React and attract – Ignore and lose rapport
Are you working for a company that is not tracking conversations and feedback about your brand online? Does your business have the agility to react to the opinions of your customers?
In my recent experience, there are numerous household brands that are still desperately trying to cling onto control of their brand while users quietly wrestle control away from the owners. Are those brand managers burying their heads in the sand or do they genuinely think that they can retain exclusive control in an age when the customer reigns supreme? Should they not be monitoring the level of noise being generated by their brand online, understanding if that chat is positive or not and engaging in the conversation?
The flip side, and a shining example, is a brand such as M&S that is listening and willing to reverse decisions to keep customers happy, their recent decision not to charge extra for larger bra sizes being a great example. As a result they have demonstrated their willingness to listen to their customers, they have strengthened their brand promises and delivered some positive PR for their business.
Now if brand managers don’t take this approach and won’t adapt their practices to confront current and changing user behaviour, perhaps Google will force their hands. Welcome to rich snippets.
Snippets are the adverts that comprise a search engine’s organic results.
Rich snippets include additional information such as links to maps, and more importantly here, customer reviews and is an initiative being rolled out by Google.
Google announced that they would be parsing what are called hCard, hReview and hProduct microformats (microformats for publishing contact details, reviews and to convey metadata and other attributes), and using them to populate the rich snippets on the search results pages.
As Google is pursuing the holy grail of semantic search, they have now made a release that takes a step in that direction. And not only that, but this is the first time that Google is letting us tell its robot army some meaning about the information on our web sites , allowing webmasters to participate in Google’s interpretation of the semantic web.
Whilst we are a nation of curtain-twitchers and enjoy seeing what others are up to, we also engage in banter over the garden fence with our neighbours to listen and learn. What this boils down to is that messages and communications received by a customer or prospect will not necessarily be from brand owners but more likely from other customers.
So, not only does online brand buzz contribute towards natural search rankings (check the Vince update), but customer reviews are being included in the adverts that Google is serving up to your customers and prospects. This must surely now force the hand of brand owners and push them into monitoring their brand online and ensuring they are able to react to the feedback of their customers.