Using Social Network Sites To Your Advantage

Social network sites and tools can be a company’s worst nightmare or best friend depending on how you monitor and use the information.  It’s amazing to think sites like Twitter can report news quicker that the BBC or CNN, but its not a surprise if you understand how and why it works.  Take an Ipod for example, why have they done so well, it’s down to usability and accessibility, its so easy to find, purchase and download the music and transfer it from pc to ipod.  Are Ipods the best MP3 players on the market? Probably not, they have lots of limitation like you can’t transfer music downloaded from Ipod to other types of MP3 players. 

Sites like Twitter have applications available on Iphones and Blackberrys which allow anybody to twitter instantly to the net, effectively making anybody a journalist.  So when something happens the chances are someone with a phone will be there to witness it and Tweet it.

So how can a company use this to protect their reputation online, well the first lesson in sales is to be able to turn negatives, if you don’t know what those negatives are how can you address them?  Social network sites allow you to see what people are saying about your company and therefore helping you plan how you want to deal with any damaging issues that could be rising.   Have this is information quickly is critical know what to do with it though is just as important.  That’s where reputation management foresight comes into play.

There are only 10 spots on the front page of the search engines (ignoring adwords and local search results), so that’s like having 10 shop fronts on a high street, how much of that high street do you own or influence is the key to what the customers are going to see about your company.  Having negative comments about your company  can actually be a healthy thing and attract more sales if you can prove you have listen to your customers and made changes or addressed specific issues.  Where it can hurt is when there is no balance to the negative comments, or where it gets personal, and becomes slagging match. Customers are not stupid they know that any company cannot keep every customer happy, so seeing both positive and negative comments quite often are a good thing.  I remember talking to one person about Tripadvisor and he said he only looks the comments if there are a lot of them as they tend to be more balanced and give you a better picture.

So the goal for any company who is serious about reputation management online is to make sure you own more than 10% of the search engine high street and listen, learn and respond to negative and positive feedback from social networking sites otherwise it can hurt you.

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What is Reputation Management?

What is Reputation Management? - I often get asked this question when people ask what I do.

There are two sides to reputation management:


  1. Monitoring what people are saying
  2. Controlling what people see

Monitoring what people say

How often have you had a meal at a restaurant and thought the food was not up to standard, but when the waiter asks how your meal was you say "great thanks".  You leave the restaurant vowing never to eat there again and at the same time the restaurant manager thinks you're a happy customer who will come back again.  Sound familiar?  The Internet is a great way to judge what people think of a particular service or product.  People tend to be more honest, the only downside is you are more likely to get negative feedback rather than positive ones as people who have received a very good service very rarely write about it where people who have received a bad service will tell everyone and also write about it.

Controlling what people see


If you can control what people will read this will help manage your reputation online and also help with damage limitation.  Damage limitation as you may have guessed is about dealing with negative results on the Internet and reducing the damage it can do to a individual or company.

Imagine if a journalist writes negatively about your product and the article he has written does better in the search engine than your own company website. What if you are a celebrity and you have a very personal court case going on and the last thing you want is it showing up in the search results for your name. helps to take the sting and quite often prevent such negative results staying around the first pages of the search engine and limiting the damage that could have been caused.

What are the steps to reputation management?

  1. The first step is to see what the actual negative content is and does it have any truth, is it someones opinion or is it a lie or libelous? If it is then hopefully the website can be force to take it down quite quickly.
  2. Start a strategy to start pushing out positive content about the company or individual.
  3. Monitor the results and improve.
  4. Implement measure to stop negative content reaching or staying long on the first page of the search engines.
Depending on the severity of negative content and the key phrases that need protecting will determine how much work and costs are involved. To date we have not lost one client which I think speaks volumes of our Reputation Management service. If you need help please get in touch, all conversations and email are treated in complete confidence.

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Reputation - your core asset

Everybody and everything in the human world has a reputation - like it or not. Not every company has a brand - but all companies have a reputation, good or bad.

However, not every company manages or worries about their reputation consciously - even though most corporate actions take at least some account of reputation. Whilst large companies have brand architectures (and many other brand models), very few have sophisticated tools for managing their reputations.

This is strange as the reputation of a company is its most important asset. Nothing is more fleeting or more priceless than a good reputation.

When companies plan to develop a reputation management programme they must move from talking the talk to talking in a conversation. Brand management and public relations is very much about the Talk. Reputation management is about being in conversation - that means listening and talking. For it to be effective you need to shape the conversation, but you also have to realise that these conversations can go awry ( think crisis for example).

As Alan Greenspan commented in 1999, "in today's world, where ideas are increasingly displacing the physical in the production of economic value, competition for reputation becomes a significant driving force, propelling our economy forward. Manufactured goods often can be evaluated before the completion of a transaction. Service providers, on the other hand, usually can offer only their reputations."

Although many factors influence reputation, the most important and intangible of factors is that strange emotional bond between customer and its stakeholders. Second comes the behaviour and standing of the CEO. Burston-Marsteller's 2003 survey suggested more than 50% of a company's reputation was attributable to the CEO; as they pointed out, the CEO is the brand's chief storyteller "who knits together the company's past, present and future."

Before Enron, the accountancy profession considered how reputation  might be factored into the balance sheet and in some ways the term "goodwill" is an expression for reputation. However, goodwill is just an explanation of the gap between assets and capital - the intangibles. The credit crunch has shown just how truly intangible this goodwill is or can be. Accountants recognised that reputation needed to be recognised and valued, but their tools do not provide the accuracy to truly measure and assess "goodwill". There have been numerous other examples of companies with strong reputations falling from grace - and their reputation being revealed for being a mirage.  Ahold, the Dutch supermarket chain was ranked number 1 in Europe for reputation by Harris Interactive before news of an accounting investigation for fraud surfaced.

It is clear the reputation is not always true - but it is also fragile.

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What is Reputation?

Many companies struggle with the concept of reputation. They are drawn first of all to internal manifestations of reputation and in practice expend their energy on internal perceptions of reputation at the expense of external and holistic viewpoints.

Reputation is a social and external convention.

In other words reputation is what others think of you and not what you think about yourself. Most companies have a tendency to see their reputation as what they say about themselves. Reputation is based upon:

  1. external perceptions of you
  2. external conceptions of you
  3. the behaviours that give rise to those perceptions
  4. how people are reporting their perceptions and conceptions.

Traditional treatments or corporate reputations recognised that reputation management related to an organisation's social context but then suggested that alignment of communication with business objectives was the driver for effective reputation management.

Organisations rarely have a single reputation, but rather enjoy different reputations with different stakeholder clusters. Your reputation among employees is different to that of your customers or suppliers. Managing reputation amongst many of those stakeholder groups can be relatively well scoped, the management of reputation to the wider community of customers or prospective customer is growing in importance as they becoming increasingly drivers of opinion and within the business of strategy.

Reputations are now formed and sustained as much in Twitter or Facebook as they are in press releases or the public affairs department.


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