The majority of businesses and organizations view the Web simply as a marketing channel and therefore focus on the two priorities of marketing – get and keep customers. Rightly so. If a business isn’t generating a profit then it’s a charitable organization, not a business. But the Web brings greater value to a business than just paying customers. A business has always had many audiences; employees, shareholders, analysts. They all add value to the business, just not in direct monetary terms measured as “sales.” But these audiences provide influence and brand value. Today, with the Web and devices that connect to the Web, these audiences have a whole new value level.
Before people could actively “participate” on the Web (i.e. Web 1.0) it was still relatively easy to control the corporate message. Not anymore. At best, a company can “manage” the message, it cannot control it. Today, each audience outside paying and prospective customers, adds increased value because they can become “influencers” and the more influence they carry, the more value they add or detract, from a company’s brand and possibly sales and stock value. A negative blogger for example, can influence analysts and shareholders, resulting in a PR nightmare, a massive headache for the Investor Relations team and a potential drop in share price and lost sales by potential customers reading negative comments during the purchase cycle. This can also lower morale as sales people see sales opportunities disappear. And today, even the folks in the mailroom can read a negative blog at home.
Conversely, a positive blogger with wide influence, can send stock prices higher, help a salesperson close a deal and make the mail room guys feel they might have a chance at the corner office one day. A company therefore, should attempt to understand the “added value” of these audiences and the influence value they might hold over a company. This means managing the online reputation and truly understanding and defining your audience. It may take some work to get there, but in the end, a business can better manage its overall reputation and brand.