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Online Reputation Management, Personal Branding, Digital Footprints and SMM

Once in a while I like to analyze various search trends taking place in my industry. I do this primarily to see which terms are sticking and to gauge demand for specific business offerings. I first predicted a drastic rise in interest for “social media monitoring” information 4 years ago. Search for the term has been steadily growing year-by-year ever since, however you don’t have to be Nostradamus to know that with the obvious growth of social media, a natural first step for organizations was going to be to “listen” and see what’s going on before jumping in.

In the screenshot below I have compared search volume for the term “social media monitoring” (green) over the last 5 years, to three other related terms:

  • online reputation management (blue)
  • personal branding (red)
  • digital footprint (yellow)

The term personal branding (red) has been dominating this search space, likely because it is often used in the marketing / communications world speaking circuits. Many people are interested and/or concerned about the permanence of the web and what publishing “what some may deem” private content in a public space means re: their identity, reputation and privacy. This is indeed a fascinating topic, which I frequently speak on myself. That being said, I find that with many bricks and mortar, command and control work environments, the term doesn’t resonate well as it puts the individual ahead of the organizational brand. In some cases people don’t like/understand the word “brand” , which is often thought of as something to do with logos. Further still, I find that a good junk of the workforce still has a fixation on separating “business” from “personal”, not realizing that it is no longer black or white (whether we like that or not, it’s the truth). Therefore building a “personal” brand makes no sense to them unless it’s during their 9-5 work hours, but that’s a topic for another day…This term seems to be leveling off but it is here to stay in my opinion.

The term digital footprint (yellow) is significantly less popular however I personally love it because it can apply to organizations or individuals, is a great visual metaphor and doesn’t alienate the non-marketing/comms folks. It seems to be slowly on the rise. Unfortunately, many current senior level execs find it a bit too “hippy” so it doesn’t yet get the seriousness it deserves.

Which leads me to the final term. One of the major shifts in the nature of my client work over the last few years is that I am now often asked to deal directly with the most senior heads of organizations as opposed to branch or program level executives. By far the #1 thing they are interested in is how social media engagement (or monitoring as a start) can help them manage their organization’s reputation. I strongly believe that this is what’s leading to a growth in popularity for the term online reputation management. I find that the term resonates very well with senior management, even when it is not yet fully understood. It may not be as popular as the other terms, but from a business perspective it will quickly rise in my opinion.

What do you think?

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Andrew Krzmarzick

Mike – For government, do you think it’s as much about online reputation management (which is definitely more a marketing/communications term) than online constituent/citizen engagement? I know they don’t need to be mutually exclusive concepts, but it seems to me that you can know what people are saying about you (reputation)…but then you have to devise a plan to reinforce and/or correct perception (engagement). Thoughts?

Mike Kujawski

Andrew, at the end of the day it all depends on what your goals are. A goal should address an issue. If the issue is lack of engagement with citizens leading to poor service delivery (or some other problem) then that would be a senior leader’s priority. If it’s poor reputation or lack of mandate awareness, then their focus would lie on that element.