Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Open source branding - 5 ways to manage the process

We're living in the age of "open source branding".  Gone are the days when brand managers could focus on well-crafted advertisements to build and protect brand reputations. Today, the health and wealth of your brand is determined by what your customers are saying in social media. Customers are defining brands now, not marketers.

While the dynamics may have changed, it doesn't mean that your brand has to be thrown to the mercy of vociferous commentators on social media. Here are 5 ways in which you can support and enhance your brand reputation online:

  1. Understand that social media is a conversation.  Too many organisations see social media as the opportunity to disseminate brand messages and fail to understand the need to engage in a dialogue with their customers online. Great brands engage in the conversation, pose questions and respond to feedback.
  2. Encourage brand communities. Recognise that your brand advocates may want to sing your praises in their own forums or communities and support them when they do so. While building your own brand communities may be the optimum approach, recognise that attempting to control other communities can damage brand reputations.
  3. Listen to and respond quickly to complaints. Monitoring customer sentiment online is essential but achieves little if you're not prepared to react. Respond quickly to both positive and negative comments, encouraging your critics to engage outside social media to get to the root of the problem and then ask them to return to social media when you've resolved their issue to express their satisfaction.
  4. Avoid corporate speak and know when to step back. The well-crafted corporate response to criticism or complaints can stand out a mile if you're normally chatty and engaging when dealing with positive feedback. Maintain your tone of voice throughout. And recognise that repeating the same message in the face of a barrage of criticism may simply fan the flames and shows you're not really listening or understanding. 
  5. Continually check that your service or product is aligned with your brand messages. Use the feedback you get through social media to identify and address issues in service delivery, product quality or customer service. This means being the voice of the customer internally - something marketing professionals should aspire to as a matter of course.
Whether we like it or not, social media presents customers with the opportunity to comment quickly on brand experiences. Protecting a brand means adopting similar behaviours and engaging in the debate.