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Are You Being Manipulated?

mind control

Social media has changed drastically in the past 5 or 6 years. Small tightly knit communities have grown to ubiquitous parts of our daily life. The exploration of online human interaction and its ramifications has created an immense conversational platform widely used for marketing and commercial purpose, with a huge group of participants whose contributions seem to be aimed at creating of specious influence and false celebrity.

The attraction of social spaces centered around the engagement of individuals for their mutual growth and benefit. And those of us who were active in the early days of this evolution in communication spent hours in conversation about social contracts, social objects, and social capital.  They were, simply put, the terms under which we engaged, the things we had in common which became the focus of conversation, and the acquisition and depletion of online goodwill. The center of much of the online activity for business centered around the concept of ” doing well by doing good” – contributing to the communities you participate in without expectation of a quid pro quo , anticipating that doing the right thing and being generous would be its own reward. It was a wonderful place to be an active participant, but as the landscape changed, many people seem to have lost their  way.

As the second and third wave of participants arrived, they seemed to confuse visibility with influence and pontification with authority.As people engage online with the intent of building a name or a brand,they seek the highest visibility, and the greatest acclamation. As Ryan Holiday says in his book “Trust Me I’m Lying:Confessions of a Media Manipulator” , “Media was once about protecting a name; on the web it is about building one”. We must be careful of what name we build.

In a recent conversation with a friend of mine, Leslie Ebersole, about a Facebook group we both are active in, she said ” If I share something with a person for their private use I don’t expect them to project it as their own work, that will in fact influence other people…. I honestly am dismayed by so much of what I see in social media. For example re-tweeting someone’s post feels almost like cheating unless you have interesting or useful commentary on it”

Leslie’s thoughts are spot on, and reflect the manner in which thoughtful confident  people interact. People that create, or effectively curate, don’t need to plagiarize in order to appear smart – they are smart. But in a world of smoke and shadows , where Klout scores are confused with actual influence, and every comment  made in a Facebook group is received as if it was an authoritative statement, we are in danger of following people that have no business leading.

I’ve been involved in a couple of conversation recently about Klout for example, and what influence means. To me, people who can create change in the physical world have influence. Not the circular sycophancy whose online engagement is “You’re Great, No You’re great, OK, We’re all great”, but people whose actions actually cause the change in behavior of large numbers of people. People who can make a call or a request and see something happen. That to me, is influence.

Authority to me? That comes from knowledge combined with experience, not from the number of times you tweet or the amount of time you spend interacting on a Facebook group. If you’re a real estate professional that listed 140 properties last year, I am more than willing to listen to what you did and how you did it. But if you aren’t exceptional in your actual performance or even just real world activities, your online visibility doesn’t impress me in the least.

To build social influence, social capital must be acquired. It has been years since Tara Hunt wrote her book “The Whuffie Factor: Using the Power of Social Networks to Build Your Business”  but the concepts of social cap[ital that she discusses is as valid today as it was then. Tara pointed out that acquiring good will online was a valuable way to integrate yourself into the community and that then, when you needed the good will of the community, they would in turn provide you with what you needed because of your good actions to that point. But when you do things that cause you to lose social capital – like appropriating the thoughts or work of others and portraying them as your own or betraying a confidence by using in public information gained in private, you lose credibility and your actions will begin to be met with negative reactions , causing you to lose social capital.

Holland says “ is a world of many hustlers, and you are the mark. The con is to build a brand off the backs of others. Your attention and your credulity are what’s stolen.” And that is the danger of taking too much of the conversation at face value. Be thoughtful and know not only what is said, but who is saying it, and the basis they have for making their claim or statement.

Great personal brands are based on being real , being authentic, and being consistent, and giving value to the communities you belong to. They are built of ambition or plagiarism, or publishing popular cliches or memes. People want to be connected to people they can value. Think that’s not true? Back to Leslie again who said (in a private note to me that she has given permission for use here) , “I love the interaction and development of ideas that can happen with social media. I love sharing and doing whatever I can if I can help someone. But I am back to the idea of the importance of reciprocity and mutual effort when one is part of a community.”

So the good guys still exist, but you , the participant need to be willing to peek behind the curtain and differentiate between those that look like they know and do stuff , and those that actually know stuff and do stuff. I have faith you can do that, I just hope you will.

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Is Customer Service Just a Buzzword?

People use Buzzwords all the time. It makes them seem informed and is an easy, almost lazy way to communicate.  We hear others using them and we adopt them to be trendy and fashionable. They get used in conversation and writing in multiple venues until they become tiresome or are replaced with other, newer terms.  However their very use influences the way we think and react.

As the online space matures every conversation is about brand, transparency, customer service, evangelism, and other words that used to have far more meaning than they do when we overuse them. We are not only overusing them, we are valuing the statement over the action.

Nicholas Carr , of the Neiman Journalism Lab, amplified that thought  in his post, “The End of Disruption” where he wrote.

For a long time now, “disruption” has been the go-to buzzword in commentary about journalism. Pundits and consultants love to say “disruption” because the word tends to attract money and attention. But the word is starting to ring hollow. Throwing it around today seems more like a way to avoid hard thinking than to engage in it. Maybe 2013 will be the year when we finally stop talking about “disruption.” I hope so, because then we can start giving as much consideration to what endures as to what changes.

In a world so thoroughly inundated with the written word, we cannot forget to value substance over form. It is too easy to echo popular sentiment and think that by making statements or using catch phrases and buzzwords, we are taking action instead of just talking about action. To paraphrase Carr, we seem to use the words to avoid hard work, rather than engaging in it.

I recently read heartfelt statements about customer service from a company I’m doing business with. I believe they were sincere in their use of the term, but as a customer, my experience has been that they spend more time talking about customer service than delivering customer service. I don’t mean to take them to task, and that’s why I won’t mention their name, but I find that their action, or lack of action is not uncommon.

Having acquired a customer, many businesses prioritize the service they provide by the size of the customer’s bill. But nowhere is the customer told that “the more you spend , the better your experience will be”. Nor does their company vision share a sliding scale of customer service.

In other cases, customers are  treated poorly because they are already  committed to some course of action by their relationship with the vendor. I had a friend, who , while going through a stressful divorce, hired an attorney to represent her. During the initial interviews the attorney seemed bright and aggressive and promised a swift resolution for the client. After just a little while, their relationship hanged. Calls weren’t returned, emails ignored, the case seemed to be stuck in a never ending swamp of detail and minutiae. The client felt betrayed and exposed and without a choice because she felt that her journey towards her goal was advanced to a point where changing service providers would force her to start her stressful journey once again.  When she was finally pushed to change attorneys, the new attorneys promised far less, but delivered far more, far more rapidly. Were she asked to make a referral  today, which attorney do you think would get the business?

For your businesses to actually improve, you have to

  1. Focus on your core product or service. If it isn’t high quality, you diminish your value proposition.
  2. Talk less and do more. Saying your customers are important is not as valuable as actually acting as if your customers are important. It is far easier to “talk the talk” than it is to “walk the walk”. But your clients will gauge you by what you do , not what you say
  3. Value all of your customers, not just the more profitable ones.  Or, if that’s your business model, than be open and above board about it and embrace it. If your business actions are not consistent with your business model, you not only harm your customers you harm yourself.

If your customer service is just a buzzword,  no amount of Facebook postings or social monitoring will help you build trust and expand your business.  The job you do may end, but your customers and clients carry their experience with them into a far larger world, speaking about that experience again and again. In a connected world, you never know where your connections will take you, or when their endorsement or approbation will earn or cost you that next possibly larger client. Talking less and doing more? Might be a little harder, but it will be infinitely more rewarding.

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Does Anyone Believe Your Ads?

Advertisers have always had credibility issues. They are, by their very nature, self-serving ad of a commercial nature.

I have always felt that there is some relationship between the size of the claim and its impact on consumers. When the little local dinner claims to have “world-famous cakes and cookies” are we really to believe that people in the far flung recesses of the world are talking abut the baked goods from the diner? Or, assuming that the consumers will disbelieve the claim, has the diner just made it bigger than life in hopes that it will register in the mind of the consumer?  I think the opposite occurs – I think that the larger and more grandiose your claims, the more they are likely to be discounted by your audience and rejected as hyperbole.

Every new business model today is a “Game Changer” or a “Revolutionary System that will change the way you do business” . And yet, for the most part, changes in our businesses are more incremental than cataclysmic, and the claims are quickly forgotten because we are conditioned to ignore that part of the presentation.

In a recent survey by Lab42 of 500 consumers  they found that more than three quarters of those consumers felt that advertising was exaggerated. As little as 3% felt that advertising claims were accurate – leading me to wonder if they were the same 3% of the population that respond to direct mail ads. And yet three out of ten people surveyed said that they would buy a product because of brand advertising, and less than one put of five wanted to see more laws regulating advertising.

The top three things that might make them try a new product that was advertised?

  • They recognize the brand
  • They saw an in-store promotion
  • They had a reaction to the ad (Laughed, Shared, Talked about it with others)

Al of which indicates that when you create advertising for your product or service , you need to be sure that you are consistent in your brand message so that it is immediately recognizable to your consumer. You need to look for easily accessible promotions if suitable for your product or service. And you need to create reactions in your audience. If your advertising doesn’t get a reaction from them, your business probaby won’t get business from them.

Advertising is a part of business, and has been since the first advertisements were carved in the wall in Ephesus, but we need to know what consumers want if we want to reach them – and what they want is pretty simple. The stud indicates the two biggest things consumers want from ads are information on new products and education. And that is where your creativity should be directed to get the best results possible.  I would love to know what ads you find to be most effective – both as a consumer and a business person. Please let me know in the comments below.

Infographic Courtesy of Lab42


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15 Statistics About Word of Mouth Marketing

Building relationships and influence online is really about influence and relationships. Word of Mouth Marketing is really the core of  what we started calling social marketing as technology allowed the online conversation amplify our ability to communicate our pleasure and displeasure with brands, services, and products.

Here’s a great infographic about the impact of word of mouth marketing created by our friends at ColumnFive for the Word of Mouth Marketing Association  (WOMMA) .

What are people saying about your brand?
Word of Mouth Marketing Statistics

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Reputation Management From the Social Media Expert You Called Dad

Social media Gurus and experts seem to be peeking out from every bush and tree trying to sell you books and courses filled with social media advice. A little while ago I wrote a post called “Five Tips From the Social Media Expert You Called Mom”, because I felt that your Mom already taught you a lot about social media theory and interaction. But Mom didn’t raise you alone, so let’s give Dad a little credit for what he taught you about reputation management.

  1. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression – When you first join a new social site, you have choices to make that will impact someone’s first impression of you. Can they see your face? Did you choose to be represented by a business logo, a sports team’s mascot, a pet, or a landscape photo? Does your profile express who you are in a creative and engaging manner? If you didn’t know you, would you want to meet you face to face? If we have interests and express them in a genuine and engaging manner, other people with similar interests will want to connect with us. If we seem self-absorbed and self-interested, others will have no interest in connecting with us and learning more about who we are.
  2. You will be judged by the company you keep – If your community is made up of multilevel marketers, or people who spend their time spamming the community with their commercial messages, people will assume that their interests reflect yours. If your community is based more on size than engagement, the lack of interaction will probably not be attractive to people who are looking to connect to others with similar interests. Its better to choose a smaller group and become evangelists for each other than to assume that people are lining up to get into an online relationship as someone’s customer.
  3. Its better to think before you speak than to speak before you think – Everything you post online, in whatever venue becomes part of a permanent record. The first introduction to you that most people will have on the internet are the aggregated things you “said” yesterday, the day before, last week, and months ago. With Facebook’s new timeline feature, many of these things are placed before your public without context, leading people to form an opinion of you that may not be what you wished, if you didn’t think first. Another good thing to remember? Abraham Lincoln’s statement – “Its is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than speak out loud and remove all doubt”
  4. Answer me when I ask you a question! – We live in a society where instant gratification is the norm. You build more social capital by responding to your community members. If someone shares your link, retweets your comment or likes your post, a response will build your relationship and personalize the experience. Ignore others at your peril, for they will surely respond by ignoring you when you have a need to share. Even worse, when a consumer is stressed or needs a response to a question, your failure to answer quickly and comprehensively can destroy everything you did previously to build a relationship based on trust.
  5. I don’t care who started it, You stop it! – Arguments and disagreements can happen on line, and can make emotions run high. If you find yourself in the middle of such a situation, you need to remain objective, stick with the facts, and be willing to either “agree to disagree”. If you need to take the discussion off line to come to a resolution, but being the bigger person online will only benefit your reputation online.

That’s all for now, but remember, Dad may have taught you everything you know, but he didn’t teach you everything he knows! There just might be more to come in the future….

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