When a celebrity makes a less than savory comment or a business posts a questionable Tweet, it seems that everyone digitally connected knows about it within minutes. It’s retweeted, discussed in hashtags, and has its own snippet on the nightly news. The Speedy Gonzalez pace of information in the digital age is astounding; from days of relying on a written letter to arrive, we’ve come a long way.
And while we often hear of the not-so-great stories involving social media (often followed by an apology from the poster), it is an exceptional tool for businesses to use in their branding efforts. That is, if they do it strategically. Here are five ways that social media has changed the face of business branding.
Public Relations Efforts
Social media can cause a PR nightmare; we’ve seen it with Dominos in 2009 when two employees single-handedly caused a scandal for the pizza chain with their “video prank” that was posted on YouTube. But to that same effect, it can also help quell these disasters. A business can address individual comments on all social platforms as well as make official statements. As soon as the business becomes aware of the problem, they can craft a statement and blast it on all their profiles without having to speak to a reporter and wait for them to write a story that will likely only include part of the full statement.Crises aside, social media is a great tool for general public relations efforts as well. Maintaining the same voice and color scheme across all platforms helps strengthen a brand and builds its reputation in its respective industry. Social media is especially beneficial for newer businesses that don’t have too much money to spend but can devote some time to crafting a strategic plan.
If you’ve ever had a bad experience at a restaurant or were let down by a product you bought online, chances are you’ve posted about it online. There are thousands of dissatisfied customers tweeting and updating their statuses regularly. From online marketplaces like Amazon to airlines like Delta, no company is immune to feeling the heat on social media.
Often customers will directly mention a company in their tweet; and while this may seem troubling, it’s actually a good thing: this allows the customer service team members to specifically reply to individual customers and apologize. The team will not attempt to resolve the issue online but instead will provide contact information in an effort to better assist the customer (and squash the issue as quickly as possible). Though the negative comment will remain (removing it makes the company look bad), it shows other potential customers that the company attempted to resolve the issue.
If you have employees with public accounts, recruit them to serve as a brand ambassador for your company. Their duties can be as simple as retweeting your company’s latest tweet, posting the latest blog post, or sharing information with their followers. They can also organically inject your business and its products/services into conversations they see online or in trending conversations.
Your employees want to see the company succeed because it means they’ve succeeded, too. Establish one employee to be the brand ambassador manager, an individual to whom all other brand ambassadors can communicate with if there are issues or questions. A strategic plan can be created, too, so that all individuals are on the same page. Make a list of things you’d like to see, hashtags you’d like them to utilize, and topics that are off-limits. Having an employee serve as a champion for your company strengthens the brand by showing others that you are a company that clearly cares about its employees since they are going out of their way and on their own accounts to praise your company.
Joining the Conversation
What’s going on it the world? Take a look at current events—political, cultural, and pop cultural—and see where your company can fit into the conversation. If there is a national disaster, talk about how your company helps during these times and what you plan to do at that moment. A helmet company can post about the dangers of using a hoverboard and how wearing a helmet can protect them from injury.
Not all businesses can fit into every conversation. Even if it is creative, it can be too much of a stretch. Search for conversations that are appropriate for your brand and what your business offers (either product or service). There will be new conversations starting daily, so be on the lookout! Pop culture conversations are the easiest to join; these conversations are also a great opportunity to showcase your brand’s fun side, from humor to a creative graphic that involves your product.
What are the current trending hashtags on Twitter and what are the current trending topics on Facebook? Similar to joining a conversation, looking for trends will help you identify what topics your target market is talking about right now. That way you can adjust your digital marketing efforts on social media (or elsewhere) to include these trending topics.
By referencing current trends in your postings, you strengthen your brand by appearing fresh and relevant. You will also engage more individuals by catering to their current wants and needs. Marketing is about giving your consumers what they want, and you want them to associate your brand as one that can consistently and successfully cater to its audience.
These are just five of the many ways that social media has changed the way in which businesses develop, grow, and maintain their brand. While social media is a great tool that can benefit a brand, other comments or misguided situations can quickly destroy the brand. Remember that, like trust, a brand is developed over time but can be destroyed in moments. Hence why social media can be a dangerous—but ultimately worthwhile—tool.
About the author: Hannah loves writing about any topic, and digital marketing is no exception. She currently writes on behalf of the digital marketing gurus at MarketingZen.com. When not marrying words, Hannah enjoys reading science fiction, fantasy, and dystopian works; sipping margaritas (always frozen); and trying to make the world a happier place. Tweet her @hannahmnava or connect with her on LinkedIn.
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