• Blurred lines: How social media blends advertising with reputation management

    The changing face of communication is disrupting a number of established practices as the general public adapt to new channels. 

    While advertising and reputation management were previously unique concerns for the country's organisations, the rise of social media has seen these blend together. From an organisation's point of view, this can greatly change the way corporate affairs messages are received and understood. 

    Roy Morgan Research stated that nearly 8 million Australians access Facebook alone through their mobile devices every month, reinforcing how open the public is to engaging with businesses in almost any place and at any time. 

    Social media brings unique concerns for organisations

    As more businesses grow their social media presence across a range of different networks, the line between what the public receives as advertising and what they acknowledge as perception management changes. 

    In many cases this is because they balance of power has shifted. Social media allows people to engage directly with businesses. For example, businesses can now privately message their customers on Facebook, and the site provides an indication to other users of how quick representatives are to respond. 

    Researchers from Baylor University found that as these two elements of external communication converge on social media, many professionals will need to update their reputational risk management procedures. Co-author Erin Schauster stated that it's important to acknowledge how different platforms affect engagement with the general public. 

    "As advertising executives assume online community management roles, they may need additional training in issues and crisis management," she explained. 

    According to the researchers, there are a number of essential skills these professionals should possess to ensure online interaction goes smoothly. These include the ability to interpret statistics and an understanding of how online communities function. 

    Who should be visible on social media?

    The concerns for businesses operating on social media lie not just on the content of the messages, but who's delivering them. In particular, sites such as Twitter are providing executives with the opportunity to personalise their communications, and bring a different dimension to corporate communication. 

    In a Weber Shandwick report, CEO of Goldman Sachs Lloyd Blankfein said that executives are realising the value of communicating directly with the public. 

    "They always should have been important, but it wasn't part of our audience as we thought about it," he explained. "Now we will have to develop those muscles a little better than we have."

    Social media is changing the way the public engages with corporate messages, requiring organisations to alter the way they communicate. 

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