Companies invest millions of dollars a year on their brand, whether they realize it or not. Everything a company does – from how they engage their customers, to how they recruit employees and how they market their products — are all rolled up in a corporate brand and contribute to people’s perceptions of that brand.
But one aspect many companies simply fail to acknowledge as a significant part of their investment is, quite simply: social media.
With the advent of social media, the value of “word of mouth” has gone up exponentially. That 1970s Faberge commercial that follows along the lines of, “I’ll tell two friends and they’ll tell two friends” has shifted at a pace comparable to Moore’s law and the progress being made with processing power. In a recent Neilson Social Media Report (October 2011) it was found that 60 percent of social media users create reviews of products and services, and that consumer created reviews/ratings are the preferred source for information about product/service, price and product quality.
In addition, the report also found that 70 percent of social media users make online purchases, 12 percent more than other online users do. The case in point is that your customers are out there talking about you, and positively or negatively influencing others’ purchasing decisions regarding your product or service.
A recent survey of HR professionals by the Society of Human Resources Management found that 68 percent of organizations have employees who use social media to reach external audiences, including potential customers and employees. That same survey (Social Media in the Workplace) also found that only 27 percent of employers provide social-media training to their employees. (Only 27 percent!!)
A company’s online brand must be responsive, authentic and innovative in order to attract new “fans,” who are inevitably current or future potential customers, while maintaining existing “fans.” Due to the fast pace of change in the social media arena, companies must think ahead and create a plan that can evolve with the market.
With that, we suggest you ask yourself — within the context of your company/organization — the following questions:
*Do you have a social media policy for employees that represent your brand?
*Do you allow your employees to add your organization to their Facebook or Twitter accounts? (Why or why not?)
*Have you, as an organization (or as an individual) offered or received training on the importance of social media and the positive and or negatives it may have on you or your organization? (Many companies have an employee termination clause in contracts around disparaging or inappropriate use of social media. Then again, many don’t.)
*Do you use social media for “brand-building?”
*What — if any– analytics do you track?
We won’t try to give you any outlandish advice based solely on how you answered these questions, but we will say this: If you answered No to any of these questions (or None to the last one), you need to look at us and our partners to assist you. The beauty of social media is that you can use and, in fact, tailor it to your needs, which gives you quite a bit of freedom in using it. However, you need to be doing a few key things (hint: answering Yes to the above questions!) to be utilizing it to its full potential. With that, we’ll stop suggesting you do things, except for this: we suggest you learn how to correctly use social media so that you don’t let social media manage your brand; You need to manage your social media to enhance your brand.