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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Social Media Management – Why a Business Can Not Ignore it Anymore

Summary: Social media is yielding an ever increasing importance in the establishment or sustainability of a business. Social Media Management encompasses a holistic strategy to listen, converse, monitor and manage conversations to enhance and preserve your brand reputation. It is not only about having a presence in the social media but also to keep a track on all the conversations about your brand taking place on various networks and taking preventive or corrective action to avoid small issues snowballing into major disasters for your business.

A random patient of a hospital in Thane, near Mumbai, had this to say about his experience at the hospital,

I am (name hidden) from thane. I got dengue on 26 july 2010 i was admitted on 28 july 2010 in (Name Hidden) hospital. After doing test doctor said it is anti malira and it course of anti malaria. On 30 july i got discharge. After 2 days i got head pain showed in same hospital he told take out ct scan & mri of brain. On 13 august i got loose motion and vomating again admitted to same hospital for 4 days after also were not comform about what happening.after that i got stomach pain and head pain. Then we show all reports to other doctor in (Name hidden) hospital doctor said that another doctor has done wrong course of medicine. After test doctor that due to infection in stomach due to wrong medicine taken my complain on my of dr (Name hidden) which waste my days & due i have to bear pain

This man does not seem like a regular user of Internet by his language, but then that only goes on to highlight his suffering and desperation to get justice for the wrong that purportedly was done to him. Even though I did not scour the entire Internet and the Social media for the number of people who had shared the story, I could easily find at least four or five sites/blogs who had taken up the cause. I do not know whether the hospital has even noticed this post by one of their patients much less responded to it.

To give the benefit of doubt to the hospital, maybe, it did not happen the way the patient has described it or maybe it is all an attempt by a competing hospital to tarnish the reputation of the said hospital. But the sad fact is that every time a person is reading the post of this patient, the hospital is losing credibility and maybe a patient.

For all the benefits of advertisement and promotional expenditure made by a company or a positive article about the company in the media, one negative post by a user can damage a company’s business irreparably.

Social Media – Social media in it’s broadest sense is any media which allows for social interaction or exchange of user generated content. So it can range from niche forums, groups, social networking websites like Facebook, MySpace, Orkut and Twitter and personal blogs. Most people, rather businesses presume that the social interaction does not have far reaching consequences and hence is not required. What they have forgotten is the age old marketing technique of “Word of Mouth”. Social media is nothing but a word of mouth build up of a brands reputation. Only difference is that in case of social media the word spreads much faster and is not bound by the geographical limits. In fact it is universal.

Social Media Presence – Even today most small businesses and some big business houses as well, do not have social media presence. Call it arrogance or ignorance; they are just not realizing what a load of opportunity costs they are suffering. In the olden days, the very same businesses used to have a customer satisfaction feedback system in place, wherein they would ask the customers to rate their product or/and services. Some of them still do. But what the higher management in these businesses has not understood is that the system had its lacunae. For one, most customers thought it to be waste of time. Secondly the system was very easy to game. Employees could get together and weed out the negative feedback at will. And to think that the only time the business was engaging the customer was just before and after making the sale.

Social media these days offers an opportunity to the businesses to engage with prospective as well as existing customers on a regular basis. To top it all it is free, mostly unless you start paid marketing online.

There are many social media websites which can be used for engagement with your customers. One needs to identify the websites depending on their business, region and objectives. Your social media presence comprises of creating business profiles on such websites and then following it up with updates regarding new products, news, press releases and of course when required public relations and responses to public reaction on some events. Effectively used the social media can provide you with a handy tool to not only enhance your business but also to avert adverse publicity because of a frustrated user or just some competitor trying to sabotage your brand. By quickly responding to a negative conversation on your brand, you can mitigate the damage such negative conversations can have on your brand’s reputation.

After you have created a public profile for your business, you need to create a following and the best way to do it is frank and honest communications. Even amongst the followers, though you need to treat them equally, there are users who you can identify as influencers, i.e. people who are experts in the subject or those who have a tremendous loyal following. Such influencers need to be engaged with, promoted and positively utilised to serve your interests.

Another important issue which many businesses have not utilised is having a business, company or corporate blog. A blog allows you to unashamedly talk about your company; it is your blog, after all. You can use it to give details of products, upcoming events, promotions and your corporate social responsibility initiatives. A blog also has the advantage of being easily optimised for search engines by way of constantly changing content, something a website can not allow you to do. Therefore a blog can be used as a channel to get your customers to your website. A blog also gives you the opportunity to reward your employees by speaking about their achievements and how they made a difference and finally your own employees can be used to not only contribute to the blog but also to spread the word about it through their own personal blogging or social networking efforts.

Social Media Reputation Management

Even if one does not have a proactive, outbound social media policy, one still needs to know what people are talking about your brand, your competitors and your individual products or services. We saw in the example above, how a user started a negative conversation and the same was picked up by a few other websites. There is every chance that a negative conversation explodes into a publicity nightmare for a business. Therefore one has to take prompt corrective action at the earliest suitable opportunity effectively nipping the issue in the bud. Unfortunately action can be taken only when one comes to know about such negative conversations starting. This is where the aspect of “listening” to conversations on the social media comes into play. If you do have a social media presence, chances are that a conversation in your network will reach your eyes pretty soon. But what if you are not part of the network where such a conversation starts. In this case you need dedicated professionals, who may or may not be your employees, to keep a watch on the social media networks across the board and apprise you of such developments.

How Does One Do It?

It sounds like a tall order to manage so many activities, networks and people at the same time. But it is not so difficult. There are social media management tools, paid as well as free ones, which can help you get started. The social media is getting inter-twined and is allowing a networking of networks. You can use tools to post status updates to multiple sites with one click of the mouse. There are social media alert tools available which will alert you to any conversation about your brand on any or selected networks. There are tools available to counter negative publicity about your brand. It is all out there, what one needs to do is develop a strategy, pick up the right tools and then do the right things.

About The Author

Varinder Taprial is an independent consultant on Search Engine Optimization, Corporate Blogging and Social Media management. He can be contacted at

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