When I was very young, my father told me, "You can't control how the world will perceive you. You can only control how you present yourself to the world."
At the time, the saying was a lesson in putting my best foot forward and being satisfied knowing I'd done what I could to make a good impression. But today, I feel the saying is an equally good lesson in control (or lack thereof) of a brand.
Unlike the days of "Mad Men," a brand is no longer just about broadcasting a core message and waiting for a product to sell. With the rise of online communities and the social sharing of content, the public has gained a new level of control over brands via reputations. Download the presentation "The Evolution of Marketing" from The 60 Second Marketer and BKV's own Jamie Turner.
Think about it. If I wanted to find a new mechanic 10 years ago, I'd likely look through the listings in the phone book and ask the opinions of a few coworkers. But when I needed a mechanic earlier this year, I searched on Google, checked out a few rating sites and polled my friends on Facebook. A handful of loyal customers (many that I had never met) easily swayed my decision to go with one mechanic over another.
Being a great company and having great products or services will likely win loyal customers, but brands also have the power to foster loyal customers with social media. Social media sites give consumers more touch points with a brand - allowing more transparency and the feeling of association, while giving marketers a platform on which they can quickly monitor consumers' opinions and respond to their concerns.
Social media sites create a dialogue between brands and their end consumers. And though, perhaps unfamiliar, it is a dialogue in which brands should be willing to take part. Brands can no longer broadcast "who they are" and expect consumers to take the message at face value. In the same vein, a brand shouldn't sit on the sidelines while being unfairly criticized or misrepresented online. The dialogue between brands and their consumers helps provide a balance between the message and the reality, no matter where the message originates.
While not every social media tactic will be relevant for every brand, here are a few basic ways marketers can reinforce their brand efforts through social media:
• Establish profiles on social sites (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, Wikipedia)
• Monitor and participate in social networking (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, consumer review sites)
• Publish brand-centric content (e.g. YouTube, SlideShare, blogs)
• Encourage loyal customers to spread the word (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, consumer review sites)
Now more than ever, you can't control how the world will perceive your brand. Instead, you can help shape the perception by taking every opportunity to be part of the conversations about your brand. Social media is one of these opportunities.
But what you think? Do you agree that brands should be in social media? Or do you feel it's just a popular exercise for brands wanting to appear relevant?