Every now and then I hear from someone saying that social media is a bit of a fad and that there is no real impact on business and the bottom line.
Perhaps when people first discovered social platforms, this statement may have held true. But the rapidly changing online environment means that social media is no longer a ‘toy’ to be played with, but another genuine media source that, like print, television and radio, can make or break your business with the click of a button.
Reputations have been swept onto the rocks with relative ease as rumour and gossip run rife on the web. Sometimes these are accurate, sometimes they aren’t. But as information flows continue their steroidal existence, it simply doesn’t matter.
I remember when rumours around Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett’s death first appeared on Twitter on June 25, 2009 and the subsequent suggestions that Jeff Goldblum had also died in a tragic climbing accident in New Zealand. Goldblum’s follow up video on The Colbert Report soon after shows the startling nature of viral misinformation online.
When information spreads this quickly, how do you distinguish between truth and fallacy?
Four Corners aired an episode last week regarding Qantas and in it revealed how the airline’s share price had been directly affected by a rogue tweet which came out of Indonesia. As was the case with Jeff Goldblum, online communities failed to separate fact from fiction and the share price collapsed as rumours spread that a plane had gone down in Indonesia.
As social media firm SR7’s Thomas Tudehope pointed out in his thoughts on the Qantas situation, “An innocuous tweet from an Indonesian student spread like wildfire, caused mass panic and dented the Qantas share price. [This] is an example of how social media is changing the game for brand and reputation management.”
The lesson here for all businesses is clear: if you aren’t engaged on these platforms you run the risk of false information about you spreading. Very far. Very fast. And this will impact your financials. Ignore social media at your peril.
Why would you sit idly by while someone undoes your hard-earned corporate reputation over 140 years in 140 characters? By having a presence online, you give yourself the chance to engage in discussions and quash rumours.
More importantly, when something does go wrong, you are already engaged with your community and can provide them with the most relevant information as it happens to avoid misinformation spreading.
Australian business should learn a lesson from Qantas. Explore social media platforms, connect with your online stakeholders and develop an online crisis communications plan. Social media is not just for fun or a time-wasting tool for employees, but a genuine communication channel and one that can save you and your shareholders a lot of anguish.