Monday, October 18, 2010

New Media Today: Burying Internet Search Results

In just a couple short weeks, the voters will finally be heard.  The steady stream of political rhetoric populating our internet worlds -- email inboxes, Twitter and Facebook news feeds and everywhere we turn -- will thankfully start to come to a close.  It is my full expectation that any objective look into which political or third party issue advocacy campaigns were effective, which campaigns exceeded expectations and which were able to avoid disaster or accomplish miracles will have done so through the effective utilization of new media tools.  The end results will see demonstrated through that process should serve as an example and a warning to those groups and interests that want to impact policy after the elections.

Third party issue advocacy groups interested in impacting public policy, and corporate government relations and trade and professional associations that want to impact policymakers must have a presence in new media.  There are a great number of public relations and other firms more than willing to make that case to corporate and third-party America and separate those entities from their money.  Unfortunately, most of those public relations firms are simply using the same old communication models they practice with traditional media and simply targeting a larger universe by expanding their audience to include the blogosphere and other online entities.

It is better to proceed in that manner than not to proceed at all, but most of those organizations could spend their resources much more effectively and efficiently by operating not with traditional public relations firms, but by working with smaller, more agile, adaptable and creative firms.  These smaller firms are able to create news, build interest in issues to appeal to mainstream media and utilize other tactics to not only develop and drive messaging, but also to fight the efforts of their adversaries to spread undesirable messages about them.

It's no surprise that that business competitors have utilized a wide variety of tactics to tarnish the reputations of competitors or the image quality of their products or services.  The online world provides a myriad of opportunities to do so.  Wisely, current consumer product or service providers are using the internet and platforms like Facebook and Twitter to interact with customers whether those customers are happy or dissatisfied.  Are you having trouble with your particular internet service provider or your cellphone service provider?  Maybe you're having trouble with a particular brand of TV or mass email service provider.  If you are experiencing such problems, it might a lot more effective to simply have a lot of Twitter followers and speak loudly about the problems you're experiencing and have a lot of other Twitter followers be willing to dialogue with you or share your frustrations.

Companies are wisely monitoring dialogue about their companies in real times in places like Twitter and Facebook.  If you were having trouble with your cable TV provider and you commented as described above, you may very well be discovered and get someone working diligently to fix your problem before the story gets spread any further on Twitter or Facebook.  And as someone who has handled new media communications on a political campaign, I can tell you that nothing is as disconcerting as seeing negative comments about your candidate populate the tops of Twitter searches or Google or other search engine inquiries.

One of the more recent, but certainly very real developments in this environment is employing professional firms to monitor those developments in new media and with popular search engines like Google and to work to bury negative information about a candidate, a client or a specific product or service offered by a Company.  Without even getting to the veracity or significance of the actual allegations included in such inquiries, we're all familiar with the idea that perception is reality.  If I do a Google search for you as a political candidate, as a Company or about the product or service your company offers, my perception and willing to invest time, money or a vote on you will be greatly impacted by what I find when I search in Google, Twitter or look you up on Facebook.  

First, it's critically important that you have a targeted and deliberate effort to populate important places with positive information.  You should have a website.  It's probably a good idea to have a blog whether separate or incorporated in your website.  You should have a Facebook business page, a LinkedIn business or cause-related page and a Twitter identity (or several) that regularly populate the internet with favorable information about your company, your products and the service you provide.  That is the foundation where you start and you should ensure that your presence is at least as good (ideally is much better) than that of your competitors.  

Those tools allow you to have the online infrastructure in place to not only populate with favorable information that you can control, but also to allow you in a good position to respond to negative or crisis situations should they occur.  It's as simple as providing your company with insurance.  You may look at things and determine that you serve all your clients well, you have a steady stream of new clients and everyone is happy about what you have been able to do for them.  Well, that's ideal.  But it also means that someone else would like to have your clients whether they be existing or a percentage of your prospective new clients, so there is always incentive for people to spread negative information about you or your firm or organization. In yesterday's world, that simply meant a whisper campaign.  Nowadays those communications can be shared online and they can spread like wild fire.

It's critically important that your name and your reputation be monitored.  And if a competitor does decide to spread negative information about you, your firm or the service your provide (whether accurate or not) it is important that you have the ability to move that information way from the top of search results on Google, Facebook and Twitter with a positive campaign of your own.  Except for very specific researchers, most who search for information don't continue past the first page or two provided by Google.  If you are able to keep negative information on pages 4, 5 or 6 of a search (rather than popping on lines number 1, 2 or 3 of the first page) you will keep those negative perceptions away from millions of interested, seeking, viewing eyes.

Please don't hesitate to take a look at if you would like to learn more about how to drive your messages or utilize online tools to both drive your positive message or protect your company, your campaign, your product or service from the negative perceptions being perpetuated by your competitors.  You can't avoid being part of the online discussion about your company, your product and your services.  You can ensure that the favorable messages you control will be seen in that world.  And you can be sure to create the online infrastructure necessary to put into action if any competitors attempt to disseminate any negative information about you or your business.  It's up to you to put yourself in that position of power.     

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