Pay Attention to Internet Forums
Yes, your Web site is important. But a lot can happen in Internet forums that can affect your business. Some of these reflect genuine problems, some are actually sabotage. Here are two actual examples.
I was given a reference by a client to a large company who is a major retailer in the Washington area. I talked to their “Digital Experience Manager” to arrange an appointment. Then, doing some research on the company, I started seeing poor reviews on some Internet forums. So I looked around for a while, and concluded that these guys were not the sort of business I could work for, and never followed up on the opportunity. Were I to advise them, I’d suggest that they follow up on all these forums, contact the complaining customers, and make them into happy customers.
For a client, doing a search on his product name, I found a forum where his product was being discussed critically, terms like “could not possibly work” were being used. So I joined into the forum, describing my happy experience with the product, that it really does work. I also suggested that my client join the discussion and talk about his own experience in inventing the product. He did so, and now this forum has favorable discussions about his product, with some participants now recounting their own positive stories.
When I purchased new windows for my home, I looked into various Internet forums for discussions about the window companies. I was surprised when I saw a huge amount of very negative commentary about the company we were considering, making them out to be nearly thieves, based on many accounts of personal experiences. I called the company and asked for personal references, visited the customers and inspected the installation, checked their records with local consumer protection, and concluded that they looked good. I’ve been completely satisfied with all aspects of the purchase, and must believe that these detailed first-person accounts may have been fabricated.
The Bottom Line
Don’t let bad news, true or not, injure your business! Conduct Google searches on your own company name and URL, and look for any comments about your company and its products and services. If a forum is going negative on you, join the forum and be friendly and present your side of the situation. If you can contact people who are dissatisfied, get in touch with them and turn them into happy customers. It’s possible to have a great Web site that tells a terrific story, but if someone else is doing a good job at telling the opposite story you can be hurt.