Marketers should embrace Twitter, not fear it
A digital brand is the collective impression of all that is online about a business, and it is important in establishing and building customer trust and loyalty, according to Howard Scott, digital marketing director for Sequence Digital, who encourages marketers to embrace the social media phenomenon rather than to fear it.
Increasingly, businesses are using popular social networking sites such as Twitter to promote their digital brand. Unfortunately, many rush to set up Twitter accounts without recognising that a digital brand also has to communicate the brand's quality, professionalism and standing, and that everything posted on Twitter (or anywhere else online for that matter) contributes equally to the brand's image.
Perhaps worryingly, many companies are allowing their employees - many of whom are untrained and unaware of brand values - to manage these accounts on a day-to-day basis. In most cases there is no marketing input, no corporate input, no safety check from a legal point of view, and no input from those who best understand the brand's target audience. As a result, many brands need to protect themselves from social channels such as Facebook and Twitter.
One misplaced 'tweet' by an employee could have a very negative impact. For example, Vodafone was recently forced to issue an apology to thousands of followers on Twitter after one of its customer service staff broadcast an unsavoury tweet. The problem is that once something is said online, it gets repeated and forwarded and re-tweeted thousands of times as it spreads; despite Vodafone deleting the message from its Twitter feed, saved and forwarded copies of that tweet quickly found their way around the internet.
This highlights the importance of choosing carefully which employees are allowed to manage the brand's social media and social media accounts. Those entrusted with this responsibility should be well aware of the tone, language and brand values you want the brand to express from day to day.
Of course it's not only employees that can damage a digital brand this way: individuals associated with the company in other ways (for example ex-employees) can also harm the brand my making disparaging remarks through their own personal accounts.
Scott suggests several key ways in which a brand can protect itself against the misuse of services such as Facebook and Twitter:
- Set up an appropriately named Twitter account immediately to discourage competitors from registering fake accounts with the intention of damaging the brand.
- Put a social media plan in place as soon as possible. This should outline your strategy for social media use. A clear policy also establishes boundaries for employees who are tweeting under official business (and personal) accounts, and makes it clear what is acceptable and what is not.
- People increasingly use Twitter to talk about their opinions and attitudes toward a company or service. There is nothing you can do to stop this, so you should make good use of Twitter to monitor external conversations about your brand, and then engage with customers and build positive relationships wherever possible.
- It may not be possible to change anything posted by others, but you can respond to any negative comments with lots of positive content and feedback. Let the world know how effective your business is by highlighting and re-tweeting positive mentions from your existing customers.
- Even if you don't yet have an official Twitter account, it's very likely that people will still be tweeting about your brand, and building up your digital brand in your absence. But it's much better for the reputation and standing of your brand if you can control or guide this process by being seen and by being responsive.
"Don't shy away from Twitter," concluded Scott. "Embrace it, but have a solid strategy in place. Make sure your business is proactive and you can deliberately build a positive digital brand that is protected against services such as Twitter, and which extends your ability to achieve awareness and create lasting customer loyalty."