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Two Horror Stories – Know Who’s Working On Your Behalf!

Wow.  What a holiday break.  So much happened in our little world of search and social marketing.  So many faux pas to make fun of., so many miscues to analyze so that we avoid pitfalls and generally do better.  In terms of schadenfreude, it was like, well…Christmas.  Hell, December – as a month – was a cautionary tale.  Where to start?  Well, I’ve got two that persisted in my braincase throughout the holidays and they carry a common theme – a contractor went rogue, a company is responsible, and it’s due largely to a lack of worthy due diligence.

Google Done Messed Up

First, it was awesome to hear that Google actually uses agencies.  Now, they weren’t SEOs or anything like that, but Google using any agency for online engagement is pretty impressive.  The long and the short is that they were buying some video distribution for the Chrome browser, their agency (or their agency’s agency, as it were) went the blogger route, which resulted in several paid blog links to the Chrome download page.  As you all may recall, JCPenney got the ding about this time last year for something very similar – and there was a lot of conjecture around the virtual water coolers about whether Google would follow their own rules.  Well, sure enough, they gave themselves a 60-day bump on all key ranking scores.

What’s surprising?  Well, I’ll be honest – with Google Chrome hovering right at the 20% market share line, I’m surprised they punished themselves – which resulted in their #2 listing for the keyword “browser” going bye-bye.  Will they still hit that 20% mark?  Of course – but Google the Steamroller is not one to equivocate a little bit about it’s forward progress, so I’m glad to see they obeyed their own rules.

What’s not surprising?  The fact that the two biggest issues around this mess still have not been addressed.  That a) Google’s agency was using an agency to engage in this behavior, which they did by their own admission innocently, and b) that Google is really not reconsidering the rules around this behavior.

As to a), it’s vital you know who’s doing your work for you.  And it’s vital to know that they’re not going to screw it up.  As to b) it would be nice if Google would recognize that sometimes mistakes get made, and allow for some wiggle room.  The Goog should have definitely punished itself, but I’m hoping that after 60 days of banishment to that nether-region we know as “Not page One”, Google might look at their approaches around banishment and make it a little more judicious.  A lot of clients and agencies could find themselves in this situation – through no fault of their own.

It’s incredibly important that clients know who’s working on their business – both core staff and subcontractors.  They may not need to know their faces, but they need to know that a campaign to stream a video on blogs isn’t going to result in the “b” word.  Alternatively, Google needs to look at punishing itself a little bit more harshly.  While it said that its punishment to itself was harder than it would normally do, 60 days is a pretty brief window of banishment, especially when it shouldn’t be that hard to get back to the top of your own rankings.

Make Sure Your Agency is “Cheeky Fun”, Not “Mean Fun”

As a casual gamer, I like to follow the blogs and sites.  Well, how surprised was I when I logged into Kotaku and saw the story about a company that sells controllers and their cruel, mean agency.  Now, these controllers are just the type of thing avid gamers love – promising faster response times and bloodily high scores.

Well, as will happen with tech, there had been some delays, and then the delays had delays, and needless to say, with Christmas around the corner, there were probably more than a few nervous gamers wondering where their controllers cum presents were (for others and, more often, for themselves).  Well, for one poor customer, it got out of control – you can read the whole story here, but to paraphrase, an email exchange between the company’s marketing agency (who, in addition to handling partnerships, was also handling customer service), got downright rude.

Two important things to know about gamers:  They think they’re always right, and they’re very connected to the Internet.

In addition to the name-dropping and name-calling, the grammar and typing by the agency were horrible.  Next, the gaming press got cc’ed on it (part of the name-dropping), then got into it.  Then it went viral.  Then there were lots of apologies.  A lot of “aw shucks, he seemed like a nice guy” attempts at explanation by the controller company regarding their association with the one-man shop, and a tacit admission they thought the guy might be a bit beyond the pale regardless.

So what’s our lesson here?  Know who works for you, and assign them appropriately.  Not your team – the ones you see every day.  Don’t forget your agency – they are a direct extension of your company.  Know your team and trust your team.  The guy who can’t type and is really impatient with the coffee pot?  Maybe not the best guy to head up your social initiative.  The smooth talker is not always the best online communicator.  The best IMer may not translate that to the phone. While this may seem pretty obvious, it’s not applied that way.  Pay attention to red flags and don’t take stupid chances.  If it’s publicly visible, get to know the people doing the legwork on your account.  Talk to your agency leads – who are these cats, and why are they suited for my business?  It may be your agency’s staff, but it’s your business.

These were only two from a season of flubbery!  From December 23 to January 1, I counted at least four other similar escapades that had the same lesson to be learned.  So, as we slowly ramp back into work and the excitement that 2012 brings, I’ll share my resolution with everyone:  Don’t create stupid problems to have – get to know your team and realize that you may be able to fire the agency when it’s all said and done, but there may be some things that you can’t undo.

 

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