Owning the conversation about your company

Why it is important to own the conversation about your site and how you can do it

Something I have to regularly advise companies I work with is the need to stay on top of the conversation happening about your company.

For the sake of this article I am going to use the word site, but the advice here equally applies to wanting to keep on top of conversations around your product, service, brand, business, etc.

Keeping on top of conversations about your site is important because you can find out what people love and what people hate. You will get opportunities to improve, educate your users, or learn about the landscape in which your site lives.

There are several levels of conversation, with each level it becomes harder to have any input in the conversation.

  1. Private communication to you
  2. Private communication to your site
  3. Public communication on your site
  4. Private communications to you on other websites
  5. Public communication on other websites you have some control of
  6. Public communication on other websites you have no control of
  7. Private communication between people

Let me explain each one of these in turn;

Private communication to you

Anything that someone has privately to you or someone in your team, no one else will see it from the outside world. Examples would be emails and phone calls.

Private communication to your site

This is private communication that is facilitated by your site, this could be a contact form submission, or it could be a support ticket system that is locked behind a user login.

Public communication on your site

This is communication that happens on your website (so you have some control over it) but other people can see it. Examples would be public reviews, comments sections, message boards that you control.

Private communications to you on other websites

This is private communication between you (or your staff) and one person on a website you have no control over. An example of this would be direct messages on LinkedIn to your company account.

Public communication on other websites you have some control of

This is communication that happens on a site you don’t control, but you do have certain privileges like deleting the comment or publicly replying to it. An example would be people posting on your company’s Facebook wall.

Public communication on other websites you have no control of

Blog posts that people have written on their website, review websites, and posts on people’s personal social media accounts are all examples of public communication on other websites.

Occasionally there may be some way for you to comment or get in contact with the person who wrote it, but often times you just get to read the content but not interact or control it.

Private communication between people

This is the form of communication that you have no control over and will never know about. This is either offline communication between people or online but in forms you will never see (emails, direct messages).

I include this here because it is important that you understand you cannot control or inform all communication.

This form of communication is normally the most genuine.

People have defaults

Some people gravitate to one of these levels as a default, for example heavy users of Facebook may contact you via Facebook Messages (Private communications to you on other websites), comments (Public communication on other websites you have some control of), or may just mention you on their wall (Public communication on other websites you have no control of).

Companies like to force control

General thinking seems to be companies try and pull people down into those first few levels. I disagree with this and I will tell you why.

People need to be engaged at the level they are comfortable with or else they lose a sense of power, that is a bad thing.

Moving things into private conversations creates warts

The public issue that has been fixed privately is a dead wart. Ugly looking and will put people off touching you even if benign.

Something I have noticed is that a lot of the times these things escalate up the way, how many times have you seen someone tweet saying “still waiting on hold with X” or “5 days and no reply to my email” these are examples of private conversations becoming public.

Having systems that encourage people to do this leave more of these warts. 10 seconds after they tweet and you answer the phone do you think they will delete the tweet? Good luck with that.

Practical things you can do to help

Let’s get practical, if we are in agreement that these things happen and they are bad.

  • Make it easy for things to happen at these early levels. If you don’t have an email address or phone number that is easy to find then no one will give you this direct feedback. Likewise if your SaaS app doesn’t have a support ticket system then support will become more public by default.
  • Make sure you are checking any social media site you own at least semi regularly and reply to messages promptly.
  • Set up Google Alerts for your site so you can at least try and be privy to public communications on websites that don’t have any control over.
  • Get comfortable with the fact that you can’t control everything.
  • Create a plan to handle how you are going to respond to both negative and positive feedback when it happens in a public place.

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