A recent study from Penn State University indicates 20 percent of all tweets refer to or mentions specific brands or product names.Â This presents a new challenge for the keeper of the brand. The growth of social media tools means that brand messages are no longer delivered via a top-down, one-way channel. Instead, constituents are playing a much more active role in shaping a brand’s identity.
This may be good news. PSU associate professor Jim Jansen said he was actually surprised by the percentage of favorable comments people tweeted. But that doesn’t mean brand managers don’t need to pay attention. Because savvy marketers know, there is plenty to gain from engaging with customers via social media.
To survive in today’s economy, marketers need to redefine how they control messages and brand identity. In the past, control meant fastidiously managing and protecting all aspects of a company’s identity from logo to packaging to press releases and website. Marketing departments spent time and money creating style guides and designating corporate colors and fonts. All of that matters still today. But what also matters is how a brand “controls” the dialogue it has with its customers. Influence is the currency of social media. And influence, is the new control.
To gain influence, brands must be online. They need to embrace social media, because the people that matter to the brand are. And, they must engage in a way that is authentic, open and transparent. Influence may feel like ceding control by allowing the new brand ambassadors — the connected customers to spread the word — positive or negative. But actually, the benefits can far outweigh the risks.
Corey McPherson Nash, a national branding and design firm, helps its clients connect better with their audiences through brand, print, interactive and social media communications.