The Brand Catch

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Over the last years, brand building on the Internet has been struggling to find the balance between the consumer’s perception of a brand and whether the Internet was a vehicle for delivering that brand.

Heaps of hype in the last years persuaded brand builders to believe that the Internet was an essential medium they had to be a part of, but many brand builders have found that consumers who favor particular brands have been keenly disappointed by their brands’ online performance.

Some companies have felt the crush of this reality simply because e-tailers and brand builders weren’t well prepared. So many brands fell into the hype trap by grasping the online lifeline and promising their customers all the “usual” services they offered offline without preparing the structure for it.

You see, that’s the problem. The Internet is not for everyone, just as any medium is not always for every brand. Some brands are more successful online just as others are more successful on television or in magazine advertising. Procter & Gamble figured this principle out in the fifties. It assessed that television and video ads suited any products that benefited from demonstrations. And for Procter & Gamble, that covered everything from soap to general household products. Nescafi recognized that sampling was the way to success, so the company shared its product through magazines all over the world.

Let’s agree that the best medium for brand building varies from product to product and that the Internet isn’t necessarily a vehicle for everyone. Given this hypothesis, can you tell me what the online role is for brands on social media? Are all of them able to meet consumer expectations online? Does an online presence that falls below consumer expectations add to its brand equity or take away from it?

The crucial factor is consumer expectations. So let’s examine this further. What would you expect from, say, a Pepsi website, app or social media? That it would be cool? Fun? Interactive? Innovative? These are Pepsi’s core brand values. But only nominating these qualities doesn’t get at the heart of consumer expectations of Pepsi’s online role, they have to put that in practice, succeed in it in an appealing and innovative way, and update it at all times.

It’s hard, very hard, for many brands to go online without doing anything that affects its reputation. There’s no doubt that consumer expectations are high, and every word said is over analyzed and judged, so there’s no room for online mistakes. Should some brands avoid going online?

If a large part of the brand’s market is young people, for example an innovative brand like Pepsi, it will be compelled to be where young people are: on the Internet. Even though for some brands the online presence is essential, being online is dangerous. Almost anything the brands do online won’t meet their markets’ expectations, will be misinterpreted and severely judged. Yet avoiding to frequently update the website, app and social media will create just as much criticism, with consumers questioning what’s going on with these brands, wondering if these brands have fallen by the wayside.

I’m afraid there’s only one way to deal with it: Keep thinking of new ways to deliver the old message, and deliver that message only when it’s ready. And by “ready” I mean tested on and accepted by the consumer. By venturing online without a plan and a strong online marketing team, like SMA, and a good public representer ready to deal with crisis management, you’re exposing your brand to a dangerous gamble. And once you’re online, you can’t switch your website, apps and social media off because this sends bad vibes as well.

Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will the close-to-perfect online marketing. 

 

Social Media Guide for Small Businesses on Facebook and Twitter

Crafting a small business social media strategy is essential in today’s market. Social media both draws attention to your business and increases sales.

Unlike traditional advertising, social media allows small businesses to advertise very cheaply, using innovative strategies that deliver real value along with reputation-building. A small business that can effectively use outlets such as Facebook and Twitter to deliver audience-specific content, thus drawing attention to a product or service, will vastly expand its reputation through the power of a quick, efficient recommendations stream.

Developing a Social Media Strategy Based on Real Value

Social media promotion can be a tricky business. If your Facebook page or Twitter stream is full of nothing but traditional advertisements and pleas to buy a product or service, you’re unlikely to get many followers for your business. People follow a small business on their social media feeds because they are already interested in a business and want to know about deals and new products, or because they believe that the business will deliver real value through its social media outlets.

What does “real value” mean? The real value is something that a social media user wants, whether it’s a sale or freebie offer, a useful application, or interesting news. Small businesses can deliver this value by working their business name unobtrusively into a desired application (for example, a database of recipes using an edible product), providing news on a related topic (a small investment firm Tweeting about market trends), or of course by providing discounts and free stuff as a loyalty measure for following a Twitter feed or liking a Facebook page.

Providing valuable information or applications, whether directly through the social media stream or through a link, builds a businesses reputation and makes following that business desirable. If a user follows a business for its informative daily updates on health news, for example, that person is unlikely to mind the occasional promotional pitch or notice about a new product. Real value also means that a user is more likely to recommend that feed to his or her friends–and that’s the value of social media.

How to Implement Social Media Promotion for a Small Business

Small business owners need to be aware of the relative value of a social media presence and decide accordingly how much time and money to devote to it. Social media does require constant effort–most Twitter feeds are updated at least 2-3 times a day, while Facebook pages can be updated a few times a week. Social media is also most effective when integrated with a business’s website, blog, and/or e-mail lists.

The best strategy is to have one staff member do all the social media for a business, and for that person to be thoroughly trained in how social media works. This staff member should be responsible for Tweeting and updating the Facebook page, but also for keeping the business’s social media presence interactive.

No one likes a social media user who only talks about himself, and the same goes for businesses. For example, the social media staff member might re-Tweet mentions of the business or interesting related news that other users are Tweeting, post links to affiliated business’s content on Facebook, and manage @ replies to the business on Twitter.

When it comes to creating value, sometimes it is useful to hire a consultant. For example, the one-time cost of hiring someone to create a mobile application with embedded promotional material that can then be shared around the social network is likely to have considerable long-term value.

The key to social media for small businesses is to be interactive, keep up with the pace of social media, and keep delivering fresh real value that followers can depend on. Never let a social media feed lag empty, and always thank users who recommend you to their friends. You never know how these small efforts will pay off in the long run.

Social Media Marketing Made Easy

Social Media Marketing utilizes a variety of Internet tools to strengthen customer relationships, in turn leading to increased sales.

Social Media Marketing, an innovative manner of business promotion using Internet tools to build customer trust and loyalty, offers a low-cost method for companies to enhance sales. The goals behind utilizing many of these web tools are search engine optimization, otherwise known as SEO, and also cultivating a friendly relationship with customers.

Internet marketing is essential to modern business not only because these promotion tools are free to use, but they also build a friendly approach to the business/customer relationship. Writer Moira Gentry of Network Design & Communications, explains, “Social media marketing is using online social media to reach prospects, communicate with customers, improve internal efficiency and morale, and — most of all probably — to present and manage a brand,” or to put it more precisely, “It makes cold calls warm.”

Three Top Social Media Marketing Tools

Although Twitter was originally created to act as a mobile “away message,” some people still have no idea how to use it. “Twitter’s great for mass texting, sharing news – and knowing immediately what your customers and/or the press are saying about you. You shouldn’t find out a day later – you can know right now, and you can join the conversation and fix mistakes and celebrate good news,” clarifies Gentry.

The popular social networking site, Facebook, can not only save money on direct mail but also provides a simple, cost-effective means of announcing specials and free samples. Additionally, a business page on Facebook builds customer trust, as well as attracting new customers. No business should be without a Facebook page.

Receiving “more than 9 billion page views per month,” Craigslist is useful for boosting website traffic by means of search engine optimization. One useful method for improving a company’s SEO ranking is by placing inbound links in ads, announcing either free samples or product discounts.

Additional Social Media Marketing Tools

Since the plethora of media marketing tools available on the web can be overwhelming, figuring out the advertising needs of a company first will help to determine which tools to focus on using.

For instance, photo sharing sites such as Flickr and Picasa allow companies to save money otherwise spent on catalog production, by placing product photos online for free instead. No cost and immediate results make YouTube an ideal replacement for expensive TV ad time. Other means of marketing businesses include blogs, posting product reviews on Amazon, and offering helpful advice in subject appropriate online communities.

Most businesses taking advantage of these Internet marketing tools will watch expenses decrease while sales increase. Whereas the Internet has added complexity to doing business, thanks to social media marketing, it has also added another level to the method and meaning of nurturing customer relationships. And the best part is that it is free.