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Marketing

Published May 23rd 2011

Your New Rep. Can You Manage?

We teamed up with Content and Motion, one of our agency clients, to write a two-part series about reputation management. For our take on it as a social media monitoring provider, take a look at our post on the C&M blog. For the agency perspective, here’s Roger Warner of C&M:

C&M is an Online PR and Social Media agency. I’m the MD. We’ve been working for some time with Brandwatch to create a bunch of international Social Media reports and insights for brands like TomTom using the toolset. We like.

One thing I care for as we enter a new phase of (relative) maturity for Social Media marketing is the various categories that are emerging as service offerings for agencies and software vendors to organise themselves around. Market conditions (AKA client requirements) dictate the pace and change here. One area I’ve come to love and despise in equal measure is ‘Reputation Management’.

The idea of Reputation Management is both a necessary function and a curse. Necessary because brands invest billions in building their rep. Apple’s brand is reportedly worth £137 billion more today than it was five years ago. Whilst this number won’t appear on its P&L, it’s obviously worth maintaining. This is the bit I love.

For me, the idea of ‘Management’ is, however, a bit of a curse… and probably a fruitless goal. You can create a reputation, build it and protect it, but I’m not convinced you could ever manage it.

Here’s why…

Monitor, Report and Plan – Not Guardianship

As a job, Reputation Management is flawed. The notion of an army of consultants offering ‘reputation management’ services ought to put most brands off their breakfast. In practice, this aspect of reputation should translate as monitor, report and plan. This is where tools like Brandwatch come in. Used well they can help us understand what’s being said, shared and created in order to help us to tweak our marcoms, customer service and product development. Get good data, then act smart with it.

Influence – Not Management

Twitter, Facebook, etc place a brand firmly in the eye (and mind) of the beholder – and as we know consumer opinion can’t be managed. At best it can be influenced – in Apple’s case by brilliant design, innovation, communications and customer service. But ownership – as defined by what people say and do online – is always beyond us and can’t be managed. Again, data is key. It’s abundant and it has to be used to deliver better things, so that perceptions and opinions can be effected through great work.

Content is King

On the Social web, the best way to influence is via great content. Facebook engagement. Customer service on Twitter. How to videos on YouTube. All common fare – but not easy to implement. Today the brands that are winning in word of mouth and satisfaction are those making the biggest commitment to being smart publishers and communicators: always on, always publishing the right stuff and always available. Monitoring tools help us to understand what content to create (tweets, status updates, promos, campaigns, service responses, etc). They allow us to manage the creative plan, not the reputation. It’s the quality of the output that drives respect.

Build it and They Might Come

Reputation is an earned currency. So is an audience. The only way to touch people is to reach them, in step with their preferences. A great online marketing strategy needs to be built continuously – to earn the right to be heard and respected. This is not a management strategy in the McKinsey / MBA sense, it’s a communications strategy. New brand roles are being created worldwide with responsibility for running communities, generating content and using monitoring toolsets. This is a really positive change (and an exciting job). Brand marketing and customer care departments are being rewired to enable better communication with the public. Those with the brightest plan and the biggest commitment to content will win, and good data is the engine room.

What to Do?

Use consumer data to deliver better creative communications. Don’t pay for a service that attempts to manage the unmanageable. I’m not sure what the deliverables would be in any case. Spend your money on the toolsets, planners and creatives instead.

Tell me what you think. Drop a comment below or get in touch via @rogerwarner.

Content and Motion work with Brandwatch using our software to produce social media monitoring reports that help them shape their clients’ marketing strategies. To find out more about how we could help you, please contact our team.

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