This is rather rich coming from the person that’s been at the centre of many of these blog storms but anyway. No better
asshole expert I suppose.
It’s not just Mulley that’s a loudmouth online and that can become an issue for companies and as blogs influence search engine results and online opinion, it can become quite damaging for a company even if what they rant about is true. You can however combat a crib turning into a riot and do it quite easily and transparently.
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Are you listening?
If a blogstorm happens, you should not be hearing about it via a reporter or a staffer who gets forwarded an email. Why not listen? It’s free and can be managed easily enough. Use Google Alerts, Google Blogsearch, Technorati or Bloglines Alerts to monitor your company name, your company website address and all your product names. Get even more paranoid and set up alerts for board members and directors too if you want.
Not only should you be looking at outside sources, you should ideally have a space on your own site (maybe a blog!) where people can come along and leave comments. If they leave comments there at least you will see them faster and will be a little more comfortable as they are on a site that you have ownership of.
The monitoring is good for a few reasons, two obvious ones are that it can tell you who is talking about you as well as the volume of discussion online about you or your products. Both very important metrics.
Photo owned by Mac Babs – BÃ¡rbara Bessa. (cc)
I see you baby
Now that you see people talking about you, you need to respond. Why on earth would you let the thing build and possibly become over-exaggerated? It might be scary to wade into what you think is a hornets nest of complaints but if you do it right (forgive the continuance of the analogy) you won’t get stung. First of all if there is a great volume of chatter over whatever crisis, then you need to read them all, consider them, read them all and then go straight to the source and comment there. I’ll go into the tone on how to address the matter at hand further down. Once you have left a comment you should then go to other bloggers that are chattering about the issue and give shorter commentary on them there and link back to the central blog where you gave the long explanation. Suggest you will answer questions there, that way you are centralising the discussion and containing it, even if it is not on your space. One place is better than 9, right?
The calm guiding hand
Tone, attitude and a sense of humour are important for these things while keeping your focus to reach the goal of helping those that are reacting. There is no need to add fuel by attacking who attacked or criticised you. Take blame if you screwed up. Don’t bullshit. It won’t work on blogs. Simply reacting can calm the blog storm to a great deal. Bloggers can shout and roar and the minute they feel you are listening to them, they’ll calm. (Yeah there are exceptions) Most bloggers will appreciate that you’re at least listening, that’s pretty important. Start with a thank you for their opinion and acknowledge that something must have gone wrong if they’re so annoyed. Point out that happy customers are crucial to the business if you want repeat custom etc. If as mentioned above there are multiple sources of this storm, suggest/request to this blogger who is the source that you’ll address all issues here on this space, with their permission, besides the conversation scattering all around the net. The blogger themselves would probably appreciate that.
Figure out with all the various feedback what went wrong and point out areas that need further investigation and what can be fixed.
Attitude includes how you leave the comment. Sign your real name and leave a real contact address. Do not come on the blog as an entity like BigCoRep, come on as John S from BigCo. Explain your situation and what you on behalf of the company can do right now and in future to make sure it won’t happen again. Thank the person for making this issue more widely known. Leave a link to email address so that you can be contacted again for this or any other issue.
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Addressing an issue is not one to one
Sorting out the issue the blogger has is of most importance and addressing them about their issue should be done in the same place where they complained about it. Their blog. But consider that you are not on the phone to this person when they are complaining. They are in effect inside in your store complaining and the store is full of potential customers. Remember this when you react and try and sort their problem. There are dozens more pretending to look around this “store” when they’re really pricking their ears and listening in. You are not just addressing the issue of a single customer. You are also telling many more potential customers than you give a damn. Your retail space/store is no longer in one physical location, the register might be but your retail space is the whole Internet these days. Behave and react as such. And then there’s Google acting like an instant replay from now til eternity. That blog post and your reactions to it are not just about who read it today but about who will read it next week, next month and next year. Google will bring people to that blog until Google disappears.
La la la la, I can’t hear you
So what if they don’t listen? What if they won’t let you leave a comment? Well first be proud that you made the effort. You should have a copy of the comment you left (having a blog and posting it there would be really handy now wouldn’t it?) Well anyhow, you can still leave it on the other blogs if after a while it is obvious the central blog in the storm is not going to play the game. Of course you can always try and leave the comment again as the spam software could have eaten it. False positives are not as rare as they should be. Another thing that can happen is the person does not appreciate your feedback and the effort you are trying to make. Then they are just doing all of this for the kick and not to get something sorted. But that’s fair enough too because again, your behaviour if beyond reproach will be seen by everyone else as being so or a chunk of them. Seeing some bloggers in the past keep attacking when the “offending” party has tried to make amends I’ve noted the comments become a lot less supportive of them and more of “dude, they said they’re sorry and they’ve gone above and beyond”. See, people are rational even with chaos or storms happening.
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There’s always one
Sometimes you might end up getting one of these obsessive types that for whatever reason decides to become your biggest critic and will rant and rave about you til the cows come home. It is futile to deal with people like that, you’ll learn that after the first attempt and it should be you last attempt. Shit happens, so do trolls. Luckily enough they are few and far between and you’ll find nobody pays them attention and even if a potential customer finds their ranting they’ll be logic enough to have the nutter alarm go off in their head.
Critics of blogging in Ireland have complained that the Irish blogging scence is awfully chummy and people are far too nice and civil to each other. True, the smallness means people are very friendly but what you’ll find is people also stick up for each other a lot too. You might just find that other bloggers out there could have your back without any coaxing whatsoever just because they consider you part of this community. (Are you getting the subtle start a blog suggestions?)
I hope that’s been of help for those wondering how to deal with the storms that can happen now and then. It’s actually not hard work to see who is talking about you and you know what? It can be very rewarding because if you’re a good company with good servuce you’ll see you’re being talked up more than being talked down. So don’t see the listening as a way of finding out the bad, it can be quite affirming too and don’t forget to also pop on by to those leaving positive comments and let them know you appreciate it.
There’ll be two follow up posts to this, one will deal with fake blogging and how not to irk the noisy natives. What’ll the other post be about eh? I hope this was useful to you. Thanks for reading and consuming. If you have any other suggestions, please leave them in the comments.
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