Reach Advisors is pleased to welcome a new
guest blogger, Jennifer Caleshu from the Bay Area Discovery Museum. Jennifer does a
terrific job managing the BADM brand on-line by looking beyond their own
website to see what visitors are saying about them on other websites. It
is a savvy strategy for keeping tabs on word-of-mouth about your organization
and for addressing otherwise unreported problems. Thanks so much,
Jennifer, for contributing to Museum Audience Insight!
Your visitors are talking about you on the Web, whether you’re listening or not. They can let you—and thousands of potential visitors—know if you exceeded their expectations or fell short. And they’re detailed: you’ll read about their interaction with a front desk staff member who was clearly having a bad day, or the guide who make their 2-year-old laugh.
So what do you do with this knowledge?
If you don’t know what they’re saying, you don’t know what you can do with it! It’s easy (and automatic) to track your online reputation. Here are some of the tools we use:
- Google Alerts. You can set up automatic alerts to let you know anytime your organization is mentioned on the Web and have the links emailed to you regularly. Whether it’s a personal blog with just a few readers or a major publication, almost all are found by Google and can be sent to your inbox.
- RSS Feeds. You can also subscribe to content using Really Simple Syndication (RSS), a Web standard that pushes updates (called feeds) of Web pages directly into your feed reader. I use Google Reader, since it’s Web-based and accessible from any location. Many review sites offer RSS feeds for their pages, so anytime someone adds a review about your organization, you’ll see it in your feed reader. This is a good supplement to Google Alerts, since your reviewers may not always use your organization name.
What do you do when you see a good review?
- Thank the reviewer. Be honest and open about your relationship to the organization, but be a person, not an organization. It’s even better if you’re an active participant in the community you’re responding to – your response will be more authentic. See how I do it on yelp.com: http://zeitgeistmama.yelp.com/ But don’t send them gifts for writing – you’ll get called out for it on the community site and your positive press will quickly turn negative.
What about a bad one?
- Take a deep breath. Or sleep on it. Remember it’s just one person’s opinion, and they are entitled to have it, even if you think it’s baloney.
- Thank the reviewer for taking the time to write. If it’s something you can fix, acknowledge the issue and let them know specifically how you plan to address the situation (more training for your front desk staff? Update your web site?). But don’t rant back at them, and don’t be tempted to do something foolish, like threaten them with legal action if they don’t take down their comment (yes, it’s happened!). Your negative response has the potential to just amplify the negative attention. Anything you write on the Web or in email will live forever, so make sure you’d want it to be read by millions (or your boss).
- The best news about an occasional bad review is that they give credibility to your positive reviews – it’s just more realistic than an organization is unlikely to be 5-stars to everyone. Of course, if you see a pattern in your negative reviews, then that’s probably something you should address. The other good news is that communities tend to monitor themselves: see how “Leah” responds to “Lyn” on our GoCityKids page.
Use Your Reputation.
- Share their comments with your visitors. Reprint their comments as testimonials on your web site (of course, link to their original comment if you can) and use live-updating tools such as Yelp’s badges that show the current number of reviews and your cumulative rating. See how we do it on BADM's Plan Your Visit page (by the way, this is our #2 visited page on the Web site, and we also use the Yelp badge in other places on the Web site)
- Ask for your visitors to review you—put a note in your email newsletter and on your Web site—but never offer ‘incentives’ for writing reviews, as that taints the relationship. You want their honest, unbiased opinion.
- Never shill and review yourself – don’t pretend to be someone you’re not, and always disclose your affiliations. You will get caught if you try it.
- Reviews of your organization by unbiased participants carry more weight with potential visitors than even your most sizzling marketing copy – if your visitors are passionate enough to write about you, you know you’re doing a good job.
Jennifer Caleshu is the Director of Communications for the Bay Area Discovery Museum, a children’s museum just under the Golden Gate Bridge in historic Fort Baker, California. You can find her all over the Web as Zeitgeist Mama.
Do you use other resources to manage your museum's identity online? Share them with us by clicking on "comments" below. (If you are reading this from your e-mail subscription to the blog, please go to our blog's website to add a comment.)