When Network Solutions discovered that 60 percent of online discussion about its services was negative and based on outdated information, the company turned to CRT/tanaka’s social media team for help improving its online reputation. CRT/tanaka advised the Web, domain and business services provider to improve its negative reputation by bridging the communications gap between itself and its net-savvy audience. The agency developed and implemented a “Voice of the Customer” campaign to help Network Solutions demonstrate that it was human, accessible and committed to resolving customer issues by proactively participating in online and offline events and discussions important to its stakeholders. Activities included: revising editorial content for the company’s “Solutions Are Power” blog; participating in social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Dzone; and using social media to recruit attendees for live customer outreach events.
As a result, Network Solutions saw a significant rise in positive discussion about the company, indicating improvement in its online reputation even to the point that the community now often rises to defend the company. The “Voice of the Customer” campaign won a prestigious “Gold Quill” award from the International Association of Business Communicators as well as an award from the Society for New Communications Research.
THE VOICE OF THE CUSTOMER
Once the sole provider of domain names on the Internet, Network Solutions now competes in a crowded marketplace. And while the company still manages more than 7 million domain names, it also manages more than 1.5 million e-mailboxes and more than 350,000 Web sites and provides a wide variety of additional services for small businesses. Still, many people think of the company as a monopolistic domain provider and are not aware of its many new and value-added service offerings.
Network Solutions found itself in an era where the voice of individuals, with their opinions and grievances, had been empowered by technology such as blogs, podcasts, online video and other online publishing platforms. As a result, approximately 60 percent of the company’s social media conversations were negative. But much of the online conversation about Network Solutions was based on outdated information. The company, in fact, had excellent customer service.
When Roy Dunbar took over as CEO of Network Solutions in 2008, he put a premium on communicating more clearly and openly with stakeholders, viewing social media outreach as a natural outcrop of the company’s customer service philosophy. To help the company successfully join the conversation and improve its online reputation, Network Solutions turned to the social media experts at CRT/tanaka.
Small business owners, Web designers and Web developers are Network Solutions’ primary stakeholders, and CRT/tanaka knew that building a bridge with this net-savvy audience was the key to improving the company’s negative reputation. But this stakeholder community had a lingering negative perception of the company, and to accomplish its goals Network Solutions needed to demonstrate that it was human, accessible, committed to resolving issues and trying to affect change. This would be the primary strategy to diffuse negative commenting and begin new conversations, both of which were vital to the company’s long-term health.
CRT/tanaka’s strategy for Network Solutions included proactively and publicly participating in important community events, both on and offline. Online participation included revising editorial content for the company’s “Solutions Are Power” blog, participating in social networks and forums like Twitter, Facebook and Dzone, and actively monitoring comments and conversations. The company enacted a policy to comment on posts within 24 hours, but preferably within four hours. When responding in forums and blogs, Network Solutions focused on delivering substantive comments by well-identified representatives of the company, and complaints were recorded in a Voice of the Customer Web site to facilitate future product development.
Offline, Network Solutions regularly hosted live social events in cities such as Atlanta, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., featuring content that would help small businesses grow. Attendees were recruited online via social media channels, and Network Solutions’ staff also attended top social media events throughout the year. In addition, the company conducted a blogger outreach tour and hosted the Solutions Stars Video Event, which garnered more than 70 blog posts, 700 tweets and attracted 5,000 visitors.
- In the last half of 2008, Network Solutions saw a significant rise in positive discussion about the company, indicating improvement in the company’s online reputation.
- Relationships and the company’s brand image have improved to the point that the community now often rises to defend Network Solutions.
- Negative tweets and posts continue to turn into publicly positive outcomes every day.
- In an ongoing effort to enhance its brand, Network Solutions is currently working to address and improve aspects of its products and services that have elicited complaints from consumers.
- The campaign won a prestigious Gold Quill award from the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), as well as a Society for New Communications Research award.