Face it, some people are drunk on blog and social media koolaid just as some are addicted to only using the strategies and tactics that they are comfortable with practicing. Maybe we all need a little help.
So, here is a sample 12 step program.
1. We admit that WOM / social media no longer allows us to have total control over the message.
Reputation management has become more unmanageable thanks to social media. But, we want to understand how – if at all – we can engage in conversations to at least provide direction for the conversations.
Word of mouth is the passing of information by verbal means, especially recommendations, but also general information, in an informal, person-to-person manner, rather than by mass media, advertising, organized publication, or traditional marketing. Word of mouth is typically considered a spoken communication, although web dialogue, such as blogs, message boards and emails are often now included in the definition.
2. Social media has provided a power greater than traditional media and information systems and now gives everyone a voice.
Blogs, alone, now offer everyone their own personal op-ed page. Add wikis, podcasts, photo and video sharing services and it gets mind-boggling. With meme aggregators and search engines, the possibility for anyone to have a voice in conversations has arrived. Moreso, the ability to voice those opinions is constantly expanding and growing. From podcasts to social photo sharing groups, the ways to participate are mind-boggling.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to one simple reality. The game has changed. No one person or deity is in charge of the message anymore.
Source: Wikipedia. I only use Wikipedia because it, too, is a social network. The definition is not, IMO, the best.
There are no clear rules anymore. The ability to engage groups, small and large, in conversations sees a new launched opportunity every day. Yesterday, it was MySpace. Today it is Meebo, or a dozen others. Tomorrow? Who knows.
The unpredictable nature of communication today means you might as well start praying if you are not actively involved in these conversations. To make it business – or communication – related, millions and millions of relatively equal voices are now capable of impacting your reputation. WOM was once ethereal. It was out there on the winds of public discourse. Now, it is written down and stored in search engines. It is public record and easier to find and adapt in your own voice than ever before.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves (and our company or organization’s reputation online).
Ah, what a perfect way to discuss online tracking via search. From search engines to news alerts and RSS search, the opportunity to see what people are saying about you, your products, your services and more has never been so easy – and so intimidating. The most important lesson here is to determine when to engage and when to leave well enough alone. Perhaps even more important is to learn how to engage and find any and all references to your reputation online.
5. Admit to yourself, those in your organization, your stakeholders, and to any other interested human beings the exact nature of your wrongs.
This is all about the engaging in conversations in an honest and transparent practice. People and organizations find themselves challenged, or even attacked, online every day. The art of Fisking is being honed by millions, too. So, best to fess up and take the high road. The low roads will inevitably be monitored by snipers and snarkers with the goal of picking you off. It is scary. Just like overcoming performance anxiety (stage fright) in speech, the best way to succeed is to prepare. Practice. Learn. Get involved and become comfortable with online tools and tactics.
6. Be entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
Left that one alone. Why? Well, because customers (or stakeholders, whatever you want to call them) have a right to voice their opinions. And they are. It is easier than ever before. Plenty of people online see themselves as the ultimate arbiter of what is right and wrong. That is the nature of blogs, for instance. It is a personal voice shared with whomever surfs on by your little soapbox. And, you know, for some people – those they influence – they may be right. They are not gods, but they are idols to some. Some people call them influencers. Come on, you know that some people today see personal voices as more trustworthy than traditional information sources. And, that personal voice could just be Biff in his basement. But Biff could take your company or organization for quite a ride if you aren’t careful. Actually, he or she, could take you for a ride even if you are careful.
7. Humbly ask your stakeholders to remove our shortcomings.
On this one, you might as well ask them to and let them do it. They will anyway. But, you can have a voice, too. Engage. Participate. Learn.
8. Make a list of all persons you have harmed, and become willing to make amends to them all.
This one makes me chuckle. Think of blogrolls and link love. Think about CRM and customer service. The rules have changed. Write to your critics. Write about your critics saying, “Hey, you know. You were right. This helped and we have changed.” Also, respond to them in their blogs. Now, you only do any of this if it is justified. If it is a rational response. Yes, there may be some people you don’t want to respond to – and shouldn’t. But, at least be aware of them – and watch them. Even anonymous character bloggers are being picked up by more traditional media. In Canada, they had an anonymous blogger for a TV network talking about the candidates and issues. It was popular.
9. Make direct amends to these people wherever and whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
Fess up. Make things right. Be willing to say, “I was wrong.” Or, be willing to say, “I’m sorry.” The most important thing is to mean it. Be sincere. There are many ways to accomplish the “making of amends” to those you’ve done wrong. First, saying you’re sorry (see above) is the easiest and often all that is required. Other than that, give refunds or replace their damaged goods whenever appropriate. That can get expensive, so it has to be a truly unexcusable error on your part to prompt the action. I’m not saying give away the store. Hey, for some online detractors, a link back with a comment in their blogs may provide all they want.
10. Continue to take personal inventory and when you are wrong promptly admitted it.
This one is easy. Track. Track. Track. Monitor. Monitor. Monitor. Engage when necessary. Then, if you engage, fess up when you are wrong.
11. Seek, through prayer, meditation or whatever works for you, to improve your conscious contact with whatever overlying force guides your life. Human beings, customers or stakeholders – whatever you want to call them.
It may be as practical as praying only for knowledge – or seeking out the knowledge yourself – and come to terms with what is important for your organization’s communication plan. Think communication audit.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps. Try to carry this message to other communicators, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
Hey, think Code of Ethics. What a concept. Maybe we could all actually read it and then – the big shocker – practice it, too.
I am also thinking that the word blog should be used less and less. Even social media is too over used.
Although word-of-mouth (WOM) is also another buzz phrase, it is most likely the best – easiest to relate to – concept to start using as a more encompassing phrase / term. WOM is easier to understand, or accept. There is familiarity. It just covers more areas of communication as there are more channels and tactics today. So, consider the above to be a WOM 12 Step Program for new communication experiences.
Just thinking out loud, here. Sometimes that is dangerous.