Strategic marketing with blogs for your business

Last week I spoke at a conference on expanding a business beyond the local region. My talk focused on using blogs, feeds, and social networks for marketing a business and expanding its presence. One of the questions that came up was how to respond to negative comments and posts from users and detractors. In other words, should we use these types of Internet services to react or respond to bloggers who may be attacking my business?

My first response was that having negative comments or posts written about your company is a good thing. Why? Well, two main reasons. First, it means people are actually using your product/service and they care enough about the impact of your business on their lives to write about it. You don’t complain if you don’t care. Positive or negative, at least there is some interest.

All feedback is good for your business. My second point is if numerous people are writing about a problem or issue, they may have some valid points. The initial reaction is that the business is being attacked, but step back for a minute and see what can be learned from these unsolicited comments. From personal experience, I know that when bloggers have criticized our products they had valid points at the time. This feedback, while initially disappointing, enabled us to look more closely at the product and fix those issues. You’re not going to get that kind of free, brutally honest feedback anywhere else.

Specifically with blogging, a business also gets the chance to respond as necessary to these missives. If negative (or inaccurate) things are written about your business in the newspaper, you have no way to respond to this and make a correction. If the paper makes a correction, it will be lost in the back pages. Your only recourse is to pay for a costly advertisement to make the record straight as many companies have done in the past.

A blog provides an alternative to this. A post can be written clarifying certain points or highlighting intended functionality. Direct attacks don’t have to actually be mentioned, but with blogs a business now has the opportunity to at least compete for attention in the search engines with any other outside posts.

Should a company respond to every blogger that makes a negative comment or post? No way. That’s just common sense. Some people just want attention and they don’t need to be encouraged. But blogging enables a business to selectively and strategically decide when and how to respond to any attacks or negatively charged comments.

I would much rather be able to set the record straight or show that my business cares about its customers by instantly reacting to any commentary.

Rich Brooks at Business Blog Consulting also has the following advice:

In other cases, especially when bloggers are angry about bad customer service (AOL?), or batteries that make good campfire starters (Sony? Dell?), itâ??s best to take care of the problem immediately, starting with the most prominent bloggers.

In still other cases the best solution may be to tell â??yourâ? side of the story, and let the chips fall where they may. After all, soon enough someone will be blogging about another customer-service-story-from-hell and you can go back to running your business.

There are numerous other examples of this for business blogging. Do you have any I should highlight?

Tom currently works in developer relations for IBM Watson. A serial entrepreneur, he's been the founder of numerous startups including Investify and StatsMix, a Techstars alumni company. Tom lives outside Boulder, Colorado and in his free time he's an avid rock climber, skier, and trail runner.

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