A recent white paper by Firefly (Millward Brown) on corporations and social media highlights, among the concerns, that corporations fear that social media means they will have to relinquish brand control. If you don't have a great deal of experience with social media then it's an understandable fear. Even if you do understand social, it's a valid phobia if you are used to the old model (more a perception than fact) that you were in control of your brand.
Now there is some truth here. In the past corporate brands could leverage one way mass media to paint the brand image they wanted or at least intended. Positioning exists, the question is how effective it is (and was).
There are also many examples of companies using ad campaigns to either recover from a disaster or fight misperceptions or even malicious rumors and thus "protect their brand reputation". You could cite the Tylenol comeback following the poison capsule scare in the U.S. The brand owner took action and used mainstream media to win out against the negative image problems.
Times have changed and a brand image can no longer be completely controlled via Madison Avenue, if it ever could. The rise of the web and especially social media has given voice to a chorus which does not always sing the praises of products as we might like them to.
Social media consultants such as Max Valliquette have made the point strongly that social means you don't own your brand anymore. He points out that control has shifted from creators to consumers.
Using social to engage instead of to protect
You can't even completely control what people will find when they search for your brand so, how can you have anything approaching complete control over your brand image online?
The younger generation is especially prone to having a sense of entitlement to mess with your brand as they see fit. You must be aware of this and not fear it. You must embrace it and leverage it as the powerful marketing tool it is. You have to use social to engage young consumers, involve them and LISTEN to their feedback. If you don't and you alienate them there's a real possibility of your brand being hijacked.
Accept the fact that you don't know everything and revel in the realization that now your marketing and PR department has grown by thousands, hundreds of thousands or even millions.
The accessibility of social media means you have the biggest test department as well! Open your doors to the customers you serve and involve them!
Don't campaign, but converse with them. Advertising is no longer a 30 second one way shouting match. The feedback you will gain will make you stronger and your brand better and is more valuable than any lamp with a genie could ever be.
Efficiently using social media to improve the relevance of marketing and communication programs
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Summary : The hottest topic in marketing and communication is without any doubt social media marketing. Although many businesses are still testing the waters, many others have successfully integrated social media in their marketing mix.