Everyone is familiar with the term “branding” but it has different meanings to different people.
From a consumer prospective, the term branding brings to mind companies like Nike, Apple, Google and Xerox. Google and Xerox have even become verbs – now this is taking the concept of branding to the nth degree! Naturally, we can’t all be giants like Google and Xerox, but we can apply the same branding concepts in a much smaller niche. Branding is defined as “a distinguishing name and/or symbol intended to identify a product or producer”.
What this means from a marketing perspective is, what is it about your product or service that makes you stand out from the crowd? The American Marketing Association (AMA) defines branding as a “name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers”. “Differentiate” and “distinguish” are the keys here. In order to be successful in branding, you first need to understand the needs and wants of your target market.
Like anything else in life, there can be a huge difference between what message is intended to be communicated and the perception of that message. The reality is the perception – the intention is not. How can a company know what the consumers’ perception is? That is where social media marketing comes into play.
The world has changed. Let’s face it folks. The Internet is a force to be reckoned with and if you, as a business owner, are not taking full advantage of what the Internet has to offer, you are doing you and your company a huge disservice. Blogs, forums, social networking sites, to name a few, are platforms for sharing and communicating.
If consumers have had a bad experience with a company, there is a good chance they will share their experience with the world on some social media platform. Unfortunately, it is easier to find negative comments than positive comments – but that is human nature. How often do our friends, family, children call us just to say “Hey, things are going great”? More often than not, they will call to talk when there is something that is not right – when they are having a problem. And how often, once that problem is resolved, do they call to let us know that everything is now ok?
We have all been guilty of these same behaviors – thanks to my mom for pointing out when I do it. As a business owner, it would behoove you to know what your customers and potential customers are saying about you and defend yourself when/if necessary. Social media marketing is about being social, communicating, establishing relationships, educating, learning, listening, and being both proactive and reactive.
In today’s hyper-competitive economy, in order to stay alive and on top of your competition, you have to embrace the Internet and social media marketing. Often people resist change because they fear the unknown or are afraid of trying something they may not be familiar with. But, the economy, the consumer and the way to market has changed. The economy is super-competitive. The consumer is more educated, more informed, has a whole lot of information at their fingertips, and is no longer satisfied with one way communication channels. They want to know what you can do for them. They want to be involved, don’t want to hear about how wonderful you and your company are from you; they want to hear about you and your company from others, they want you to prove to them that you are an industry-expert and that they need or want what you are selling. Social marketing tools empower customers and those business owners who don’t jump in are going to get stepped on or over, directly or indirectly. When you are ready to take the plunge, remember some very important points. Be sure to contribute quality content that adds value to people’s lives.
When participating in online conversations, remember to converse and not preach. Remember that the customer wants what is good for them, they want it their way. Think of Burger King’s early recognition of this concept: “Have it your way”. Think about Apple’s suite of “I” products. Business owners need to earn their reputation and customer loyalty. Toyota Scion’s VP of Marketing, Jim Farley, illustrates this concept with his quote: “I think the most important thing for us is to be credible, he says. “Just talking to consumers, they don’t believe a damn thing we say anymore. And I mean that in a positive way. They’re really, really smart.” Connect with your target audience in the online communities and social networks they belong to. Communicate with them in an authentic and straightforward manner to build your credibility, reputation and to increase your brand awareness.
Successful companies will be those who surround themselves with communities of potential customers, think outside of the box by finding innovative messages, and those who nurture social relationships. Everyone needs a starting point. Your company’s website can be your starting point. But remember, building a website is not the end of your Internet marketing, it is the beginning.
In an earlier post, I referred to Nigel Peck’s example of a phone ringing just because you bought it. Consider the concept of window shopping. If you pass by a store but don’t go in, has the store owner earned any money from you? Of course not! Same thing with a website; just because you have one doesn’t mean anyone is going to visit it. So what can you do to get visitors to your website? The answer is Social Media Marketing.
Does anyone need any more convincing?