How important has managing your brand online become?
Social media as an industry has been born from the concept of online reputation management. In fact it is undoubtedly one of the most important components to any online marketing strategy. What many businesses are discovering is the equal importance being given to “Social Media Awareness”.
There is so much more to Social Media than setting up a Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and Youtube Channel. Once these are set up you must engage with people on them. It is called a “social” media site for a reason with emphasis on the social. If you are not being social on these site you are missing an opportunity.
The key component in social media marketing is joining into conversations not changing the conversation, however if you are clueless about the conversation it is best to stay out of it because you cannot become engaged unless you know what the conversation is really about.
Let’s start with the basics. Social Media is about engaging not selling. Many businesses have failed in the translation of b2b for social media because they are trying to integrate an old tradition method of marketing with social media. It does not work. There are so many messages out there pertaining to every industry and prospects and customers are searching for quality rich content to solve their problems, not “in your face-buy from me tactics”. Social Media is about gaining trust and respect through engaging them in quality driven conversations that inform them about or help them solve an issue.
Open your eyes because you can learn a lot about your potential clients just by reading and keeping up with them via social media and believe me they are doing the same. When a problem arises and they are looking for a solution you want to be sure your information is accessible because if it isn’t, your competitors will reap the benefits.
What does “mining” have to do with social media? In the sense you are probably thinking about – absolutely nothing. Mining in relationship to social media means to “mine” through conversations on all of your social media platforms in order to understand how to best talk with your potential customers, as well as share information through other marketing channels they are frequenting in order to stay effective.
Three things to remember before joining a conversation.
- Determine what the conversation is about. This is commonly referred to as “Social Media EKG” which involves taking a measured look at the ongoing conversation. Secondly before engaging your consumers, a brand should determine what their online market, or community is saying about its products, company, competitors and what terms are being used in these conversations.
- It is also important to take note of the “tone” of the conversation. While most businesses have taken the approach of social media being an all about them concept, it is quite the opposite.
- Check up on conversations about your competitors and learn what their customers are saying. This is an open book for new business for the customers that are currently unhappy. What once was not easily accessed about other business complaints is extremely accessible in today’s market.
Take note that learning about other businesses and their customers will help you engage in social conversation, and while you should never turn the conversation into an “all about me” campaign knowing what is out there and what is being said will help you steer the conversation into a positive direction.
There are currently three popular tools that will help you investigate conversations about your brand and they are:
- Technorati, and
Social Mention gives insight about the online location of the conversation and whether there is negative or positive feedback. This will help you determine you response.
Knowing how to react is where it’s at for brands. Keeping pace with customers and helping them identify and relate with your brand is the mission.
How does this work for the Small Business?
The playing field for small business owners in today’s marketing environment has been leveled by this thing called Social Media. There was a time when putting out a tv commercial or a radio ad was good enough but in today’s market information is so readily available that Customers are less likely to respond to one-way communication tactics of you telling them how great your business is, what you do and how you do it better and differently than anyone else. It is in one ear and out the other with nothing more than a pat on your own back. Today it is all about “why” you do what you do (your cause, your purpose, your reason-to-be), and in order to get that message across it takes two-way communication.
Two-way communication is what social media is all about. It engages a customer in conversations on sites such as facebook, and twitter. If a customer hears an advertisement for a product, they can quickly find reviews from other customers to check the credibility of the products message. This is the reason that building your social media brand is a critical component in the success of a small business. Customers are still buying, but they now have the ability to double check and vet the validity of your brand promise. So make sure whatever promise you put out there is the real deal. Customers are cross-examining the experiences of others and checking your credibility. Use the information you discover on social media to your benefit to support your brand position and brand communications.
Building your brand goes so much further than having a website because every business has one. You must learn to utilize your website as a landing page that you drive activity to from various social media channels. Remember it is important that the “brand distinction” you identify on your website coincides with the brand you depict on all your social media channels. People are not calling 411 or searching the yellow pages for vendors, it is now all about what comes up in a search engine as well as the reviews others are giving.
Here is how to build a Social Media Brand.
- Identify and operationalize a true brand distinction with resulting brand promise.
- Once a month google your business and see what is out there. If nothing comes up that is a problem.
- Start building your credibility by keeping your social media pages fresh.
- Consistently engage in conversations where people are discussing topics that pertain to your brand. Many business owners struggling to understand the ROI on Social Media experience problems, because they are holding on to an old marketing model and mentality. Here are some key points:
- You must consistently talk with your niche market online understanding that it takes up to 7 contacts to make an impression on them.
- The biggest mistake business owners often make, is to believe that because they have launched several social media pages, the money is going to start pouring in. Unlikely that is going to happen. There must be an over-riding strategy in place.
- Social Media works like any other relationship. If left uncared for, the relationship will go away.
- Social Media is not a short time initiative. It is a long-term commitment. Gaining wide spread recognition can take several months or even years of tweeting, conversing, and blogging.
- hire a professional freelancer to manage and execute your program
- hire a professional to coach you through the process of setting up a social media strategy and then advise you on how to best implement it using internal resources.
- Social Media and Business and Brand Development works best when good rich, relevant content. Eventually you brand can become “front-of-mind” – the first resource your audience will think of when seeking your category of products or services. It is all about Creating good content, building a community and eventually, developing desired commerce.
- Remember like any other business model, it takes consistency to keep your name available. So many businesses fail in Social Media Campaigns because they do not properly manage them. You cannot begin to sell to your community until you establish credibility and trust. This is accomplished by having information ready for them when they need it, not when you want to sell it to them.
- ROI is one of the first questions a business owner asks when thinking about Social Media. Social Media accounts are free. The investment lies in your time, which most businesses do not have in abundance. Neither do they often possess the manpower or the knowledge to implement an effective social media program. You may have to seek outside resource help. There are a few options available to keep your social media on track and effective.
- Blogging is one of the hottest ways to reach your audience. Make sure that your blogs are about things your customers care about. This is not the place for a sales pitch. A blog is an informative way to demonstrate your expertise and to show your audience that you are relevant and credible to do business with. Most businesses do not realize that your brand distinction will become be easily identified through consistent blogging, Most business also have no clue as to how to start a successful blog series. Again you have the options of: hiring a freelance blogger to interview you and ghost write your blogs. You will supply the topics your clients are interested and the key talking points outline. You can also hire a blogging coach to help you and your team learn how to write them yourselves. Either way, look at the ROI as less of return on investment and more as return on influence. You will create the visibility that influences whether or not your customers are buying from you or your competitor. The type of visibility is up to you.
So let’s move ahead by embracing and engaging in social media (regardless of the size of our businesses), and fire up our brands.
Author: Richard Gripp
Richard is the President of Ignite LLC and one of only a few Certified Brand Strategists in the country. A successful corporate executive and entrepreneur, his 40+ years of experience in marketing, sales, and company leadership equip him with a deep understanding of business, while his work with small to blue chip accounts gives him insight into the vision and challenges of top executives. As a coach, consultant and adviser to CEO’s and C-Suite leadership, Richard writes about the power of category ownership and of building a brand driven business.