Why does Spin Sucks?

We exchange trillions of emails each year, watch billions of online videos weekly and create millions of blog posts on a daily basis. In short, there’s a massive amount of information online. And it keeps growing day by day, week by week. Which means that creating stand-out content is more important than ever before. In the book, Spin Sucks, author Gini Dietrich shares more about communication and reputation management in the digital age.

Look at it this way: if you want your content to rise above all the other media competing for people’s attention, you can’t deliver something your audience can get elsewhere on the web. Instead, you have to create something that delivers real value.

And that starts with the headline. Since it’s the first piece of content audiences encounter, it has to be special to persuade them to stick around.

As you can see, the details are important. But so is the big picture: if you want to market your content effectively, you need to have a broad strategy – a clear content vision.

One fantastic example of clear content vision comes from “Chicago Cabbie,” a Windy City taxi driver who created a Twitter account to facilitate easy cab reservations. As he became increasingly popular, he started adding additional services, sending customers calendar reminders of their reservations and posting interesting city tips when he wasn’t driving.

Part of his success can be attributed to his crystal-clear content vision: “Be a trusted resource about all things Chicago.” Focusing on that singular purpose gained him a lot of credibility: whether he was delivering traffic updates to locals or recommending restaurants to visitors, everyone benefited from his bite-sized Twitter content. And as a result, his business increased by 20 percent in the first year alone.

Old-school ad-men thought they could sell everything with spin or sex. But in the current media environment, building a connection based on trust is the key to good PR.

Of course, people still love drama, sex and the absurd. But these elements don’t help your company. They might attract some initial interest, but if your product isn’t actually useful to people, it will swiftly be rejected.

So instead of focusing on sex appeal or spin, you should encourage people to tell their own stories. That’s what online recipe database Foodily tried to do when it asked people to share their best dinner table memories via social media. The prompt quickly sparked a natural conversation, pulling in more and more people.

The campaign was effective because it was emotional. And posting photos of hot, shirtless male chefs would have only killed the vibes.

As we’ve seen, getting people to tell their own stories is a big draw. And it also helps build trust. Newsletter email platform Mailchimp offers a good example of this principle in action. Their website features stories about their customers, giving them a space to talk about the work they love doing. Mailchimp’s customers can mention the service, but they don’t have to. However, after watching all the videos and reading all the stories, most people naturally want to learn more about Mailchimp, simply because they see successful, interesting people using it. And that builds trust in the company.

Of course, building trust with human beings is one thing. Building trust with a search engine? That’s a whole different story. Read on to find out how to make that happen.

Search engines offer a powerful way to deliver your content to an audience, so it would be wise to play by the rules of search platforms.

But people don’t always agree about what that means. “White hat” search engine experts think that creating stand-out content is the key to achieving a good ranking in search results.

These professionals see it as a marathon, not a sprint: Even though creating consistently high quality content takes time and effort, it’s ultimately more valuable to human beings. Consequently, resource-intensive content is more valuable to search engines, who want to deliver good results to their users. Search engines will reward high-quality content with high search rankings.

So, according to top-notch white hats – those who keep up with the ever-changing search engine algorithms – the only sure-fire way to have good site rankings is to invest a lot of hard work and a lot of time.

Unfortunately however, there are still some “experts” who try to trick the system. They’re called “black hats” and they see search engines as an enemy, using every method possible to try to trick the system, like creating bad content stuffed with keywords or even “scraping” (stealing) other people’s content to boost their own search engine results.

Black hats don’t worry about being banned for using these methods, because they typically have many sites in their portfolio. So if Google removes one of those sites, the black hat can move on to the next.

As you can see, having a long-run search engine strategy developed around high-quality content is the best approach for achieving good rankings. Because ultimately, search engines are predictable – they just want you to play by the rules.

Critics and trolls on the other hand? That’s a whole different story. But if you read on, you can learn four steps for converting critics into loyal fans.

Everyone’s a critic. And what’s more, no one can escape criticism. But if you can deal with criticism gracefully and learn to distinguish between trolls and valid customer complaints, you’ll be able to establish a larger and more loyal fan base.

First you have to figure out whether the criticism is fair. Does this person have a valid bone to pick or are they just complaining for the sake of complaining? To answer that question, you have to figure out whether there are problems with your product and service. And if you find some, fix them.

Imagine a company that provides assisted living and retirement homes. One day, someone on Facebook complained about a beautician in one of their homes: a resident’s hair turned blue after she had it dyed. Although this phenomenon isn’t uncommon among older women, it’s very upsetting for the customer. The company should address this complaint instead of ignoring it – otherwise, its customers will feel neglected.

So now that we’ve established that this is a reasonable complaint, let’s move on to step two: verify the source of the criticism. If the person is only complaining to cause trouble – in other words, they’re a troll – responding will add fuel to the fire. However, if the person is a long-term, loyal customer, you should move on to the next steps.

In the case of the blue-haired senior, the source of the complaint was the daughter of the resident. She was very angry, and ended up leaving a mean and unprofessional comment. But nonetheless, she wasn’t a troll. This was the first time something like this had happened and she was sorely disappointed in the company.

Whenever you encounter multiple critical comments, you need to be strategic about how you answer them. You must evaluate the relative influence of each critic and prioritize your responses accordingly.

That doesn’t mean you can neglect people you deem unimportant. It just makes business sense to respond more quickly to highly influential people.

Once you’ve decided, start by replying publicly to the complainers and ask them to send you their contact info in a private message. By ensuring this interaction happens publicly, you will show other customers that your company takes complaints seriously.

That’s what the CEO of the retirement and assisted living company did: He posted a comment asking the angry customer to send him her phone number, so he could contact her. Then he called her privately and solved the problem. He listened to her feedback for ten minutes and offered to give her mother a coupon for three free salon visits. He also assured her that he would call the salon manager, to make sure the hairy blue situation would never happen again.

In the end, the woman was so pleased with the interaction that she wrote about her good experience on the company’s Facebook page. And today, she’s one of the company’s biggest fans.

Replicating this kind of result doesn’t require a CEO. You just have to apologize to the customer and make an effort to fix the situation.

That’s the secret to turning a critic into a loyal fan: Don’t be sneaky or try to avoid the criticism. Instead, be honest and forthright.

Check out my related post: How can companies better manage multiple social media accounts?

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