Reputation Management And Social Media
I always hate starting a post with an apology or disclaimer, but I must. I’m going to gore some professional colleagues and some close friends. It’s not intended to be malicious, but perhaps it shows that all of us can get caught up in things which, ultimately, adversely impact our reputations and credibility.
Building great reputations, creating some level of trust across extended networks takes time and consistency of purpose. Betray that in little ways and it’s like chipping pieces from a stone. Over time you diminish your credibility and reputation, you erode trust.
Social media present powerful tools and capabilities. We can extend our reach and visibility. Building relationships that would have been difficult in the past. We can amplify our visibility and our point of view. Personally, or business wise, it’s powerful in marketing our selves or companies and “building our brand.”
But the real power of this is less the volume or noise we create — perhaps measured in followers, likes, ReTweets, Klout scores and the like, but in building trusted relationships through being knowledgeable, credible, and consistent across those relationships and over time.
All of us get distracted–or perhaps a better word is seduced. It is a rush to see my stuff tweeted and retweeted. It is a exciting to see subscribers and followers grow, building my network, expanding my reach. We want to grow our lists, reach, and prospects. We, like everyone else, leverage these tools as a critical part of our marketing to increase our visibility, expand our reach, engage new people in interesting discussions, and generate new business.
In that rush to build visibility and market ourselves and our companies, we start getting into dangerous territory. There are tools that automate this whole process. These tools serve as surrogates for us (and our reputations) expanding our visibility, presence, and voice. So while I’m whiling away my time on a bike ride, or trapped on a long plane flight, or just doing my job; if I used these tools, they would “work for me.” They would be tweeting stuff, liking stuff, managing my interactions and engagement, without my attention or involvement.
You can start to see where I’m going.
So the other day, by accident, I made a terrible mistake–the regulars among you know what I’m talking about.
I had an idea for a new post. I was rushing to a meeting, so I quickly created a “draft,” jotted some notes about what I wanted to talk about, so I’d remember it later. I thought I hit the “Save,” button, instead, I hit the “Publish” button and the post was published to all of you. I was unaware of the mistake until a few hours later when I checked email and tweets and saw many of you saying “What’s up?” Some, said, “This piece of crap isn’t up to your normal standards!” They were right.
For some of you who missed it, I’ve published the entire “draft,” mistakes included below: (If you wan to see what I finally wrote: Using What We Have.)
Using w aht We have
t sales process, trining, tools, experience.
Sinhy new toy—we look for something new rather than mastinering/exploiting what we have
Using what we have also makes it easier to use what we get–new tools, skills, etc
It’s a few random words, lots of spelling errors, meaningless drivel to anyone except me. They were great prompts to write the finished post, but clearly garbage to everyone else.
But here’s what happened. Within a couple of hours, there were dozens of tweets. Some by close colleagues or friends, some by people I don’t know. All of them tweeted “Using w aht We have” via @davidabrock….” with a link.
The question is, “Why did they send their followers to read a piece of garbage?” But then we go further, “What happens to their reputations and the trust established with their followers if the repeatedly send people to garbage, bad content, or content that is inconsistent with their ‘brand.'”
The answer, I think, is it erodes our credibility, and betrays the trust we are trying to establish with our followers. Rather than carefully curating stuff that is meaningful and impactful, too many people are misusing tools to drive up the volume. In the end, it’s SPAM, even if it isn’t something about Cheap V$iag$ra.
Too many are falling into the trap of volume over purposefulness, consistency, and quality. Too many are eroding their credibility and betraying the trust of their followers. Too many are leveraging automation and other tools as surrogates, but which adversely impact their reputations.
There are many thoughtful people I no longer follow. Initially, I followed them because they pointed me to interesting stuff, engaged me well, and helped me learn. But as many of them sought volume and followers over quality, they leverage these tools. I started seeing content that was inconsistent with their brand. It was because the tools automatically selected things and sent it out under their names. With many, the proportion of good stuff, consistent with their brand, is the minority of what they push out. So they’ve lost me. They’ve betrayed the trust. I used to think they cared, but now know they don’t.
As another brief example. The other day I published a post Content Will Save Us. Anyone who actually read the post would see the point I was making was exactly the opposite of what I stated in the title. But someone I don’t know, but who wants to be a big influencer in Digital Marketing, tweeted the post with the comment, “I couldn’t agree more. Content is the future of digital marketing.” Clearly the person is a fool. He didn’t read the article, he didn’t get the point I was making, and in that comment adversely impacted his reputation.
Reputations are fragile. They have to be carefully developed and nurtured. We have to be consistent, credible, and build trust. When we abandon that, seeking volume and creating noise, we betray our audience and lose credibility.
So I don’t mean to be malicious or to gore friends, colleagues, and others. I am tremendously flattered that many of you have read enough of my stuff that you put it on “autopilot,” tweeting or liking everything without even looking at it. But I’d be even more flattered, if you didn’t. I’d really appreciate it you read my stuff. Forward that which is consistent with your brand. Ignore–or even criticize the garbage. Maybe even comment on the post and start a discussion.
I’d have far more respect if you passed stuff on that’s consistent with your brand and what you are trying to build with your followers, rather than surrendering your reputation to “Bots.”
I think we serve our communities, followers, and ourselves far better by being less efficient, less concerned about volume, and more concerned about quality, what we communicate and how we engage others.
In reality, I don’t expect a lot of backlash from these folks. After all, they’ve put their reputations on autopilot, they will never see it, but they will promote it.
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.
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