Corporate Image Building through Blended Social Media Warfare Tactics
Corporations work very hard at creating an image they wish to project to business leaders, stock holders, lawmakers, regulators, customers, and the public. These images are developed by the selective release of information and disclosure of details about the company. This has always been the case, and now social media has become a weapon in developing and maintaining those images. Information that may reflect poorly on the image of a company is withheld and refuted if presented by other parties.
The social media warfare tactics of self-validation, influence, reinforcing preferred perspectives, persuasion, and relationship building are always kept in play by advertising firms, public relations departments, and marketing staff. In a world where corporations are transparent and honest about all they do, these tactics would provide the world with a more balanced account of a corporate actions. However, there is little transparency and honesty when it comes to corporations’ image building. When it comes to what the public sees, corporations seek to control all the information.
The selective release of information by corporate image builders can be, and often has been, laced with deceptive and confusing information designed to perpetuate uncertainty and cast doubt on what adversaries say about a corporation. Endorsements are a tool of corporate image builders. They seek and often pay celebrities or experts to endorse products and provide testimony on the goodness of a company. These endorsements have become social media warfare fodder and are designed to influence and persuade.
There have been several cases—some perhaps urban legends—of corporations employing social media warfare tactics like trolling and having social media monitors make favorable posts and comments to discredit negative social media posts. What it comes down to is that the targets of image-building efforts (business leaders, stock holders, lawmakers, regulators, customers, and the public) need to be constantly aware that what they see, hear, and read about any corporation is a staged and manipulated image that might be very far from reality. Naive investors and customers are often entrapped by the contrived images of a corporation. Naive or corrupt lawmakers and regulators should use caution when citing publicly released corporate information to support their position on a company, especially if that information was released by the company under scrutiny.