Can social networking kill your business?

May 8, 2008

I’m a fan of social media and I have found blogging a great way of building my business and brand. Blogging has been a fantastic networking tool and a great way of translating that networking into real contact with real people. But there’s also a dark side to social networking and Frank Marafiote picks up this issue in his post How Social Networking Can Kill a Business. In reputation based businesses bad word of mouth can have a devastating impact and social media is virtual word of mouth. Frank republishes a not too flattering review of a restaurant that appeared in an online forum (without naming the restaurant) and offers some suggestions for how such an incident might be managed for those of us in a similar situation.

First, we need to stay alert to what is being written about us. Just as you might check your credit report on a regular basis, you need to do a “reputation report” on your name and your business. You can purchase services that will monitor your business name and alert you whenever it is mentioned on the Web. You should also do your own frequent searches using the major search engines. By “frequent,” I mean at least twice a month.
Second, be proactive. That means staying in touch with your market and providing positive and helpful information via your blogs, press releases, Web forums, trade and business Web sites, etc. Stinging negative comments are less credible when they are read in the context of a positive news environment.
Third, react. In the case of this restaurant “review,” there’s a chance that by complaining to the webmaster the comment might be removed. If that is not possible, get third party endorsements — and your own — on the site as soon as possible. Don’t let the mud hang there on the wall with no counter-response. Otherwise, readers will assume it is true.

Damien also has a great post about how to monitor what people are saying about your company online using free online tools such as Google’s Blog Search, Google alerts, Youtube, Twitter etc.
Social media is a conversation – isn’t dialogue better than monologue? And what are our responsibilities in terms of managing those conversations? We can’t control what people think and feel about us and social media makes it even more difficult to have a balanced conversation – too many blog posts are rants about what doesn’t work – there aren’t enough constructive inputs on what does. So part of the social networking process has to be casting a critical eye over who’s saying what about whom – there are lots of free tools out there that can help. But perhaps the best way of managing reputation is to take charge of the message by writing and leading rather than commenting and defending.
Hat tip Rakes Progress