Reputation Managementin the era of social media
“Organisations have to engage with their usersand cannot shield negative comment anylonger. [If you] don’t engage you get ...
Contents Executive Summary                                     2 Introduction                                          3 W...
ryExec utive Summa The companies at the forefront of digital media are also leading the way with their use of social media...
Introduction Influence today is more widely dispersed, faster evolving and ever more connected. Digital technologies have ...
sThe Finding                                                                       The benefits of social media as a way o...
Veremis reiterated that these ‘naked conversations’ are not              as a business. The era in which any organisation ...
Establish clear goals       100%                                                                        Nearly two thirds ...
Social media in contextAll of our leaders are keen advocates of social media as part of abusiness communications and reput...
Relevant and credible?100%90%       93.3%80%70%60%50%40%30%20%10%0%               Yo                                 Wi   ...
The disconnect between relevance and credibility on Facebook                                                            a ...
present at least an opportunity to put out our version of the truth. Digital Gatekeepers                                  ...
monitoring is quite crucial. Whereas in the field of traditionalmedia monitoring, we (as an agency) seldom have to work ou...
13.3%       Blind spots                                                                                                   ...
About a fifth of respondents felt that there were ongoing social          Of course today’s search results contain more th...
Conclusions Our short survey of some of the leading exponents of digital            The vanguard is now making strategic a...
Digital leaders are also wise enough to recognise and acknowledgewhere traditional approaches are still more influential. ...
MHP Communications,60 Great Portland St, London W1W 7RT tel: 020 3128 8100
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Reputation management in the era of social media

  1. 1. Reputation Managementin the era of social media
  2. 2. “Organisations have to engage with their usersand cannot shield negative comment anylonger. [If you] don’t engage you get slaggedoff; [if you] do engage and you get slagged offbut you can at least defend yourself!”
  3. 3. Contents Executive Summary 2 Introduction 3 What do digital media leaders do with social media? 4 Social media in context 7 Mapping where influence lies 9 Digital Gatekeeper 10 Blind spots 12 Conclusions 14 1
  4. 4. ryExec utive Summa The companies at the forefront of digital media are also leading the way with their use of social media. Our research shows that for the vast majority – over 80 per cent – not only is social media a key element in their communications mix, but it is playing a significant role in other areas from sales to customer service. For many there is no longer a choice as to whether to use social media or not – it is simply the hygiene factor that gets them through the door in conducting their business. But, they also recognise that it is not the whole answer. Traditional important. However, the lack of agreed or widely used methods to broadcast and national print media are still seen as the biggest monitor and rate this could lead to developing blind spots, missed drivers of reputation, although trade press has fallen behind opportunities and risks as opinion, rumour and conversations influential blogs in this respect. The power of the buzz from social impact reputation. media on reputation and sales is also well recognised. The role of communications agencies is already intrinsic to Many regard several social media platforms as already essential to managing reputation in the social media environment, with several their businesses, with more agreeing that this will be the case in organisations relying on PR agencies to monitor, inform and engage the next 12 months. However, they are cautious on the credibility with social media. This white paper outlines a continuing and of some of the information shared in these forums. Monitoring, growing role for proactive management of reputation with social establishing influence and tracking how information transitions media as the context and the channel for engagement. across the digital and offline media, is acknowledged to be2
  5. 5. Introduction Influence today is more widely dispersed, faster evolving and ever more connected. Digital technologies have helped consumers, communities, pressure groups and even individuals organise themselves and get their voices heard. This digital media revolution is fostering a more open and transparent world in which communication of views from all segments of the population is exploding. However, there are also risks as ‘un-mediated’ conversations where emotion, personal opinion and personal agendas can be imposed without the need for balance, fact or reference to a wider picture. The world of contested communications is one where drivers for other organisations that are perhaps not so advanced in their of reputation are harder to identify and reach, and increasingly digital integration. challenging to influence let alone manage. This is an issue for all organisations but what about the companies that exist solely in this We asked the shortlisted organisations to complete a short space, the digital media businesses themselves? Are they driving questionnaire using the online SurveyMonkey tool. The the revolution or are they just as much at its mercy? How do they questionnaire covered a range of issues from personal use of social view the role of these emerging platforms and influencers? Are media, to corporate goals related to its use; from relevance and they ahead of the game in engaging with them? How do they rank credibility of different social media platforms to relative importance digital influence against the traditional opinion shapers of mass of profile in traditional and emerging media. media, government and the City? We also engaged five of the respondents in deeper interview- By investigating the attitudes and approaches of the next generation based questioning designed to unearth anecdotes and personal of digital media companies – those which can reasonably be seen as viewpoints that illustrate the core data. at the cutting edge of the ongoing digital explosion, this white paper seeks to answer some of these questions. We also hope draw a new Although the survey samples are small, and we don’t claim any map of influence for the digital world and provide organisations of statistical robustness for the data, we do believe that the profile and all types with a way to navigate it and decide how, where and when position of our respondents as leaders in highly relevant businesses to target the various reputation shapers. Finally, it will look at the at the cutting edge of the digital economy makes their views and fundamental aspects that must be right and work across all channels insights interesting and a useful guide for others as they deal with the to ensure a consistent and unified view of an organisation, or an issues of managing reputation in a world of contested social media. individual, no matter which audience or which channel. MHP Communications is a proud sponsor of the Media Momentum awards created by GP Bullhound. These annual awards celebrate the most successful high-growth and emerging digital media companies in Europe. The shortlisted companies include some that are household names and some that are quickly emerging as the next generation of leaders. The shortlist includes innovative online consumer services such as, Wonga and Skrill/ Moneybookers, cutting-edge digital media agencies including Adconion and InSkin Media, mobile marketing firm Upstream, web and mobile digital video leaders Orcadigital, and online music company As part of our support for these awards MHP has used its access to the shortlisted companies to survey their approaches and opinions on the use of digital and social media channels as reputation management tools. Our thinking is that the insights from these digital leaders will not only shed light on some of the key trends in the space, but will also help create some guidelines 3
  6. 6. sThe Finding The benefits of social media as a way of both communicating with What do digital media leaders do and, perhaps more importantly, listening to, consumers and other with social media? stakeholders in your business are both quite apparent and well documented. What is clear is that for those in the vanguard social For the purposes of our research and this white paper we’ve media is just a normal part of the daily communications mix. As used a generalised description of social media that encompasses Marco Veremis, president and founder of Upstream, commented: user-generated content such as Wikipedia, blogs, YouTube, Flickr etc, communications and community services such as Twitter, “It is definitely becoming more and more important Facebook, LinkedIn etc, location-based services like Foursquare, and I suspect it will probably become entirely and crowd-sourced answers sites such as Quora. Whilst this is by no means an exhaustive list it does represent the main areas of social dominant. In an environment where yesterday’s media interaction, and provides recognised examples of each. news is old news, it’s the most appropriate channel 100% to get out your message fast and make sure it proliferates faster than any ‘engineered’ form of 90% 83.3% news dissemination.“ 80% 70% What is interesting is that although the intense level of 61.1% engagement was welcomed and seen as driving more honest and 60% open relationships, commentators also recognised the challenges 50% and the stresses this brought. As Will Neale, founder and CEO of Orcadigital, commented: 40% 30% 22.2% 27.8% “Organisations have to engage with their users 20% and cannot shield negative comment any longer. 11.1% 10% [If you] don’t engage you get slagged off; [if you] 0% do engage and you get slagged off but you can at least defend yourself!” Ke out w Cu Co Ot Sa ab ep he pu les sto mm a ing hats rs blic me un tion my ha rs ica s rel se ppe erv tio lf u ni ns ice pd ng an ate d d Q. What do you use social media for as a business? The first notable finding of our research is that whilst a significant majority of our leaders (over 80%) use social media for communications and public relations and over half (61%) to keep themselves updated, there are a number of other uses that are establishing themselves among this group. Just under a third (28%) report that they are now using social media directly for sales and a quarter are using it for customer service. We believe that this is a significant development that other organisations should take heed of.4
  7. 7. Veremis reiterated that these ‘naked conversations’ are not as a business. The era in which any organisation can hope thatnecessarily comfortable for all organisations: consumers or other stakeholders will ‘not find out’ is well and truly over.It [social media] drives transparency and exposes With this in mind it is imperative that all staff with access to socialartificial or less than 100 per cent truthful claims. media (which means all staff) are trained and at least aware ofMaybe this is not yet visible in all industry the impact that their posts, tweets, updates etc can have on thesectors, but it is moving towards that direction corporate reputation. Corporate social media policies, whilst difficult to enforce, should have a role in at least setting out thefast. In the same way that a poor 5 star hotel is parameters and guidelines as well as identifying the risks andinstantly exposed through Trip Advisor, so a listed potential consequences of ill-considered that is less than accurate in its claims However, our view, built on the insights of the Media Momentumand eventually private companies as well will be shortlist, is that establishing a social media policy is just one tacticalexposed. In this perfectly transparent environment response. To really make the most of social media, as well aswith open feedback from any source it pays to minimising the risks to reputation, organisations should establish the strategic goals which they hope to attain using social media. Iffollow Polonius’ advice: ‘This above all: to thine social media is left to ‘just happen’ then the chances are that it willown self be true’. Quite a challenging shift of remain unfocused and difficult to manage. Organisations that havephilosophy for most organizations accustomed to clear, established reasons to interact with specific audiences via social media are more likely to see real benefits.years of ‘dressing up’ themselves in line with their‘target audience’.So, if as it seems, embracing social media as a communicationschannel at the heart of the business, and one which is drivingtransparency, our research shows that the leaders are already takingit to the next level of engagement: using social media as a way ofacting upon this information. Whether this is a reaction – usingsocial media channels to respond to customer service issues (22%doing), or as a proactive method to create sales (28%), organisationsneed to consider who within their businesses should be using it.Larger organisations, especially those with mass-market consumersare already formally allying social media with their customer servicefunctions. Not only does it provide a cost effective route to identifycustomer issues, but, if done well, can turn potentially negativeconsumer comments into positive buzz around responsiveness andcommitment to finding solutions. It goes without saying that takingthis step can only be reputation enhancing if the commitment tobetter service and responding to customers positively is real.One of the themes that consistently played out through ourresearch, particularly in the interviews, is the need to betransparent and authentic in all that you do – both in socialmedia, but more fundamentally in all your operations and values 5
  8. 8. Establish clear goals 100% Nearly two thirds of our survey (58%) said that they used social media for both personal and business ends, with much lower 90% 84.2% percentages using only for personal (10%) or only for business 80% (16%). However, the lines between the two are blurring. Some said 70% that they used different platforms for different parts of their life, most commonly typified by LinkedIn for business and Facebook for 60% 57.9% ‘personal’, but as one commentator noted, it’s quite easy to connect 50% 52.6% the dots on these: 47.4% 47.4% 40% “A Google search on a particular individual reveals 30% on the same page their corporate profile, their 20% 15.8% LinkedIn info as well as Facebook and Twitter - and 10% 5.3% increasingly all will merge in a single interface. It 0% can be very uncomfortable for many executives who naturally will try to be less open about their Att Dr d pro Ge Bu stom Ha ecific Cr rtner Att rac ive sp ea s an cu sp pa ild ers rac ve ne te t fu ral aw sa ect no als t ta personal profile and focus more on their corporate vis ly r nd les s te are and len ibil ing go sta ais wit ne pro t ity ep blis ss sp hc profile and reveal only the personal aspects that wit rof wit ect he us h ile d tom h ers seem compatible or acceptable.” sQ. What are your goals from using social media: what do youwant to achieve for you/your organisation? - Marco Veremis, President and Founder, UpstreamThe overwhelming majority of the Media Momentum leaders(95%) have clearly established goals for their use of social media.The actual goals varied from building awareness with customersand prospects (84% indicated this was a goal) to attracting newtalent (listed by 47%). What is important in our opinion is that theseorganisations have taken the time to think about what they wantto achieve, have identified distinct objectives and then used these toshape their approach to social media. For both personal and business use For my business It depends on which social media platform For personal use 57.9% 15.8% 15.8% 10.5% Q. In what capacity do you most frequently use social media?6
  9. 9. Social media in contextAll of our leaders are keen advocates of social media as part of abusiness communications and reputation management strategy.However, not all social media is created equal in their eyes. Wewanted to investigate how important specific sites are, and alsohow much they trusted the information they found there. We alsowanted to see how well social media stacked up against ‘traditional’media as a driver of reputation for their organisations.100%90% 93.3%80%70%60%50%40%30%20%10%0% Yo Wi Qu Tw Lin Fa Fo u kip ce urs it Tu ora ke ter bo din b ed qu e ok ia are Essential Relevant Not very relevant Irrelevant Don’t know/have not heard ofQ. How relevant do you feel the following are to your business?The good news for LinkedIn as it looks to an IPO is that 43 per centof our leaders felt that it was already essential to their business,with a further 50 per cent feeling that it was relevant. Facebook – asnoted above, often seen as the ‘personal’ social network for ‘friendsand family’ rather than business was nevertheless still seen asessential by 18 per cent of respondents and relevant by 55 per cent.However, unlike LinkedIn, 18 per cent of people saw Facebook asirrelevant to their business today.With all the media buzz around Twitter we may have expectedit to score better as a business tool for our social media mavens.However it was beaten into 4th place by YouTube. Although bothwere rated as essential by 21 per cent of the survey (the sameas Facebook), 64 per cent rated YouTube as relevant and 14 percent as not very relevant whereas the corresponding figures forTwitter were 43 per cent relevant with 14 per cent stating that itwas currently irrelevant to their business. Surprising as this is weshould remember that for all the media coverage Twitter generatesits actual user-based is comparatively small compared to Facebookand although does have a big reputational impact because of thenumbers of journalists etc that follow Twitter, may have less of animpact on consumers directly than either Facebook or YouTube.If your social media strategy is to reach customers then Twitter’simportance will currently be less than Facebook’s. 7
  10. 10. Relevant and credible?100%90% 93.3%80%70%60%50%40%30%20%10%0% Yo Wi Qu Tw Lin Fa Fo u kip ce u it Tu o ke rsq ter ra b d b e oo in e dia uare k Very Credible Credible Not very Credible Not Credible at all Don’t know/have not heard of Q. In your opinion how credible are these services as sources of reliable information? 100% 90% The credibility of information found on these sites is also 93.3% 80% important, and again Twitter performs less well than some with 32 70% per cent of people feeling that it was not very credible, and seven per cent not credible at all as a source of information. It should be 60% noted that the research was conducted before the recent media 50% furore over claimed leaks of celebrity affairs and super-injunctions 40% from the UK courts. 30% The credibility of Facebook information was also doubted despite 20% the importance attached to the site (as detailed above). The 10% majority (57 per cent of our sample) felt that Facebook information was not very credible or not at all credible, compared to 93 per 0% cent that felt LinkedIn was a very credible or credible source of Yo Wi Qu Tw Lin Fa Fo u kip ce urs itte Tu ora ke bo din b ed qu r e information. Wikipedia also rated very highly in this area with the ok ia highest percentage (36%) seeing its information as very credible. are Essential Relevant Not very relevant Irrelevant Don’t know/have not heard of Q. How relevant do you feel the following will be to your business in 12 months time? In spite of some misgivings over the credibility of the information from these sites the next 12 months seem likely to see all increasing in importance to businesses. All of the social media channels listed except one saw an increase in the percentage of people rating them as essential or relevant to their business in 12 months time. The exception was LinkedIn which is predicted by this group to wane slightly in importance. Although 50 per cent of people feel it will be essential in 12 months time (and increase of 8 per cent over today’s rating), a growing minority (nearly one in six) see it as not very relevant in 12 months time. However, it is predicted to remain the joint favourite alongside Facebook which jumps in the rankings with 50 per cent rating it as essential to their business in 12 months time. 8
  11. 11. The disconnect between relevance and credibility on Facebook a close second; 36 per cent said it would have a huge impact, 57 per can perhaps be explained by its reach. As a way of engaging with cent a significant impact. What was surprising was that an interview customers and prospects it is almost certainly likely to remain on an influential blog came third, before trade media either on or essential for some time. However, using it as a platform for offline. Over fifty per cent felt a blog interview would have significant connections and conversations with the public is very different impact and 26 per cent a huge impact on their reputation. from using it as a source of information. It seems clear from this that traditional national media are still Twitter may also suffer in a similar way. Our respondents do massively influential – not only due to reach and role in creating expect it to become more important over the next 12 months, widespread awareness, but also in being a direct influence upon with 43 per cent rating it as essential and 31 per cent as relevant, other influencers such as city audiences, regulators, customers and this despite almost the same percentage (43%) regarding staff. There is still no comparison to the broadcast interview that information on Twitter as not very or not at all credible. Of course, identifies you and your spokesperson as the opinion leader on a with Twitter a lot depends on who you follow, and the specific topical issue. relationships with known individuals will certainly influence your attitude to the credibility of their tweets.. What is interesting is the relationship between this and social media buzz. The popularity of bookmarking sites and applications that share links and stories is testament to the role of social media Mapping where influence lies as an amplification of news and content of interest to a specific community. Research published this month by Pew Research In addition to investigating the views of our Media Momentum showed how Facebook has become the second biggest driver of leaders regarding different social media channels’ importance and traffic to top US news sites (after Google), indicating, in the words of credibility, we also wanted to contextualise the impact of social the report authors: media ‘coverage’ compared to other forms of communications and reputation building. We asked the leaders to rate the impact on their reputation of a range of ‘PR outcomes’. “If searching for news was the most important100% development of the last decade, sharing news may90% be among the most important of the next.”80% - Rating Rating Rating Rating Rating Rating Rating Rating environment-audience70% Average Average Average Average Average Average Average Average 3.31 3.44 2.69 2.75 3.06 2.60 2.63 2.4460% So, the impact of that national news interview may not just be the50% large primary audience, but the echo it causes across social media40%30%20%10%0% Int tiona TV oadc Int de p Int e pu Int luen Vid You Tw twee web Ot na erv l n he suc ral v br erv ub erv bl erv tia tra rad inf on re- your bu itte ts sit eo Tub or ast iew ew rs h to like zz r vi iew lica iew iew lo r b link e rad int int e oc as deo so uz in erv in spa io erv in tion in tion on g ial za g a lb iew ica rel rel (o me all nd ev (prin ev nlin dia pos an t) an w pe i i ew t t t e) r ts, No impact Some impact Significant impact Huge impact Q. Please rank the following in terms of the impact they could have on your brand or reputation. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the traditional mass market media still came out on top. An interview broadcast on TV or radio was seen to have a significant or huge impact by virtually everyone (50 per cent – huge, 43 per cent significant). National newspaper coverage came 9
  12. 12. present at least an opportunity to put out our version of the truth. Digital Gatekeepers Acting at these transition points can be the difference between a negative story reaching mass media uncontested, and getting a The fact that influential blogs are rated as more impactful than trade balancing view included. media could say a great deal about the changing nature of the media landscape, the quality of trade media and the type of organisation we surveyed. However, it suggests that specialists who have built Listening brief a following in social media are increasingly powerful in shaping reputations. Previous work with brands such as Sony Playstation, Effective monitoring of the social media space is obviously key, not Vodafone, Sage and Adobe has indicated that there is generally a only to identify potential negative stories as soon as possible, but well defined and relatively small group of online commentators that also to provide barometers of customer and market sentiment. can not only instigate and lead online debate, but also help it cross Monitoring should, in our opinion, extend wider than brand, over between online and traditional media worlds. We term these product and personnel mentions, to include wider conversations individuals ‘Digital Gatekeepers’. about issues and topics of interest and relevance to you. Spotting where customer interest lies, and the language they are using to describe it can uncover significant opportunities for reputation building, profile and sales. 60% 100% 93.3% 90% 13.3% 80% 70% 20% 60% 6.7% 50% 40% 40% 40% Yes, I know who they No, I dont know who they are, 30% are and I have proactively but Im sure they exist engaged with them 20% No, Ive not seen evidence that I know who they are, but have this happens or that they exist not engaged with them 10% 6.7% 6.7% 0% 0% Q. Can you identify the ‘digital gatekeepers’ of your brand who influence journalists and who help transition stories, news and Se Us Us Ra Wi us My or We line tu So d re like in- thi on th ing ing dia opinion from the social media sphere to traditional media? PR me do pG sf fee ho pro e too cia ad fre entio pa n6 no vers ag oo l M ers pri ls id et n co t m at en gle eta for oo an n cy on ion Ale ls d ry too ito s do like rts r ls es These people often have journalistic backgrounds, or have developed specific areas of technical or market understanding either through Q. How do you monitor online conversations? working in the sector, or studying it (as academics, analysts or consultants) and now contribute to debate around key issues on an Our research showed that the most common form of monitoring ongoing basis. Most of our Media Momentum leaders recognised a was to set up Google Alerts with over 90% of respondents doing group of digital gate keepers within their markets and understood this. A significant proportion also used free tools dedicated to the importance of engaging with them. Nearly two thirds (60 per monitoring social media (such as Social Mention and RSS feed cent) knew who the specific individuals were in their world and had readers). However, very few had either bespoke in house or paid engaged with them. Of the remainder a fifth (20 per cent) were sure for social media monitoring tools (less than 10 per cent for each). that they existed but did not yet know who they were. Less than ten PR agencies were also often tasked with providing this service (40 percent had not seen evidence of the transitioning of stories between per cent reporting that their agency did this) – which makes sense on and offline worlds through specific gateways. considering that most agencies also monitor traditional media. We believe that the need for human intervention in the area of As communications consultants we regard it as one of our primary roles to identify these key individuals and ensure that we can reach them with key news and opinion, but also that we closely monitor them to get an early warning of stories and hopefully10
  13. 13. monitoring is quite crucial. Whereas in the field of traditionalmedia monitoring, we (as an agency) seldom have to work out andexplain the relevance of a newspaper or trade journal, the reverseis true for social media. Understanding what is just ‘noise’ andcan be ignored with little risk and what is potentially damaging, isa complex and ever-shifting task. Identification of the digital gatekeepers, and looking at their feeder networks helps, but it is alsoimportant to look for the issues that are gaining momentum andbecome more than isolated rants. 100% 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 46.7% 40% 40% 33.3% 30% 20% 20% 10% 6.7% 0% As ency pers Us Do com Ma m, t No lidate k m w on ag that the the va et thi nu rac a G me of oo ng y c heth ally k c oo nta ls s /I d ir in olle er gle tor se on flue the uc ag the e w me se /site t k ha ue yv ho nts om arc no nce sK sa eh co etc wh ho nd ea lou nn n ow /or rd t ec PR to ts toQ. What do you do to validate the influence of online commentatorsdiscussion on you or your brand?Checking the influence of those discussing you and the issuesthat matter to you is key in determining which rants to focuson. The most frequent way of undertaking this according to ourrespondents is to do a search on the commentator or their site (46per cent did this). Other options are manually tracking back throughcomments and links to investigate frequency, reach and tone ofother comments and posts, as well as looking at who connects tothem (40 per cent did this) Although some of this can be automatedwith tools like Klout ( few used them (under 10 percent) with one third of people (33%) relying on their PR agency toinvestigate and advise on the relative influence of commentators.Most worryingly a fifth (20%) did not know how to, or did nothing toinvestigate or validate the influence of online commentators talkingabout their brands. 11
  14. 14. 13.3% Blind spots Similarly, the activities, perceptions and attitudes to key events, 6.7%100% issues and topics that relate to your business can by association impact your reputation. Monitoring online conversations about90% 93.3% issues that matter is crucial if you are to be in a 33.3% position to react80% 85.7% when an opportunity or a threat emerges. For example, privacy is 20%70% 78.6% a topic of ongoing hot debate online. It is a virtual certainty that any business that collects customer data – especially online – will60% at some point be asked about its views, procedures and protections50% around data. Monitoring and participating in this debate before you 53.3% have to can lead to you benefiting from this scrutiny rather than 20%40% 46.7% 46.7% suffering from it. 40% 6.7%30%20% We drive most of the social media conversation about us - it is largely 13.3%10% 14.3% centred on owned media (eg. our 6.7% 7.1% 7.1% 7.1% 6.7% 6.7% own website, Facebook and0% 6.7% Twitter pages) Yes We are well discussed and Co Pr Co prod Ke Ind topic mp od No or or ye mp uc us s referenced in ongoing social uc an try xe eti t na Don’t know tn y/b cu media conversations and tor m iss am tiv ran ue 33.3% co es es es we are actively involved in dn s mp n am an am these discussions y e es 20% There is ongoing dicussion about Q. What terms do you use to monitor online conversations? us, but we are not actively involved There is active discussion of issues that are relevant to us, but we are We also asked what terms people used in their monitoring and found not engaged with them that whilst significant majorities searched on company name (93%), There is little conversation in social 20% competitor names (86%) and their own product names (79%), just media about us or about issues of relevance to us 6.7% over half searched on key executive names (53%) and even fewer monitored key industry issues or topics (47%). Our view is that this Dont know - we do not monitor social media discussions could lead to potential ‘blind-spots’ in managing reputations; blind spots that could lead to reputational damage or missed opportunity. Q. How would you describe your current visibility and reputation in social media? In today’s world of contested communications well connected ‘fanatics’ of whatever hue can quickly gain a share of opinion that massively outweighs their actual importance. Seemingly small and irrelevant issues can quickly become major reputational risks. Keeping Our question on current reputation in social media was designed an eye on what people are saying about your key people, as well as to dig into this a little further. Although brands are often justifiably your brand is important – even if rumours are untrue, unconnected proud of the level to which they are in control of what is said about to your business, or even concerning a similarly named different them online, we believe this can also be a weakness. A third (33%) individual with no connection to you. Just as the worlds of business of our respondents felt that they drove most of the social media and personal social media are blurring so the impact of personal conversation about themselves. They used a variety of channels reputations on corporate reputation is increasing. And it need not be including Facebook, Twitter and their own websites to lead and just the senior people – although there may need to be an explicit link maintain social media presence about themselves. made to the organisation, the social and business exploits of any staff member could impact your reputation. A further 13 per cent saw a wider role and actively participated in conversations in which they were referenced. This switch from control to influence is a key step in using social media to shape and manage reputation beyond the channels you directly control. Fortunately, only 7 per cent of respondents knew there were social media conversations about them that they were not involved in. Ceding the field to others, without endeavouring to engage or influence the discussion puts your reputation entirely in the hands of others. 12
  15. 15. About a fifth of respondents felt that there were ongoing social Of course today’s search results contain more than corporatemedia conversations that although did not mention them, but were websites; blog posts, Flickr streams, YouTube videos, Twitter postsnonetheless relevant, and with which they did not engage. These and Facebook pages can all end up on that first page of results - asconversations represent clear opportunities to create reputation well as, of course, news items from a wide range of providing informed and insightful commentary to discussions Each of these entries has the potential to enhance or damagewhilst at the same time building awareness with audiences already your reputation. Although blog posts and Twitter updates tendengaged in key topics. The flip side of this opportunity is that by to be quite ephemeral and only feature in search results for anot engaging you leave the door open to competitors, or create an few days, other things like media interviews can persist for muchimpression that you either cannot or do not want to comment on longer. When they are positive this can significantly enhance yourthese issues. In an age of transparency, non-engagement can be reputation by providing a halo of influence surrounding yourseen as evidence of wishing to hide something. ‘official’ online presence. But when they are negative you canFinally, the remaining quarter of respondents felt that currently imagine where most traffic is going to go!there was little conversation about them or about issues thatmattered to them, or didn’t know. We would urge at minimum Just under half of our panel felt that they only have controla watching brief here to establish when and how to engage as over one entry in the first page of search results – their owna conversation develops. If you want to be more proactive we’d website (43%). However, some are extending their influencealso suggest this is a good opportunity to stimulate or channel an by maintaining a wider range of digital and social channels toexisting conversation and establish yourselves and thought leaders. increase their population in the Google space. Forty-three per cent claimed that they managed two or three of these entries by actively managing and frequently updating Facebook pages,The Google space YouTube video channels, blogs and official Twitter feeds and the like to ensure they rated highly in search. A smaller number have gone even further by actively engaging with a One - just our own website range of third-party advocates, media and social media influencers to Two or three - we manage a range 14.3% ensure that their output is positive towards the company. Providing of social and digital media (website, blogs, Facebook pages, Twitter compelling content to third parties is a great way of creating more pages etc) that regularly feature reputation-enhancing results. Not every listing has to promote the in top search results company line – there is benefit in just ensuring that competitor More - we engage with a range of third-party advocates, media messages and sites are pushed off the first page by more interesting 42.9% and other influencers whose content – even if it is just neutral towards your brand. Content should pages also feature in top results to ensure that our messages not be corporate-speak, heavily messaged and refined, but rather reach a wide audience interesting stories that subtly present you as an expert, provide 42.9% insight or information that supports a point of view in a natural way.Q. Of the top ten results from a web search - how many do you haveinfluence over? NB - this excludes paid for search advertising results.One further aspect of digital reputation that we were keen toinvestigate was the brands’ influence over the first page of searchresults. Often seen as the most valuable ‘real-estate’ online, Googlesearch results are hotly contested and an entire industry of searchengine optimisation (SEO) has grown up to help brands place wellhere. However, whilst just over half of our respondents regularlychecked where their brands turn up in relevant searches, fewer thana quarter checked any of the other sites around them. We believethat this could represent a further blind spot. Looking at these otherentries can highlight what competitors, customers, partners andother influencers could be seeing instead of your messages. 13
  16. 16. Conclusions Our short survey of some of the leading exponents of digital The vanguard is now making strategic and proactive choices on how, media has illuminated some of the key areas in which they are when and why they use social media and putting it at the heart of using social media to manage their reputations. It has also show not only communications but their whole business. For many, some those areas where even these leaders are still feeling their way social media tools are already essential, and all agree that more and identified some potential blind spots for all. There are no right will become so over a relatively short space of time. What this does or wrong approaches, but it does seem that, although some of not mean is headlong and mindless adoption of all aspects of social our commentators encourage those still unsure of social media to media. Our leaders are well aware of some of the shortcomings and ‘experiment’, the era of dabbling is coming to an end. Social media risks associated with social media and the content it delivers. increasingly is not an option or even a choice. It is a fact of doing Organisations need to be clear on the difference in using social business and increasingly for some a ‘hygiene factor’ – media as a channel to engage, and as a source of information. Both are valid and important, but need different levels of proof. How you “Don’t approach social media activity as a choice respond, rate and react to information and conversation in social media must be predicated on a knowledge of the relative influence but rather a given - a hygiene factor. So, senior and credibility of the source and the forum. As noted above, executives need to get to know and develop the finding this out, in a timely fashion is one of the great challenges of right channels by become users themselves and reputation management in the era of social media. Auditing and monitoring topics issues and conversations is essential if you are to not just delegating it all to ‘experts” - Marco Veremis have the information ready to make these decisions.14
  17. 17. Digital leaders are also wise enough to recognise and acknowledgewhere traditional approaches are still more influential. As WillNeale of Orca Digital put it“[Social Media is] Quite important - we’re a B2Bplay so ‘real’ personal relationships are [alsostill] important.”The value of getting out and meeting customers face to face was stillan important way to influence them. The role of traditional mediain not only driving reputation directly, but also in stimulating socialmedia buzz, conversation and opinion formation was also recognisedin the research. Getting the right balance is about understandingwho you want to reach and who influences them. Social media musttherefore be managed as a part of a greater whole – be it the widercommunications and reputation management strategy, or as part of acustomer service or even sales approach.Lastly, we all have blind spots. These are often an unavoidableconsequence of focus elsewhere, or of simple lack of resources andfunds (no one can monitor and engage with everyone everywhere).They could be the result of the rapid evolution of the space and therelative inexperience of everyone in it. However, knowing that youcould have blind spots, and even better identifying where someof them could be, can be a significant step towards avoiding beingblindsided by events. Organisations should get into the habit oflistening to the conversations in social media that they should be apart of, even if they don’t want to engage just yet.Our research has revealed a group of individuals andorganisations that are leading the way on the real use of socialmedia. They can certainly provide the rest of us with someimportant insights into best practice and effective use of socialmedia for reputation management. Top Tips • Establish clear goals • Consider the multiple facets affecting your reputation – it’s more than your Google rank or Twitter mentions! • Know the different social media tools and try them out • Be as transparent as possible • Make sure there is a social media policy to ensure consistency and clarity • Get to know and engage with the people who have an influence on your business • Monitor the issues surrounding your business • Listen to conversations and intervene where necessary 15
  18. 18. MHP Communications,60 Great Portland St, London W1W 7RT tel: 020 3128 8100