Tag Archives: reputational risk

A cautionary tale

This really interesting article from The Guardian was doing the rounds on social media this weekend: ‘Overnight, everything I loved was gone’: the internet shaming of Lindsey Stone.

It demonstrates how easily your internet life can be hijacked, sometimes after a single tweet posted by you or others, and how that can have potentially disastrous repercussions for your offline life.

If I were a teacher or parent of teenagers, I’d urge them to read this article. In fact I’m sure we all could benefit from taking a moment to consider what lessons we can learn from this. The fact is that the throwaway comments or ‘in jokes’ you might safely share with people you know offline can take a whole new meaning when typed out and shared with the world online. We’re all human, we all make mistakes. But the internet can be a very unforgiving place.

It also reiterates the importance of brand building, not just for companies, but for people too. And once you’ve built that brand, you need to look after and protect it. As the article sadly demonstrates, sometimes your reputation can be rubbished online in a very short space of time, and through no fault of your own. But there are also plenty of silly mistakes you can learn to avoid.

I was fascinated to read about how Lindsey Stone was being helped to repair her online reputation with the aid of content creation, designed to fool search engines into pushing the results about her earlier misdemeanour further down the rankings. And it worked – but it requires an ongoing concerted effort with content being churned out to keep repressing those stories from two years ago.

None of us wants to be in the position that Lindsey finds herself in, and I hope that she is able to genuinely move on and stop living in fear of one past mistake constantly resurfacing. For her sake and for all those other women who share her name!

But certainly I would urge you to read this article, and bear in mind what lessons we – both as individuals and as guardians of brands online –  need to learn.

The true ‘value’ of social media marketing

I was reading this post by Neville Hobson: ‘Why the C-suite don’t ‘get’ social media marketing – and how to change that’ the other day and it got me thinking.

It’s quite amazing to me that some people don’t want to accept that social media has changed the world, like it or not. People’s expectations of how companies will communicate with them have changed. Many people I know would be reluctant to use the services of a company which doesn’t have a website – and I think that this will increasingly apply to companies who have no social media presence.

As Neville Hobson says in his post, the best way to get the ‘powers that be’ to understand the value of social media is to get them on there themselves. Let them see for themselves the professional value that being on Twitter or LinkedIn can provide – as a way of networking, information gathering, profile raising, building trust. Once they understand that social media is not all about Justin Bieber and pictures of what you had for dinner, you will have their interest. Once they see how the companies and individuals they admire are using social media, they’ll start to want that for themselves and their company too.

As communications people, we have a duty to help the less social media savvy members of our organisation understand the value of social media. We flag up complaints, possible issues or negative feedback that people post about our organisation on social media. But are we as good at showcasing the positive interactions? You can understand why somebody only seeing the negative side of the picture would wonder: “why are we doing this?”

In the world of Local Government comms, we know, that when we answer a person’s question quickly, efficiently, and actually get their problem sorted out, they’re usually pleased. They’re happy that, with one tweet, they’ve managed to get their bin emptied, flytipping removed, streetlight fixed, whatever. Even the most frequent posters of complaints or issues on to a council’s social media accounts are only looking to have those issues dealt with, and when they are, usually there’ll be a “thanks”. Actually what they’re doing is being an active, engaged citizen, who cares about the place they live and likes to know that they only have to post a quick comment on Facebook, or a tweet, and that information will be passed on and dealt with. That’s pretty brilliant in anyone’s book.

Local authorities are not so worried about monetary ROI as the CEOs in Neville Hobson’s post. But of course time is precious, and everyone in the organisation wants to be sure that effort and resources are not wasted on anything which doesn’t demonstrate a true “value” of some sort.

So it’s important that when good things happen on social media, we’re sharing that with the people at the top, as well the less positive things. If we can get more of those positive examples noticed, that slightly intangible “value” of social media will start to be recognised more. It is about conversations, building relationships, and expanding customer service online into the places where our residents already are.

I’m sure there are far fewer social media sceptics at the top of organisations than there used to be – and comms has a vital role to play in helping the uninitiated understand what they’re missing out on. As for reputational risk – the risk of not using social media far outweighs the risk of doing so – it’s what your customers and stakeholders now expect of you.

It will soon be impossible to ignore the expectations of social media – if it isn’t already.