Don Draper meets Rick Santorum

This week, a couple notable things happened in the pop culture world. Both ideas can be applied to your social listening and SEO strategies.

For nearly a decade now, Senator Rick Santorum has been dogged by his “Google Problem.” It began amidst the debate around gay marriage in the US. In 2003, prominent gay rights activist Dan Savage launched a “Google-Bombing” campaign to to embarrass the then senator from Pennsylvania. As recently as 2011, Santorum asked Google to forcibly exclude these search results. Google declined, citing the purity of their search algorithm. (NOTE: Google “santorum google problem” to learn why. WARNING: The answer may be unpleasant to some.)

Well, this week, Santorum’s Presidential campaign committee is declaring they fixed that problem. While it’s true they could have done a lot to fix the problem, they really didn’t. The “problem” fixed itself through the mountains of press coverage Santorum is getting now that he’s winning delegates in the primaries. The sheer volume of web sites and blogs talking about Rick Santorum’s performance during  primary season simply displaced that other content. A few years ago, however, Santorum could have (at least partially) mitigated his “Google problem” by investing in a Google search campaign and some content marketing.

Changing the Conversation

That brings me to Don Draper, the iconic ad exec on TV’s “Mad Men.” We hear a quote in this week’s premiere, originally from season 3, “If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.”

While there’s a negative connotation here, it applies in both social listening and in search strategies. If on Twitter, conversations about your brand or products isn’t going well, do some damage control by listening to the facts and concerns, and respond appropriately. Listen to concerns and engage appropriately and positively. Don’t wage a tit-for-tat or even argue. Similarly, use a good search strategy to help share the message you want customers to hear.

Examples: Pinterest this week altered its T&Cs based on user feedback. I’ve written about rebuilding Narragansett Beer’s brand through customer interaction.

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  • It didn’t help Santorum much that the CBS show Two and a Half Men made mention of Google-ing “Santorum” last week. The first page of results still contain links back to Savage’s definition, albeit not on Savage’s page. The Santorum campaign missed out on controlling this from the get-go.

  • That’s why it’s important for someone to take control of their Google search string from the start.  Putting out that content about yourself before others do and taking control as much as you can.  It’s better for you to start the conversation before someone else does.