5. Use Social Media

By Betsy Sigman Print this article Print

Companies that want to enhance their brands and strengthen customer relationships must become adept in social media.

5.     Use social media for issues management.

Companies need to monitor social media and the blogosphere. This takes time and money — one reason it is so important to have the C-suite understand and support social media efforts. Ideally, a company should have a director of social media with strong staff support. Make certain that information is distributed to influential, reliable opinion leaders who will accurately communicate pertinent information about your products and services. 

Use Twitter, Facebook and Google+ to quell false rumors, take responsibility for mistakes and indicate how the company will solve issues. Be proactive by answering questions and addressing issues that could lead to negative perceptions. Social media opens channels for honest communication between customers and companies. What customers say must be followed, tabulated and analyzed. 

Bank of America recently grappled with an overwhelmingly negative reaction to its proposal to charge customers a $5-per-month debit card fee. After 750,000 people signed an online petition, the bank was forced to listen and removed the fee. Responding to earlier frustrations and engaging with the online community might have prevented this public relations fiasco. 

6.     Create customized appeals.

Develop customized appeals to people based on information gathered from commentary and feedback via social media. On Facebook, for example, a soft-drinks company can target hikers with ads showing trekkers enjoying beverages at the end of a long trip. To sports fans, run ads that show people playing or enjoying watching sports, with branded drinks beside them.  Or exhibit ads to hobbyists that picture them enjoying a soda around a table of scrapbookers, quilters, coin collectors or other hobby groups.

Such appeals are easy and fairly inexpensive to create, and you can ensure they are seen by the people to whom they will appeal the most. In this world of instant analytics, organizations creating advertisements on social media get immediate feedback on how well ads are received by targeted audiences.

Social media usage is growing dramatically and has drastically changed branding. Companies must learn to follow and understand digital technology trends to meet the needs of their consumers and tailor their branding strategies effectively. By following these six steps, companies can rest assured that their brand and reputation will stay in a positive light in the public eye.

Betsy Sigman, distinguished teaching professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, is an expert in social media and information systems and in how companies use technology. She has worked with the Institute for Research in the Social Sciences, the Social Science Data Center and the U.S. Bureau of the Census, and is a member of Women in Technology International.

This article was originally published on 2012-03-09
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