Social media is everywhere, in many forms. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogs, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, Flickr and on and on, with new creations coming along quite often.
And people are usually exposed to more than one social media channel, even if they don’t know it. For example, you may be on Facebook and that’s it. But while on Facebook you are watching videos hosted on YouTube, reading blogs hosted on WordPress, looking at photos from Flickr or Pinterest and seeing people’s Tweets they link to Facebook. And the link you share on Facebook can be shared by others across all their social media channels.
And any company concerned about corporate reputation needs to be on all these channels. Because, if ta person is only getting their news and information via Facebook, and none of their friends is sharing your company’s social media actions on other channels, then your company can’t reach that person directly unless they establish a presence on that person’s social media channel of choice.
And, that is the beauty of social media. It allows a direct connection to the consumer, in an environment they already play in. And it allows a company to make sure information is easily shareable by members of the traditional and non-traditional media, and by everyone else as well.
My overall social media strategy is simple. Join the conversation. Engage. Talk about your company, your industry, your customers, news, issues, all of it. And do it in a way that humanizes your company. Because, after all, your company is the people who support your values and your vision every day.
And it’s important that you, as a company, join the conversation, because the conversation is taking place with or without you. And it’s a conversation that has a permanent record, and a conversation that directly impacts your company’s reputation.
But for a free technology, where everyone is already playing, it has a high cost to it. It requires effort and focus and strategy and transparency and connectivity and wisdom. And this planning and strategizing costs money and time. But it’s an investment that every company should be making.
Deciding which “room” to enter, and which conversations to take part in when you are in that room, takes analysis. You can’t talk to everyone. You can’t answer every individual question. But you can do your best. And you can sit down and really think through and strategize where you need to be and who you need to talk to.
In the US, that might be Facebook or Twitter. In Brazil, it might be Orkut. In China, it might be Renren. But you don’t know until you sit down and think things through.
Now, you may wonder why a company should be concerned about online reputation. Well, in my opinion, for very good reasons.
First, if someone today wants to know about a company, they search online. That first page of Google is more important to your company’s reputation than your entire company website.
Second, many of your customers around the world spend all day online. Whether in the office, at home or via a mobil device, they engage on Twitter, share things on Facebook and read news and information from all over the world.
Third, everyone else is online also. Regulators, government officials, reporters, NGOs, activists, concerned parents, and on and on.
I would contend that the online reputation of a company directly impacts the company’s freedom to operate, and it is important to keep that reputation solid or to work to bring that online reputation back in line with reality when it does not reflect what is actual or what is true.
Social media is global, and every company needs to be a part of the global conversation.
And this extends to your personal brand as well. The same rule holds true for you when it comes to people wanting to know more about you. They Google you. They check your Linkedin profile. They see what you post on Facebook or Twitter. You need to take as much care with your personal brand as you would if you were responsible for the online reputation of a large multinational corporation. Especially with the Library of Congress archiving every public tweet ever sent. 20 years from now, your rant on Twitter will still be there. Available to be searched. Impacting your life.
Another key factor to utilize online when developing content in support of a company’s online reputation is a collaborative model between channels.
Videos on YouTube should be featured on Facebook, tweeted on Twitter, and covered in article form on a blog. Basically, everything you produce should be re-used in relevant ways in other online channels.
This will allow you to maximize the impact of the content, while dealing with limited resources, and ensure you have consistent messages regardless of where someone is connecting to you. And if you are part of a matrixed organization, coordination with the other groups in your company who are active online is also absolutely essential.
So, why is social media important? Because your company’s reputation, and your personal reputation, is built or destroyed online today. Your Google results are the first impression you leave with a potential customer, client or employer. Your social media presence, and what others say about you there, impacts everyone’s perception of you.
And, as we all know in PR, perception is reality.