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BLOG: Social media and two pertinent questions

N RAJA VENKATESWAR | Sept. 24, 2012
How do I trust that a post on social media is accurate? And how does a firm protect itself from social media driven reputational risk?

It stuck me forcefully last evening how significantly the methodology of taking decisions has changed - and it took a Facebook update from an old school chum to trigger it.

As part of a generation that really didn't know professional life without the pervasiveness of the Internet and associated means of communication, decision taking meant googling (aka searching or bringing up Ask Jeeves on my Netscape when I was younger!), e-mailing friends and relatives, checking for expert advice on the Internet, blogging, perhaps a couple of calls etc. It all changed with the onset of social media and the message hit home last evening - when I found my old school pal posting about nephew's new clinic in my hometown of Calcutta, it stuck me forcefully: never again would Google be my first port of call for a search on dental clinics in Calcutta - it would be my pal's post on Facebook.

That brings me to an interesting dilemma. It is rather easy to trust an old pal's recommendation but how does one build trust in such feedback or posts? How do I trust that a post from a friend's friend on FB or Google+ is actually accurate or more insidiously how does a firm protect its reputation from random posts on social media? In an era when a firm's reputation is more likely to be built or negatively impacted by comments from unknown folks on social media channels which could not even be monitored, how does a firm protect its ideology, its reputation and its customer experience?

Two scenarios

So let us consider two scenarios here - one, how do we, as individual consumers, leverage the power of social media to help ourselves and second, how does a firm remain cognizant and work towards protecting its social media driven reputation?

For the first, I am doing something fairly simple - trusting the comments from folks I trust and I - in return - only post stuff on the media sites I have had a personal experience with - creating a wealth of trusted and validated information on services, tools, products. This information - whether it is on old Bollywood music or on dental clinics is trusted, validated and available when one needs it. It can be utilised for something irrelevant like scratching a hobby itch or utilised for identifying suitable means to complete a key task or locate a service.

This information (or at least the one I tap into is trusted) - we don't want a repeat of the 'Get Coney' twitter campaign now, do we? For folks not completely aware of this - Coney is an African warlord allegedly enslaving child soldiers and a Twitter campaign against him shot to viral stardom a while back and it sounded like it would change the world, an African Spring almost. That was until research found most followers were teenage girls obsessed with following celebrities who just re-tweeted to everybody without even knowing what the whole story was, and without the understanding or capacity to take further meaningful action. A great marketing success story! Except of course; no cogent action, no real change dynamics and no permanent impact. And of course no monetisation!


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