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How Do We Track and Defend Our Reputation on Social Media?

I talked at the beginning of the book about a Boston-based firm. We were meeting with the head of the advisor network, the chief marketing officer, and others, talking about the opportunities with social media.

Then, the head of customer service piped up and asked, “Why would we want to be on social media when people can say things that hurt your brand?” The CMO instantly chimed in, “It's happening anyway. This is a way to manage our brand.”

I thought to myself, “Wow, she really gets it. I can understand his fear, but isn't it more worrisome to have hundreds or thousands of customers out there, saying things about you or your products, and you're not aware of it? Does turning your eyes away help? Or does it actually create more risk, leaving you vulnerable to the day when something big will happen, and you'll be totally unprepared for how to address it?”

Failure to use social media in some way poses a greater risk – a risk that your reputation will be shaped by the conversations happening out there, conversations that are led by others, not by you. The new online world presents an opportunity to know what's being said, and to manage it. How you respond says a great deal about your firm and its leaders.

The old adage – In business, your reputation is your livelihood – is perhaps more accurate today than at any other time in history. No business or profession – including advisors and planners – can expect to thrive and remain relevant in today's fast-paced and tech-savvy world without maintaining a strong web presence. In fact, the Internet has become such an integral component of daily life that consumers rely on it for just about everything, and that includes researching advisors and planners like you. So, developing and keeping a dynamic online strategy is absolutely crucial to creating a reputable brand. This means that in addition to keeping an active and engaging website, you must also take advantage of other web-based referral and marketing sources like blogs, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and other online media.

Yet despite the obvious benefits of a well-rounded online and social media strategy, some advisors remain hesitant to use these online tools due to one simple but frightening possibility: You can't control what's being said about you in cyberspace, and that could potentially threaten the reputation you worked so hard to build. This makes the Internet something of a double- edged sword – not only does it allow you to promote your brand easily, but it also affords your clients, prospects, and even competitors the ability to express their thoughts about you or your organization just as easily.

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