This year has seen an explosion in the number of companies that have started to participate in social media. While many companies and brands are now taking social media participation very seriously what that actually means in regards to brand strategy is not always clearly understood.

The truth of the matter is that your customers are in control of your brand now more than they ever have been. Brandy strategy has always asserted, to some degree, that a brand is something that is cared for by the company and owned, at least at an emotional level, by the customer. For many companies thinking in these terms was more of an intellectual exercise than reality. The issue is by not putting the customers needs first, and allowing them to own the brand, a corporate culture can develop that doesn’t ever realise the full potential of the brand as a whole.

Social media is forcing brands to rethink the ‘customers own the brand’ philosophy – and very quickly. In the social web you, as the brand, can direct, participate and engage. And so can your customers. You can find what people are saying about your brand and become part of the conversation – and so can your customers. It is a level playing field. Your advantage should come down to resources and strategy. If you have those well planned then you can mange the difference between success and failure.

Thinking about your brand’s personality traits is vitally important now. A brand is more than a logo. Every touchpoint your customer may interact with will shape their view. And on social media platforms they interact with your brand in much the same way that they do with most of their friends. They treat it as a person. If your brand has not developed a personality with clear emotional cues then your customers will assign emotions and personality to it. And it will probably not be the traits that you want.

An example of this is to think of a time you rang a utility provider and encountered someone on the end of the phone who was a rude. For most of us the emotional response to this is: “I hate this company”. Then we look for data to back up our point of view, because we don’t like to be wrong. The emotions have been assigned. Convincing us that they are incorrect will be a large task.

This same process happens at all the touch points of your brand. The difference with the  social web is that you can see the reaction. And if you are engaged you can do something about it. Then your customers will look for the evidence to prove that point of view.

So take the time to build a brand strategy that incorporates interaction in the social web. Define the personality and make sure your team understands it and can express it – particularly online. No doing so is much more of a risk than participating in social media. Get it right the rewards will be easy to see.

 

Mark Cameron
BY Mark Cameron ON 2 May 2012
Mark Cameron is CEO of customer experience innovation agency Working Three and a world renowned digital strategy commentator with well over 400 published articles.

Specialties: Digital innovation, Digital customer experience strategy, Social media strategy, Digital strategy, Online Marketing strategy.
He blogs at markrcameron.com and tweets from @MarkRCameron.