Recently I caught up with one of the most respected names in online reputation management, Andy Beal. Andy Beal in undoubtedly one of the best reputation management experts around, as well as the creator of Trackur, a social media monitoring tool that helps site owners and brands track what is said about them on the internet. Let’s face it, the internet is a big place and just about everyone can become a “publisher” to some level and talk about your brand for better or for worse. Andy Beal’s Trackur helps you make sense of the noise so you can keep your reputation under control!
Andy Beal is also the founder of Marketing Pilgrim, which is a great source for internet marketing news and trends.
This interview is rather long, but is worth the time to read through all of it! Thanks so much to Andy Beal for spending the time to answer all of my questions!
QUESTION: HOW DO YOU THINK SOCIAL MEDIA HAS CHANGED HOW BRANDS (AND INDIVIDUALS) CONTROL THEIR ONLINE REPUTATION?
Answer from Andy Beal: The biggest change comes from the ability of customers and stakeholders to have their say in the formulation of a brand’s reputation. Prior to social media, brands could push out their branding message and that was that. With the proliferation of social media, consumers now have many channels available to them to have their say. While there is still much that a brand can do to “control” their reputation, that grip has been weakened by a consumer’s ability to use Twitter, Facebook, Yelp, et al.
QUESTION: WHAT IS ONE OF THE BIGGEST MISCONCEPTIONS PEOPLE HAVE ABOUT ONLINE REPUTATION MANAGEMENT?
Answer from Andy Beal: Perhaps the biggest misconception is that, as the owner of the reputation, it must be easy to control how that reputation is perceived. While proactive reputation management—growing and managing your brand—affords the brand owner the ability to test, refine, and enhance their reputation, reactive reputation management is a different story. Trying to improve your reputation is like, as my friend Tony Wright likes to say, trying to eat healthy while having a heart attack. Trying to manage your reputation only when you face some kind of negative blog post, Yelp review, or newspaper article, is a lot tougher and considerably more expensive.
QUESTION: WHAT DOES TRACKUR HAVE THAT NO OTHER SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGEMENT TOOL HAS?
Answer from Andy Beal: Trackur was built to solve the problems faced by many brand owners: how do I monitor my reputation without a high price tag and steep learning curve? That’s the very question that I asked after writing Radically Transparent. After being dismayed by the lack of affordable social media monitoring options, I set out to build Trackur. Today, Trackur continues to provide affordable reputation monitoring, that’s easy to set up, yet offers powerful social media monitoring tools.
QUESTION: WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER THE BIGGEST FAUX PAS WHEN IT COMES TO ONLINE REPUTATION MANAGEMENT?
Answer from Andy Beal: The biggest faux pas tends to be the knee jerk reactions you see from businesses under attack. They react with venom and anger at the person attacking their reputation—which inevitably makes the situation worse.
QUESTION: SOCIAL MEDIA, SEO, CONTENT MARKETING, EMAIL MARKETING, ETC—IS ANY ONE COMPONENT MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE OTHER WHEN IT COMES TO ONLINE REPUTATION MANAGEMENT?
Answer from Andy Beal: No, they all have their part to play. To run an effective reputation management campaign, you need to know a little of everything. At the very least, you should be adept in SEO, because if something negative hits the first 10 results of Google, then your reputation is in dire straits.
QUESTION: IN TODAY’S DIGITAL WORLD WHERE EVERYONE CAN BECOME A PUBLISHER, CAN ANY ONE PERSON OR BRAND REALLY CONTROL THEIR ONLINE REPUTATION?
Answer from Andy Beal: No. And that goes both ways. I hear a lot of “gurus” spouting the rhetoric that “the customer now owns your brand.” That is not true either. Your reputation, your brand, is now up for debate by anyone with an internet connection. Fortunately that includes not just your detractors, but also, you, your employees, your business partners, and your delighted customers.
QUESTION: SPEAKING, WRITING, TRAINING, CONSULTING—WHICH IS YOUR FAVORITE WAY TO CONNECT WITH AN AUDIENCE? AND WHY?
Answer from Andy Beal: Gosh, I like them all. I enjoy one-on-one consulting because I get to share ideas and strategies that I know will help the client. Speaking is a lot of fun and I try to give my audience as much value as I can, while entertaining them (I’ve been on the other side of a boring 20 minute presentation, where the presenter just reads their slide deck).
QUESTION: HOW MUCH DAMAGE CAN ONE ROUGE TWEET OR COMMENT FROM AN EMPLOYEE REALLY DO?
Answer from Andy Beal: I don’t know, maybe that is a question for Kitchen Aid!
QUESTION: YOU TITLED YOUR REPUTATION MANAGEMENT BOOK “RADICALLY TRANSPARENT.” WHERE IS THE LINE BETWEEN REGULAR TRANSPARENCY AND RADICAL TRANSPARENCY? IS RADICAL TRANSPARENCY ALWAYS THE BEST CHOICE?
Answer from Andy Beal: The key is to look at your reputation management efforts and determine if they match the character of you or your company. If they do, that’s radical transparency. Being radically transparent is less about telling the world all of your secrets and more about being honest and forthright with the things you do tell them.
QUESTION: HAVE YOU EVER COME ACROSS A BRAND OR INDIVIDUAL WHOSE ONLINE REPUTATION WAS SO RUINED IT WASN’T POSSIBLE TO SALVAGE? IS THERE SUCH A THING AS A “LOST CAUSE” WHEN IT COMES TO REPUTATION MANAGEMENT?
Answer from Andy Beal: For sure! There have been many individuals and companies that I have refused to work with. Most of the time it’s because they want to conduct a cover-up without actually changing the behavior that caused the reputation attack in the first place. I generally believe that your reputation has three strikes before it’s out. The first reputation stumble, a customer will likely believe is an isolated incident. The second time around, they will start looking for alternatives. If you stumble a third time, you may as well close up shop or re-brand and start again.
QUESTION: SOME WOULD SAY THAT ANY NEWS/PRESS IS GOOD NEWS, NOT MATTER WHAT IT DOES TO YOUR REPUTATION. DO YOU AGREE?
Answer from Andy Beal: No, I do not subscribe to that philosophy. However, I would agree that news that is balanced—that is, includes some negative along with some positive points—can still be an asset to your brand. Showing some flaws, some negativity, can lend credibility to the positive traits of your reputation. Case in point, Amazon reviews. If I see all 5-star reviews, I will be suspicious. If I see mostly 4- and 5-star reviews, with a smattering of 1- to 3-star reviews, the overall reputation will appear more credible. The key is that your negative traits don’t outweigh your positive attributes.
QUESTION: HOW CAN A COMPANY STOP A SOCIAL MEDIA FIRE BEFORE IT SPREADS?
Answer from Andy Beal: Generally, and this is especially true if you are indeed in the wrong, the sooner you apologize the sooner the fire will snuff out. Look at a reputation attack like a bad gunshot wound. The sooner you can stem the bleeding the better your chances will be of a full recovery. If you sit there and debate as to how bad the wound is, whether you should seek medical assistance or not, the sooner you will bleed out.
QUESTION: HOW MUCH HARM CAN ONE VERY ANGRY AND VERY DETERMINED CUSTOMER CAUSE? IS ONE BAD REVIEW/MENTION ENOUGH TO BRING THE WHOLE BRAND DOWN?
Answer from Andy Beal: No, I do not think so. Even if you take the classic reputation case study of Jeff Jarvis and his “Dell Hell,” despite tremendous support for his attack, Dell was able to recover and continues to grow. How well a brand recovers from the attack of a single customer will be influenced by the response from the company, its ability to rectify the situation and prevent a reoccurrence, and whether it had a positive reputation foundation at the outset of the attack.
QUESTION: DO YOU SEE AUTHORITY AUTHOR (REL=”AUTHOR”) HAVING AN IMPACT ON REPUTATION MANAGEMENT?
Answer from Andy Beal: Yes, but it is still too early to determine just how much of an impact it will have. For now, I treat it as a means to help individuals grow their personal reputation by highlighting their profile alongside the great content they have written. There’s also a debatable amount of benefit as a signal to Google’s algorithm.
QUESTION: THANKS TO SOCIAL MEDIA ANYONE AND EVERYONE CAN SHARE THEIR OPINION ONLINE. HOW DOES A COMPANY DECIDE WHO THEY SHOULD BE LISTENING TO? HOW DO YOU PICK OUT THE REAL CUSTOMERS FROM THE TROLLS LOOKING TO CAUSE TROUBLE?
Answer from Andy Beal: There will always be what I call “determined detractors.” These are the trolls, the competitors, the disgruntled employees, etc. It is unlikely that you will ever change their opinion of your brand. The best you can hope for is to minimize the effect they have on your reputation. For everyone else, you should not rely on any one unit of measure to decide if you should engage them or not. Listen to their complaint, identify the facts, and then respond appropriately. You might argue that this is pretty generic advice, but there is great danger in any reputation management professional providing a concrete blueprint for crisis management. One size does not fit all.