Can your business control online information?

This is a subject that I though was long dead and buried. However, it seems to be one of those Zombie subjects that periodically rises from the dead and walks the earth seeking brains to eat…
Zombie Marketing

This is the sentence that creeps up over and over again:

“I’m afraid that people will write bad things about my company and we won’t be able to control the information out there.”

Every New Media and Social Marketing expert knows what I’m referring to and why. Power is shifting to the consumer, and businesses are afraid…

I’m here to say: Don’t be! This is not something you should be fighting. In fact, you should embrace it! It’s like free advertising! Even classical marketers know that all publicity is good publicity. So why is it different when it’s online? Methinks the permanence is the thing…

But I think I get it… If you’re a business involved in ‘dubious’ activities, if your business is ‘crooked’, if your product is substandard, this is your wake up call to do something about it. If not, it’s but a question of time before your business flops. The consumers will see to it. However, if your business is not involved in anything doubtful, you have nothing to fear, read on, my friends, read on!

Truth number one: THERE IS NO WAY TO CONTROL INFORMATION.

You may control what your company puts out there, but you can’t stop the population from commenting about it. You simply can’t. Not anymore. Not being involved in New Media or Social Networks, not having a blog or discussion forum, doesn’t prevent the population from writing about your business or your products, it just makes you blind to what they are saying.

The trick is not to try to control the information consumers are writing about your business or your products, but to address it, to use the information out there to your advantage.

If a consumer writes a complaint on their blog about your product, you address it. It’s as simple as that. Other consumers who have the same issue will appreciate this level of attention to customer satisfaction, and what was once negative, becomes positive.

Truth number two: IF YOU’RE NOT INVOLVED, YOU WILL BE LEFT BEHIND.

Consumers research your products constantly. What information do they trust? Your adverts saying that your new product is the best thing out there? Of course not! They have wizened over the last few years. They know that information stemming from you is fundamentally biased in your favour. Of course you’re going to say that your products or services are the best thing since sliced bread. Everyone says that! It’s a common denominator across the board, and what do we do when we have common denominators? We simplify!

Consumers might be enticed by your adverts, but won’t trust the message until they get confirmation. They will search for comments about your products or services online, and they will trust what other consumers say about them considerably more than your adverts. While searching, if they fall on a negative comment that hasn’t been addressed because you prefer to turn a blind eye to the reality of our times, well, you’ve just lost a customer.

If they fall on a complaint about your product, and you have addressed it, thanked the person for brining it to your attention, and resolved the issue to their satisfaction, well, you’ve just got yourself a new customer.

Truth number three: THERE IS NOTHING TO FEAR BUT FEAR ITSELF.

Well, this is more of a universal truth… I just wanted to remind you of the fact. Fear is simply a natural reaction to the unknown, and for many businesses, 2010 online reality has become just that: the unknown…

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