In my last blog we talked about how one man became an overnight sensation and drove traffic to his internet business through an online stunt which went viral. In this blog we’ll be talking about how social media has changed the way in which organisations and individuals interact with each other.

Communication between the two has changed dramatically; long gone are the days of downward one-way communication from corporations to their single mass audience. Through social media, organisations can speak directly with each of its individual publics. This is a move which has enormous benefits to businesses; it gives them the chance to proactively communicate with customers, tailor their message and engage people in critiquing activities which gives the company free, impartial advice.

Despite this, many companies, for whatever reason, still haven’t made the jump to two-way communication. The problem with this is that it leaves companies vulnerable to attacks on their reputation.

Two-thirds of the world’s internet population visits social media sites and blogs, according to research by Nielsen, Global Faces & Networked Places. Many of these people discuss their thoughts on products and services with other people. In fact, a 2009 survey of online consumer behaviour has shown that direct communication with a company is declining while online reviews are increasing.

The use of social media to express thoughts and opinions can be extremely influential on others. 74% of adults say their decisions about whether to deal with a particular company are influenced by the negative comments they read online.

And it’s not just the big branded corporations which are affected by this empowered online public. An increasing number of websites encouraging people to rate their local solicitor or teacher, for example, are popping up.

Engaging in these conversations really is the first step to correcting the damage these posts may have – on a global scale – to your reputation. So if you’re not already out there – shouldn’t you be?