It has been almost a year since Google rolled out their SearchWiki features, but with their Sept 09 integration of these features into the Google Toolbar (now called SideWiki) it means that millions of Google users are much more likely to post public comments about your web properties. Google went a step further days ago when they launched a SideWiki bookmarklet that works in all browsers and does not require you to have the Google toolbar.
In a nutshell, here’s what it means: any visitor to any website will be able to leave comments that will appear in a sidebar alongside that site. They can include text, links, images or videos that will be seen by anyone who uses SideWiki through the Google Toolbar or bookmarklet (these numbers are in the millions now and the user base is growing rapidly).
Now picture this scenario: your competitor logs in with multiple Google accounts and posts several comments lambasting your company. To top it off, they add links to all of your competitors and embed videos of their promotional materials. Gulp!
A SideWiki user at Microsoft.com suggests that visitors should use Firefox instead of Internet Explorer. His comments include an embedded Youtube video highlighting Firefox’s features.
As the site owner, you have no more authority over these comments than the average Joe. You can report an abusive comment, and, like every other Google SideWiki user, you can vote comments up or down through the Digg-style system.
So what can you do?
SideWiki shares the same traits as other forms of social media:
1) it’s a tool that can affect your brand both positively and negatively
2) you can influence it but not control it
3) you should be aware of how it works and actively monitor it
Here are some steps you can take to ensure you don’t have egg on your face:
- Watch and monitor. Rather than checking every day, you may want to set up an RSS feed that tracks Sidewiki comments on your site. Use Sidewiki RSS to set it up. If you spot abusive comments, you can report them immediately.
- Influence. As is often the case online, complaints rise to the forefront, whereas satisfied customers are often too busy getting on with business to bother posting favorable comments online. Thus, the potential for negative comments is high. By encouraging the addition of new, positive comments you can reduce the impact and influence of the negative ones. Don’t do it yourself – this is not a spam tactic. Instead, encourage some of those satisfied partners and customers to contribute their comments. Don’t give them words to use, let them speak genuinely. And this principle works well across all social media: encourage and educate your most passionate customers about social media. There are likely many people who would like to say good things about your brand, but don’t know things like SideWiki exist. By the way, this tactic works very effectively to counteract a smattering of disgruntled voices, not an angry mob. If that’s the case, you need to focus on a more definitive solution to address the source of their discontent.
- Own your site: You have the opportunity as a site owner to place an introductory message in the SideWiki that will remain the top entry for the page. Do it! It’s your best opportunity to influence the SideWiki and position your messaging in the most prominent piece of real estate there.
Have you experimented with SideWiki yet? Think you will? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.