People Have More Authority than Brands

social conversation from retail

Ok, so a while back I wrote an article on how social conversations are impacting search results on the two biggest search engines (Google and Bing). Well, I don’t think I gave that article enough justice. After all, social and search represent two of the three pillars in the digital ecosystem. The combination of them has consequences for anyone wanting to get awareness online (and awareness is what we all strive for as marketers, right?). Let’s break this down.

First, what the combination of social into search means on the surface is that people have more authority than brands. It used to be that brands could buy keywords and conduct spamy type activities to get their way to the top of the search results. While buying keywords is not going away anytime soon, the ability to load your site with useless content to generate higher ranking on the search engines has gone away as evident in the latest Google algorithm adjustment.

However, the addition of social authority in the search field has made it more difficult for brands to gain search awareness. Let’s say for example, you are a grocery retailer or CPG brand and you care about your presence online. As someone responsible for a brand you care about your image. Now imagine if you are a retailer and a shopper enters your store and has a rotten experience at checkout. Let’s say that person shares that experience on Twitter, or Facebook. Do you care? You should. Here’s why. That person has 140 people in their social circle online. And guess what, when anyone of the 140 people search for your brand online using Google or Bing, guess what shows up? Yea, maybe your brand page, but look a little further down in the search results. Right there on the search results is the tweet that your digrunted customer shared on Twitter for all to see on Twitter, but also on search results (In the example below my friend said something positive).

trader joes social search

Retailers and CPG brands have an opportunity. It’s time that retailers and CPG brands not ignore social media anymore. Social media is important and will continue to be important. As more people voice their bad experiences online (as has been evidence in the Middle East), it’s ripe with opportunity to provide traditional customer service be it in a digital format. If you are smart and are monitoring social media via the thousand of tools available, then you can quickly find these conversations online and not correct them, but influence them. You could alter that negative tweet into a positive one. For example, let’s say you caught that negative tweet through some kind of monitory service. Let’s say your brand has a Twitter account. Reach out to that person via Twitter and publicly apologize and offer them a discount or exchange. It’s likely that person will be surprised that you reached out to them via their “preferred communication” method. It’s also likely that the person will send out a second tweet that says something like “thanks brand for giving me a coupon” This is where your brand can gain a positive tweet instead of the negative one and further more, the last tweet will likely be the one that shows up in search results instead of the negative one.

Here is one last bit of advice. If you manage a brand, and you don’t have a Twitter or Facebook account, if nothing else get one and use it for customer service. Yes, it’s tough to learn new forms of communication, but when your image could be threatened online, the last thing you want to do is ignore it altogether. As always, I welcome your comments.