BY BROOK GRAMANN – What’s the best way to build your brand in the age of social media?

I was just asked this question and thought I’d share my answer. These are some of the ways- some of it seems pretty simple but there’s so much changing all the time that I even have to remind myself as it pertains to the companies we have and are working with.

Here are some thoughts-

The key is to be responsive. There is little to no chance that your brand will be interacting with customers on only one platform (e.g. Facebook). Expect to need to pay attention to Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, Yelp, Stumble Upon and a number of others (not including your own blog).

Don’t avoid conflict. Instead, reach out to it, embrace it, and work to understand the root cause of the problem and resolve it. Your brand’s reputation is now at risk online.

Be proactive. When you know something is wrong or will cause confusion, be the first party to comment on it.

Don’t over promise. Only promise what you can deliver. Expectations are highly inflated on the Web and nothing fans those flames more than setting something up which can’t be achieved.

Content. You can provide so much to brand yourself as an expert in a given field: on blogs, in comments, on social media channels. You can tie it all together across all platforms.

Brand in the age of social media is ultimately a reflection of what your customers say you are, instead of what you say you are. So, if you want to build your brand, make sure you are delivering the product and experience you want your customers to speak about. If you want your brand to be friendly and approachable, be that way, have all your employees be that way and make sure your systems support that approach. If you want to be seen as easy to do business with, make sure you are. It may seem obvious – be what you say you are – but it is very hard to live that in aspects of a company.

Peer-to-peer referral is CRUCIAL. Over 74% of consumers rely on social networks to guide their purchase decisions.

Building your brand in the age of social media is about turning your customers into brand advocates. Rewarding them with special deals for promoting your business to their friends. In doing so – you establish a great reputation as a brand who appreciates their customers AND you increase your overall sales conversation (64% of online consumers have based their purchase decision on having a coupon code).

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Prior to forming The Brand Strategy Group with partner Gloria Garvey in 1990, Gramann was Account Supervisor, Vice President at Milici Valenti. Gramann focuses on the brand as the integrator of business strategies, including digital marketing and new media. She’s gone back to school, learning from the ground up about Social Media and how to maximize brands using the web. Gramann understands the importance of defining your brand and embodying it online- defining the voice, persona and character of your brand before launching any of the new media tools online. Gramann is a graduate of UH Manoa, and a winner of the prestigious Pinnacle Award from DDB Needham, the worldwide advertising agency. Gramann is a Paul Harris Fellow, and has a Wade and Harue McVay Fellowship. Website: www.thebrandstrategygroup.com