Faster than a Speeding Bullet?

If you’re old enough to remember this description of Superman and are in charge of your company’s marketing and reputation, read this because the environment has indeed changed and there’s also a new sheriff in town and its name is social media.

What’s faster than a speeding bullet today is the even quicker rapidity of social media and the importance of your online reputation. Remember the incident a few years ago where some employees of a national chain thought it would fun to post a video of them defacing their own pizza brand?  The employees got fired, of course, but not before a million viewers saw the degrading video and were turned off.

It took months, numerous apologies, and a lot more dollars of advertising for the chain to recover from what many viewers thought was revolting. Companies that are slow to recognize the importance of their online reputations are suddenly learning that they must not only heed social media but also take actions to meet the kinds of challenges that can pop up overnight and bring them down within days, if not hours.

Why is social media so powerful?  Unlike your morning paper (if you still get one) stories, fake news and rumors have eternal life in the social media environment. Before social media, we relied on face-to-face discussions or perhaps phone calls to exchange ideas, rumors, and feelings with friends and family. Social media has opened things up so strangers connect with strangers from all over the world.

This isn’t to say social media is all bad. There are positive aspects to it as well. Barack Obama employed social media successfully in his presidential campaigns.

The biggest difference between social and traditional media is that the latter targets a mass audience while social media is individual. That’s why a negative comment online about a company or a product can be magnified many times over within minutes if others who are equally unhappy also chime in with their complaints.

But used wisely and successfully, social media can also enhance your brand and reputation. If a customer posts a story of a satisfying experience about your product online, that may influence other buyers. Social media has the ability to bring like-minded people together. That may also explain the popularity of the many various and virtual social discussion groups.

Think about the large companies that have shuttered many of their locations or even gone out of business. They never anticipated that shoppers would be going online to order merchandise. They either refused to change with the times or failed to recognize the new environment.

The difference can be as simple as recognizing the speed at which social media moves, recognizing and working within it. The failure or refusal to acknowledge the pros and cons of social media can have a powerful impact — positive and negative — on your company and your business.

Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR.