Published September 2017
More specifically, can I help Zimbabwe save its economy with positive online social media?
Yes I can.
I’ve recently spent some time in Zimbabwe.
One month before this article’s completion my flight was grounded in Zimbabwe, and I have now had first-hand experience on both sides of the same coin. I have done extensive research to prepare this sensational article.
For first time readers, who have not yet read up on me, my projects maintain a 50% success rate. I’m proud to share this stat. One can look at this stat in two ways.
So, guess which option I prefer to look at? My belief is that my success rate is 100%. If I get to try a second time or have enough time to work a project to completion I consider myself successful. I really believe this to be true.
In general, I truly believe that most things are achievable in this universe if you have the will and the time. Yes, project budgets always play a part, especially in roll out and the result window. Most of my quotes are actually rejected due to cost, but I can show, despite my upfront costs, my input brings results to a project faster and for less. My estimate on saving Zimbabwe is rather low… It is my claim that, with just under 750 000 ZAR a month, I could improve the economy of Zimbabwe over a period of 60 months.
45 million rand.
To save a country.
Using the internet.
I am further prepared to extend my claim and say that the improvement in some sectors would be so great it would run into double digit percentage improvements once I was done.
Of course, this article is not actually about Zimbabwe but, instead, about online reputation management.
I only elected to use Zimbabwe’s online reputation because, honestly, it would be hard to find a more challenging project. I’m not picking on the country or its people. With that said if there are corporates who would like to take me up on my claim to improve Zimbabwe, make contact please!
John Bredenkamp or Nicholas van Hoogstraten?
Would you like to sponsor this initiative?
It would only be 1/570 of your collective wealth?
Some people won’t even go on a date with you if they were to find something negative about you online. 47% of adults have researched themselves online and 70% of adults have researched other people online.
How scary is that? You might very well be dumped before even going on a first date, because of something someone else posted about you. As if dating wasn’t scary enough! This is the world we live in now. We have less and less control over first impressions. People borrow each other’s opinions and make decisions before we get to prove our worth. It’s time saving and efficient, sure, but is it accurate? It depends on the credibility of the post, website or person who made the comment. Unfortunately, not everyone checks on the reputation of the source from which the information comes.
A source is assumed more reputable if other people use it or if the information is recent.
This fast-track first impressions theory works the same way for organisations, companies and even entire countries as it does for people.
We have to evolve!
Gone are the days of witness protection or changing your name in your passport or ID book.
Now it’s more frequently talked about to change your name on social media or have an alias. All to protect yourself from friends of a friend who was a tagalong or plus-one at a birthday party and took a picture of you in your speedo, posted it on Facebook which then went viral.
We all need to monitor and protect ourselves. Parents and schools need to teach children how protect themselves online as well; more so now than ever before.
I am a prime example. My real name is not Jean-Pierre Murray-Kline. This is a corporate identity and professional trading name I use, near to my real name but different, to protect a lot of my personal life.
Of course, it’s a lot easier for a person to change their name on Facebook than it is for an entire country, like Zimbabwe, on Google Maps.
However, if Zimbabwe did change its name similar results would transpire on the Internet. People searching would not find as many search result, good or bad. It would very much be a fresh starts.
Of course, changing Zimbabwe’s name is not something I would suggest. There is far too much paperwork and red-tape involved. I always try to find the path of least resistance, which is found with digital platforms, in most cases. They are faster and have far less red-tape and, in most cases, are not controlled by government or any single authority.
Social media is basically the world’s moral gauge.
It offers an average of everyone’s input, unregulated.
What about companies?
Has your company brand been attacked online? How on earth do you protect your company from unhappy clients? 44% of adults search for information in a professional capacity before they engage in a work prospect. Staff, clients, suppliers, websites, blogs, directories, competitors… they all have a voice online and all happy to share an opinion about your business.
Company owners know this, but they fail to act.
This is because most company owners refuse to accept the influence of online reputation.
Don’t believe me?
Try asking any company manager or owner this question:
"Have you had to build monitoring of online media into your work program?"
Eight of ten will say…
While some will just stand there looking confused.
All companies need to train their staff how to look after a company online. Only 27% of all employers have policies in place that teach staff how to present themselves online. I was equally naïve, which is really bad considering what I do for a living. I’ve only had a policy in place for three years now. I did not grasp the risk. All companies have weaknesses, and if a competitor wants to find them they really only need to look online to prepare an angle of attack and exploit your broken links.
It really is very serious. Unlike books on a shelf in a random library in some city, anything online today, about your company, is likely to be recorded for all eternity. Forever is a real place now.
Good or bad, with enough effort, it can be found.
We need to learn how to bury bodies … hide the skeletons.
However, with the bad there will always be good. Can social media be a niche tool for starting a new business?
Can it be used to make money?
I cannot repeat this point and use other words:
Online reputation matters!
Wait, perhaps this will grab the attention of businesses a bit better.
Online reputation matters, because it will save you money and make you more!
Some companies attribute so much value to their online reputation; they have gone as far as to assign a monetary value.
Dell, a computer company, in fact, the one who made the PC I am using to type this article, has assigned a value of 210 dollars to an online customer.
How they worked it out, I am not sure.
They have also gone as far as to give context to good and bad posts.
For example, someone who bad-mouth’s their company is valued at a loss of 57 pounds, and someone who offers good promotion is worth 32 pounds.
Even Dell agrees with me that someone with a bad opinion is worth more than someone with a good opinion. Dell is worth $24.4 billion, perhaps we should listen to them.
Okay, so let’s move onto some of the underbelly of this powerful influence.
Online Reputation Management or ORM for short:
Like SEO, PPC or any other Internet marketing process or tool there are trick and steps that can be applied. Tricks and tools can be grouped into two basic categories.
So, with coffee you can delete, deactivate and remove data and information from directories.
With tea you can monitor and write nice thing about yourself on the Internet and get people to share it.
You should assign resources depending on the needs.
However, a good rule of thumb is to have 75% of resources assigned to promoting positive and preventative news (tea) and 25% prepped for dealing with drama (coffee).
You cannot coffee the entire day. You need some tea as well. Have you heard of the Streisand effect? This is an industry phrase for ORM. It is basically used to describe the actions you take to hide information and the result is accidentally publicising it more. Like when you tell a child not to put his finger in a power socket, the child will, at the very least, consider doing just that…So, just a little strong coffee.
Zimbabwe’s coffee industry has gone through hell. The country used to be home to Africa's richest coffee belts, famous for its SHQ (super high-quality) coffee. Today, the industry lies in ruins. In 2014, 35 000 tons of coffee were produced. Way back in 1988, 90 000 tons was the basic order.
In 2013 the government of Zimbabwe announced having 217 USD in government coffers. That’s about enough to buy thirty-two bottles of coffee or an Internet router with one month’s line rental from Telkom in South Africa.
Unless you have been to Zimbabwe you just won’t understand or believe this to be true…but it is. I read it online so it must be true.
I opened this article saying I had spent some time in Zimbabwe.
My challenge while there was actually due to political tensions between South Africa and Zimbabwe. There were grounded flights in each of the two countries, and it was reportedly due to incorrect paperwork. However, the general sentiment was because of the incident between Grace Mugabe and a young lady in Sandton, in which Grace hit the woman with an extension lead. The incident went viral on social media, and it influenced international flights.
This is a perfect example of social media leading to erosion of a country’s reputation. I went online and wrote several posts about my fear of being stuck and expressed anger and disappointment.
Will the people who read my posts care about Grace Mugabe?
When they see holiday specials in Zimbabwe will they remember my posts and not book because of fear?
The people of Zimbabwe really do suffer. I met several people and spoke to several workers while on my stay. There was even a nice lady on the plane. I listened to people at the counters while waiting for passports to be stamped, spoke to people in the shops and on the streets and for a time I ignored anything online. Unfortunately, the overall online image of Zimbabwe is very close to accurate.
Let’s quickly look at a few simple stats for comparison:
Now, what’s interesting is that South Africans love to complain and say we have so bad. The fact is, most South Africans wouldn’t last a month in Zimbabwe. They’d die of over exertion brought on by chronic complaining.
I hope this article inspires South Africans, because we like to think we have a doomed economy, but if we look at the country’s online reputation we’re really not doing that bad at all.
Just do a little research, or take my example from these links, which are on the first page of Google. South Africa, we are there in the top few countries with great reputations for all sorts of categories that influence business.
Or how about cities with the best reputation for tourism:
It is an online reputation like this that helps the South African economy generate 10 billion rand to the GDB. Never mind that, did you know that tourism in South Africa is so huge that it is responsible for over 10% of our entire workforce.
Zimbabwe, on the other hand, reportedly needs $14 billion to get back on track.
Unfortunately, tourism won’t cut it for Zimbabwe. Not alone. Even if it could, that industry has several challenges. One example of which is the online accusations of the county being one of the most costly places to visit in the world. http://www.herald.co.zw/why-zimbabwe-remains-an-expensive-tourism-destination/
No one sector can save a country. But, if you boost the right industries others can be helped.
Strategy is required.
Think about it, hotels need a lot of services. You can’t have a hotel without a kitchen? You can’t have a kitchen and no food. You can’t have a farm with no tools. You can’t have tools without manufacture.
So, if tourism increases, several other industries automatically improve.
Research is required, and there would be so many influences playing a part in the design of the strategy and my angle of attack. From the get-go, I know, my plan is not to create a force of nature.
I need to create an environment online, which harnesses Zimbabwe's biggest resource…Its people.
Not everyone’s opinion is going to matter online. The reliability of the information comes from authenticity, first-hand experience being shared. In the case of Zimbabwe, the good news has been drowned out. I need the good news to be played above the bad. I have a process that determines a level of severity and steps to reach the best possible outcome. Let me share the three tiers of effort I take.
In general, when dealing with bad news/online reputation do the following:
For Zimbabwe, I’ll jump directly to step 3.
The sad fact is that it can take months if not years to build a good online reputation and mere hours to destroy it. Angry people are more likely to use more energy on their cause than a happy client. Content people carry on with life.
Zimbabwe has thousands of bad reviews.
However, you don’t need to remove thousands of reviews. You only need to control what people see first. Meaning, influence pages 1 – 3 on Google. Trending feeds.
It’s easier said than done.
To get business going is never easy.
An average of 83% of online clients says that online reputation influences their purchase. The same will apply to Zimbabwe. 83% is a huge percentage to combat.
A lot of websites use star-ratings, and the general statistic is that even one star difference can result in 5-10% of business gains and losses.
Whatever the review is, information really arrives in two types of delivery methods.
There are a variety of tools to help address these methods. Some offer solutions for both, so let me share some options with you now:
https://www.brandseye.com/ - South African company – but operates in 26 countries.
http://www.naymz.com – management tool
https://www.reputology.com/ - analytics
https://klout.com/home - good for individuals
https://www.google.co.za/alerts - Google!
http://www.yext.com/ - online listing control
https://www.marketingcloud.com/products/social-media-marketing/radian6/ - paid
http://www.socialmention.com/ - free
http://www.saidwot.com – South African company
http://www.hootsuite.com/Get-Started - manage most platforms in one place
https://www.webtrends.com/ - paid
You’ll have to research and test all the services and tools above. Not everything works for everyone. For example, socialmention.com didn’t find a thing on me.
Which is odd, considering I’m referenced in at least 200 websites and have over 23 000 followers.
A good rule is to try and use 2-3 sources.
Some companies decide to remove themselves from the web entirely. There are risks with being on social media and risks for not. It is my opinion that it is good to be found somewhere online. It is best that you control the information that receives the most attention. That really sums up my theory of a good campaign. Make sure your voice is the loudest.
So, what examples can I give you of companies that do well with ORM?
This company uses their online channels for direct communication with their clients. Think about it, a telephone company…sorry, a cell phone company, which is in the communication business, spends its time and resources on social media responses. They don’t call their clients, which would be free for them to do by the way, instead, when there is drama, like August 2017 in which the data of thousands of people went missing, they responded on social media, fast and effectively.
So, what sort of skillset could a company like Vodacom employ? I know this is the second article I am writing with reference to this company—I am not victimizing or deliberately focusing on them, I am just using them as an example—Also, in context of this article, I think it’s complimentary. So, part of an ORM team, you need to cover:
So what happens when you have to challenge the online negative reputation of epic proportions, like Zimbabwe? Zimbabwe’s investor sentiment is so low, and that makes so much sense. I could not find a positive report online. Africa in general has reported to have a dropped investor sentiment of 13-14% in one year!
Zimbabwe’s GDP in 2016 was 16.2 billion USD. That is nearly the same as Botswana… which has one 5th of Zimbabwe’s population numbers.
Zimbabwe’s economy has essentially crashed. So, how do I help it? A plan of this magnitude would take 6-24 months to prepare. So, I am going to offer a summary…of a summary with some bullet points.
The roll-out of this plan would require a strong technical backbone, and I would likely keep that in South Africa. I don’t need to be in Zimbabwe to run a web plan.
The plan has to have a foundation of authenticity and originality. It needs to combat negative reviews, it needs to flood the market with positive reports, it needs to try to remove or replace (through more recent news) bad feedback, it has to have personal feedback, blogging shares thousands of personal positive reviews, it has to be consistent, it has to be designed to survive years, it has to be honest and not avoid dealing with the bad, but rather send attention and focus to the good.
The plan or the web campaign would need champions to succeed. The people and companies of Zimbabwe have to be the heart of the campaign.
My team would also need to be able to react quickly and politely and address criticism with factual responses supportive of a positive opinion.
Objective – 60 months / 5 years. (Limited example scenario)
Giving the power of reputation to corporates and offering them direct access to clients.
Research - 18 months:
Preparation - 6 months:
Roll out - 36 months:
Team Structure – 21:
Provisional Budget – R45 million – rounded off estimate:
Published September 2017