Social networking: friend or foe?
A lie can travel half way round the world while the truth is putting on its shoes 
Mark Twain

The 21st century is the age of the internet. Every sixty seconds, there are 100 new Linkedin accounts; 320 new Twitter accounts; 98,000 tweets; and 168 million emails sent. So at a recent seminar organized by the British Chamber of Commerce in Brussels, public affairs and other professionals gathered to hear about the perils of social networking and how to avoid them.

Experts like Brendan Hodgson of Hill & Knowlton and David Earnshaw of Burson-Marsteller advised that all companies need to create an online presence and the secret is to be first, to be right and to be credible with your message whether via twitter, blogs etc. Professor Steve Muylle of Vlerick School of Management added that you need to balance the opportunities with the risks of this presence.  By the same token you need also to monitor what others publish about you or your company so that you can react swiftly (by apologizing or giving the correct information).  

In summary, six top tips:
1. Be 100% transparent
2. Apologize quickly
3. Do not blame others for what is done
4. Do not try to censor justified critics or mistakes
5. Communicate quickly internally
6. Don’t regard yourself as immune

Prof. Muylle stressed that you had better engage with your customers and that you stimulate the use of social media in a pro-active way in order to build a community upfront, which may always be useful afterwards if you are ever under attack.  The power of such a community is that they will react to ‘negative’ news with their ‘positive’ examples.