Conversion Optimization has taught me… If a User does not extend Trust to your website, they are not going to communicate or transact. The lessons seem familiar. Could it be that I learned all I need to know about User Trust from the Superheroes?
Loss of Identity = Loss of Trust
Once, we were somebody. Overnight, we became nobodies. The internet took away our identities, made us invisible beings. We began writing on people’s screens from the other side. Our true identities were masked.
So, we took on pen-names, usernames. Our faces disappeared and in their place, avatars sprang up. It was thrilling and exotic, to think that we could become any persona we chose. Some took on the anonymity for Good. Some, for Evil. Google Authorship and verified Social Profiles (OpenID, OAuth) returned a semblance of identity, order and credibility.
Readers all know that Batman is really Bruce Wayne, but he still wears a mask, and Gothamites seem to be taken in. Choosing when and in what company to be known is a powerful strategy, for good or for evil. Batman wears a mask, which hides his identity, but that same mask makes people mistrustful, even fearful. If Batman tried to buy a Batarang on credit, the merchant would doubtless ask to see some ID. People trust him best when he wears no mask.
Demonstrate Trustworthiness in Motivation to Earn Respect from Stakeholders – and Carry a Big Stick
This occurred during the rise of SEO. The coincidence of anonymity with the power of inbound links led to massive abuses of that power. Irresponsibility flourished. Hidden in the folds of the cloak of invisibility we built links in the spammiest, least relevant ways, based solely on ease of execution. Google took it on the chin for showing ridiculously bad search results, until they rewrote the Algorithm and applied Filters and Updates to rein in the masquerade of relevance by removing the rewards, and punishing offenders.
Google may be like Bruce Banner. A brilliant mind, an ingenious scientist. Bruce Banner is a nice guy, but nobody wants to piss him off. Those who don’t know his true identity may be very sorry. Those who do not know what will provoke his rage revile him – it’s not easy being green.
Stamp Out Falsehood and Users Can Detect Emotional Resonance
False identities still skulked the Web, but their deeds went unrewarded. Concepts, topics and Keywords were unmasked. Search quality flourished.
Superman still walks among Metropolis as mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent. HIs identity is largely concealed, and yet he manages to inspire humans with his, “Truth, Justice and the American Way” credo. We trust in the truth of the message.
Trust in a Name Exists in the Collective Consciousness
DNS is the backbone of human ability to use the web. Numeric IP Addressees (12-digit numbers which humans find a challenge to remember) are mapped to Domain Names (which humans recall with greater ease). Domain Names are leased from Registrars. Domain Names are limited, finite. The Gold Rush on Domain Names led to the dark ages of cyber-squatters who Registered millions of names, demanding a bounty for their use. Abusive profiteering created huge obstacles to brands wishing to use their trademarked names. Then, .com names started running out.
No-name stores and oddly-named services sprang up, with more monikers than a barrel full of… well, you know (WebMonkey, SockMonkey, FunkyMonkey, SurveyMonkey). Conventional wisdom dictated that the funnier the name, the more memorable. So even corporate entities took on masks, deliberately. Inherently, this was an obstacle to trust, at first. Since these new brandnames were unfamiliar, it was the shared experience of the masses that provided evidence of trustworthiness. People shared their user experiences via E-mail and on forums. Cagey websites provided evidence of User Trust in the form of On-Site Reviews.
What’s in a name? Only the trust that people extend to it. Ford and Chevrolet started as family names. It was only after innovation, products, racing and service that the public afforded them the trust that makes them the respected Brand giants that they became. We made them.
Would you trust S.H.I.E.L.D. or HYDRA? S.H.I.E.L.D has been variously known as Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage, Law-Enforcement Division, then changed to Strategic Hazard Intervention Espionage Logistics Directorate and finally became Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S.H.I.E.L.D.) Is it important that we know IBM stands for International Business Machines? No, that name is outmoded. It is the combined might of billions of dollars of advertising and decades of customer trust that tells us what the IBM brand is all about.
If It Looks Like a Duck, and Quacks Like a Duck…
The ‘Wild West’ years peaked on the World Wide Web. Viewed differently, it was the nadir of Trust on the Web. Brigands, Pirates and Highwaymen lined the Internet Superhighway. Phishing schemes created false fronts, exact replicas of Trusted websites, where users could be tricked into entering their secret Passwords.
Mystique could probably charm me out of my Log-ins since she could imitate anyone she pleased. Can’t simply trust in appearances. Security calls for multiple factors: who you are, what you know, what you have.
E-mail was the ‘killer app’ because it created an environment of direct communications with trusted individuals and known entities. Your contacts were kept in your Address Book. How quaint… and limiting!
Outmoded Solutions are Insufficient to the Stormy Present
Real identities have become a hot commodity. Our own identities are now subject to theft and resale. Passwords can be jacked or stolen by the millions. It is advisable to use unique Passwords for every different user profile, yet management and security of hundreds of Passwords is beyond most mere mortals. To be riven of one’s identity could lead to years of expense and misery, as marauders impersonate legitimate beings to drain their bank accounts and buy things on their carefully-cultivated credit.
Social Log-in (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_login) may have helped turn the corner by leveraging one verified identity for use on equipped websites. Google Wallet (http://www.google.com/wallet/) can store all your credit and debit cards, offers and more, with access from your smartphone. Do you trust Google? With 24/7 fraud monitoring, instant transaction notifications and Purchase Protection, you might. It may be time to update your website’s ability to recognize identities in a way that suits visitors.
Green Lantern has to rely on cosmetic jewelry and outdated light fixtures for his power. This causes him no end of misery as the items are stolen and abused. He obviously needs a tech update.
Trust Marks – Symbols of Those Who Fight the Good Fight
Symbols of trust evolved from the royal seals of the Pharaohs, to marks on coins denoting their alloy and weight, through the Good Housekeeping Seal on up to the Trust Marks that are employed on E-Commerce sites today. 93% of online shoppers say it is important for an E -Commerce site to include a trust mark of some kind on their site. ~ TNS study
Common Trust Marks include:
SSL Certificate – [https://] secure link that encrypts customer data in transit
BBBOnline – Reliability Seal for issue resolution in case something goes wrong
Bizrate.com - Gathers and shows ratings of users for Trusted Peer Review
Mcafee Secure – Detects code injection and malware to prevent Identity Theft & Phishing
Truste – Privacy Seal – a sign of trusted and clearly-stated policies
The presence of these symbols represents the effort on the part of the website to protect the visitor, enabling prospects and customers to transact.
Superman could wrap you up in his S-symbol from his Super-suit and it would protect you from a thermonuclear explosion. Seeing the arrival of that symbol provokes a feeling of awe and security, expressed as, “Look, up in the sky!…”
Trust in Peers Extends to Trusted Peer Reviews
50% of B2B buyers turn to social media / peer reviews.
70% of Americans now say they look at Product Reviews before making a purchase.
~ Google, Zero Moment of Truth – March 2011
63% of customers are more likely to make a purchase from a site which has user reviews.
~ iPerceptions, 2011
Google’s Schema microdata can be used to structure Reviews on-site to improve their perception by automated crawlers.(https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/146645?hl=en); and
Gandalf left his rune on Bilbo’s door so the Dwarves would trust to enter and the adventure could begin. the wizard had previous knowledge of the inhabitant and his word was trusted. The rune he inscribed stated, “Burglar wants a good job, plenty of excitement, and reasonable reward”. (http://www.hmhbooks.com/files/content/sites/hobbit/files/pdfs/Hobbit_trivia.pdf) ;
Consumer reviews are significantly more trusted (nearly 12 times more) than descriptions that come from manufacturers, according to a survey of US internet users by online video review site EXPO.
~ eMarketer, February 2010
Ratings provide evidence of others who have trusted this brand entity before, and can predict a favorable outcome (https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/172705?hl=en). Those little yellow stars that appear in Search Engine Results (sometimes called “Rich Snippets”) can boost clickthrough rates by 8%.
Captain America knew the value of stars… and stripes. He dictated the appearance of his own uniform as an inspiration to the troops. Rally users to your cause by inspiring trust with relevant Ratings.
Superheroes have a lot to teach us about Trust, but the most important lesson of all, may be: we do it not for ourselves, but for the public. Web businesses needn’t be altruistic or charitable… only trustworthy, in order to protect Users and, thus, their own profitability.
All Trademarks have been used referentially and all rights remain the sole possession of their respective owners.
Whether it’s your personal name or your brand name, how that moniker appears on the Internet is how many people perceive it. Just think of how many people you know that use the Web to gather the information that they need. Nearly every single person that you pass in a public place has their fingers frantically typing away on a smartphone. It makes sense; the Internet is the easiest place to instantly learn just about anything – including reviews and information regarding your business.
One of the best and one of the worst things about the Web is the fact that every single person can have their voice heard. If a person is having a bad day and receives their food a few minutes later than expected at your restaurant, nothing is stopping them from visiting a social media site or review platform like Yelp and dragging your brand name through the mud. While it may be a rare occurrence, if enough people read the review, you can lose potential patronage and some serious cash.
One of the things that makes Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn popular is there are very few restrictions regarding what a person can say. The same can be said for websites such as WordPress, Blogger, and LiveJournal. In theory, it’s like having your work instantly published, without any editors or mandatory approval.
While leveraging great feedback from your customers via retweets on Twitter or Facebook shares is great for your business, people sharing negative reviews online can have a much larger impact. Fortunately, a proactive approach can show your current customers as well as future customers how hard you work to provide them with exceptional customer service.
Reputable online reputation management (commonly abbreviated to ORM) services can help your business maintain a pristine name. By providing your business with a means to communicate your message clearly and openly with your audience, reputation management campaigns can help bring positivity about your brand back to the top of the search engines.
The key to tackling any issue in business is to have a proactive rather than a reactive approach. The more time and energy a company puts into building their brand name through hard work and exceptional customer service, the less time will need to be focused on repairing a fractured reputation.
MOUNT LAUREL, NJ (OCT. 17, 2012) – Kenneth Wisnefski, founder and CEO of WebiMax, the fastest growing private company in New Jersey on the Inc. 500, announced the unveiling of a new website aimed at providing valuable information on brand management and reputation management for medium and large-sized businesses. Brand Management dot com delivers important information regarding how to successfully manage a brand’s presence online and furthermore includes important resources for decision makers at these institutions related to these services.
“I have discussed with many decision makers at some of the most reputable and largest businesses indicating that this community needs up-to-date resources on brand management techniques,” states Wisnefski, who founded WebiMax in 2008. “Brand Management dot com serves this purpose and furthermore provides valuable statistics on how brand management and reputation management have major impacts on consumers and their buying behaviors.”
While core fundamentals of the marketing mix and other key tangibles remain relevant for branding purposes, statistics indicate that the proactive management of the brand through online methods and techniques have become crucial elements in remaining competitive and building an authoritative brand. As of today, more than 89 percent of consumers said they use online channels to investigate the product and brand they are purchasing. In addition, approximately 87 percent of consumers indicated that positive reviews they have read online convince them to buy a specific product.
“Consumers today are leveraging technology more than they ever have before in their purchasing decisions,” states Wisnefski. “Today’s consumer is smarter and more aware of product and brand alternatives and how they are rated online, and 89 percent of them use these online reviews to make their purchasing decisions.”
Brand Management dot com includes statistics, case studies, a regularly updated blog, and other resources for businesses. The website is managed by a team of seasoned brand and reputation management experts that also develop these strategies for clients. Visit http://www.brandmanagement.com/ for more information.
Led by serial web entrepreneur Kenneth Wisnefski, WebiMax has become the leader in online marketing services, including a focus on Search Engine Optimization, Search Engine Marketing, Paid Search and PPC, Website Design and Development, Reputation Management, and more. The company was named to the 2012 Inc. 500 (No. 37 overall) and was also selected as one of America’s Most Promising Companies (2011) by Forbes Magazine (No. 30 overall). The company employs over 125 personnel in 12 offices including 8 U.S. based, and 4 International. Visit http://www.webimax.com/ for more information.
How can lip balm be controversial? Just ask Chapstick – they’ve managed to offend a lot of people with the image they chose for a new advertisement and, moreover, how they chose to deal with the backlash on their Facebook page.
Chapstick is the latest example of a brand mishandling negativity over a new advertising campaign – a prime example of how NOT to use social media when it comes to managing your reputation online.
What many companies don’t realize is that, for the most part, Americans are a forgiving group of people. We watched as Britney Spears fell from grace, but now she’s a judge on the popular television show X Factor with millions of people rooting her on. Michael Vick was involved in an illegal dog fighting ring and served time in jail for the conviction, but now he’s the starting quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles with a strong fan-base. Chris Brown was charged with felony assault for beating his girlfriend, pop star Rihanna, but he continues to be a celebrated member of hip hop community.
What do these three people have in common? They all admitted their mistakes, apologized, asked for forgiveness, and explained to the public how they plan on changing their lives for the better. Any publicist will tell you that trying to cover up a controversial event will only make matters worse. Owning their actions and taking responsibility for their mistakes is the only way that celebrities or famous athletes can begin to repair their relationships with the American public – and that goes for brands, too, not just people.
So when Chapstick ran this ad -
- featuring a woman bent over the back of a couch looking for her lost Chapstick (we know where they were going with this ad: read Dan’s latest post about how sex sells in the marketing world), and they received criticism on their Facebook page by people who found it offensive, did they take ownership? How did they handle the backlash?
They deleted the comments. Big brand management no-no.
To make matters worse, in bold letters at the bottom of the ad it says “BE HEARD AT FACEBOOK.COM/CHAPSTICK.” Perhaps a more accurate call-to-action would’ve been “be heard – as long as it puts our brand in a positive light.”
If Chapstick wants to use social media as a place where consumers can go to give their honest feedback and “be heard,” they’ll need to be prepared to take the bad with the good. Here are my two pieces of advice for Chapstick, or any brand that is faced with a similar situation:
- Listen to people’s complaints, and apologize to those you have offended on your Facebook page where the public can see your response.
- Be prepared to handle criticisms as well as praise & approval whenever you launch a new campaign – especially if you direct readers to your Facebook page where consumer feedback is a fundamental part of social media for businesses.
What do you think about Chapstick’s decision to delete negative comments from their Facebook page? Join the conversation on Twitter using #brandchat or email me at pryan[AT]webimax.com.
For those of you who may have missed my recent appearance on FOX News to discuss Penn State’s reputation management issues, I mentioned the value of social media and its role in their online identity. In social media, in the SERPs and in the press, PSU faces a challenging road to re-establishing their brand. While Penn State’s focus at present may be short-term, their reputation crisis is not. Reputation management should be thought of an ongoing investment that requires consistent monitoring and maintenance.
Management or Maintenance?
There is a discernable difference between short-term management and long-term maintenance; however, both are important to any business or individual attempting to keep their online presence resoundingly positive. Social media, press releases and blogs are very powerful tools that Penn State has at their disposal and the university should utilize them to rebuild their reputation. On a long-term basis, these tools will allow PSU to issue new, positive content to the public and help to diminish the presence of negative material on the Web.
Progress Through Positivity
Part of brand recognition and identity is perception. The public perception of a company or an individual can largely factor into their overall success. For Penn State, perhaps the most powerful social asset is its own student body. PSU students are actively using various social platforms and are capable of both enhancing and maintaining the reputation of the university going forward.
By initiating a call to action in the form of a press release or social media outlet, Penn State could encourage its student body to emphasize the qualities of the institution and help to accentuate positivity and reduce negative content in the SERPs and throughout social media. Undoubtedly, the next several months will be crucial for Penn State. However, the university must also understand the importance of remaining reputable on the Web on a long-term basis in order to rebuild their brand.
He did everything he was supposed to. He sacrificed his free time to study. He was in band, SGA, and helped at a local convalescent home. He got rave reviews from several teachers and the principal of the high school. But, it wasn’t enough. A former student of mine didn’t get into his ‘A-list’ school. He got denied, despite paying close attention to the ‘algorithms’ of the situation.
What happened? Why, though he had it down to a ‘science,’ did my former student get denied? I don’t know the answer. He never found out either. But you know what? It is six years later; the dude’s in medical school now. Failed algorithmic realities couldn’t outrank his fervor to make his own future.
Today, I read an article in the New York Times about the future of robo-grading. I know some former peers are cheering. They’re likely the same teachers who didn’t like skimming student papers for writing or logical elements. “That’s for the English teacher!” is a far-too-oft philosophy of some.
I get a quasi-upset stomach in thinking of standardized testing as well; but, we need to judge the kids on something. We must rank them somehow…just like your brand’s Web pages. Google has built an algorithm, which subjectively objectively judges your page and domain worth… just like some sort of system was weighed upon my former student’s future.
“Oh come on, Anthony. We need some sort of system to ‘make sense of things.’” Yes, we do. Does more standardized thinking make sense in valuing the information of others? Google thinks so; and, so does particular academics, who champion the notion of statistic wizards hammering out a computer system that can grade papers ‘just like’ humans.
Recently, a competition took place, asking programmers to engineer a system which would predict the scores of human graders. As mentioned in the article, the system’s predictions were very close to the human notions of graders. There’s another competition on its way, one that will predict who, based on historical claims data, will be admitted to hospitals in the following year.
The computerized system may become a force within educational circles and districts. Some of the notions seem viable. The computerized system would save teacher time, mark papers, and offer additional assignments…because students are more likely to learn from computerized markings than human ones, correct?
So, this computerized system, is it any different than attempting to learn from particular textbooks, which house graded examples, answers to questions in the back, etc? Why even host a teacher in classrooms altogether? Do you need a marketer? Just adhere to Google’s Webmaster guidelines… I mean, the guidelines are written to satisfy an algorithm and not the human spirit, but…
Aren’t teachers, in part, supposed to ‘market’ the learning of their subject matter? Wasn’t a part of my job to be an inspiration, a model, a facilitator of learning? Did that human element contribute to the knowledge ascertained? I would like to think so.
But, just like Google, perhaps the ‘system’ thinks it is more convenient to create algorithms to judge people and their performance, to make them rank a particular way. Perhaps this way we can teach kids to write the ‘Penguin’ or ‘Panda’ way.
That’s what I want young people to learn, that they are only as good as the algorithm allows them to be, that their human fervor, the human spirit, can be called out like a robotically-demented Babe Ruth; but, this Babe doesn’t have time to sign any baseballs, visit sick kids in hospitals, or shake the hands of young fans. This one is just about the ‘facts’ of the matter.
That’s how you would like your marketing progress to go as well, correct? Never mind your consumers and the people element of marketing; an algorithm has your best interests, your best future in mind. But in case that gives you a quasi-upset feeling, there are a few marketers who don’t mind staying ‘after school’ to help explain things to you in human terms…