At significant risk of sounding like a really nerdy James Bond movie, the title of this post is actually something that came to mind a few weeks ago when brainstorming a new project. I’ve let the idea simmer a bit, but after being present for a great Affiliate Summit session called “Managing Your Brand” I find that I can no longer contain myself. :) In that session, Andy Beal, Lee Odden, Rob Key & Fionn Downhill gave great advice on online reputation management as well as managing your brand (not just monitoring it but actually managing it). If you did not attend that session but have access to the videos from Affiliate Summit West 2009, I highly recommend giving it a peek.
It’s very likely that you already know this, but the web is becoming an increasingly fragmented space. Gone are the days of “browsing” the web – it’s “searching” the web at this point. When is the last time you used a web directory like DMOZ for anything other than building links? There is simply too much out there.
“Sure,” you think. “Of course it means that we have to rank well on Google.” Well that has even changed too in the last few years. Google (or Yahoo or MSN or whatever) is no longer just a list of results to your search – it’s the definitive source of information about your brand. Consumers, users, prospective employers, girlfriends, everyone is searching for you, and the results say a terrible lot about you, for better or worse (especially the first page of results). People aren’t just going to your website by typing in the url anymore, Google is working very hard to ensure that your starting point for using the web is a search. Google Toolbar, Chrome, Personalized Search, SearchWiki – all these products are geared towards getting you on Google first. And why shouldn’t they? That’s where their ad revenue comes from.
Another major change still unfolding is in the way people communicate and interact online. The social networking in which we all participate is leading to new types of connections with brands as well as friends & family. Blogs, Facebook, YouTube, MySpace, Twitter, etc are not just about connecting to the people we care about, but also with the brands, media, products, and ideas we care about as well.
The great thing is that Google knows that these connections are important to us.
A fantastic example of this is a search for Barack Obama. A brand so many people care about, absolutely everyone is writing about, Google has over a hundred million results for (as of this writing), and 3 of the top 5 results (excluding the News) are MySpace, Facebook and Twitter. (OK, now that I am getting ready to post this – after the inauguration – Google has shuffled the results a bit. You can see last night’s results below, but the three Social Networks are still on the first page, with a list of blogs and along-side some pretty authoritative sites).
That’s huge! Google thinks there is almost no better result for the President than the networks we use to connect and follow each other. And you know what? Google is right.
So how do we make sure and capitalize on these changes in the way people are finding you? When you have a new brand to establish online, it’s no longer enough to register the domain name on .com, .org & .net. There are a number of other web properties where you need to stake your claim. If you don’t grab up that MySpace page or Twitter username early, it’s pretty much guaranteed that someone else will. Make sure that you own your brand everywhere someone may go to find it.
A great tool to help you do this is UserNameCheck.com – it lets you search a whole pile of sites/networks/services for a username, and lets you know where your brand is available, and where you are going to have to pay someone or beg to get it back. Obviously not every result here is appropriate for every brand, but it really is not too difficult to get out there and create a profile, thus letting you keep control. Even if you don’t think you will use the YouTube account, snatch it up anyway. Better you than someone else.
Also important to remember is that the more sites you control your brand for, the more search results for your brand name you will control. And as we’ve seen, these social networks are highly visible in searches. Having these profiles on the first page instead of someone’s else’s blog with what may be negative comments about you is a huge part of actively managing your brand.
You have to optimize your brand wherever it appears – both on and off your site. And everything that is searchable is optimizable.