Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Social media has changed our world. From marketing to personal communication and even job hunting, social media opens a new realm of both benefits and dangers to individuals and brands. In the world of marketing, social media is at best an ally, and not a friend, warns Debbie Goodman-Bhyat, CEO at executive search firm Jack Hammer.

She points out that most marketers are aware that they need to exercise caution regarding what is posted online about their brands, but that social media aggregators are a recent trend that allows for the collection of all content posted online by a particular person or brand. They do a total “sweep” of all content that exists online, some of which can be exceptionally damaging.

The big take-out: Searches using social media aggregators means it easier than ever to reveal unfavourable social media content about brands or individuals. Jack Hammer’s Debbie Goodman-Bhyat says social media and reputation management should be a matter of common sense, and the only way to oppose negative social media is to counter it with more positive content that reflects the brand in different light. 

“Once content is out there, on social media in particular, it is almost impossible to delete,” says Goodman-Bhyat. She adds that the only way to manage negative social media content is to counter it with new content that reflects a brand’s reputation and image in a different way. But she stresses that the best way to manage reputation in the age of social media is to exercise caution. Responding to posts from consumers in real time is vital in terms of managing what is out there. 

Even people who represent a brand, such as those who work at an organisation or its brand ambassadors, could have an adverse effect on a brand’s online reputation, explains Goodman-Bhyat.

“We are increasingly seeing that part of the verification process – when someone is seeking employment, for example – includes at the very least a cursory glance through his or her social media profile. While Facebook and LinkedIn are the most commonly checked platforms, with social media aggregators it is possibly to do a pretty comprehensive sweep across them all,” she says. Any unfavourable messaging that has been posted by a person in the past, such as those relating to racism, homophobia, sexism or any other unacceptable comments or imagery, reflects poorly on the person and possibly the brand or organisation he or she represents, Goodman-Bhyat continues.

She says it is a matter of common sense. Companies or brands should be very specific in terms of what is considered unacceptable social media posting. “The problem is that people seem to think that they can do or say anything in their ‘personal capacity’ and that it should not affect their professional profile. Unfortunately, this is not the case, and there simply are no boundaries when it comes to online space. An awareness of this, together with a clear understanding about posting unacceptable content online, is important,” she concludes.

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