Social media have transformed the business and communication landscape and organizations appear to, reluctantly or willingly, recognize this change. Evolving patterns of communication, collaboration, consumption, and innovation have created new domains of interactivity for companies and stakeholders. In this changed scenario, there are opportunities for experimentation and correction, yet challenges abound. As on date, there are no definitive methodologies nor there is a ‘one-size-fits-all’ formula that can be applied to all situations for optimum results. What is definite, though, is that social media communication is the new mantra for influence and can have a huge impact on corporate reputation (CR), “the single most valued formal asset” that “may enable firms to charge premium prices, attract better applicants, enhance their access to capital markets and attract investors.”
The radical growth of social media usage has a decisive impact on the business environment, both at the micro and macro levels. In today’s corporate scenario where “online reputation is your reputation,” it is no longer a question of whether companies should indulge in social media or not. The question whether companies should enter this space has lost significance, for joining, collaborating, and communicating with online consumers have become an imperative. The focus has shifted from ‘What are social media?’ to ‘What do we do with social media now?’
An oft-cited Internet fact, by extrapolation, spells out the importance of the social as: “It took radio 38 years to reach an audience of 50 million, television 13 years, and AOL just two and a half years.” The speed, the interactivity, and the acceptance of the Internet and the social media have made ‘social’ the most favoured mode of communication. Further, consumers have begun to view social media as more trustworthy than the TV, radio, or other traditional sources. Social media is being used to assess and rank a company on its success parameters, leadership, CSR, and/or ability to change and develop public image. Trusov and colleagues26 posit that word-of-mouth peer referrals have a greater influence and higher impact on membership growth than traditional media. “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” Arguably then, the most valued asset of an organization is its reputation.35 Reputations are fragile and difficult to form, develop, and maintain and social media is the most important tool social media, which help shape or distort a company reputation through total or partial information and news.
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