Channels for e-communication
1. The website
The first step in building a company’s e-reputation often concerns the creation of a specific website through which the company will be able to present itself as well as its products and services.
The main advantage of the website is the control that the company will have over its content. It is free to choose whether it wishes the website to have a unilateral dimension or whether it should be a forum for discussion (e.g. a web board), whether the website should be static (web pages that do not change with time) or dynamic (e.g. a blog or a news section).
The biggest disadvantage of the website is that it must be continuously adapted. Following technological evolutions [Note: For instance moving from a Flash website to an HTML5 website to make the content accessible to tablet and smartphone users.] is for instance recommended so as to ensure that the website may be viewed by the widest audience and with ease. It is also important to ensure that the website is well referenced (work on the relevance and quality of the ‘meta tags’ of the web pages).
To illustrate, Janssens-Quidam, which does not have a web designer or web developer in its team, called upon a third party for the redesign of its janssens-quidam.be website so as to prepare for the cat hat launch (new functionality included an interface for uploading pictures, the possibility to connect with a Facebook login, a mobile interface, etc.). The cat-hat.be domain name was also acquired, though it merely redirects to the Janssens-Quidam website.
2. Other social media
Next up are the social media other than the website itself. This includes blogs and microblogs (such as Twitter and sector-specific blogs), social networks (such as Pinterest, Facebook and LinkedIn), discussion boards (generally specialised), content communities (e.g. YouTube) and sometimes even collaboration projects (e.g. Wikipedia).
The main advantage of these social media is the (near) immediate access to a broad audience (namely the community of users of the system). It is thus possible to engage in a conversation with the public in a more natural and instantaneous manner, given that the web user does not need to create a new user account and he or she has access to the content without any change of scene. Via Janssens-Quidam’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/janssensquidam), the ‘fan’ of Janssens-Quidam will be more inclined to share a photo of him- or herself wearing a cat hat than if he or she was required to create a new account (username, e-mail address, password, etc.) on Janssens-Quidam’s website. The company thus avoids an additional barrier to content access.
3. Main risks in relation to communication on the Internet
(a) Obsolete information
In practice, regardless of the channel chosen for creating and keeping its e-reputation, the company will be well advised to ensure that the content of the e-communication is renewed on a regular basis, so as to avoid letting the information become out of date or no longer representative of the company’s business.
(b) Disclosure of confidential information
The company must also monitor the use that is made of the channel in question. It will wish to avoid any disclosure of confidential information or know-how (whether by the company or a third party).
(c) Negative e-communication
It is not enough to work on a company’s e-communication – one must also ensure that it is positive. When monitoring the use of the communication channel, the company must prevent potential communication issues that might have a negative impact.
(d) Business identity theft
Finally, the company must keep an eye on the various social media to prevent any form of business identity theft (e.g. creation by an ex-employee of a Facebook page on the company).