Managing the Gray Lines of Reputation

I was intrigued by the following post from Peter Kim’s Reputation Matters. At its core the post makes sense indicating that your online conduct, who you associate yourself with and how you engage in those relationships have a strong bearing on your credibility. I agree that your number of followers is not a correct measure of your credibility but the quality of the relationships you’ve built with your network.

The quote that caught my attention from Peter Kim’s post was: “Thus we require personal interactions to help bridge the trust gap. These consist of content and quality within direct conversation. Recency and frequency matter here which should temper the “monetary”/intangible risk of any action. Behavior bundles in here as well.” In a space where relationships have been traditionally built through honest and authentic interactions, this should ideally be the norm. But we have to realize that this space is changing everyday. Marketers are starting to see the true value of social media and the wealth of brand conversations and opportunities to engage with customers will set the ground for another wave of change.

This leads me to Peter’s response to sponsored posts in which he said, “I believe that monetization leads to loss of objectivity sooner or later.” He referenced David Charbuck’s post entitled “Shooting Fish: Blog Sluts”. I read David’s post and I think he has polarized the view of bloggers. It’s nice to idealize a world where writers/bloggers have integrity and do not, in any way, prostitute themselves for the almighty dollar. The reality is that it happens with the emergence of the blogs. Everyone has forever been trying to figure out the monetization of new media and inevitably 100 ideas will unfold and a handful will be tried. Writing used to be a profession, a craft that required strong skills that were honed overtime. Today’s reality is that everybody and his brother can easily create a blog and can, with the plethora of social tools, spread their own messages to the world. That being said, Social Media 101 has provided some rules about acceptable behaviour.

This space is continuously evolving and the new media is now the sexy new channel that’s enticing to marketers because they’ve been told it’s a great way to engage directly with your customers, get immediate feedback, and build long-lasting relationships. Social media proliferated in an effort to flee spaces where advertising dominated. Now, it’s not so easy to hide from the throws of the large corporate dollar.

As a marketer I counsel clients on the value of social media to their brand but I also make them aware of the DOs and DON’Ts and the rules of engagement. The spiralling economic conditions are drawing more companies to this space to begin figuring out how to manage their reputation and start engaging with their customers. The reality is that ROI and defined timelines do not create the luxury of time to engage and develop these relationships from scratch. In most cases, companies need the help of influencers to help them make those introductions and accelerate those messages.  But those relationships have to be real from the beginning. I agree that “money” cannot play role in the relationship.  The friendship has to evolve naturally. But introducing marketers to influencers can evolve into trusting relationships, even if the initial introduction was to to help drive business. The influencers I have reached out to must, on their own, believe in and buy into the vision and activities of the advertiser. It is incumbent upon the influencer to walk away from the initiative if he cannot authentically and sincerely advocate the advertiser’s brand.  It’s not clear black and white. What I’m seeing today as a result of the initiatives we’ve created, are true relationships beginning to form between influencers and advertisers. That is also helping fuel the positive conversations about the brand and change perceptions in the meantime.

The true social media advocates have to also evolve as this space evolves. Understanding where to draw the line has to be taken on a case by case basis. Your actions will be scrutinized and your reputation will be judged by others but ultimately if you conduct yourself with integrity even your loudest detractors can’t fault you.

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