Friday, October 28, 2011

Using Social Media

This morning I caught up on the fiasco that is ChapStick's response to negative comments posted on their Facebook page. Apparently they didn't have any steps in place, other than “delete them,” to handle negative commentary - a large hole in their social media strategy. There is a way to handle negative posts but ignoring them isn't it. I'd like to get into brand impact and approaches to using social media before I address the dreaded negative comment, though.

Brand Impact

  • Perception - Obviously, comments made about your brand can impact the perception of it by those reading the posts. Sometimes this is positive, but not always.
  • Advertising - Traditional advertising is beginning to take a backseat to social media. Trust is shifting away from companies to fellow consumers. As more people use social media to research their purchases, it becomes a more important factor in the decision-making process.
  • Relationships - Social media allows consumers to learn about brands from a more objective source than the companies themselves. This has changed the relationship between consumers and companies and has changed the marketer's job from attracting an audience to managing one.
What is shared in social mediums can't be controlled so we, as marketers, must be prepared to manage branding on social sites, whether it be positive or negative.

Approaches to Using Social Media

Be proactive. I can't say this often, or more strongly, enough. It's the most effective method of dealing with negative comments and promoting branding. There are a number of ways to do this:

  • Use Brand Advocates - Reach out to those who are already using and endorsing your products. Consumers have trust in, and respect for, the “common Joe” who is using your products.
  • Understand Your Consumers' Point of View - Monitoring conversations and posts about your brand and products can help you improve it based on real-world, real-time, feedback.
  • Provide Better Customer Service - Listening to your customers online may clue you in to issues and challenges you don't even know your customers are facing. You may also hear about new uses for the product. Either way, it helps you stay in touch and better satisfy your customers.
Effective social media branding strategies are consistent, authentic and credible, guided by the principle of giving, and are sustainable and balanced. Effective brand management using social media also means addressing negative comments.

Addressing Negative Comments

Determine the source of the negative comment; keep to the facts when addressing it; apologize if necessary; and respond with honest, accurate information in a timely manner.

  • Don't Block Access - Respond in a way that will reflect positively on your company.
  • Don't Tell People Not to Visit a Web Site - You know that once you do that, you will have piqued their curiosity. This is the surest way to get them to visit the site you don't want them to go to.
  • Don't React Aggressively - Respect your customers, no matter what. Avoid, to the best of your ability, coming across as angry, frustrated, or belligerent. Once you've done that, the damage is already done and turning it around is next to impossible.
So, ChapStick, good luck in turning this around. You're going to need it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Developing a Social Media Strategy

The brand tenets of the past such as control and predictability are no longer valid. Ever-increasing consumer power driven by social media and wireless technologies is having a significant impact on brand effectiveness and staying power. Consumers, more than ever before, are key drivers for brand strategy. We, as brand managers, need to understand how to leverage these technologies to our advantage.

The social media branding strategy can be broken down into 6 basic stages:
  1. Determine your goal and target audience
  2. Align your efforts with specific business goals and target the associated audience. The social media network is expansive and it's easy to find yourself spread too thin. Without a plan your efforts may be unfocused and ineffective.

  3. Define the timescale, budget, and measurement methods
  4. Don't forget that, typically, the more ambitious your goals are the bigger your budget will be and the more time you'll have to execute. Don't set yourself up to fail by setting huge goals without considering funding and time constraints.

  5. Choose appropriate social media

    There are a variety of social media channels available to us: YouTube, Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, and blogs are currently the most popular ones. Which ones you focus on will be determined by who your customers are. Are you a B2B or a B2C? If you are a B2B, your top three will be YouTube, twitter and LinkedIn. If you are B2C, on the other hand, you're better served to concentrate on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. You also need to consider the speed of change of the information. Do you need to get updates on weather or traffic out immediately? Twitter might better serve your needs. Are you publishing a review of a product? Time to head over to YouTube.

  6. Choose appropriate communicators

    Not only do you need to appoint someone to communicate on behalf of the brand, but you also need to ensure there are policies or rules in place to ensure consistent messaging.

    • Comment within organizational policies
    • Comment in their area of expertise
    • Be polite and respectful
    • Respond in a timely manner
    • Above all - take time to think before posting
  7. Listen to the customer
  8. In old school terms, this would be considered "lurking." Hang out in the background and learn what your customers need and value. Review what's being said about the company and the products. Use this information to interact in meaningful ways that will keep them connected to, and interested in, your brand.

  9. Launch the social media strategy
  10. Putting customers at the center of your branding strategy will create connections with them. Maintaining these connections will help us better understand what they want.

Developing a social media strategy is a great way to connect with customers and grow brands. It will help you understand their needs and how they interact with social media.