setting up your alerts, you find that it’s not returning specific enough results.

Here are some key tips for writing great search queries.

  • Make them as precise as you can. Think hard about what phrases, key words, and names you need to search for, and the types of results you are after.
  • Use quotation marks to join words into phrases, such as "online marketing". If you don’t enclose them, Google will search for each word separately.
  • Use a minus symbol (-) to exclude words from your query, such as "online marketing" -blogs. This is helpful if you find that you get results returned that always include a search phrase you don’t want.
  • Use a plus symbol (+) just prior to a word, to have it queried exactly as you typed it, such as +colourful. This forces Google to find only those results with this word included. 
  • Use a URL if you want to search specific sites, but make sure to include ‘site:’ before it. Such as, ‘marketing site:edu.au’; or ‘site:twitter.com’. If you want to hear what people are saying about you in a particular forum, or in social networks, this type of search will be invaluable for you.

Remember – You can combine all of the above to make your search as specific as you can.

For example, the search query: "online marketing" +blogs -site:twitter.com will search for the phrase ‘online marketing’ wherever the word ‘blogs’ is used. It will exclude any results from Twitter. If you wanted this search to be limited to blogs themselves, you’d change your alert from returning ‘everything’ to only returning ‘blogs’.

For the official guide to searching using Google, click here. It will take you through everything: including what punctuation is ignored, and what isn’t.

Once you play around with writing search queries, you will find that not only will your alerts be more specific, but you’ll be able to apply the principles in all of your online searches as well.

Coming up is the last of our reputation management series. In Part Four, we will look at what you do with your results once you get them. Stay tuned!

18 Oct
Posted by Kay

Top 5 tips for Christmas online retail

This article is a guest post from the fabulous Fiona of HoneyHoney: "an online hive of design sweetness with tasty pieces of new, retro and vintage fashion and accessories from across the globe", and a great example of online retail that gets it right. Use Fiona’s tips to get a leg up on your competition this Christmas, and get your sales jumping.

It’s just ten weeks until Christmas and, while you might not be thinking about it yet, rest assured that your clients and your competitors are! Here are five tips to help you come out on top.

1. Create a compelling product offering

The Festive Season is a time when consumers open up their wallets. They are not only buying gifts for family, friends, colleagues and clients, but they are also hosting or attending parties. Many are buying pick-me-ups for themselves at this end of the year, too.

At this time of year people are looking for everything from that new ice-making fridge (because they’re hosting a party) to a shiny, bright nail polish (they’re going to a party!).

Be clear on what products you’re offering and to whom so you can plan your marketing activities with precision. You should also make sure that your visible products are up to scratch. This is vital online. Make sure that you have up-to-date product images and information, and compelling and relevant product descriptions.

2. Have a sales & marketing plan

Being clear on what your sales targets are helps you to focus your marketing efforts. As well as email, you could add online advertising, but think about your efforts off-line too. Direct snail mail (such as brochures or flyers) and print media advertising can be very effective.

And don’t underestimate the impact of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. In these networks, people share party and holiday snaps that can help your viral promotions.

It’s also wise to have a unique promotional or product packaging offer. Customers are looking to maximise the value from their spend, but they are also after new-season stock. It’s why bundled pricing and ‘two-for-one’ offers work very well at this time of the year.

3. Stay on brand

The silly season is just that: a time when everyone’s running at a cracking pace, and the retail environment is cluttered with competing marketing messages. This is no time to introduce a new branding initiative! You need to maximise every part of your marketing plan, and being instantly recognised is a key part of that. With everything you do – be it online or print – make it easy for your clients and prospects to hear your voice above your competitors’ rabble.

4. Be responsive

While I’ve emphasised the importance of having a plan, I also think it’s sensible to be responsive to your customers. If you notice that a product is performing above or below expectation, then take the opportunity to enhance your communications to further improve your sales results.

5. Go on sale

Yes, it’s tried and true, but it isn’t trite. What’s more, customers now entirely expect to see ‘Boxing Day’ sales in full force – these days often starting up to a week before Christmas! But a quick word of caution: Be wary of what you put on sale and when. Nobody likes to purchase something at full price, only to find that it’s on sale the next day.

As an online retailer, it’s really important to make a bit of noise around Christmas. All those ‘bricks & mortar’ retailers ramp up their promotional activities around this time – and it’s a good lesson for e-retailers. The pre-Christmas promotional run can work for you too. All it takes is some thought, a conscientious eye, and a little more attention.

15 Oct
Posted by Kay

It’s showtime! New site for the Osborne Park Show

The Osborne Park Agricultural Society (OPAS) needed help to bring their manually-updated web site into the new century. Committee member Lisa Wright contacted us, on the recommendation of the Kelmscott Agricultural Show coordinators.

We designed OPAS a new web site, featuring excellent photos they were able to supply which really captured the essence of the show. Being inner-city, the Osborne Park show has a strong focus on handcrafts, fruits and vegetables, and small pets rather than larger livestock like some of the other agricultural shows around WA. They’re famous for their great fireworks, which are featured in the site masthead.

The new site was built in WordPress, which allows the committee to keep it updated quickly and easily – and they’re already doing a great job, adding news items and photos to the gallery as well as the entry forms and show schedules that people come to the site to look for.

We look forward to going along to check out the Show later this year – it’s on the 3rd and 4th of December 2010.

Osborne Park Agricultural Show

14 Oct
Posted by Kay

Web content reviews. Do you do yours?

Even though it’s easy to forget about, it is important to review your web site regularly. You need your site to stay relevant and useful for your web site visitors.

So – we’ve put together a quick checklist to make the task even easier.

1. How long is it since your web content was written?

You may have parts of your site that are regularly updated – like your news feed, or testimonials that you receive from customers. But there are likely to be parts that haven’t been effectively revisited for quite some time.

If it’s six months or more since your site was written, cast your eye over it to see if any of it needs to be tweaked.

Similarly, if you have any lines like ‘We have been in business for X number of years’, make sure it is accurate. Or, better yet, change it to the year you launched. That way you will never have to worry about changing it in the future.

2. Think about your business focus – and your staff

Does your web site reflect what you actually do on a day-to-day basis? Businesses morph and change, otherwise they would stagnate. It’s when your business changes slowly or imperceptibly that you can find yourself moving away from your web site-based promises. Make sure that your web site is a true reflection of your business.

The other thing that changes about businesses is their staff members. If you have staff biographies, or information, on your site, make sure that it truly reflects who you have on board, and what their current interests and roles are. It is so easy for a staff biography to sound dated. Many businesses also forget to update their staff lists when they bring on someone new, or have somebody leave. The last thing you want to do is portray an inaccurate image of the people behind your business.

3. Do you have new products or services?

It occasionally happens that you can go through your own web site – especially if it’s been a while since your last review – and you discover products or services that you no longer offer. Or worse, that you do offer but prefer not to any more. If you spot any, change them and update them straight away.

4. Do you have new kinds of customers?

You might think ‘nah they’re the same’. But think carefully. If the nature of your customers has changed, does your web site still talk to them effectively? Perhaps the nature of the language needs to be changed, or some of the terms you use. Maybe it needs to be more conservative – or funky – than it currently is.

It’s important that your message reaches your target audience. And if your audience has changed, it’s might be worthwhile thinking about how try to engage them.

5. Are there new trends in your industry?

If, since your site went live, you’ve noticed shifts in your industry, you will want to consider how you reflect them. Or if you want to reflect them, or engage with them.

It could be that your professional body has updated its membership terms; that there are new ‘unspoken’ rules people engage in; or even that there are new trends in buyer behaviour.

When you review your site, think about whether you need to engage actively with the changing trends in your industry: through articles, blogs, or other elements that you could add or tweak.

6. Are you a social networker?

If you have recently dived into the social networking pool, on either Twitter or Facebook (or both!), have you featured the links on your web site? Just as having email newsletter sign-up forms on your site is a good idea, so is having your social networking pages featured. Even if you don’t get an immediate conversion from your site, you may well gain a fan on your social networks. It keeps you in touch with your visitors, and it integrates all the bits and pieces of your online presence.

7. Schedule your next review!

Once you’ve gone through your site and fixed anything that needs to be fixed, go and have a cup of coffee to celebrate. When you come back, schedule your next review immediately. If you make a habit of reviewing your web site regularly, your site will remain relevant and accurate, and each time it will be a quicker and easier process.

12 Oct
Posted by Kay

Reputation Management Part two: Keep tabs on your reputation

In part one of this series, we looked at what reputation management is, and why it is important. In this part, we take a look at how you can keep tabs on your online reputation.

Google Alerts to the rescue!

One of the best ways of keeping tabs on what people are saying about your business is to set up a Google Alert for it.

Google Alerts are email updates about whatever you wish to monitor. You can set up alerts for names, topics, businesses, key phrases, and so on. It’s like setting free a query on a search engine.

Once you set up an alert, Google regularly checks to see if there are any new results based on whatever query you set up. If they are, you get an email. Depending on your alert settings, you can receive these updates instantly (‘as-it-happens’), daily, or weekly.

You can create up to 1000 alerts. This will help you if you wish to monitor not just your business, but news in your professional field, your own name, or issues affecting you and your customers.

How to set up a basic Google Alert

  1. Go to www.google.com/alerts
  2. Enter your query, just as you would for a normal Google search
  3. Enter the email address you want your alerts delivered to
  4. Confirm the alert you created.

All you need to do now is sit back and wait. As you start getting alerts delivered to your inbox, you’ll begin to see a picture emerge of how your business is perceived online.

In Part Three of this series, we’ll look at some of the more advanced features of Google Alerts. And in Part Four we’ll look at reactive and proactive strategies for managing your reputation online.

6 Oct
Posted by Kay

Twitter versus Facebook: which fans are more valuable?

So you’re on both the social networks of Facebook and Twitter now. Do you know which of your fans are more valuable? Recent research suggests that it’s your Twitter fans who will bring more benefit to your business.

We came across this research at this site. What it tells us is that:

  • Twitter users are more than twice as likely as Facebook users to purchase from a business after following them
  • A third more Twitter users than Facebook users are more likely to recommend a business or brand

And according to the site, it’s not the first time that such comments have been made by consumers.

Which begs the question: why do people tend to sign up on Facebook first, and Twitter last? Possibly it’s because Facebook looks less scary or intimidating than does Twitter.

And yet, while this research is interesting, you can’t just blindly follow what it suggests. Instead, you need to take this knowledge and compare it with where your customers are more likely to be. Even if Facebook users are less likely than Twitter users to buy or recommend a brand, if you have more customers on Facebook, common sense would say you ought to go there first.

Marketing is all about going where your customers are. After all, there is no point casting a hook into the lake, if the fish you want are in an estuary somewhere else.

But in the mix of social networks and who buys what from where, don’t forget that everybody still has email. In your marketing mix it’s easy to chase the golden social network and neglect the simplest networking method of them all: email.

4 Oct
Posted by Kay

Manage your online reputation: Part One

The internet allows anybody anywhere to comment on anything – which includes you and your business. This series talks you through reputation management: what it is, how to do it, and why it’s important.

But first things first. What is reputation management, and why is it important?

Reputation Management

In its simplest terms, reputation management is the process of keeping tabs on your online reputation. It’s all about keeping tabs on what people are saying about your business.

Public Relations is a large, multifaceted beast; and reputation management is one element of maintaining a good PR strategy. It might sound paranoid, but reputation management is all about knowing who is saying what about you, so you can act (or react) accordingly.

Why reputation management is important

The internet may appear to be a big, formless mass. Bloggers comment on businesses all the time, and people post links and comments everywhere from forums to social networks. If you have a disgruntled customer, it is likely that he or she will tell a lot of people: through their social networks, on their blogs, on other people’s blogs.

Similarly, happy customers – with the advent of social networks, particularly – are now more likely to share their positive stories.

Managing your online reputation is all about managing how your business and your brand appears to others. It’s a good idea to know who is saying what about your business – especially when negative comments can impact intensely on how businesses are perceived. It is a basic premise of managing your public relations.

Reputation management strategies help you keep tabs on anything that is negative or defamatory. But on the flip-side, it can also reinforce your marketing if you find that your reputation is consistently positive. If you are not aware of positive commentary, then you are not in a position to exploit this in your broader marketing strategies.

Next in the series

In part two of this series, we look at Google Alerts, and just how simple setting up a basic reputation management strategy can be.