By Nicholas Courant (www.twitter.com/nicholascourant)
“It’s better to have a good neighbour than a distant friend” We’re all familiar with the saying, but in an age where tweeps across the globe are just 140 characters away, it’s so easy to neglect the nearby. And yet, your next-door neighbours or the local communities around your company sites do have a greater influence on your company and your reputation than you would sometimes realize.
Just last week, I read the story of two owners of a trendy club in Belgium shutting down their flourishing business because they couldn’t cope with the complaints of their neighbour any longer. They, and their landlord, had been ignoring his protests against the late-night noise caused by the club and its trendy, boozed up visitors. After all, the club had been around for years and the angry tenant should have known before he decided to rent the place. A reflection that many of us probably would have made, but one that boomeranged back into their faces. All of a sudden, Saturday night’s regular visitors included not only trendy youngsters, but also coppers with decibel meters. Needless to say, the shiny blue uniforms didn’t exactly boost business for the club.
These days, companies are increasingly recognizing the value of a community manager for their online reputation. Well, why not have your community manager take a broader perspective on “community” and adopt a holistic approach towards distant and local communities alike? After all, what’s the sense of building a powerful group of online evangelizers if locally, your reputation is being slanted by angry neighbours badmouthing your company in the press? And what if they start influencing the same politicians that you rely on to grant you your next exploitation permit?
The principles of accessibility and transparence should therefore be applied to all influential stakeholders. Yes, also the angry neighbour that deep inside you would rather ignore. So reach out to the local community before they turn against your company, monitor their sentiments by offering quick and easy opportunities for feedback, identify the local top influencers and before all, try to look for solutions together. Not just because it’s your duty as a good and responsible neighbour, but because in the end it’s better for business. Hence my plea to get community manager from behind his or her computer screens (yes, they’re usually surrounded by a number of screens) and have them take a walk around the block from time to time. A bit of fresh air won’t hurt your community manager, but it will help you to find a good neighbour.