We’ve talked with a couple of clients about controlling the conversation about their brands recently, and it’s got me thinking about the subject. I think we all need to recognize three important truths about this.
1. You can’t control the conversation about your brand.
You can cut off comments at your website, ban people from your Facebook page, and avoid having company profiles at consumer review sites, but you can’t stop people from talking about you. Everybody can be published now, and they have hundreds, maybe thousands of places to talk about you.If you don’t let people talk in the places you control, they’ll talk somewhere else.
In fact, if you make it hard for your customers to give you feedback at your platforms, you’re more likely to get angry comments elsewhere, because angry people have all that adrenaline fueling them. People who were just going to say they liked your brand will give up sooner than the angry ones.
So which would you rather have?
- A consumer complains about a bad experience with your brand in the comments section at your website, with a copy of it posted on her Facebook page. You respond, so that your competent and compassionate comment is also on your website and her Facebook page, showing what a great company you are.
- A consumer can’t comment at your website and your delete his post at your Facebook page, so he posts a rant about your brand on YouTube, where you can’t do anything about it. It gets pinned at Pinterest and, because of the guy’s wacky facial hair, it goes viral.
2. You never could.
You might think that marketers in the 20th century had it easy because their customers couldn’t post rants on YouTube, but their customers had complete freedom to tell all their friends that your product wasn’t worth the money. Or that your company was owned by Satanists or that it caused cancer, anything else they wanted to say. That’s free speech.
The difference was that 20th century marketers couldn’t find out so easily what was being said about them. Now you can, thanks to social media, tools like Radian6, and the empowered consumers who feel that they should be able to talk with your brand directly and get an answer.
This doesn’t mean that you’ve lost control. It means that you’re included in the conversation — or can be.
3. You can’t control the conversation, but you can join it.
Apart from focus groups, advertisers in legacy media didn’t have much chance to join in the conversations people had about their brands. You have plenty of opportunities. You can answer people directly. You can ask them to let you work with them directly to resolve the problem. You can reach out to them and try to change their minds — check out our experience with WP RSS Aggregator for a great example. And every time you do that, you can represent your brand in a positive way.
Resist the temptation to try to control the conversation because, well, see #1 above. When you try to do that, people can tell.
We don’t really like to see all 5 star reviews for our clients, especially if they all say, “Great product!” or something like that. That doesn’t look like a great product; that looks like you manipulated your reviews.
I like to see a lot of different details in the reviews, and I really like to see one bad review that tells exactly what the writer didn’t like. If it’s in all caps and has spelling errors so the reviewer looks like a dolt, that’s even better, but you know somebody out there doesn’t like your brand. If they’ve spelled out what they don’t like, readers can judge whether that’s an issue for them or not.
We can’t go back — but why would we want to? Embrace the openness of the new relationship between your brand and your consumers. Just be realistic about it.