Social Media-is it a risk to brands?
In the spring of 2012, Deloitte and Forbes Insights found that US executives considered social media one of the top five sources of risk to their companies over the next three years. So do the social media sites offer a real risk to brands?
You can either decide to bury your head in the sand and state that there is no danger or you can chose to take the bull by the horns and deal with it and Social Media is one such aspect. Let me elaborate on the fears that were expressed- every person has a phone and digital means to access information and intentionally or inadvertently may cause damage by posting such information on the social media networks or content that could adversely impact the reputation of the companies.
Let me talk of social media today-The last few years have witnessed an explosion in social media. Going far beyond a mere destination for friends to hang out and chat, social media in the form of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, blogs (such as WordPress) and forums have changed the face of online communication forever. Every individual has a mobile smart-phone today which gives them instant access to a camera, Internet and access to social networks instantly.
These phones are the personal screens of the person and not shared with anyone. You can either leverage them or ignore them. Every purchase decision that is made today involves accessing the Internet and seeking opinion from friends/peers to seek their opinion before a purchasing decision is made. With the Internet at our fingertips, people are searching online to learn more about a company, brand, product, and service prior to making a purchase. They go to their favourite search engine, type in a few keywords and click on the first few links that appear. Though consumers will likely visit your site for general information (if your site is ranked), they are more likely to view third party social media review sites (discussions, forums, blogs) to help them formulate an opinion.
Marketers used to control the conversation: Radio, TV and print advertising was expensive and we listened because it paid for our entertainment. Marketers could keep a positive spin on consumer and client perceptions when their brand visibility was managed through a combination of media advertising and news coverage. Only extreme, newsworthy activities got any other visibility beyond small numbers of people, and big brand companies had good crisis control departments geared to deal with the exceptions.
In Social Media now Customer Controls the conversation:
The introduction of social networking sites and consumer-generated content to the Web has dramatically altered that landscape. The means for customers, champions and critics to disseminate information on Social Media about their experiences and opinions are now accessible to anyone with an Internet connection and a browser-enabled PC.
Blogging and online social media has given every Internet user a platform to publicly broadcast their observations and opinions in an instant. This can be both good and bad in social media. Either leverage it by engaging with your customers existing and prospective or ignore it at your own peril.
Despite overwhelming shifts in media behavior, most executives still put more weight on mainstream media channel messaging than online communities. Many businesses are still behind the curve.
Now about the research: surveying 703 executives found that:
Nearly 70% of executives regard their company’s reputation as vulnerable, but they are universal in their belief that non-traditional outlets like blogs are the least important in building corporate reputation;
• Virtually all executives surveyed regard the Web as important in measuring corporate reputation, but almost none of them believe the Internet is crucial when making important business decisions;
• Despite previous surveys that indicate the reputation of the CEO is closely linked to the reputation of the company they work for, very few executives seem to believe that, and fewer than 40% have even Googled their own name;
• Most surveyed executives say they utilise the Web more for competitive intelligence than understanding their company’s reputation positioning; and,
• Despite overwhelming shifts in consumer media behaviour trends, global executives put much more stock in brand perceptions that appear in mainstream media channels than what’s said about them in online communities.
The good news is that savvy companies who are open to communicate with their customers can leverage the online trends to generate new business and deepen existing relationships in ways that are more effective and less expensive than old fashioned mass broadcast or print media campaigns
Companies who shy away from the trend and are uncomfortable adjusting their relationships accordingly are in for rude awakenings. And this is true across the spectrum from very large to small, local businesses.
So what type of content are these third party sites publishing about your brand? What are people saying about your company on the social networks? What is the overall “rating” of your product and services online? Establishing an online reputation management plan to ensure proper brand management of any conversations happening around your company will help you find out.
Venerable brands like Pepsi and Domino’s Pizza were exposed to near-immediate criticisms on a worldwide basis.
The venerable Pepsi brand took a serious hit when they created an iPhone app to promote their Amp energy drink product. The app provided tips for the product’s target audience, young men to “score” with women.
The bad-taste item generated a fire-storm of activity on various social media sites with comments flying around the blog site Mashable.com and conversations on Twitter.
Pepsi withdrew the app and apologised to all who were offended, but the situation points out how vulnerable a brand can be.
In another recent example, two Domino’s Pizza employees created what they thought was an amusing video of some “un-hygienic” activities and some kids messing about back in the kitchen. They posted the video on YouTube and had nearly a million viewings before they knew what hit them.
They were able to get the video shut down for “copyright infringement” and officials of Domino’s pursued both legal and online responses. They set up a Twitter account to field comments on the matter, and have since been morphing that traffic into their @dominos account where they are aggressively running contests and providing other information to undo the damage and rebuild their online reputation.
Domino’s also leveraged the opportunity to create a positive spin on the products. When customers expressed that their products were pathetic. They took the bull by the horn and re-created their products and pro-actively engaged with their consumers. Their head chef went to every individual, to their residence, who had criticised their pizza’s took the feedback and went back with a re-created product and this was published on “YouTube” giving it a positive spin.
There is a definite silver lining to this apparent cloud of consumers being able to readily broadcast their opinions online. CNNMoney.com posted an articleAlpacaDirect.com . Hobart found that even critical feedback can turn into increased sales when he decided to replace the hand-picked customer testimonials on his website with a service that allows consumers to publicly post ratings and comments. He received some 3-star (out of 5) ratings and unflattering comments, and yet he notes that sales increased 23% on items that had reviews. He was able to address concerns and respond to the reviews showing a credible concern for customer service and quality products.
What to Do
There are plenty of things you can do to get a handle on your brand’s reputation and turn the phenomenon to your advantage.
No PR is bad PR-Transparency is Key
An old cliché but still true to this day –Customer is King
-Develop and Foster the culture of
Take a attitude check The first step in the process is to update your mindset as a marketer and embrace the opportunities to make customers into marketers. This is not a trivial task, but is fundamental to capitalising on the opportunities. If you fear what customers may say, and are not prepared to respond to the critical and embrace the opportunity, you may be in for a bumpy ride. Most consumers and clients are realists. While everyone seeks and prefers the perfect product and service, we recognize that “things happen.” When you genuinely care about those customers or clients, online dialogue can become your asset.
Research and Monitor Listening to your audience, customers and potential customers is critical in this world of Social Chatter. The burning question for companies is: as an organization are you listening? If you have customers, most likely they’re talking about you to their friends, colleagues, and to anyone else who will listen and is in their social sphere of influence. Once you are ready to embrace the reality of public dialogue, it is time to find out what people may already be saying about you. There are many tools available to accomplish this, but unless you have a lot of time or are going to delegate this to a specialist who can concentrate on it, narrow your monitoring to a few key resources.
Build up your online brand credibility
For many small and mid-sized businesses, you may find that you have very little online recognition so far. The time has come to promote your own brand by making your website visible and beginning to communicate regular updates through a blog mechanism.
At a minimum, the top result for a search for your brand name on major search engines should be your business website. If it isn’t, you need to revisit your website to make sure that it was constructed in a search engine-friendly manner. Your brand name should be prominently used in text on the Home and other “About” pages, and the HTML Title and Meta-Description tags. Manage and protect that position as it may be vital to keep your content ranked above any other comments or news that may come out about your brand.
Engage The most critical factor in this online brand management game is to engage in conversation. The simple fact is that marketing in the Internet world is not a one-way activity.
Use social media to pro-actively generate leads, influence your consumers, engage, measure and reach out.
Social Media Strategy in brief:
- Increase Social Reach
- Increase Fan Engagement with quality, engaging and compelling Content
- Identify and Engage Influencers
- Increase Lead Generation
- Apply Analytics to measure what works
Examples of Brands embracing social media: