Companies, social networks evolve

The rules of communication have changed, companies are now embracing social networks

The communications industry has experienced dramatic changes in the past year. With traditional and digital media colliding, social journalism has gained significant traction and influence over corporate brand reputation

This situation has created an entirely new set of “rules” for corporate reputation management. Where social networking was once left to students – and business networking occurred in person – business executives are now beginning to sit up and pay attention to the technology that their children have used for several years.

The end result is that social networking is no longer relegated to the consumer arena. Today, this phenomenon has become a corporate staple allowing companies to build online relationships with influencers, media, customers, current employees and potential recruits.

BusinessWeek reported in “The Water Cooler is Now on the Web,” that professional social networking started with Facebook and is continuing to grow. Thirteen million professionals are on LinkedIn and 11,000 Ernst & Young employees have Facebook accounts. Speaking from personal experience, GCI has used Facebook to connect employees and introduce cross-office client teams to one another.

But smart companies are taking this a step further. Some are building their corporate reputation with online influencer groups, such as CIOs and HR professionals. Others like KPMG and Dow Chemical have created their own in-house networks, allowing employees to create profiles, post their brand preferences and search for colleagues with similar industry backgrounds.

At GCI, we're working on using online networks to tap into consumer opinion, helping us gain crucial insight from our clients' customers and consumers that inform corporate reputation programs.

I believe that the power of social networking has just begun to be tapped in the management of corporate reputation, so watch this space for more in the future.

Kiersten Zweibaum is EVP and global corporate practice leader at GCI Group.

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