Which Reputation Matters Most?

Creative Commons via examiner.com

While I have been involved in a lot of the social media implementation in agencies, a social media strategy, by itself, is only one small piece of  an overall business communication puzzle.  And yet, I am asked often whether online reputation is more important than their consumer-based, community-held reputation.

Sometimes I think my answer surprises people because we so often hear the “fake it ’til you make it” philosophy.  But the reality is, if your company is suffering on the inside, social media isn’t going to solve your core business functions.

Social media may help promote your business to new sectors, engage your company more directly with consumers and provide a presence online that is able to share in new ways, but it isn’t going to resolve communications, customer service failures or provide leadership where it may be lacking.

A business must function well, be interdependent, communicating between divisions and understanding that every employee owns part of that company’s reputation in order for it to deliver on its core mission to consumers and take full advantage of all social media has to offer.

What happens when a business, that prides itself on excellent customer service, fails to provide that to a particular customer?  It may not be the mission of the organization itself that is flawed, but rather the communication, training, encouragement or accountability within the company that is responsible for the lack of consistent consumer-based outcomes.

Reputations are made with consumers through the delivery of consistent products and quality customer service.  As Abraham Lincoln once said, “Character is like a tree, and a reputation like its shadow.  The shadow is what we think of it, the tree is the real thing.”

It is important to realize that what we share in social media venues can only be as good as the business itself.  And if you are promoting a business that cares more about what it looks like on the outside than facing what demons exist on the inside, your consumers will ultimately see that and your reputation could be harmed.

One of my favorite movies of all time is Quiz Show (1994) in which Ralph Fiennes plays Charles Van Doren who got caught up in the quiz show scandals of the late 1950′s.  As Charles is talking to his father, Mark Van Doren, trying to justify his choices, Mark Van Doren silences his son by saying “Your name is mine” indicating that Charles’ choice to lie reflected not only on himself, but also his father.

The reputation of a business is shared not only by those who work for an agency, but also by those who represent them online.  This means that if you are not in touch with what your business is doing online, perhaps its time you should be.

And, more importantly, for your business to function well, it’s time to understand that both what you are doing day-to-day should relate to what you are doing online.  Because if there isn’t harmony, both internal practices and your social media activities could risk contradicting your mission and ultimately harm your reputation with consumers.

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