Unless you have limitless resources or clever ways to automate what you do, chances are you're feeling spread pretty thinly across all the demands of incoming and outgoing social media.
I mean, most of us have always been good at hopping from one activity to the next; now we’re multi-tasking at a maniacal rate as we try to ride the social media wave rather than being dumped in the swirling whitewash of tweets, posts, comments, shares.. the list goes on.
Whether you’re a sole entrepreneur or work for big business or government, the challenges of the digital age throw up similar stresses. Rather than drowning in the deluge, it’s important to step back and consider the over-arching outcome of your social media activity (apart from getting a kick out of that cute video of the dog playing the piano).
We’re in the Reputation Economy, where people are more likely to form and pass on an opinion about your business or organisation based on what they’ve heard from others (and by “heard” you can include everything they see on social media), than on the goods or services you actually deliver. Those perceptions all morph together – along with every experience your customers and others have ever had of you – to form your reputation.
What “others say to others” about you is all-important – but guess what? You can’t control that. You can, however, influence it – through what you say about your business, and how people directly experience your organisation.
Many business and organisations have embarked on a frenzy of social media activity – and they’re really good at it – but somehow have forgotten their reputation commands a balanced diet; all their words and actions count, not only those in the digital space.
Let’s get some balance back by focusing on key actions to influence positive reputation:
- Be really clear on what your business stands for, and talk about it consistently. I recently asked the audience at a business workshop to share about the “essence” of their brand; the one thing they are really known for, the element people most closely associate with them. Many in the room found this a challenge. And that’s a huge issue for businesses in the Reputation Economy. Rather than posting and commenting for the sake of being seen, know first what you stand for – and select specific opportunities to talk and engage people about that.
- Enable your team to be reputation ambassadors. Every member of your team (including contractors, mentors and volunteer help) is all-powerful in influencing others to form a positive or negative impression of your business. Before you launch into that next social media platform, consider giving everyone in your business the skills they need to truly be your ambassador. Do they know what you stand for? Do they communicate well with customers and others important to your organisation, every time they interact? Can they write so clearly that their reader gets the message first time and feels a connection with your organisation? If not, it’s time to make that an area of focus.
- Harness third party opinions. Marketing and advertising can do great things, but the world is increasingly cynical. In Australia, a 2014 study* showed we’re evenly divided when it comes to those who believe what companies say in their marketing and those who don’t – but a massive 60% are on the fence. US results were similar. Other research shows the rise of the ordinary person as a key influencer in our decisions – you only need to look at the proliferation of review sites to see that. So, rather than you talking about how great you are, find a way of getting others in your network to express that, and make those views known across all your communications. If you’ve had some positive media coverage, don’t just treat it as a one-off event. Use that media story – whether it’s a clipping, a link to a radio podcast, a TV interview or an online publication – to show the world that an outside party has singled out your business for positive attention.
Actively influencing your reputation can bring great benefits, yet many of us are swirling in the social media wash rather than strategically charting a course across the water to build reputation capital. Leaders of some of the world’s most reputable businesses* cite competitive differentiation, the ability to attract and keep top talent, more effective crisis management, and ability to charge a premium as some of the key indicators of the benefits of a positive reputation.
Now, they sound like benefits worth striving for. Let’s reclaim the balance and focus on what we say and do – in person as well as online.
*Reputation Institute, RepTrak 100, A Reputation Study with Consumers in 15 Countries