We built it – now what?

by Phil Buckley on February 28, 2008

in Social Media

When a brand builds a social media environment to meet a business goal or many, they typically set out to build a community or an environment that will improve their business. Most wish to improve their customer’s communication and open a meaningful dialog with them such that they haven’t had before. They envision the newly spawned community using this tool and spreading the good word about their products or services amongst themselves and with others. They see this new environment, this new business tool as a marketing investment that will bring a return and make them better – and get them recognized for stepping into the social media circle.

If they are wise, they’ve done their homework. They are consulting with professionals who have been there/done that and they are reading, reading, reading, as much information as they can get their hands on, about the brands that have embarked on such projects before them and learning from the pioneer’s missteps and wins. And they are constantly reevaluating and considering the risks as they weigh the rewards.

Ideally, through due diligence, those charged with the brand’s and the project’s success will realize that a branded social media tool will not improve the brand’s business on its own. The project needs for everyone involved to be on board and in sync with the objectives they are setting out to accomplish and for key champions of the cause to be in place, to be informed and to have a plan of action.

Social media tools serve as platforms for customer’s to reveal their perspective of that brand’s product or service – and the brand will either enjoy buzz building glory or buzz building agony. To prevent the latter, a company needs to plan ahead for the support their new social initiative will need.

The best examples of social media marketing done right are those done by the companies that chose to support their initiative with ambassadors for the brand and their business objectives. Those ambassadors are the moderators of their customer’s conversations and the active and recognizable “voice” of the brand. Their approachability and their responses to the customers within the community, reveals the company’s engagement and expresses the value the brand places on their customer’s experience with them. They show the customer that they matter and that the community or tool that they have introduced is an investment in their customers – and one which they are vested.

And this is what makes the difference – the brand’s commitment to engage and get better as a result from what they learn. If you rely solely upon the “build it and they will come” philosophy – you will be sorely disappointed. Additionally, you’ll probably learn very quickly that your company’s reputation offline for a bad customer experience will now be broadcast online. And with no plans in place to provide the strategic support necessary to turn that collective frown upside down – all of the investments you’ve made in your brand to date, as well as in this social media initiative will be jeopardized.

So get together at the executive level and get honest with one another. Listen to your customers before you build. Work with experienced professionals (designers, developers) to create a tool that magnifies what you’re good at and put the tools in place – and the brand ambassadors in place, to reply to and learn from your harshest critics. Build something worth talking about and make it easy for users to tell your story. Above all, act quickly and consistently to take advantage of every opportunity you get as a brand, to show your customers that they matter above all else.

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