What price social media (non)management?

By Dianne Bayley

In a recent article posted on socialmediatoday.com, social media expert for CBS News and founder & president of Resonate Social Eric Harr says that, while it will be a massive growth industry in the next few years, very few companies (or people) know the art or reputation management.

Importantly, even fewer companies or brands in South Africa appear to be looking at social media – and online reputation – management as an investment, as they would marketing and advertising. Seems many are happy to hand social media over to a techie or a junior member of staff, when they wouldn’t dream of having these people in charge of their advertising campaigns.

Harr says: “You may have spent untold amounts on branding, website design and corporate communications, but these efforts pale next to the hundreds of millions of people sharing ideas and opinions in social media. They are talking in public about companies – and in doing so, they are defining brands. You need to accept this reality  – and not cavalierly disregard ‘brand management’ as a ‘nice to have’. It’s a ‘gotta have. Right now.’”

In staying current with social media trends, I spend a lot of time on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and various other platforms and I’m still amazed every time an “administrator” deletes a post they don’t like – or, better still, “unfriends” the person who made the comment. Then there are those who get defensive and fire back responses as if you’ve insulted their mothers . . . Equally damaging are the site managers who don’t respond at all.

Perhaps they’re unaware that people who make these comments and get a less-than-desirable response quickly take the conversation back to their own pages, where the social media manager no longer has any say in the conversation. As Harr suggests, there really is an art to reputation management. Not only is it all “live and online”, contentious issues may also appear in print, taking online reputation managers completely by surprise.

Holistic reputation management

Once companies, marketers and brand managers have come to realise how vital social media management is, they should determine whether to outsource or employ an experienced individual. For SMEs, outsourcing is far less costly, given the type of salary a full-time social media/reputation manager will command. Remember, you’re looking for someone with internet, social media, marketing and people skills – and preferably with contacts in the media, as well as a backup reputation management specialist to handle any offline issues that may occur.

Promoting and protecting your brand has become an exercise in engaging, listening and responding, rather than disseminating information or selling. Social media is about conversations with people, not at them. It’s also an incredible opportunity to stand “at the watercooler” and hear exactly what is being said about you. It may not be comfortable, but it beats having customers (or potential customers) saying these things behind your back – and one day finding your brand is losing market share because enough social media users have spread the word . . .

As Harr says: “Companies invest thousands, millions, even tens of millions of dollars -and untold hours – building precious brand equity and erecting a beautiful brand image. And, it can be unravelled online in hours. Very few people, or companies, know the art of reputation management.”

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