Leaders often ask how they can protect their organization's reputation in the face of potentially damaging comments on social media.
They’re keen to find a magic wand to make any adverse posts go away, fearing one outburst on social media will destroy their reputation overnight.
There’s no doubt that what others say about you matters in today’s reputation-driven economy. It’s also important to keep those comments in perspective.
“Reputation” is an intriguing thing. You can’t control it, because it’s made up of everyone else’s collective perception of you and your organization. You can, however, influence it by who you are inside, what you do and what you say.
Will a long-held positive reputation be demolished by one Facebook flare-up? It’s highly unlikely. Reputation Institute researchers Colleoni and Tesoro-Tess, in The Myths & Realities of Social Media (Reputation Institute, Measurement and Management News on Reputation, September 2015), say there’s plenty of research to show that a positive reputation has staying power. “Social media alone cannot destroy in a day the work done over years,” they write.
They also dismiss the view that a business can build a solid reputation through online strategies alone. Highly reputable organizations have become that way through their long-term behaviour which, in turn, is reflected in the way they interact with others on social media.
It’s no surprise that reputable companies tend to be more authentic and transparent. Those with poor reputations are likely to view social media as high-risk and be less inclined to openly discuss their actions, further fuelling the fire of commenting frenzies. “Building a strong social media reputation is inevitably linked to having a strong reputation offline,” say Colleoni and Tesora-Tess.
So, what are the keys to influencing a healthy reputation – topping up your “reputation reservoir”, as some have described it?
Think of your reputation as being made up of three parts:
- What you believe, project and say about yourself
- How others actually experience you
- What others say to others about you
Number 3 is largely beyond your control, but you play a big part in shaping the results of 1 and 2 – which in turn influence the outcome of 3.
Whether on an individual or organizational level, are you clear on what you stand for, and are your positive intentions clearly and consistently conveyed in your words and behaviour? Are you completely me-focused in your dealings with others, or do you consider their needs, experiences and feelings?
Every interaction is a building block to your reputation – whether good or not-so-good.
Rather than worrying about swatting away the pesky flies of negative social media, your time is better spent concentrating on the long-term health of your overall reputation.
Be great in every sense, and that’s what you’ll be known for.