Customers Control Your Brand

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Given that we live in the Age of Speed, due to social media and the Web, customers can make or break your business in a matter of seconds.

In the past, companies spent ridiculous amounts of money on marketing campaigns to let customers know what they should think. And it so happened that when they were happy, they didn’t tell anyone. However, if they were unhappy they’d tell their close friends (i.e. 5-10 people). Also, in order to offer negative feedback they would have to write and send an angry letter to the CEO of the company that usually would remain unanswered. Nowadays, with the help of social networks and blogs, customers can spread news about your business in a matter of seconds.

This is both good and bad.

Let’s start off with the good.

For example, you own a retail store and one of your most loyal customers decides to use Facebook to “check in”. By doing this, he or she connects with an online network of family members and friends.  Let’s say your loyal customer has 500 friends. Those friends are now made aware of your store, maybe for the first time. It may so happen that one day a new customer that found out from that loyal customer decides to walk in and use the “check in” function as well.

However, what happens if your company doesn’t have a retail location? What happens if your business is built on word-of-mouth referrals and not by means of foot traffic or in-store sales?

In this case, using social media can prove to be a little more difficult to create awareness because they won’t be able to “check in” when they decide to visit. In some instances your loyal customers will tell their friends and family about your business through social networks without having to check in. Therefore, encouraging it, is a must.

But what happens if your business is a trade show and the potential customers wish to tweet or post about the new product they just saw and tested at your booth? Go ahead and encourage them to spread the word around. In the US, Twitter is the way to go. Encourage them to use hashtags that are relevant to your business.

Let’s now move on to the bad.

Remember back in 2009 the whole Skittles movement? They took a pretty big risk by featuring their Twitter, Youtube, Flickr and Facebook on their homepage. During the first day, so many people entered, it took down Twitter and its servers for a couple of hours. Afterwards, two days after the launch, the marketing team had to rethink their strategy given the vast number of trolls that used profanity in their tweets. In the end became some sort of a game to see how ridiculous a user could be in a post and still end up on the company’s home page.

The idea that Skittles came up with, failed. However, they inadvertently managed to educate the world about the importance of controlling brand images.

While motivating the customers to talk about your company or your product and service in a good way can be doable, in the end they are the one that control the message. You probably already know that what you and your employees talk about your brand should be consistent so we won’t bring that into discussion too much. However, you need be pay close attention to the way customers describe your products, services or your company. Should they see it as different from what you actually think it is, it’s high time to rethink not only your messaging, but also your brand positioning.

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