While not the pinnacle of popularity, Warren Buffett once said “it takes 20 years to build a reputation, and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” While this rings true, not only in Mr. Buffett’s personal and professional situation, it also rings true in the business world in general. Many people forget that social media is a thriving part of the marketing field, given its relative newcomer status in the business world. However, in social media, as in any field, reputation is of the utmost importance.
When we speak of the importance of good reputation, this can mean any number of things. It could be as simple as how we’re viewed by the public, or how we act when confronted with a deadline. Reputation could also mean the way we handle ourselves in the public eye, how we deal with scrutiny or the expeditious nature in which we respond to complaints. However, the most important facet of our reputation in the business world is the way in which we deal with clients and the way we deal with each other. Our reputation is what shows to the public, and a bad one isn’t what we want them to see.
I’ll start with an example. I’ve worked for a diverse cross-section of people since I was fourteen years old and was able to work. I started my working life by babysitting for many of the doctors with whom my mother worked. In such a field, reputation is incredibly important, as people are quick to consult colleagues and friends for recommendations. I quickly and efficiently worked to cement a reputation of being dependable, responsible, and always willing to go the extra mile if necessary. As I’ve reached goals in other fields, I’ve maintained the same reputation. It wasn’t an easy reputation to build, but with constant diligence, I’ve managed to do so.
In contrast, I once worked for a company whose leader was infamous for having a hair-trigger temper and firing clients on a whim. I was unaware of this reputation, having been a newcomer to the field, so I took the job without question. What I quickly found out, was that my boss was revered as an expert in our chosen field in some circles, but otherwise was known as a nightmare. When it came to taking on new clientele, I was constantly greeted with an enthusiastic initial contact, but uncompleted deals based on feedback and recommendations from the general public. I quickly chose to exit this business, as I couldn’t run the risk of having my reputation dragged through the dirt when I had worked so hard to build it.
Criticism is something we need to be prepared for in the business world, and we build our reputations on how we handle said criticism. If a problem arises in a business, the dream scenario is that it is handled quickly and quietly, but this isn’t a dream world. Sometimes problems want to be public issues, and sometimes the people airing their grievances want an audience. It is at this point, that we have the chance to either create or ruin our reputation. There is nothing that will stop people from complaining, but the nature in which we handle these complaints will be what sets us apart.
A hypothetical situation, if you will. Suppose you’re a fledgling business when a client or former client levy a complaint. Not a legal complaint, mind you, but they take to the internet and find ways to blast your business on Facebook, Yelp, or Google Plus. How you handle this situation is paramount to your reputation. There are two ways to go in this scenario. One, we ignore the complaint. Two, we respond to the complaint, both publicly and privately. A private response should address the person personally, without admitting liability, and see what can be done to remedy the issue. The public response should be one in which we address the concern, and speak of the resolution of the problem.
A reputation is easy to ruin, but difficult to build, and in the social media field, we’re in the building business. One of the main reasons clients consult us is that they want to build a solid footing in their niche market. In our field, our job is to take that fledgling business and help them troubleshoot while building a consistent and responsive online reputation. In the day and age of the internet, the online reputation we build is every bit as important as the face we present to the public, and to most browsers, the two are one in the same. Building your reputation is as important as making sure you can cover payroll from week to week, and both will require a fair amount of work.