By Betsy Sigman
New technologies on the Web are changing how forward-thinking companies are approaching branding. Over the last few years, social media services such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and others have provided direct access to reach customers.
Social media services connect companies to consumers. Facebook allows companies to communicate with close to a billion people (half of whom log on during any given day), and that number is rapidly growing. Furthermore, these potential customers can be found on Facebook pages published in 70 different languages, allowing global penetration of brand awareness. Connecting to these individuals allows companies to gather consumer information that ranges from the age of the individual and his or her current location to favorite hobbies and social networks.
Twitter has more than 200 million registered users, and Google+ has more than 90 million members and is still defining its role in social media. Recognizing the impact and importance of social media and branding, Google+ released its brand pages in November 2011. All these social media outlets provide opportunities for companies to strengthen their brands.
Traditionally, the term “brand” referred to the way in which a company or organization differentiates itself from its competition. In the era of the Internet and social media, branding occurs in new and interesting ways—even personal branding.
How can a person, an organization or a company use the new tools offered by the Internet to create or strengthen a brand? Consider the following six steps for a successful social media setup:
1. Identify interested customers to encourage brand loyalty.
Understanding support on the Internet requires knowledge of a new vocabulary, specifically one that clarifies the ways in which a social media site visitor can indicate favorability. A few terms to know:
· Likes: A “Like” on Facebook means an individual supports a particular topic. While the value and profit-making potential of Likes remain undefined, many digital communications experts believe that the more people positively engage with the brand, the more significant the brand’s products and/or services will become. In the end, this often translates into a sales increase.
· +1: Google+’s version of the Like is a +1. Google+ defines +1 as “your stamp of approval.”
· Retweet: On Twitter, a follower will retweet to indicate that a particular tweet or piece of information is worthy of attention. Companies follow retweets to identify product and service strengths and weaknesses, as well as to gain knowledge about their customers.
· Fan pages: Companies use fan pages to promote themselves. While there is no direct translation of fans to finances, fan pages do provide channels for companies to promote content, advertisements and promotions to interested consumers quickly and inexpensively. Presumably, people who have indicated their support on a fan page will be more likely to use a promotion or coupon from the company they support.