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The world is a connected place. Consumer generated media, CGM for short, is like word of mouth on steroids. Properly managed, it can enhance your image with customers and the general public, not to mention generate tremendous business for your company.  But if you fail to keep a handle on it, consumer generated media can cripple or even destroy your company.

Who Uses Consumer Generated Media?

Actually, a lot of people.  According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, about 44 percent of everyone who has used the Internet has contributed to CGM at least once. That’s easy to see when you consider that consumer generated media includes blogs, message boards, discussion forums, rating sites, and a lot of other content that your company manages or that is managed by third parties.

Establishing Outlets for Consumer Generated Media

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It’s easy for your company to set up its own consumer generated media outlets. For instance, to set up a Facebook page, all you need are a company email address, basic contact information, and your company’s logo. Set the privacy levels to public and link your Facebook page and your website together. Assign someone in your company to give responses to feedback and keep things under control. To gain credibility, register your CGM outlets with rating sits like the Better Business Bureau and Versign and coordinate everything with your company’s logo if possible.

Benefits of Positive Consumer Generated Media

People tend to trust first-hand information more than even the best advertising or in-house publicity, simply because it isn’t advertising or PR. One positive blog post or five-star review on a rating site can increase your company’s reach to hundreds, if not thousands, of potential customers at little or no cost. Monitor third-party CGM rating sites for signs of trouble, such as unresolved service problems. Deal with legitimate complaints with sincere offers to fix the problem. Then follow through. Positive feedback describing how your company made things right sends a powerful message to potential clients or customers.

Problems With Consumer Generated Media

Lack of positive consumer generated media can be almost as harmful to your company as being involved in a scandal. Web-savvy consumers or clients take it for granted that your company will have its own website, or in the case of large companies, Wikipedia entries. If there’s nothing more than that, potential customers or clients seeking a reason to use your services or buy your products may look elsewhere – for a company that comes highly recommended.

Monitoring Consumer Generated Media

Obviously, it’s easier for your company to monitor consumer generated media on its own websites and screen out objectionable content when necessary. However, don’t go overboard and censor any comment that is less than positive. Word will get around and your company and its CGM outlets will be discredited. In extreme cases, customers or other third parties may establish unofficial consumer generated media outlets in retaliation.

Even if they’re not out to stick it to your company, customers and clients may also seek out or establish their own CGM outlets. It’s difficult, but important for your company to monitor those third-party consumer generated media outlets. Google and Yahoo allow you to establish free alerts for any mention of your company on the web, with notification sent to your mailbox immediately, daily or weekly as you prefer. Someone in your company should also search periodically for your company’s name through Technorati, Twitter Search and other resources.

When Things Go Wrong

If consumer generated media starts spreading reports that your company is involved with misconduct, the effects can be toxic. If the reports are accurate, it’s essential to come clean sooner rather than later. Remember the Tylenol scare? Because the company was straight with the public, Tylenol eventually came back just as strong as ever. If the accusations are not true, it is essential for your company to proactive by providing evidence to disprove false claims.

For Further Reading

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Posted by Victoriya

Guest post contributed by Victoria on behalf of - providers of Online Reputation software. Victoria is a freelance writer and has been actively involved as a web development consultant for over a decade.

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