A real Social Media CHALLANGE has become apparent in the past couple of days, evidenced by a certain management company that’s taking a lot of heat in the media, both on- and off-line. So how does a company respond adeptly, in real time, to controversy in this new world? Managing your reputation effectively in the social media sphere requires a four-pronged approach:

1) Be aware of the tools and services, and know their functionality. (e.g. understand sites/applications like Yelp, Digg, Apartment Rating sites, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, FriendFeed and others, and why and how people/residents use these tools, or may prefer one tool over another).

2) Before you leap, look and listen to what is being said about you, our industry, and the competition in each of these networks to get an understanding of the environment.

3) Engage in a direct, trustworthy manner that positions the company as a peer instead of a bully … in other words, don’t use social media as your megaphone.

4) Be prepared for social media’s transparency. How you respond in a controversial situation will be at least as visible — if not more so — than what you’re responding to.

Engaging too soon, and without having a strategy or accurate understanding of the outlets, is bound to #fail. Engaging without listening first to what is being said about you is bound to #fail. But … and this is tricky … so, too is a strategy that abandons a proven “old way” of doing things completely in favor of a “new way”.