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On the subject of Social Media

Matt

February 25th, 2009.

Ryanair – Their Attitude To Online PR Part Of A Bigger Reputation Problem

A throwaway comment on a blog by a Ryanair staff member has led to an online storm that now threatens to spill over into the national press and potentially harm the already tarnished reputation of Ryanair even further.

It all started when a Dublin based web designer Jason Roe posted on his blog that he had found a potential bug on the Ryanair website which changed the displayed price of a ticket to €0.00 when he amended his flight times.

At this stage Ryanair had three options of how to deal with this,

  1. Post on Jasons blog thanking him for notifying them of the error, explaining the steps that they had taken to rectify the problem. Possibly even offering him a discount for bringing this to their attention may have turned this into a positive piece of PR.
  2. Fix the error and do nothing, solves the issue but not much else. The incident gets little attention and goes away.
  3. Post on Jasons blog anonymously insulting him and his website.

In the event they opted to go for #3.

jason!
you’re an idiot and a liar!! fact is!
you’ve opened one session then another and requested a page meant for a different session, you are so stupid you dont even know how you did it! you dont get a free flight, there is no dynamic data to render which is prob why you got 0.00. what self respecting developer uses a crappy CMS such as word press anyway AND puts they’re mobile ph number online, i suppose even a prank call is better than nothing on a lonely sat evening!!

Although this was done anonymously, the Ryanair staff member was easily identified through his IP address. At this point having their staff members abusing people online becomes far more of a news story than a bug on their website ever was, and starts to get coverage on the major social news sites popular with bloggers like Digg, Reddit and Twitter.

Although Ryanair are starting to look bad for not listening to their customers, an apology and explanation for the comments would probably have sufficed and the story would have died before it gained any more momentum.

Unbelievably Ryanair then released an official statement further insulting Jason and bloggers everywhere.

“Ryanair can confirm that a Ryanair staff member did engage in a blog discussion. It is Ryanair policy not to waste time and energy in corresponding with idiot bloggers and Ryanair can confirm that it won’t be happening again.

“Lunatic bloggers can have the blog sphere all to themselves as our people are far too busy driving down the cost of air travel”.

This is now becoming a major story threatening to blow up in the faces of Ryanairs communications department. As well as national press coverage of the story this morning in The Times and The Telegraph people are now threatening boycotts of the airline over their treatment of customers, dragging up old grievances, and has sparked a raft of blog comments and even protest sites.

What Can We Learn From This?

  1. It just goes to show how failing to deal with, or worse, dealing badly with negative online reputation can blow up in your face.
  2. It shows how closely online and offline PR strategies are linked and should be treated as such.
  3. The importance of having an online strategy that ALL staff are aware of and adhere to.
  4. The power of an apology – it can turn negative PR into positive very quickly.

Is This Part Of A Wider Failing At Ryanair?

Managing the reputation of a budget airline such as Ryanair can never be an easy task at the best of times. Uphappy customers and poor press all take their toll. However, performing a quick audit of their online reputation throws up several areas for urgent attention and improvement.

Their search results, that threaten to take a battering after the latest round of blog posts and national media attention are already suffering. I have highlighted their own properties and positive results in green and negative results in red.

Worryingly for Ryanair, not only are they suffering from negative press in their search results, but there are also competitors and affiliate websites that are potentially stealing business from them, both in the natural results and though pay-per-click adverts.
Failure to respond to this is undoubtedly costing them business and keeps other Ryanair properties such as their hotels, magazine and insurance websites off of the first page. The PPC competition needs to be addressed though a campaign of their own.

In terms of their reputation on social media they fare even worse than in the search results. Searching Technorati for blog posts about them brings back an overwhelmingly negative sentiment, the same is replicated on Twitter, though Digg is more mixed however Michael O’Leary is named among the worst corporate leaders of 2006. Lots of negative sentiment to Ryanair in the comments though.

Ryanair protest sites such as Ryanair Campaign and a Ryanair Customers Google Group seem to be very busy with complaints from users and boast visitor numbers running into the hundreds of thousands.

5 Steps For Ryanair To Take To Fix Their Online Reputation

  1. Address the search results problems using SEO to boost their own properties onto the first page while pushing down negative results.
  2. Use press releases and rich media to take ownership of Google news, video and image search results.
  3. Use a PPC campaign to outbid competitors bidding on their own brand names.
  4. Instigate a blogger outreach programme to listen to and address peoples public concerns – turning negative PR into positive.
  5. Create a social aspect to their own website, bringing complaints and concerns in-house so they can be dealt with more quickly and effectively – firefighting negative PR and limiting it’s impact.

Matt

November 5th, 2008.

SMX London – 25 Killer Tips, Tools And Strategies

Having just got back from SMX London I thought that rather than be one of 50 recap blog posts I thought I would try to do something a little different.

Sitting though about 15 hours of presentations and Q&A over the past couple of days was no mean feat. I’ve got a lot of sympathy for people with a short attention span!

Taking this sentiment on board I have put together a list of the best hints, tips, tools and strategies from the past couple of days, not just from the speakers themselves, but also picked up from around the conference halls and bars.

  1. Download the Microsoft AdCenter Excel plugin for keyword research. It’s incredibly versatile, users can easily manipulate long keyword lists and data. It even goes as far as adding extra data sets into the mix by offering historical data and demographic breakdowns. Unfortunately, since the is currently still in beta UK specific data hasn’t yet been made available.
  2. In ushering in a new era of transparency MSN is giving users an unprecedented amount of access to actionable data though the impressive AdCenter labs, some of the best tools include,
    Detecting commercial intention based on a URL or keyword phrase.
    Keyword group detection tool for detecting related keywords.
    Search funnels, for visualising search sequences and search funnels.
    Ad text writer, for the lazy PPC marketer! Enter a page URL and it will spit out a list of ad text.
  3. MSNs webmaster centre is now displaying lists of pages your pages that are penalised, contain malware or link to pages that contain malware.
  4. “More than 60% of companies are planning to increase their PPC or SEO budgets in 2009″ Linus Gregoriadis. Recession? What recession?
  5. Keyword phrase composition – consider all of the elements that may make up your users potential keyword phrases.
    For example – Use (For school) + Action (Buy) + Price (Cheap) + Attribute (Black) + Brand (Sony) + Location (UK) + Quality (New) + Your Keyword.
    Consider the alternatives for each of these and build your keyword lists accordingly.
  6. There is a real lack of awareness of new UK laws (enforced by Trading Standards and The Office Of Fair Trading) that now make it illegal to offer fake editorial content, without first making this fact clear to the reader. This will also affect fake internet reviews, promotional blog posts and comments that don’t offer disclosure of payment. – Judith Lewis
  7. Although there is/was some obvious disagreement, the consensus is that owning the local TLD is by far the easiest way of of ensuring rankings in the correct local search engines. Other factors include local hosting, links, translation and address data in both the WhoIs and on the pages themselves.
  8. The Redfly Google Global Firefox extension is perfect for searching local versions of Google quickly.
  9. Linkbait – It is now vital to keep it on topic/niche. Wandering off topic may make things easier, but it’s probably tempting fate. Jane @ SEOMoz
  10. Facebook fan pages are live, indexed and the links are non-nofollow.
  11. The Forrester Groundwell tool is great for understanding the likely social media engagement level of your target market demographic.
  12. Social media campaigns must should be carefully planned – be sure that you know who your audience are, which social media channels they’re likely to use, the creative message that you want to get across and your delivery strategy – Ciaran Norris
  13. Vanessa Fox – Duplicate content across local TLD properties “should” be properly dealt with by Google, the correct verion “should” be delivered in the equivalent local version of Google. – Notice emphasis ;) Again, I would say to be sure to have key content rewritten.
  14. Use psychological hooks in your linkbait. Take your core niche and add in a social media angle – environment, politcal, geeky etc. Be aware of the linking demographic, they’re typically male, intelligent and tech savvy. Linkbait isn’t linkbait if it doesn’t elicit links! – Lyndon Antcliff, Cornwall SEO
  15. Use search operators to find expired pages such as keyword+”this page is no longer available” either, contact the page owners for them to add a link to content on your site, or, contact the sites linking to the expired page asking them to link to your content instead. Tom @ Distilled
  16. Keep an eye on competitor business closures or bankruptcy, this gives an opportunity to either buy they domain, or contact sites linking to them to link to your site instead. Wiep Knoll
  17. Use forums and similar Web 1.0 communities for user generated linkbait
  18. Always try to use your keywords in the article title of linkbait pieces – it really helps getting your keyword phrases in links.
  19. Try launching linkbait on forums before onto social sites. In this way you can test it’s effectiveness, get feedback, and frequently pickup better quality content.
  20. Avoid foreign links from foreign sites, in large quantities these can be an obvious flag for closer inspection. Jay @ LinkFish Media
  21. Some “killer” tools worth taking a look at – Linkscape, Majestic SEO, TubeMogul, Optilink
  22. Buying websites for SEO can provide a competitive advantage in terms of links, or 301 redirecting the site to pass domain trust/authority and the backlink profile. Use these tactics sparingly though, too many sites being redirected can lead to a search engine penalty. Concentrate on buying traffic and relevance over PR and backlinks.
  23. Web 2.0 linkbuilding! We’re moving away from Web 1.0 methods like exchanges, link pages, paid links and comment spam, and moving towards internal link optimisation, online PR syndication, targeted PR submissions, guest writing, linkbaiting and social media.
  24. When buying domains change ownership indicators slowly, things like Whois data, hosting, design and content should be left as long as possible and changes staggered, Google will zero any link and age benefits if there is an obvious change in ownership. DaveN
  25. Finding domains for sale – Google searches, forums, DMOZ listings etc Richard Kershaw

Thanks also to Rob, Bruno, Chris, Rob, Rishil and many other people who I had a lot of fun discussing all of this with!

Matt

October 6th, 2008.

UK Companies Failing To Engage The Blogosphere

Following on from my previous post about the benefits of corporate blogging I decided to take a look at how companies both in the UK and overseas were choosing to engage their online audiences, and to what extent they were utilising the blogosphere in order to fulfil those needs.

Using the Times Top 100 Companies To Work For list in order to gain a useful cross section of company types, sizes and industries. It soon emerged that corporate blogging seems to be somewhat of a alien concept to the majority of UK business. In fact, of the 100 companies that were surveyed only two (kudos to Rackspace and Pannone) had an official active blog that was available from their corporate website.

So with a rather pathetic 2% of UK companies actively blogging can this be viewed as a failure of their online communications strategies? Possibly not. A saving grace was the number of companies (76%) that did make available a mixture of company and industry news, articles, opinion, comment, press releases and whitepapers. UK companies obviously understand the importance of making useful information available, however making the leap from static news pages to and to a more interactive blog is currently too much of a challenge.

A number of factors could be responsible, perhaps there is a lack of understanding of the benefits and opportunity – a failure of their media agencies to make these clear. Often companies don’t feel they can commit the resources to keeping the site updated or are worried about company perception in what is usually an open and conversational media. Added to all of this there is the intrinsic fear of having people being able to comment and voice opinion on their blog posts on their corporate website.

Matt

September 17th, 2008.

Corporate Blogging – What’s The Point?

Corporate blogs have become far more commonplace over the past few years as companies begin to realise their importance in the marketing mix and how valuable they can be as a communications channel. Some of my favourite business efforts include,

Kodak – I love this effort as it doesn’t focus on cameras, but what it’s target audience is interested in, the photography.

Innocent Drinks – Kind of wacky and crazy, just the kind of thing you would expect from the company really! It does a good job of keeping things interesting and engaging the audience.

Southwest Airlines – A really nice showcase for the company, great design, interesting content and does a good job of passing company news while keeping things light-hearted.

ASOS – A good example of what can be done with an ecommerce site. It does a good job of focusing on products, but also scatters in industry news.

BBC – Obviously the huge manpower at their disposal and being able to tap some the finest journalistic minds gives the BBC an unfair advantage, but their blog network is among one of the best online.

Marriott – A self-confessed technophobe Bill Marriott proves that it’s never too late to start blogging. Not only that but the resulting blog is an extremely useful communications channel.

Waitrose – A great example of what can be achieved when a not so traditional web company takes blogging seriously.

I deliberately left out examples of tech and web based companies to prove that it can be done well for traditionally non-web based companies.

Okay, so what is the point?

Audience engagement – Blogs are a great way of engaging your audience with topics that you wouldn’t normally cover on the main section of your site. You can keep company news and conversation clearly defined from the ‘corporate’ sections of the site while at the same time offering your audience more in-depth information should it be required.

Information gathering – Blogs can be used to gather opinions, get product feedback, collect email addresses and collect RSS feed subscribers. Over time a growing audience is a valuable commodity in itself.

Communications channel – Corporate blogs have been used as an instant communications channel between retailer and customer. Product information, manuals, corrections, notifications and recalls can be made available instantly.

Content creation – An increased number of pages of your site will generally increase the amount of content leads to an increase in the number of search engine visitors. With clearly defined calls to action this should lead to an increase in sales.

Social media – Blog are a great way of opening up the marketing power of social media sites. Visitors can easily submit posts to sites like Digg and Stumbleupon, this directly leads to an increased number of visitors, links and the visibility of your site as a whole. Active blogs generally encourage more incoming links from other sites, so can be a great way of supplementing a link building strategy.

Things to remember….

  • Get started using a simple blogging script like WordPress. It’s pretty much the industry standard, it’s easy to use, and best of all it’s free.
  • Keep the blog on your commercial domain. You’ll get little benefit from using a hosted blog or a seperate domain altogether. The idea is to get additional visitors to your commercial site. blog.company.com or company.com/blog is ideal.
  • Define a writing policy. Be clear who your audience is and what will interest them. Also be clear on exactly how much information you’re going to make public.
  • The writing style is important. Traditionally visitors expect a less corporate and more conversational writing style. The use of humour can work well. Ideally your posts should be short and punchy.
  • Avoid over promotion. It’s fine to link to your products and services from within your posts, but visitors won’t come just to read a rehashed product catalogue.
  • Keep things fresh. Your blog should be regularly updated, sharing writing amongst your staff is the ideal solution, outsourcing the writing is another, though is no substitute for your staff knowledge and expertise, staff participation should be encouraged.
  • What do I write? Traditional topic areas are company news, staff news, product news, industry discussion and thoughts, how to’s and resource lists. Ideally the more diverse the topic areas, the easier you’ll find things to write about and the bigger the potential audience.

Alex

July 20th, 2008.

The benefits of RSS Feeds

RSS (Really Simple Syndication) can become an invaluable tool if used correctly. Although the use of RSS is usually reserved for techies, it is only a matter of time before this technology is embraced by regular web users.

RSS feeds are designed to aggregate multiple feed of information by grouping and storing topics of interest into one location. Users can browse these feeds at their own leisure safe in the knowledge that they can access the latest information relating to their chosen interest. If you are interested in a particular subject, (i.e. football) you could visit a site that exposes its content via RSS and subscribe to it. Now, at your own leisure you can check your RSS feed and browse the latest feeds (or newly posted information) in a uniformed and sortable format.

Each item within a feed contains a title, date, summary and sometimes videos and images. If the topic is of particular interest, you can click the feed link and jump off to the source of the feed (web site) to read more. This is a much cleaner and efficient way of keeping up to date with topics you are interested in rather than trawling the internet and storing lots of bookmarks. This way the information comes to you without having to lift a finger. Users are completely in control of the information they receive as unsubscribing is just as easy, if not easier that subscribing. You remain totally control of the flow of information. RSS feeds are a huge time saver and can boost you productivity .

Types of RSS feeds:

  • Blog posts – Receive updates every time a new blog is posted
  • Article Feeds – Get summaries or articles written about a particular subject
  • Forum Posts – Receive updates each time user reply to a particular forum post you are interested in
  • Retail Feeds – Many ecommerce sites are publishing whole product lines as RSS feeds. Each time a new product is added you’ll be notified
  • News Feeds – Receive breaking news from sites like Google
  • Industry Specific – Keep up to date with industry related articles, news and reviews that maybe related to your industry

Subscribing for RSS Feeds
The best way to do this is by registering with a Feed Reader site like Google Reader, which allows you to store all of you feeds in one central location online. This is a simple process especially if you already have a Google account. Once you have done this you are ready to start subscribing to RSS feeds. The next time you see an RSS link or image simply click it, choose the feed reader you have registered with from the dropdown menu and click subscribe. You’ll instantly have access to the entire feed displayed in chorological order.

Create your own feed
If you publish regular information on your site you can benefit from publishing this as an RSS feed. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. By not having an RSS feed you are missing out on an opportunity to keep your customer / audience informed on what you business is up to. RSS feeds should be thought of as a free promotional tool. You’ll be able to relax safe in the knowledge that as soon as new information is add to your site users will be informed. This will bring in more site traffic a users may want to find out more or purchase products

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