Brand and reputation are arguably among a company's most valuable assets. For years, perception and word of mouth were intangible assets. Today, however, a brand's reputation is more easily discernible in a world where a simple keyword search can garner results that range from good to disastrous. That tangible presence can quickly turn viral and make or break a brand within hours of being posted.
So how can marketers manage their brand in the age of Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube?
Many companies are fairly good at managing what they communicate publicly about their brands online, but many forget the importance of managing what's being said by others. While it's impossible to directly control what consumers say, you can effectively monitor the conversations and manage those online interactions to put them in the best light possible.
Social media has very quickly taken online conversations to a whole new level and empowered the customer with an influential voice in the marketplace. Knowing who is mentioning your brand and in what context is critical, but even more important is the ability to respond quickly and carefully when something negative is posted.
There are both good and bad examples of how companies are reacting to press online. When Mattel was criticized in blog postings for how it makes its toys, the company chose to respond with a statement from its corporate public relations representative. By contrast, when Domino's experienced bad press resulting from employees posting a video YouTube, the brand's CEO responded with corporate public relations, but he also used the very medium that led to the negative press. While it took a full two days to generate a response, Domino's CEO took this as an opportunity to tell his story and avert a branding nightmare.
Consumers respect companies that respond and care about what is being said. Companies that build that respect also build a strong following for their brand. For example:
- Southwest Airlines is consistently praised for how well it responds to what's being said about its brand online.
- Comcast charged one employee with monitoring its brand online. The responsiveness of this one employee quickly changed how the entire cable industry is perceived.
- Best Buy enables all employees to be active in the conversation, which enables these employees to see what's being said, respond quickly, and turn negatives into positives.
These companies have taken the time to be active online, and also actively monitor what's being said about them online. Monitoring your online presence, though not difficult, is essential in today's web-based world. One of the quickest and easiest ways to monitor what is being said about your brand is to setup Google Alerts for your brand, your company name, or any other keywords that might relate to what you do.
In addition, there are other services that help monitor your brand's reach and perception:
- How Sociable is a website resource that allows you to monitor your brand reach online and compare it to your competition. This monitoring site shows you the sites where you are lacking.
- Samepoint is a website that lets you monitor actual conversations taking place online regarding a keyword or brand. It is an excellent resource in that it not only brings up the conversations as they occur, but also brings up keywords and whether the commentary is negative or positive.
- Surchur is a site that allows you to monitor multiple types of media to see where you are mentioned and also rank you among all other mentions. You can view mentions of your keywords, brand, or company in blogs, articles, social media, photos, video, and much more.
- Hootsuite is a Twitter application that enables you to monitor what's being said on Twitter about your brand or competition. You can watch for trends, manage when something negative is posted, and see how others are referencing you in the online arena.
All of these tools help you monitor the online conversation effectively. So how do you respond effectively?
As a rule of thumb, the best way to engage an online audience is to respond using the same medium where the comment was posted. If it started in a blog post, respond with a comment on a blog. If it started with a Tweet, respond to that Tweet.
Make sure your response is genuine and prompt, regardless of the source. Well- respected companies are gaining popularity online by engaging their management and/or employees as an army to monitor what's being said and responding quickly.
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