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United Airlines Responds to Dave Carroll

Yesterday I wrote a post re-capping Jason Murphy’s great SEOmoz post that offered ideas to United Airlines regarding how to respond to the Internet smash United Breaks Guitars from Dave Carroll. As it illustrated, United actually has a phenomenal opportunity to show a captive audience of how they can “make things right.”

United’s response: Donate $3,000 to a nonprofit on Dave’s behalf.

My response: Really? Three grand? That’s it?

Really? Three grand. You REALLY need to be featured on SNL’s Really ?!? with Seth & Amy. You have an audience of millions awaiting your response and this is the best you can do? “Wow.” Talk about underwhelming.

You see, if this were a private issue I would call it an appropriate response. You broke a $3,500 Taylor guitar, cost Dave Carroll $1,200 in repairs plus countless hours chasing down a response. $3,000 would be absolutely appropriate if nobody else knew about it. But they do. You blew an incredible opportunity to save face here.

In fact, in just one day United Breaks Guitars jumped from the 4th to 3rd on page one of Google and added two new references to the story. It was also viewed on YouTube over 300,000 times yesterday alone. Check out the rest of a page one search for United Airlines. Half of page one is of the story. Here’s a look at a few:

united-breaks-guitars2

So who are the winners and losers in all this?

Dave Carroll & The Sons of Maxwell
It’s nearly impossible to put a value on this degree of exposure for a band other than to say this is a life-changing event that will impact their lives for the better. I wonder how many other people like me just bought their album. Dave Carroll is my new personal hero. Look for them to gain a huge crossover following.

Taylor Guitars – Taylor is so brilliant. They didn’t even have anything to do with all this mess. But they’re savvy enough to know a great marketing opportunity when they see one. They set up Dave Carroll and company with sweet Taylor gear and are going to get some great mileage out of this. Talk about a low cost relative to the amount of positive exposure this will generate. Nice work, Taylor. (As a proud owner of a Taylor guitar, I can tell you their guitars are awesome.)

United Airlines – Sorry guys. You blew it. Sure, you gave a few bucks to charity and got a positive response from Dave about it. But this is a very public black eye that $3,000 won’t fix anytime soon.

SEOmoz and Jason Murphy – SEOmoz for recognizing how great Jason’s post was and promoting it to the main page and Jason for adding a new perspective regarding reputation management strategies. Thanks!

New Reputation Management Strategies

I’m finishing up a reputation management project and thought this would be a good opportunity to explain online reputation management in simple terms, include an entertaining example, and direct you to more resources.

In the simplest of terms, online reputation management is the process of creating new web pages that rank higher than the pages containing the bad stuff for your name, product name(s), and/or important keywords. Create enough high ranking & relevant content from enough sources and in time your reputation is clean. Ideally, it’s pushed down to page 3, 4, and lower, but page one is the first big goal.

I hadn’t given much thought to embracing poor reviews until I read this SEOmoz post about reputation management. It was written by Las Vegas Reputation Management & Social Media Consultant Jason Murphy. He gives United Airlines some brilliant ways to respond to the wild popularity (and incredibly awesome) United Breaks Guitars YouTube video from David Carroll. If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the video. Oh yeah, it’s also the 4th listing on page one of Google for “United Airlines.” Tell me this didn’t get their attention.

Well, according to the LA Times, it looks as though they are contacting Dave Carroll to “make things right.” I’m curious to see if they’ll take any of the steps outlined by Jason in his post. Rather than re-cap his ideas, check out the complete post to see some very creative ways to handle a big reputation management challenge.

In addition to Jason’s post, I recommend reading related posts from SEOmoz, Distilled, Matt McGee, and Bruce Clay.

Reputation Management and Your Business

Reputation Management has become an increasingly large portion of most SEO’s business. By reputation management, I mean keeping bad news, comments, reviews, and other negative stories about their clients off the first few pages of the search engines. A good example of a bad online reputation management is Countrywide Home Loans. When the fifth listing on page one of Google is “Countrywide Home Loans Sucks” and the 9th listing on page one is titled “The Worst Company in America,” I’d say there’s a problem. But I’ll cut them some slack. There’s a lot of bad news in the financial sector these days. Let’s take a look at a company that should be squeaky clean: Whole Foods. About half way down page one of Google there’s an article titled “The Dark Secrets of Whole Foods.” Uh-oh, that doesn’t sound good. There’s also an odd little website on page one called Stuff White People Like featuring Whole Foods. Do white people like Whole Foods? Well, judging by the amount of basil infused organic tofu I’ve seen in the refrigerators of white people’s homes, I’d that yes, white people do in fact like Whole Foods. However, I’m pretty sure this isn’t how the executives at the Whole Foods corporate office would like to be viewed.

So what’s a business owner to do?

1) Search online for your own name, your business name, and products/services you provide. No need to become obsessed with it. Once a month or so is fine for most companies. More than once a month if you think there is a need for it.

2) Create more online content. It’s generally going to be much easier for your web pages to rank online for your own name than it will be for someone else.

3) Contact your online nemesis and make peace. A lot of the times an upset customer just needs to vent. Let them. Make peace with them.

4) Don’t engage them in the first place. Try to play nice in your online sandbox. I’ve seen many companies come to blows with each other in little online wars. This typically hurts the business of both companies.

5) Think of your customers. They don’t care about the inner workings of your company or ongoing battle with a competitor. They want information about your company, products, and services.

They’re probably Google-ing you right now. What will they find?