The Impact of the Web and Social Media on Your Company’s Reputation

Whether we like it or not, the web and Social Media can have a dramatic impact on your company’s reputation. The impact is measured in speed and in volume. On-line technology has enabled everyone who has access to a computer and the Internet to express an opinion-right or wrong, positive or negative, fair or unfair.

The old adage was “do something right and the customer will tell 5 people; do something wrong and they will tell 10.” Today you can put a lot more zeros after each of those numbers, especially the 10. An organization’s reputation has always been based on its integrity, its ability to deliver what it promises and the consistency with which it deals with the world. Large companies have had public relations professionals whose job it was to protect the firm’s reputation and to try to shape the way it was reported on in the media.

Today the time between an event, especially a negative one, and opinions expressed publicly about it can be as little as nanoseconds. So, on one hand the skills needed to protect a company’s reputation are different than those needed in the past. Websites and Social media have opened new pathways for companies to reach out to customers and prospects to inform them, reinforce relationships and to deliver goods and services. They enable companies to quickly gather information on how they are doing in customer satisfaction, to rectify problems and to improve processes.

But here we reach the proverbial two-horned dilemma: in many companies, the speed of the arrival of information on which action must be taken and the volume of that information creates work that cannot be added to people who are responsible for other things. A whole new class of careers and jobs is being created under our noses. Call the job On-Line Reputation Manager or Chief Digital Communications Executive; the job needs to be filled. Here’s the second part of the dilemma: in many cases the people who understand the need for the job to be done are often not very proficient in the use of the technological tools to do it. And, the people who have the technological skills to use the tools may not be experienced enough in the business to do it properly.

So what is the solution? One idea is to pair a seasoned executive with a whiz with the tools and have them learn from each other what must go into the overall tasks. Each “twin” will have to accept the other and what set of strengths each brings to the pairing. The “twin” could be another employee or an outsourced resource like a webologist-someone with the technological and business background to have experience in using the tools successfully.

Principles that have always worked in good messaging still carry into this new world-good clear writing, language pertinent to the understanding of the audience, the right message in the right media. And finally the really scary part is how fast things change in this new world: how different is your website strategy from what it was 2 years ago? How different is Google from what it was a year ago? How can the active management of all this change drive your business to where you want it to be?