I recently covered the Brand, Trademark and Reputation Management session at the Search Engine Strategies San Jose conference. The panel featured a mix of one search engine, SEM solutions providers, and attorneys discussing how online video abuse is a growing problem for businesses, how we can do proper monitor and management, and when it may be necessary to "go legal.”
Having attended numerous SES panels on legal and reputation issues since their first very one back in 2002, I was pleased to see that this group of panelists dedicated more of their presentations and discussions than ever before to the impact of online video. Of course, being that this was an SES conference, most of the topics naturally related to search engine marketing and optimization. Not only did many of the presentations lend themselves well to interpretation with video and video SEO, but some were very good examples featuring video cases themselves. But first, lets start with the basics…
Why managing your reputation online is increasingly important
A Proofpoint survey offered by AOL's senior marketing manager Simone Heseltine would indicate that reputation management is of serious concern. The survey reports that "more than 1 in 3 companies surveyed reported that their business had been impacted by the exposure of sensitive or embarrassing information in the past 12 months." That doesn't even count all the businesses that don't know how to monitor their reputation online yet, or don't even pay serious attention to the space. Paul Elliot, Partner in Search & Media / Analytics & Optimization for Rosetta, says that for companiess to not even be paying attention to the online space is a huge mistake they may end up paying for later, and dearly. "In online environments, the opportunity for damage to an organization, its people, brand, products or services – is eternal. Monitoring and protecting an organization's good name through digital strategy and execution is essential in the 24/7 online world.”
Why search, video, and social media can have the biggest impact with your reputation ANYWHERE
Search engine results pages (SERPs) are probably the single greatest source for featuring potentially infringing or damaging video content, especially when you take into account that they index video (and content and links around the video) from practically all areas of the Web. We're not just talking popular video sharing websites like YouTube; you can include social networks, blogs, and even image sites that have video capabilities. (For example, an account on the popular image sharing site Flickr can show 90-second video clips and are index-able and optimizable for the SERPs.)
Video in SERPs can have significantly more weight because 1) They take up more space on a SERP with their thumbnails, and 2) They can appear in bunches. Many SERPs today can include multiple video listings for a single keyword prominently displayed near or at the top of key searches.
Add the multitude of popular social networks (including news sharing networks), the increased social sharing and activity around the original video increases the prominence of the video in the search engines tremendously (since they measure popularity), which the increased ease of being found in the search engines goes back to increasing the social media impact – back and forth, back and forth, as long as the interest is there and the story persists – really creating the "virus" in viral video.
More than just bad PR – bad business!
Not paying attention to what's going on with your brand, especially with online video, can give you more than just bad PR; in some cases, it can also cause huge financial losses. Take the case of the now-infamous "United Breaks Guitars" YouTube video. The Times Online reported that within four days of the song going online, United Airlines' stock price plunged 10 percent from all the bad PR that followed, costing their shareholders a whopping $180 million.
Video SEO reputation management tips
There's far more tips than can be included in one article, so here's a small batch from some of the panelists and myself on how to manage your video reputation online:
- Find out what popular sites show in your target SERPs – focus on the keywords and are popular with your target audiences, and that have searchable video content. Start with the default blended search results, then move over to any video "vertical" channels, and then do a cross-search by both your own industry and your target audiences' likely search terms to find you.
- Use a monitoring tool. Google Alerts is the free solution covers the most ground for what you pay for (that being its free), which you can also filter to its video channel. However, it is limited to search results that appear only on Google. So if you're looking for an in-between solution rather than the high end services (including the five-figure and up pricing of Nielsen BuzzMetrics, BuzzLogic, trackur, tns media intelligence, radian, The Buzz Monitor), check out the web-based tools from The Search Monitor and Reputation Defender – both cover other search engines such as Yahoo and MSN; plus, blogs and forums, news and press releases, and website landing pages.
- Monitor everyone directly related to, or directly competing with, your business. If you manage employees, you need to seriously consider monitoring what they're saying about your company and brand, too. (Check out the New York Times article, "A video prank at Domino's taints brand.”). Some employees can be apt to posting video "confessionals" on their own social network pages; and even if there's no questionable copy or metadata around the video, what they're saying inside the actual video could be disparaging to the company they work for; and that can be potentially damaging to your business.
- If you respond, then respond as positively as you can. If you know you're in the wrong, then you should: address the issue, admit your company's culpability, apologize, and explain what corrective action you'll be taking. To make a bigger impression, consider doing it with a video announcement. Simon presented the example of how Hampton Toyota took a very embarrassing situation (video 1 and video 2) and turned it into a positive spin. The response shows a clear statement of what happened, is very sincere, transparent, and responsive.
- If you respond, make your response where the original video audience can see it. YouTube is the easiest place to make a video response to the original video, and it gets posted above all of the other text responses. Most everything on YouTube is transparent, so you can also use similar titles, descriptions, and tags as the original (troublesome) video. If its a social networking site or business reviews site where the original criticism or problem is found, see if you can be allowed to post a rebuttal, with a link back to your own video page. (This usually means setting up your own account on that site as well.)
- If you respond with a lawsuit, be prepared for it to go public. Television news coverage of your lawsuit can easily be turned into an online clip and distributed anywhere overnight. On top of that, anyone can also make their own video clips to comment on that news coverage, including news sites like Digg and Technorati. If you're deciding to file any lawsuit or other legal action, be prepared to have a video SEO strategy and video content for your PR team (even if that's you), to promote and optimize before others get a chance to. You don't have to control the message, but you can influence the message most if you're the first to address it, and targeting the potential keywords (and yes, that includes negative keywords) around it.
- Don't fake it, or you could be fined and prosecuted! What I mean by that is, don't use videos to make fake claims or fake reviews of your own brand. Simon showed in his presentation one bad example of a company that had its employees pose as satisfied customers. Those fake reviews got the state attorney general's office attention and laid down severe penalties of $300,000. Now you still can have your employees and others in your company do positive videos, but be TOTALLY TRANSPARENT –they must not be deceptive and pretending to be customers. (Its even better if these employees and others are willing to include a link to their own social networking sites on Facebook and LinkedIn for example, just to show that they real people.) Be very safe and make it a standard practice is to give full disclosure of any relationship that person many have with your company, directly in the video and in the video description metadata on whatever page that video is being featured on.
- Don't forget the Video SEO strategy! Sometimes, being at the top of the SERPs is the best (and may be the most affordable) reputation management solution. When its done effectively, the problem content gets moved down, and even off the first page altogether; and the further down you bump the problem links, the less attention they get. So populate the results with multiple videos, on related content around brand-related keywords. Also consider links to pages where the video can be viewed, such as corporate site pages and partner sites, blog posts, press releases, and multiple video sharing sites. Its certainly legal, reputable, and very smart.