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Social Media and Your Brand: Plan for It

Social Media and Your Brand: Plan for It

It seems like brand after brand is being attacked online, and especially in social media. Examples range from the famous Apple reception “problem” with its iPhone 4, through the BP oil spill, to the Gap logo change. Some companies are ill prepared. This week, in South Africa, the Woolworths’ brand was attacked on Facebook for their decision to no longer stock certain Christian religious magazines in their stores.

Owners and managers of brands need to realize that a lot of the control they used to have over their brand has shifted to the masses with the advent of online media. In Marketing 101, we learn that a brand is essentially a composite feeling people have for a company. Firms used to be able to control this feeling because they controlled most of the information that was made available. Now, ordinary people have a lot of control over a brand’s communication through social media, which they trust almost more than traditional advertising and PR.

Woolworths’ Facebook page looked like a battlefield this week. They lost control of their brand. Their PR folks, it seems, were not ready for attacks that were sure to come due to their decision. It looks like they did not have a plan, and they were forced into quickly reversing their decision due to outside pressure. I imagine they lost a lot of brand equity and trust due to the bad management of their social media.

It’s important to realize that you can’t control the online conversation, but that you can work to enhance and to better understand people’s feelings about your brand through social media if you have a plan.

When working on your company’s marketing and public relations plan, include social media, and keep the following in mind:

  1. Accept that there is a conversation going on, be it good or bad.
  2. Listen to what they are saying and participate with caution.
  3. Don’t try to control the conversation, but try to steer it towards reason. Sometimes, wait for things to cool down before you make a “knee-jerk” comment based on their comments. Often, over time, cooler heads will prevail.
  4. Let your fans rescue you when the criticism is unjustifiable.

Of course, it is not easy to just wait for the conversation to cool down. But veering away from your corporate strategy due to the comments of a small, albeit very “loud” group, might not be a good business practice either. Apple is a good example of a company that listened to the comments about the antenna  problems with the iPhone 4, formed a plan, and reacted in a very deliberate manner.

If you don’t understand online media, find someone who can help you plan for the conversation about your brand that is bound to happen.