Goodwill Hunting – Social media reality for Business.

Once upon a time, Goodwill would have appeared on your Balance sheets, as a financial reflection of your good standing amongst your customers. It was what was known as an Intangible Asset.

And so endeth the lesson for today on archaic accounting practices.

However should Goodwill be something we are willing to write off so quickly? Does it still hold a valuable position in today’s business world? If so how does Social Media use affect it?

Sometimes something niggles at the back of your mind, and keeps going until you can’t ignore it any more. It’s the proverbial itch waiting to be scratched.

It often is prompted by hearing something that resonates with you and then recedes to the dark spaces of the brain.

Sometime later you receive another little prompt, and if you ignore that you can be guaranteed a full onslaught of related material until you take out the original idea and reexamine the now fully formed notion.

So it was with this post.

A little while ago at dotconf, I listened to Sabrina Dent give an inspired talk about  “Bronies“. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it relates to a whole new world of My little Pony Fans….yes you did read that correctly, who are young? men between the ages of 15 and 55 who love the newly relaunched My little Pony cartoon series released originally for 5-8 year old girls. The “bros” who love Ponies became Bronies,  (God forbid that gets into the OED), and they showed us how fans can elevate a brand above and beyond company expectations.

Anyway, the core of the presentation was on the relationship Brands have with their online community, and how this relationship could be used for good (read Mattel embracing the Bronies) or for ill (See Nestle’s online relationship with Greenpeace).

I loved it because it was exactly how I was advising my customers to behave. To respond in an inclusive way to all reasonable online mentions, and try to maximise the Goodwill existing for your Brand.

A few weeks later I got a little reminder from Ashton Kucher via my twitter stream. One of the most vocal, and possibly the most followed person on twitter (7,587,379 at last count); he had a full on slanging match with the Village Voice in New York. The Village Voice did not come out smelling of roses.

In the last week, I came across two more noteworthy pieces. Both of which caused little sparks in my brain as the synapses crackled. (I couldn’t yet put together all the elements, as is often the case when information is bombarded at us.)

First was an amazingly accurate piece from Ben Hammersly that should stop any business in it’s tracks.

He outlined how quickly technology changes, and how quickly we need to get to grips with this!

His assertion that

” a two term Prime Minister today would end his term of office with an iPhone 64 times as powerful as the one he won the election with. (Or the same thing, but 1/64th of the price.) His policies, therefore, need to written with that future in mind, not the present.

made me realise that here was someone who really gets it. But what was the “it”? The notion still eluded me.

The final piece of the jigsaw presented itself this morning with a podcast from the lovely people atFor Immediate Release. It was an interview with Jeremiah Owyang on Social Business Readiness. Who spoke of crises as something a business is unprepared for. I scratched the itch!

Put together, all of these lead me to the same conclusion.

Now more than ever, small to medium enterprises are relying on word of mouth for business. This need for “Goodwill” amongst our consumers is only the tip of the iceberg. Not only do we rely on Goodwill, but Negative Goodwill, or in common parlance, “a bad review” can really make a difference to our business.

We think we have embraced the internet, with lots of companies and brands starting Facebook pages and Twitter streams. But at the heart of that fallacy lies the crux of my notion.

That we as businesses have been unprepared for the use of Social media.

That we are in crisis.

That we really need to get a grip on what kind of message we are putting out.

That we really want our followers to be like the Bronies, and not spamming our Social Media streams with endless abuse….

The internet has made your own specialised Global Market a very small, and immediately accessible place. It gives your audience a chance to really interact with you. It also allows your audience to tell it how they see it , whether you like it or not.

Social Media hands you the opportunity to be a big fish in your own particular pond, if handled properly,  in a  way that reflects not just you, but everything you and your company stand for in a positive light…your ethos. Handled badly it can expose you as at best inept, at worst … (Again see Nestle)

Nonengagement will not excuse you from poor performance. (People will talk about you even if you’re not there!)

How are we dealing with Social Media? Is our message courting goodwill or bad reviews?

Are you aware of how you are percieved by your online community? What are you doing to make sure that you are breeding Bronies?

Social Media is a marketing tool, in the same way that a scalpel is a surgical tool. Yes I can use it to cut up bits of card for the kids’ school project, but a surgeon uses it in an entirely different way. To realise it’s true potential it needs to be wielded by someone who knows what they are doing.

People are  aware of the real value of their data as they allow it to be used for various marketing ploys, don’t be mistaken here. We do know what we’re doing when we give our information to Tesco, or iTunes etc., even if we don’t want to think too much about it.

Why are we so surprised when our audience question the true value of what we put out on Social Media.