Published September 2017
More specifically: can I help Zimbabwe save its economy with positive online social media?
Yes I can.
I have recently spent some time in Zimbabwe.
1 month before this articles completion, my flight was grounded in Zimbabwe and have now had first hand experience of both sides of the same coin. I have done extensive research to prepare this sensationalist article.
For first time readers who have not yet read up on me, my projects have maintained a 50% success rate. I am 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 my success rate is 100%, if I get to try a second time, or have enough time to work a project to completion. I really believe this to be true.
In general, I truly believe 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, in the long run, 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 also 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 am 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 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 find something bad about you online! 47% of adults have researched themselves online and 70% of adults have searched online for information on other people.
How scary is it you might very well be dumped before you even get your first date because of something someone else has posted about you. As if dating was not scary enough! This is the world we live in. We have less and less control each day over 1st impressions. People borrow each other’s opinions, and make decisions before we get to prove our worth. It’s time saving, it is efficient, but is it accurate? Depends on the credibility of the post or website or the person who has made the comment. Unfortunately, not everyone checks on the reputation of the source of information.
A source is assumed more reputable if other people use it or if the information is recent.
The same fast track of 1st impressions theory works the same for people as it does for organisations, companies and even entire countries.
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 some friend of a friend who was a tag along or a +1 at a birthday party and they took a picture of you in your speedo, then posted it on Facebook, which then went viral.
We all need to monitor and protect ourselves. Parents and schools need to teach children how to protect themselves online. More so now than 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 have used, near to my own name, but different, to protect a lot of my personal life.
Of course, it is a lot easier for a person to change their name on Facebook, than an entire country like Zimbabwe to change its name on google maps…
However, similar results would happen on the internet if Zimbabwe did change its name… people searching would not find as many search results. Good or bad. It would very much be a fresh start.
Of course, changing Zimbabwe’s name would not be something I would suggest. Far too much paperwork and red tape, and I always try to find the path of least resistance … which in most cases is found with digital platforms … they are faster and have far less red tape, and in most cases 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. 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 ask any company manager or owner the question:
‘’Have you had to build monitoring of online media into your work program? ‘’
You are going to get 8 out of 10 who say
Some will just stand there looking confused.
Companies need to train staff how to look after a company online. Only 27% of employers have policies in place on how staff present themselves online. I was equally naive, which is really bad considering what I do for a living. I have had policy in place for only 3 years now… I did not grasp the risk. All companies have weaknesses … but now, if a competitor wants to find them, they really only need to look online to prepare an angle of attack, by exploiting your broken links. It really is very serious. Unlike a book in a library, on a shelf, 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.
With the bad, there is good. Always. 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 business 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 try to assign a monetary value.
Dell (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 then also have gone as far as to give context for good and bad posts.
For example, someone who bad mouths 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 has more value than someone with a good opinion. Dell is worth $24.4 billion. So perhaps we should listen to them?
Okay, so let’s move onto some of the underbelly of this powerful influence.
Reputation management or ‘ORM’ for short.
Like SEO, or PCC, or any internet marketing process, or tool, there are tricks or steps that can be taken. Tricks and tools can be grouped into two basic categories:
with coffee you can delete or deactivate, remove data, remove information from directories…
With tea, you can monitor, and write nice things 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 would be to have 75% resources assigned to promoting positive and preventative news (tea), and 25% prepped for dealing with drama (coffee).
You cannot drink coffee the entire day. You need tea. Have you heard of the Streisand effect? This is an industry phrase for ORM. It is basically used to describe when you take action 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… they going to at the very least consider doing just that. So, just a little bit of strong coffee.
Zimbabwe coffee industry has gone through hell. The country use 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 it had 217 USD in government coffers… about enough to buy 32 bottles of coffee, or an internet router and 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 - grounded flights in each country - reportedly due to incorrect paperwork, however, the general sentiment was because of the incident with Grace Mugabe in Sandton hitting a young lady with an extension lead. The incident went viral on social media – and it influenced international flights!
A perfect example of social media leading to erosion of a country’s reputation. I went online, at my hotel room, and wrote several posts about my fear of being stuck, and anger, and disappointment.
Will the people who read the posts I made really care about Grace Mugabe?
When they see a special on a holiday in Zimbabwe, will they remember my post and not book because of fear?
The people of Zimbabwe really do suffer. I met several people, and spoke with 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…. I spoke to people in the shops. I spoke to people in the streets. I ignored for some time anything online. Unfortunately, the overall image of Zimbabwe online is really not too far from inaccurate.
Let’s quickly look at just a few quick simple stats for comparison:
Now, what is interesting is that South Africans loves to complain and say we have it really bad. Fact is, most South Africans wouldn’t last a month in Zimbabwe without dying from 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 the countries online reputation… we really are not doing that bad at all.
Just do some simple research, or take my example from these links on 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 online reputation like this which helps South African economy generate 10 billion rand to the GDB… Okay, never mind that, did you know tourism in South Africa is so huge, that it is responsible for over 10 % of our entire work force.
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, for example, being accused online of being one of the most costly places to visit in the word: 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 needed.
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 would be needed, and there would be so many influences playing a part in the design of 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 :
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 which determines a level of severity and steps to take to reach the best possible outcome. Let me share the three quick tiers of effort I take, and in general when dealing with bad news / reputation online, do the following:
For Zimbabwe, I’ll jump direct to step 3.
Sad fact is it can take months if not years to build a good online reputation, and only 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. 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 say online reputation influences their purchase. The same will apply for Zimbabwe. 83% a huge percentage to combat.
A lot of websites use STAR ratings, and the general stat that even one star difference can result in 5 -10 % business gain or loss.
Whatever the review is, information really arrives at people 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
With all the above tools and services, you have to research and test. 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, try to use 2-3 sources.
Some companies decide to remove themselves entirely from the web. There are risks for being on social media and risks for not. It is my opinion, it is good to be found somewhere online… and it’s best you control the information that receives the most attention. That really sums up my theory on 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… sorry, a cell phone company… which is in the business of communication, spends its time and resources on social media responses… not calling their clients… which would be free for them to do by the way… instead, when there is drama, like August 2017, and data for thousands of clients go missing…. they respond 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 – but I am not victimizing, or deliberately focusing on them, just using them as an example. Also, in context of this article, I think it’s complimentary. So, part of a ORM team, you need to cover:
So what happens when you have to challenge the online negative reputation of epic proportions – like Zimbabwe? Zimbabwe 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 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, 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 share 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, address criticism with factual responses supportive of a positive opinion.
Objectives – 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