What and how are you managing the conversation points around your business?
When I first started blogging I focused on two words strategy + innovation. I got a kick out of having Google return me ahead of consultancies like McKinsey and BCG. Similarly I monitored search words like conversational + blogging (listed blog post) and re purposed blogging ideas like team+brief (listed blog post). These last two searches return posts from 2003 that are still listed in the top 10 returns. Listing like these provide authority and I could provide many other examples. I still watch for new word combinations to see how they list and what impact it means for your visibility. Eg Manifesto Social Networking.
Yesterday I blogged about a small exclusive hotel. This morning anyone that looks up this hotel and does a little searching will return and read my post. This can be proven and apply to almost any small business. So my question today is... What and where are the Conversation Points around your business and how are you participating?
Similarly, my tags obviously return on technorati. As tagging become more common place unique tags and how you talk about your business become more important. Look at this view of technorati today for Windermere Estate. My blog post appears. So does a picture and perhaps if I'd uploaded a video that too. Review returns like this and you can review how you may be able to participate in the conversation.
Being part of the conversation starts with search. Jeremiah Owyang (btw google "web+strategy") had a beautifully detailed post Web Strategy (Advanced): Applying a Social Computing Strategy to the entire Product Lifecycle. which starts with
the corporate website is becoming less relevant, and web marketing (and support) has spread off your domain and google results. You also know that prospects trust the opinions of existing customers (who are ‘like them’) far more than marketers, as these communities of practice assemble, your brand is decentralized –embrace!
For a small business or even a large one the philosophy is right the problem is most companies aren't there yet. Listening starts with search. However smart companies are manipulating search (see below)
Today when we search for a new product or even to find out more about an old one we go to Google. Search the product or the category. More often than not it turns up blogs and for some retailers that are selling it. I looked up a coffee machine yesterday, got lots of retail option and some consumer comments. They immediately effect my buying decision. The hotel and travel examples are very similar.
It's products, services and small businesses that are really going to get social media first. They will understand and want to leverage the talking and conversation points around their business. It can be done for not much effort. For example in the Hotel Blog I could do a list blog of all the other hotels in the area; simply helping people with choice. Similarly for the travel services in the region. etc. Each of these potentially provides more points of search that link back to my business. List blogs, like aggregated content blogs tend to be higher up on Google rankings. Example VoIP Bloggers. This is also no different than local Rotary member supporting each other within a local community.
I'd also like to contrast this approach with one that I'm seeing increasingly done by large companies. Googling IBM, Dell or Skype today will not return conversations around these brands. It returns a power list of their content. For example when Skype first launched you would always see my blog listed on Google and later Skype Journal. Today you won't find Skype Journal until you get to page three of search. I'm sure that has had an impact on SJ traffic as well. Did Skype follow a strategy to get Skype Journal off the Google search for Skype? (Look at Dell or IBM etc. same story). I don't know (and don't care) although I don't believe such a strategy adds value to the brand.
Now we must be careful not to confuse a few things.
Category Management & Tags:
- If I search for "VoIP" I don't return anything for Skype. So someone else is likely to be writing and professing conversation points about Skype. Similarly if you look to "telephony" Skype has no role in developing the conversation here. The short example is... If I go to a retailer to sell them a new product (eg a coffee) then I must talk about how that product will grow the category and where the product should be put on the shelf... and how this makes more money for them too. The objective is to facilitate the conversation. You cannot do that without knowing what associations you want to have.
- This is closer to Jeramiah's post and point. Perhaps a question for Google returns is: Are Searchers really getting the conversational data they are looking for? I do know that if I want to learn more about a company or product I will qualify my search with more details. That usually brings me the "other" content. Data that I'm going to take into account in my assessment.
Associations with our Name and Tag:
- I suggested that John let guests know what tags he wants photos tagged with; in time it will build a portfolio of content with that association. In the future he will want a more unique tag. Still this is a daily if not hourly or even minute by minute search term. Increasingly you need the early warning radar out. Without knowledge of tags, and search engines you aren't even close to playing. In my hotel example --- how long will it take John to know I've blogged about it? How quickly should he respond? What conversations are happening around the tags he has defined for his business? What points are being made today?
- In the Skype example their strategy has the search "skype" covered. However there is nothing to suggest that they are participating in a broader conversation, aggregating Skype related content, enabling the conversation, participating in VoIP development, Telephony, or voip regulation etc. When we search terms like these Skype's presence is not there. I don't think it is Skype's intention to have a conversation. The message is just one way. Not to appear as an old nemesis for Skype if you look at Dell you won't find Direct2Dell - Dell's blog when searching "Dell" today. If these companies really want to communicate conversation then they must ensure a "conversation points" link in Google's return on their tag.
In conclusion, searching your company increasingly defines the type of business you are and the conversations you want to participate in. The small proprietary hotel that is interested in the community around them, the guests that have visited, the pride in what they do makes it easy to enable a conversation points and gain trust. By contrast the large business has to work harder at making their conversations visible when you just Google their name. The web has never been more personal and the tone more transparent. This is a fact that ultimately cannot be buried. For companies large and small they should be active in their categories. Examples "Hotels Munnar", "Travel Munnar", Munnar, "Munnar Transport", Google can even help you find which words / tags really matter. Growing category conversations and talking points is the best way to positively facilitate and frame where conversations are going.