Lee Odin's recent post on Managing ORM with SEO has allowed me to rehash some of the main points he covers in his post, for a treatment based on our specific experiences. It is hoped that by putting these points out in the open, it will foster a vibrant discussion and debate that will assist in making sense of how the SEO and ORM management spaces are maturing.
|The importance of safeguarding one's reputation has created the impetus for a wide-range of SEO and Internet monitoring strategies to take shape and form. While we would like to believe that these strategies are carried out in coordinated manner, we continue to see a much different approach than Lee's graph convey's.|
The strategies our firm continues to see is more based on a core/peripheral approach. The core can either represent the corporate mandate, or the overall strategy to build and safeguard brand reputation. The periphery is occupied by the vendors providing SEO, Monitoring, etc. The periphery also appears to be the point where the analysis occurs, and this is a unilateral communication between each peripheral function to the core, rather than happening on a multilateral level.
So in other words, social media monitoring/measurement vendors are very rarely in the loop about what SEO strategies (if any) the company has deployed, and this makes it fundamentally impossible for convergence or coordinated strategies to develop and form. While it is vitally important for any strategy to be built on coordinated ideas and action, there is a concern that this makes it also difficult to keep a pulse on ethical conduct.
While there have been attempts to create standards in the SM space, with Gartner vouching on its worthiness, I think that pinning down things like being able to distinguish between aggressive tactics and the perpetrators of harm will be vital to the future of ORM, and its ability to flourish in a positive and organic manner.
As an example, our Reputation Measurment™ platform is the basis for experimental technology and research, and with it, we have identified a rise in activity which could threaten monitoring programs. While the majority of these threats were originally discovered on free-blogging platforms, they appear to have gravitated to more popular social media outlets and seem to be resistant to the measures each site provider puts in place to prevent malicious and unwanted software.
The worst of these threats is what we call "malware-roulette" - these examples have now been discovered in almost every type of SM source at least once (i.e. blog, forum, social network, etc.), and are making repeated appearances in the more popular social networks. The way they function is to redirect visitors who click on a tweet or a blog link, and the code will redirect them to a page which has been preconfigured to randomly point them to a different location each time. While some of these can be targetted and identified as spam content which attempts to scrape text from news sites, they can often be passed-off as legitimate because the randomization of the redirect script will contain at least one valid link source claimed in the original post. This discovery was only made possible when we started to notice that our comment tracking platform was starting to record hyper-linking (of malicious origin) unrelated to the original discussion.
The question becomes whether these forms of spam/malware are being created as part of aggressive SEO tactics, or whether this is something that derives from those with an intent to cause harm. More specifically, if the SEO or SERM firm you use is not the same as the firm your company uses to perform online brand and reputation monitoring, you may want to consult with the online monitoring folks before tasking anyone to "bury" or "raise" what is percieved as being "positive/negative" online incidents.
The reality is that ORM is still at its infancy, and most companies are scrambling to take control of their specific situation. While corporate buy-in for reputation management solutions is happening at a healthy rate, it is in our opinion that ORM strategies need to be aligned with exisiting and future corporate mandates. There is no doubt that the lack of convergence or communication between the peripheral functions will have an effect on the precision, quality, accuracy and delivery of any/all strategies.
Treating each pod in the periphery as an island will mean the inevitable shoring of that message in a bottle, often arriving too late to take any corrective action. The caveat is that it is always a good idea to screen the experts you call in to provide reputation management, whether they are providing SEO, Internet monitoring services, or both, and that includes getting a good handle on the type of services they offer, questioning the reliability of their technologies/techniques and their general stand on "code of ethics" as it pertains to using techniques which may do more harm than good.
|When we talk about social media, we commonly refer to the areas of the Internet where people are found participating in discussion. After all, things are bound to happen wherever people talk, and this interactive aspect of the Web is the primary driver for brand and online reputation monitoring strategies. The activities and level of participation has taken on different forms with every new and emerging|
social media space. In short time, social networking sites like Myspace, facebook and Twitter have become the darlings of the social media space, each offering users the opportunity to create and maintain their own profiles, the ability to connect with friends, family, co-workers, peers, and even share photos or videos. facebook has even fostered a community whereby the transactions of goods can occur within their exclusive social community, allowing perfect strangers to purchase "cyber-gifts" for one another. Even unused goods sitting in their basement, attic or garage are finding their way in the MySpace or facebook classifieds sections.
While online classifieds are a thriving category in the social networking scene, their place in the social media mix dates from the first time someone posted a "Wanted" ad in a weblog entry or on a message board. Tracing back to an even earlier period if you count the transition traditional newspapers made from offering classified ads in both print and online formats. Classified ads are based on a simple notion of connecting sellers with buyers, and it is the way each Website facilitates the simple and safe transaction of goods that gives it a distinguishing social aspect. One of the most interesting social aspects of online classifieds can be found in its ability to not only connect online shoppers with consumer goods, but building on this trading of merchandise is the notion that a smooth transaction between two strangers might carry into future purchases and foster a vibrant and dynamic offline connection as well.
The earliest forms of any "feedback" mechanism for buyers to keep the seller in-line emerged from sites like eBay, and although the notion of rating an online experience evolved well before that from consumer review sites, there is an important social aspect of online classifieds that often gets overlooked when devising brand and online reputation monitoring strategies. Did you know, for instance, that sites like Craigslist, eBay, Kijiji and Topix are Websites that maintain active classified and forum communities? If you combine this with the vibrant social communities that sites like facebook and MySpace provide for members eager to transact goods as well as publicly sharing their experiences (good or bad) on their blogs or in the group or forum areas of those sites, then you may well be on your way to recognizing why its important to be "Ad-Keen."
Craigslist has an active rant & raves category - just type "/rnr" after your local url to check it out. You can even perform a keyword/keyphrase search within the rant & raves section and create a handy RSS feed of the search result. eBay's Forum Search is extremeley useful for searching on the active discussions going on within the Web's largest person-to-person trading community. You may also find the Topix classifieds and Kijiji's forum search helpful, and there certainly are many more. Below is a short of list of reasons why online marketplace and classified sites are important to include in any brand and online reputation monitoring strategy:
o Brand protection - corporate image, identity, brands, wordmarks, logo's.
o Knock-off's - counterfiet, design knock-off's, replica's, reproductions and look alikes.
o Internet Fraud - brands being used fraudulently to divert sales
o Reputation Management - negative information spreading within an active consumer community
Devising a robust brand and online reputation monitoring strategy is important. While monitoring requirements vary from company to company, it is important to use a monitoring scope designed to safeguard your brands and reputation. Being "Ad-Keen" ought to mean
incorporating classifieds and marketplace listings as part of a proactive approach to preventing attacks, or combatting negative publicity and restoring consumer confidence in the company's brand.
Depth of sourcing is a key part of dilligently monitoring online classifieds, to ensure you include online auctions, newspaper classifieds, and newly emerging online marketplace sites. You may already be overwhelmed with tracking numerous blogs, forums and social networks - why complicate things by monitoring classifieds? While we encourage an exhaustive sweep of online mentions that can make or break a brand, we recognize that limitations exist with each site. Some many not be friendly to aggregating coverage by a specific geographic area (i.e. city by city search with no option to search the entire country), and others may not provide the search results in a handy RSS feed format.
Luckily our firm has simplified this aspect of online marketplace/classified monitoring for business. Both our RepuTrace™ and RepuTrack™ services include an online classifieds component which can easily be added-on to any of our monitoring packages ($125/mo fee applies). Please feel free to contact us if you would like to find out more about including our Adhound™ monitoring platform to your brand and reputation monitoring and management strategies.
In case you missed the first two parts:
|First off, I want to say that I was relieved by the news that there were no injuries related to the data center fire that occured in Houston on Saturday afternoon. The fire occurred in the power room of a popular web-hosting company called The Planet.|
An official statement from CEO Doug Erwin was released on The Planet's forum approximately 6 hours later:
This evening at 4:55pm CDT in our H1 data center, electrical gear shorted, creating an explosion and fire that knocked down three walls surrounding our electrical equipment room. Thankfully, no one was injured. In addition, no customer servers were damaged or lost.
We have just been allowed into the building to physically inspect the damage. Early indications are that the short was in a high-volume wire conduit. We were not allowed to activate our backup generator plan based on instructions from the fire department.
This is a significant outage, impacting approximately 9,000 servers and 7,500 customers. All members of our support team are in, and all vendors who supply us with data center equipment are on site. Our initial assessment, although early, points to being able to have some service restored by mid-afternoon on Sunday. Rest assured we are working around the clock.
We are in the process of communicating with all affected customers. we are planning to post updates every hour via our forum and in our customer portal. Our interactive voice response system is updating customers as well.
There is no impact in any of our other five data centers.
I am sorry that this accident has occurred and I apologize for the impact.
The knee-jerk reaction for customers to an event like this is disappointment. I'm certain many customers were angered by the outage. Our company is a loyal customer of The Planet, and I couldn't help but wonder myself whether power would be restored to the data center fast enough.
I first heard about the outage after I received a call from one of my staff in the early afternoon yesterday. The first thing I did was visit the Website. There was no announcement on the site or the blog, but a window was inviting me to a live help session - I accepted the invitation. Within minutes, I had received a response from the live help agent which included the above noted text describing the situation, and although the agent I was chatting with was not providing any specific answers to my ETA questions, the person handled my questions calmly, professionally, and forwarded me to their support forum.
While I found the support forum to be an excellent update tool, it was extremely slow in loading (at one point over 2500 people were on the page). It got worse when Slashdot reported the incident on their Website, and was routing its readers to the forum. At one point, the forum went down, but it managed to get back online quickly. A slight worry lifted when one of The Planet staff posted a comment about the overload on the site brought on by readers of Slashdot, and not related to the outage issue affecting the Houston (H1) data center.
Later, I contacted support by telephone in hopes of getting an ETA, and was greeted by a voice-message describing the problem with the H1 data center. I was then routed to technical support and spoke to a gent that did sound slightly worn from taking numerous calls from irate customers. I had asked some specific questions related to contingency, and when it seemed like I wasn't getting anywhere in terms of receiving an ETA, I thanked him and ended the call.
This entire event left quite an impression in my mind. The first is that although there were numerous blog's, message boards and news items that were talking about the situation, the general consensus among many people (both customers and non-customers) was that The Planet was doing a superb job in updating its customers.
I agree with this statement, and believe that much of the reputation management drill was superbly held together by the online forum updates (rather than overloading their phone system), time oriented announcements, calm and courteous support people both online and over the phone, and phone messages in case you were out of the online loop. Keep in mind, that this was a server farm and the claim at the time of the incident was that it effected roughly 9000 servers (some 7500 customers). Muliply this with fact that many of those servers were maintained by resellers who host 20 - 100 times as many sites from each server, and you could start to get a sense of the magnitude of this outage.
And there certainly was enough online evidence that a fair share of people were not at all happy about the situation. While I also agreed with many of this bloggers points, I'm of the opinion that The Planet rallied hard, with constant effort to earn significant reputation management points over the weekend. A feat that was not easy, as the catastrophic loss of power to their H1 data center mixed-in with the duty to balance the constraints brought on through the opinion of the fire department, and seeking the expertise of outside vendors who were asked to work around the clock on their days off.
An uphill battle perhaps, but The Planet were back online in time for me to share my account of the experience with you this morning, and in my mind, they deserve top notch marks in its efforts to recover from the outage, while reserving some recognition that attention needed to be paid to reputation risk that could have been brought on from less than sympathetic customers.
|You may already be well on your way to doing a superb job of monitoring your online brand or reputation. Whether your strategy involves using vanity searches, a collection of feeds, or a paid-service like ours, you have taken the all important first step to safeguarding your brands and reputation. Online reputation monitoring (ORM) is one of the fundamental enablers to your business success.|
As the subject of this blog post suggests, reputation risks are incidences that occur during the course of your online monitoring. Some are unavoidable. Others you are able to mitigate with a significant amount of success. These are occurences which you must not overlook, and this post is meant to act as an awareness tool in helping mitigate any potential reputation risk that may arise from stern corporate mandates to enforce access control.
Access Control Situation - The best way to describe what I mean to point out here is to explain it through a written dramatization echoing a real life event. You locate a negative online incident and you dilligently communicate it with the appropriate crisis communication expert by email and a phone call. They call or email back explaining that they are not able to access the link. They go on to say that they suspect it might be blocked by their company firewall.
What do you do?
The reality is that online reputation monitoring (ORM) is still at its infancy. Corporate buy-in is happening, but not quickly enough to align ORM strategies with existing corporate access control or data leak prevention mandates. If you think that such an occurence is likely to happen solely within the traditional enterprise landscape, then you might be surprised to know that this continues to happen with people who are specifically hired to mitigate such risk.
Solution: Whether your title is social media coordinator/director, ORM consultant, or crisis communication expert, you will need buy-in from the IT department. Involve senior-level management in any such discussions to support your role and your business case. All that may be required is to open a port on the network firewall or to have a dedicated terminal in the company with no access restrictions. There are other approaches, but what is important is that you are able to properly mitigate reputation risk, still keeping within the parameters of any existing corporate mandate.
Timely retrieval and action on serious online incidences is key, and while you may be able to copy and paste text from the original post and email it in a pinch, mirroring multi-media content from websites like YouTube might present some challenges.
A great post put together by Max Gladwell for businesses who are closely following new social media developments, or those wanting some ideas on becoming greensmart.
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RepuTrace™ is the All-in-One Corporate Intelligence Tool which can also be used to assist in the areas of brand and reputation monitoring, investigations, competitive intelligence gathering, market intelligence analysis and research or even to protect against counterfeit brand issues.
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Below are some links to product or company mentions in mainstream media:
Protecting the firm’s name on the web | Law Times
Safeguard Your Brand Reputation Online | Inc. Technology
They’ve got their eyes on you—are your ears burning? | ComputerWorld Canada
Blog author threatens to go "on a killing spree" | CNW Group
Blog author threatens to go "on a killing spree" | PR Newswire
Tips on Safeguarding Your Online Reputation | WSJ Startup Journal