by Ron Daly
With all the talk about growing your brand these days, managing reputation risk is becoming more important. Imagine there was a clause in the lease or deed of your branch that allowed someone to buy it out from under you and completely replace you. In minutes, your branch is gutted and replaced with a chop shop. Customers coming in to handle their business are baffled - the sign and location are the same, but why are these guys stealing our hubcaps?
In real life, such incidents are unlikely. On the Internet, however, it can and does happen. Organizations and businesses let their URLs and domains lapse and they're snapped up by disreputable businesses and spammers. The Financial Brand pointed to a perfect example of how NOT to manage your online presence(s) in this recent post. TIAA-CREF let the domain rights to one of their special micro-sites lapse and the domain was bought out from under them by...well, just go read their article. It'll stun you.
We've seen similar issues arise with folks who switch Twitter names or Facebook pages. They make the switch, a spammer takes over their old name and starts spamming their followers. It's remarkably easy to lose control of your domain names and your social media accounts. What's worse, the fact that the management of these accounts and URLs is inexpensive relative to how much it can cost you in customer dissatisfaction.
I'm going to be very direct and lay it all out there for you: you need to have the day your URLs expire very clearly marked. The same is true of your hosting - one of the worst things is a site pulled down for non-payment simply because a check wasn't mailed or a credit card number changed. Your webmaster(s) should stay on top of these issues and should be able to tell you, on demand, when your renewal dates are.
How do you avoid the TIAA-CREF issue the Financial Brand discussed in their post? One FB commenter has the right idea:
In some cases, maybe it would be better to create a page on your website, instead of creating a separate microsite with its own unrelated URL, for a temporary promotion.
Sane advice. A special domain for a special promotion can be effective, but you need to treat it with the same care as you would your day-to-day customer-facing website.
Go find out when you need to renew your domains today. You'll be glad you did tomorrow.