The following is a continuation of a recent seminar called Reputations put on by Chris Brogan and member panelists. The key points of the seminar discussed how to tap into the power of social networks to build your brand's influence, reputation, and of course profits.
To be helpful businesses and individuals must begin by Listening, Connecting then Publishing. We will address each of the above key topics individually.
The internet and the social media offer the tools such as twitter, blogs, Facebook et al which are there for businesses to “listen” to what is being said about them. The economic downturn was partially caused by companies not listening to the real needs of customers and just pushing inappropriate home mortgage and related financial products on them.
Learn about the “influencers” using vertical tools such as LinkedIn. Learn about them and their interests. When tweeting those that you do business with remember it’s all about “them” not selling your products. It is not good social media practice to use Twitter as another dispenser of coupons or something other obvious promotional attempt to sell to twitters which will not go over well.
When using social media first talk about others and yourself or business last; a good ratio is 12 to 1 if you want to gain trust and creditability. Use newsletters and articles to aid in gaining that trust. Additionally talk up competitors and/or competing products which will add to businesses creditability. Taking up competitors/products is not only a courtesy but a reality.
Chris has an example of talking up competing products, a Japanese electronics company’s CEO during a public meeting brought out a competitors product and admired it in front of all in attendance. The CEO owned the competitor’s product and used it in addition to the products his own company offered. The reality is that customers in many cases have a complimentary mix of products from more than one company of the same type of product depending on their needs.
Social media is a communications tool that can be used to develop new products by finding how customers use company’s products to solve THEIR problems. No need for assembling customer focus groups that only want to please their paying hosts. Customers actually create their own products ahead of a companies R&D team. When businesses track who customers use their products through their own web order sites and social media new products or uses come into view.
Company blogs for only company business are really useless and a turn off. Companies MUST go and find where the clients are; not where companies want them to be. Companies must also anticipate where clients will be in the future.
Give away products and services can attract interest and be very profitable. An example is Red Hat software; they give away their product but sell billions in service offerings.
Offer various ways to connect by offering videos and other content. The primary goal is to make sure that you are listening to “me’ the customer when offering content in any form.
You do not own your reputation; it is the customers, current and former employees and interested others that own it; however, companies may be able to manage their reputations. Who will the company employ to help manage its online reputation?
Social media will influence the candidates that apply to your company; know what others are saying about the work environment in the company. Its culture; what is spontaneous is also of interest to web influencers. Influencers will determine a businesses potential employee candidate pool to draw from.
Traditional online media can compliment each other driving traffic on line building reputation, trust and website visits. The key is finding the right balance of resource commitments using both forms of media.
In closing social media requires a thick skin; however, it is an opportunity to fix problems and address issues publicly. Many companies fail in the eyes of reputation builders (customers or interested others) because they take too long to correct problems; simply just too slow and reactionary. Companies must have plans in place for good and bad online publicity and events and quickly act on them. Correcting and fixing problems publicly online shows the web community that a company is engaged and cares.