Will The Return of Tweets to Google Impact Online Reputations?

Oh yes. Try not to panic. Now’s a good time to start regularly ‘Googling yourself’.

As of now, the ever-increasing importance of Online Reputation for businesses and individuals is about to reach a whole new level. The content that we post/share/upload/comment on has just been kicked up a notch in terms of how this is going to impact what appears about you, your services and products in the search results of the number one search engine – Google.

Twitter and search giant Google have struck a deal to start making users tweets available in Google searches according to a Bloomberg report. Now, displaying of Twitter’s content within Google search results will occur – previously Google had to crawl Twitter’s site for the information but this will now be visible automatically.

So why are Tweets returning to Google?

Firstly it’s not new. Twitter does also provide data to search services Bing and Yahoo. The tie up with Google is an attempt to get tweets seen by non users of Twitter, with the end goal no doubt, of generating more advertising spend from a larger audience base. According to an analyst at JP Morgan in a note to investors, it means “more opportunities for Twitter to convert, and possibly monetise logged-out users”. Adding that it will also “increase the frequency that people with Twitter accounts check the site”.

How does this affect your Online Reputation?

In a nutshell, users of Twitter now have to be more careful when it comes to the content they tweet – as it may just show up in Google the next time someone searches your name.

With more people now turning to social media to vent frustration about individuals, businesses and organisations etc, this recent partnership between Google and Twitter emphasises even more the importance of users needing a proactive approach to protecting and managing their Online Reputation.

Businesses and organisations will need to take another look at the impact their employees and their brand have on social media. Consumers of services, products and peer recommendations and complaints, already a tour de force, will now have additional influence on businesses’ and individuals’ reputations.

There is little doubt now that the content we are posting and sharing online, impacts our digital tattoo and could be seen as irreparable. The Big Plus however is that each and every one of us can take control of our Online Reputation. The social media platforms will not do this for us – neither will privacy related settings or developments alone.

As users we need to remember we fundamentally control the content we post online. We’re giving away our personal information, freely, if unconsciously a lot of the time, allowing the giant social networks to bombard and market products and services at us. As the saying goes, ‘Nothing is ever really free’.

The partnership between Google and Twitter to make tweets available within search results has to be something we take seriously – as there’s no doubt that the impact will irreversibly impact reputation.

How it can go wrong

An example of where a tweet turned into a huge headache for one airline company was when a disgruntled British Airways customer decided to use a promoted tweet to draw attention to an issue he had with his father’s lost baggage. Rather than the limited audience of a normal tweet, the ‘promoted tweet’ allowed him significantly larger reach.

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The promoted tweet, normally used by businesses wanting to reach a wider audience, enables advertisers to promote their tweet where it’s highly prominent in the Twitter feed of relevant users. Hasan Syed decided to target his promoted tweet to British Airways in the New York City and UK markets. Within the first 6 hours it had received 25,000 impressions on Twitter not to mention extended coverage via media outlets, popular tech blogs and shares on social media platforms such as Facebook.  Now it’s unclear if promoted tweets as such would show up within the search results of Google but this case demonstrates one such example and how it could potentially cause concern for a brand’s reputation – should it be lurking around in search results relating to the brand.

But British Airways got off lightly compared to the PR nightmare created for United Airlines when they lost a prized guitar owned by Dave Carroll and his band, Sons of Maxwell, back in 2009.  Dave and the band turned United’s bad service into a song trilogy ‘United Breaks Guitars 1, 2 & 3’ – and a book. The music video went viral with 10,772,839 views, stock fell by 10%, a decrease reported by the BBC as around $180 million. United were left reeling.  I wonder when the film’s out?

What can business and brands learn from this?

Response time is key in the digital world we all now live in. Increasingly social media users who have issues with a business or brand will take their questions, comments and complaints to Twitter or Facebook – given the public nature of both platforms.  In the case of Hasan Syed, British Airways had two Twitter accounts operating at the time in the UK and US.   Observing changes in promoted tweets specifically relating to the brand is key. In this example BA blamed the delay on it’s Twitter feed only being open ‘0900-1700 GMT,’ rather than 24 hours, and asked the customer to send over his luggage information in a direct message. This has now been updated on the Global Twitter account to say ‘we are here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to help’.

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So.. some simple steps for businesses in their use of social media as a customer service tool

  • Ensure you have the appropriate Google Alerts set up to monitor brand names and key employees and departments (like customer service)
  • Training – ensure all staff that have access to and operate social media accounts on behalf of your business or brand receive regular training.
  • Develop an Online Reputation Crisis Communication Plan – should something go wrong the relevant steps are in place to reduce impact and handle the situation. Prepare | Identify | Respond |
  • Ensure alerts are set up to monitor search terms related closely to the business or brand name.
  • Utilise SEO to ‘move’ negative feedback – while not always possible, good search engine optimisation can improve your businesses’ visibility positively in the rankings. This can be useful to ‘hide’ pages, posts or comments further back in the search engines.
  • Importantly – Monitor and LISTEN to key social media accounts regularly. Social media is a two way conversation, what people are saying online matters and the business or organisation who listens to their users on social media and is proactive in helping them will reap the benefits with their online reputation.
  • And monitor relevant hashtags on your brand or business to ensure you pick up any negative posts early.

Wayne Denner

About Wayne Denner

With over 17 years experience in the digital space Wayne is a self confessed Digital Ninja, working with professionals around the globe and delivering the Online Reputation Matters Program in schools and with businesses in Ireland, the UK and the UAE.