I know. Reputation management lessons from Charlie Sheen? It’s almost akin to getting cultural acceptance tips from Mel Gibson. But we live in a world full of surprises. One minute, a disgruntled customer or ex-employee creates a fake Twitter profile to bring our brand down; the next minute, we’re getting advice from Charlie Sheen on social media identity and brand protection.
Let’s hear him out anyway.
1. “I’m not bipolar. I’m bi-winning. I win here and I win there.”
Like Charlie said, protecting your brand across the vast social media landscape is all about bi-winning. Or multi-winning: winning here, there, everywhere. Don’t let bitter people and low-blowing competitors misrepresent your brand as something less than it really is. Get ahead of the game and anticipate where they might show up, or squat, next.
The key here is to work with a multi-prong approach, incorporating your identity – and making your mark – on as many social networks as possible (Editor’s shameless plug – use KnowEm to do that!). Sure, Facebook and Twitter are the most popular, but it’s important to plant your flags on other social networks, too. The moment the next social media darling takes off, you’re already covered. You’re already bi-winning.
2. “I’m sorry, man, but I’ve got magic. I’ve got poetry in my fingertips.”
If you’re planning on enhancing your online reputation and making your presence felt in social media, you might as well do it Charlie’s way. With poetry in your fingertips. I don’t mean going Shakespearean on everybody – but when you sit down to type your next tweet, status update, blog entry, or snippet of content, be creative. Be original. Write in a way that you know will make you stand out, that will make you retweetable, Facebook-shareable, re-bloggable, stumble-worthy, Google-Plus-One-able, thumbs-uppable. (Anything I missed?)
After all, the more viral and visible you are in social media, the better you’ll rank in search. (Yes, Google says social signals may soon begin to influence more heavily in search.) And the better you rank in search, the smaller the opening that brand thieves have for bringing you down.
3. “Fame is empowering. My mistake was that I thought I would instinctively know how to handle it. But there’s no manual, no training course.“
Well, unlike Charlie, who lives a kind of whirlwind, soap-opera life, you actually have the benefit of foresight. So don’t say there’s no manual or training course. If there really isn’t, make one. It’s useful to prepare yourself for online communications crises, misrepresentations, and worst-case scenarios.
Regardless of whether the crisis is of your own doing (hey, everyone makes mistakes once in a while) or a result of some freak on the Internet having too much time on his hands, you have to be able to know how to handle things. Come up with a policy. Assign ownership. Respond, if you do have to respond, in a timely manner. And, no matter how many social networks you’re in, make sure you don’t confuse your fans, friends, and followers by flinging out varying “official words on the matter”.
4. “Uncertainty is a sign of humility, and humility is just the ability or the willingness to learn.”
Nope, that’s not Mother Teresa talking. I swear that’s a Charlie Sheen quote. And he’s right. If you do make a mistake – a mistake that’s broadcasted and made overblown in social media, via blog comments, @mentions, unpleasant #hashtags, YouTube vlog rants, whatever – then be humble enough to own up to it. Say sorry. Address the issue straight on, explain what happened, and make amends. Most important of all, learn something from your mistake.
By acknowledging and apologizing, you’re demonstrating to the public that your brand is actually a brand that cares. Sure, some people may not be sympathetic to your crisis, but at least you’ve shown you’re not detached, or apathetic, or oblivious to whatever’s going on across your social networks. At least you’ve shown the ability to listen and learn.
5. “I’m dealing with fools and trolls and soft targets…. I don’t have time for these clowns.”
By “clowns”, Charlie means the haters. And there will be haters, especially if your brand is so awesome that other people get jealous of it. My advice? Ignore non-issues. Don’t apologize, don’t even acknowledge. Avoid blowing it up with a knee-jerk reaction.
Indeed, there will be times when a little bit of negativity might swirl around your brand on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks – even if you’ve done nothing bad. But if you’re confident enough about the honesty of the work you’ve put in, let the haters hate. And let yourself waste no time on dealing with them.
6. “Marry a tree. My other marriages didn’t work out so I’m going to marry a tree.”
I like to think that Charlie isn’t giving advice on love here. This is more like advice on domaining. And what he’s saying is, look out for opportunities to branch out. Grow that tree. Add new pages. Create sub-domains. Post fresh content. Grow many trees. Sign up for new social media profiles. Write your own Wiki at Wikispaces or Wetpaint. Secure domain variations of your brand name and website URL. Make your online identity – search and social – flourish.
Actively checking, identifying, and extending your domains is not only a great way of protecting the goodwill of your trademarks and intellectual property. It’s a neat SEO trick, too. The more branches you have under your tree, the more likely it is that search engines will trace and produce unique search results for you. And while sub-domains typically fall under the root domain, they still count as search results under your control – and not under someone else’s.
7. “But you can’t focus on things that matter if all you’ve been is asleep for forty years. Funny how sleep rhymes with sheep. You know.“
Take control. That’s what Charlie’s saying (I think). If brand thieves and social media rascals think it’s easy to misrepresent or bring down your brand, it’s probably because you haven’t been energetic enough to show that you care. Don’t let them take control. Show you’re made of Tiger Blood. Believe in the power of social. Engage actively with the people in your online community. Win over more fans and followers. Dedicate an hour or more a day doing just that. Certainly, a multi-prong stream of social activity across all your networks will discourage those who may think that they can ride on your brand and do whatever they want with it.
About the author: Chris Campbell is the Director of Online Marketing at Lakeshore Branding, a Chicago Internet marketing company that specializes in link building, content creation, reputation management, and social media consulting. You can follow him on Twitter @chrisrcampbell.