A lot of businesses sit in a tricky space when it comes to their brand reputation, and no where is it more vulnerable than in the online space. Now that this area has become the mainstream for brand engagement, promotion and peer to peer advocacy it really presents a difficult issue, especially if you have a brand that serves tow distinct audiences slightly differently.
Take Totaljobs.com for example, as the most highly visited commercial recruitment and career site across the UK, we serve an audience of over 2.5 million users each month, and we engage with them at an often difficult and stressful time of their lives, as they are job seeking, so our brand needs to be helpful, empowering and provide a ease with which to cut through the confusion of finding a new job. This done well, with supportive advice like our CareerDoctor service ( http://blog.totaljobs.com/), and a secure environment in which personal and professional details can be stored and searched and market leading jobseeker tools (Instant Job match, Location Proximity Search, Suggested Synonym Matching), can give the support and confidence for our users to find their next job, and as we all know happy people are our best advocates.
We also serve a huge audience of recruiters, of all sizes, and their needs are for a brand and service that can provide highly targetable, responsive groups of job seekers using simple recruiter tools such as Keyshots (targeting the latest 500 people to register to Totaljobs within the set criteria of location and job role the recruiter sets) through to live interactive chat forums such as GradU8.com. Again, this done well leads to enhanced brand value across a powerful set of voices in our market.
But what about the people who can’t find what they are looking for, or don’t feel the user experience or service they receive is valuable? Naturally, when serving such a wide and deep audience with two distinct needs, there will be people who feel this, and online provides them with plenty of opportunity to voice their displeasure, either publicly or privately. So, as a brand, what do we do in this situation? To be honest, it’s more about what you don’t do.
Getting involved in a public spat on or offline is never going to end well for a large brand, but at the same time you have to know what is being said, by whom, online. Once a rumour, a venting of dissatisfaction or damaging information gets out to the masses and goes viral it is next to impossible to stop. Having control over the message is key and to have control over the message you must be able to see everything that is happening in real time. Tools such as Google Alerts can see everything that is being said about our company on social websites like Myspace, Facebook, and Twitter to major news organizations such as BBC, Guardian and Sky News. The only way to have control is to be honest and transparent engage with the unsatisfied, but not in an ell encompassing public arena, you must have the channels for them to engage, question and seek clarity and advice, but you have to control the message in terms of forum and tone.
So, in ending, the internet has now become a very powerful and complex place that if managed right can be a great asset to a company such as Totaljobs.com, but if you do not have someone monitoring and being able to act with strategic actions then it can be a very dangerous place for you and your company. As newspapers decline and bloggers take over it may even become more vital to high profile individuals and companies. The question may well be how much people value their online brand? The answer right now? Probably more than the amount of resources they are willing to apply to managing it.