1 December 2011

Social Media

How to Use Social Signals to Manage Your Brand’s Reputation Online

How do you encourage brand advocacy online? And how do you keep detractors at bay? Unfortunately, there’s no hard and fast rule to overcoming the challenges associated with managing your online reputation, but by understanding the interrelationship between social signals and their variables, you can engage with your market niche through social media successfully.

The biggest obstacle for many companies is delivering brand consistency across the social networks they use. Because there are multiple social networks, brand managers have to deal with multiple audiences of varying demographic profiles and online social behaviours. For instance, the first set of graphs below show averages for UK users of Twitter:

online brand management twitter

Source: Google Ad Planner (2011)

What we can see here is that the “average” user is male, in his late 20s/early 30s, earns upwards of £30,000 per year and has some kind of college education. Let’s take a look at Facebook and YouTube.


online brand management facebook


online brand management youtube

We can see here that the figures are roughly the same across all three networks. This doesn’t really tell me much, though- I have a bunch of graphs that indicate a fact I kind of already knew without having to do any research. What’s more, it’s more than likely that I don’t want to be targeting the “average” user- I want to be able to focus all my online marketing efforts in a very controlled and informed way. And this is where the market research starts to fall flat, just a little. Yes, I can carry on using other tools and really drill down into the nitty-gritty, looking at where all these people live and how far their house is from the nearest airport, but it won’t tell me any more about the individual. For that kind of information, we have to start using more qualitative measures such as (gasp) engaging with users; building relationships; and monitoring social signals such as mentions, comments, and referrals.

So, understanding who you’re targeting through social media is much more than a numbers game these days and it’s important to bear in mind that one size doesn’t fit all; however, there are certain aspects of a brand that should be consistent across all channels. For example, below I’ve grouped together a number of factors into three broad categories which I believe inform trust and advocacy indicators like the Facebook “Like” or the Twitter “Retweet”.

brand management elements


Before, I mentioned that successful online brand management was contingent on how well the relationship between social signals and the brand components in the above table is understood. These variables have to be meticulously and seamlessly presented to users in order to encourage positive engagement. In Robin Grant’s recent presentation “Whose Voice is It Anyway?”, he shows how an increase in blog mentions for a particular product directly correlates to a significant increase in sales two days later. What’s even more interesting is that the effect of the temporary surge in sales lasts longer than the duration of the social coverage.

blog sales correlation

We Are Social

So how do you encourage advocacy and deal with detractors?

It goes without saying that you have to talk to people. In the aftermath of social-influence monitor Klout’s recent algorithm change, measuring user influence has far more to do with the frequency at which you engage your network, and the level of influence your network wages. In other words, it’s about how often you’re interacting and who you’re mixing with, rather than the amount of people you have following you. The more you invest in your social profile, the more your connections will interact with you, which will encourage people to start talking about you. It can be a real slog in the beginning, because you have to put yourself out there, but as you build momentum and continue to excite and connect with your network, they soon become advocates themselves and start to validate your brand. That’s if you’re doing it right.

Inevitably, you’re going to make mistakes along the way. Managing your brand is like editing a dictionary- words come in and out of fashion, and not all meanings are always viewed in the same way. I personally believe listening to your critics is far more useful than being constantly lauded for the great job you’re doing. Of course, it’s nice to hear it once in a while, but I’m always reminded of the Intel Founder Andrew Grove’s quote:

“Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.”

You can’t afford to be complacent in a realm which changes by the day, but by the same token your actions and reactions to decriers should be controlled and planned. There are numerous instances of good and bad management of brand crises through social media:

The Good

The Bad

American Red Cross “#gettingslizzerd”

Chapstick “Where do Lost Chapsticks Go?”

Toyota’s “Product Recall”

Nestle’s Facebook Page “We set the rules. There’s the door.”

Codero’s “Power Outtage”

Habitat UK’s “Spam Tweets”

The reason American Red Cross, Toyota, and Codero weathered the PR storm was because they held their hands up; admitted there was a problem; dealt with it straight away; and moved on. Sure, their followers were briefly disgruntled, but the companies didn’t hide from the problem, which probably made them appear to have more integrity. On the other hand, Chapstick, Nestle, and Habitat tried to carry on as if nothing had happened, ignoring or deleting comments posted on their profiles. As you can imagine, this only incensed followers even more.

If you’d like to read more about managing your company’s brand, I highly recommend Jennifer Van Grove’s article on Mashable. As always, we’d love to hear your views and opinions. Check us out at @fdcstudio or @adam_seo_cow


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