Paid Search & Social Media – Your Voice in Crisis Situations

In a world where information can spread in seconds, managing your organization’s online reputation is something that should be on the front-burner. Daily management is important and interactions with disgruntled customers should be a priority — whatever the medium.

But what if disaster strikes? What if your customers become sick, injured, or God forbid, die from using/consuming your product? What if a faulty shipment of product makes its way to shelves and you have to make a massive recall? What if you change suppliers and overall product functionality/quality changes? Any of these scenarios can seriously affect your business, and it’s extremely important to speak with your customers, communicating with them when things go awry.

Let me just say this: people ARE looking for information online, and they’re finding it. The problem is, it’s not necessarily from company representatives. It’s from other cautious or enraged customers. So the wildfire spreads. News websites, blogs, forums, and now social media outlets are bubbling over with non-authoritative information about your organization’s problem. And that wildife, it continues to spread.

In this stomach-ache inducing situation, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Upset customers have access to online channels to spread the information — but so do you. The key here is strategically integrating multiple channels so that you can speak to the crowds. They are looking for answers — be there to tell them.

As the web continues to change, the strategy for crisis management will, too. However, one thing has remained consistent for many years: search engines. Google, Yahoo and MSN are still a primary resource for people looking for information. Step one in crisis management should be setting up a PPC campaign around crisis-related keywords.

For example, Taco Bell got it right in December of 2006 when the customers of multiple locations became ill from an E. Coli outbreak. Instead of letting bloggers and news sources tell the story, Taco Bell told their own story by being visible for related searches and linking those paid ads to a video message from the company’s president. A colleague of mine wrote a great blog on this. Check it out: Search & Brand Management: The Taco Bell E. Coli Crisis.

The point is, they knew people would be looking for information, and they made themselves a primary resource. Also, because of the control PPC offers, Taco Bell was able to choose which keywords their ads were served for, and what ad copy was displayed for those keywords.

In 2009 (vs. 2006), it’s even more important to act quickly and smartly when crisis hits. The key isn’t to be reactive — it’s to be proactive. Social media enables the transfer of information in mere seconds, so it’s imperative you’re there to respond. Set up social profiles beforehand. By having an active social following, you’ll reach more people more quickly with the “real” message before existing and future customers hear the diluted and possibly, inaccurate version. By pairing this emerging media with traditional online channels, like paid search marketing, your company will not only have the best opportunity for telling the real story and responding to customer concerns, but also will also appear to be taking responsibility for the problem and facing it head on.

To talk about the importance of building an online presence for business growth and crisis management, contact Oneupweb. We’re here to talk.