A Flu Shot for Your Online Brand
By Lida Citroën
Principal of LIDA360
Social media opens a playground of marketing opportunity, potential, and reach. Many companies jumped into the social media space with arms waving overhead as soon as the doors were opened. And they haven't looked back.
These companies set up Web sites, microsites, e-commerce portals, blogs, customer feedback sites, Facebook fan pages, LinkedIn groups, and even YouTube channels to share funny corporate videos with their clients. They've had a lot of close contact with clients, potential clients, vendors, partners, and other online sources they didn't know very well.
Problem is, these same companies may not be aware of the risk and potential problems that can come from overexposure, mismanagement, misalignment with brand, and client disengagement. For these companies, a flu shot—or preventative medicine—can help them reassemble a strategic social media marketing plan and get things back on track.
Ask yourself these questions to see if you need to get your online brand refocused and inoculated from threat:
- Are you overexposed? Myabe you have spread your online brand too thin by partnering with everyone, sponsoring everything, and losing focus of your online strategy. And you might have missed an opportunity for targeted conversations with specific audiences. You also risk watering down your online brand by not being focused. There's a song that says, "If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything." A brand must stand for a set of values and a promise. Be careful about overexposing that promise too broadly.
- Are you cozy with the wrong companies or organizations? Affiliate marketing, Google advertising, and other online promotional scenarios offer your brand tremendous exposure, but if you're not careful in assigning those opportunities, your brand can find itself in bad company. Say you operate a day care center, and your ads inadvertently appear opposite an adult "toy" store. That kind of association can certainly damage your reputation and erode your value to your target audience.
- Are you responding to feedback? Your intentions were good when you set up bulletin boards, chat rooms, and feedback forms. But if you don't pay attention to the feedback or respond to the concerns of clients or prospects, it can be worse than not asking at all.
If you answered yes to any of these questions, here is your online "flu shot:"
- Begin monitoring your online reputation. What you don't know can hurt you. Set up a monitoring system—from simple and free Google Alerts or WhosTalkin.com to let you know when your company name is mentioned online to a more robust monitoring program administered by a monitoring company such as Radian6 or Trackur.
- Focus your social media marketing program on a measurable strategy. Create goals, expectations, and objectives for your online strategy. Why are you deploying resources to engage online? If it's to attract prospective clients, how many have you attracted, and have they been prequalified? What part of your strategy is working best to attract them? If your goal is exposure, how are you measuring your exposure? Is your brand reaching the long tail of the Web, or are you only meeting short-reach audiences? Only a strategy with metrics can tell you.
- Engage your clients and audiences online. What a missed opportunity to not talk to—and listen to—your clients and prospects online. Many loyal clients are anxious to show their loyalty with your brand by "liking" your Facebook page, sharing a link to your YouTube video, and tweeting about your promotion to their followers. Make it as easy as possible for your online fans to find you and connect.
- Tis the season... to give. Make it part of your online strategy to reward and thank your online fans. Clients who shop with you online save you resources—from fulfillment to distribution. Why not reward them with promotional coupons and incentives? Fans who share your good news with their connections are marketing your company (and saving you marketing dollars). How about a special rewards program just for them?
- Live your values. No degree of online medicine can replace authenticity. At every step of the online relationship, your clients are evaluating whether you are being true to your company values. Strive for consistency, integration, and genuineness in the tone, posture, and positioning your company lives online.
Inoculate your online brand from erosion and damage—and ultimately, sickness—and increase the reach, success, and power of your social media marketing program. Don't wait until tomorrow to get your flu shot and protect your reputation.