The Internet has turned what used to be a controlled, one-way brand building effort into a dialog that can potentially reach hundreds of thousands of people. No longer can a company just run a series of television commercials or buy print ads to convince consumers its product is best. The Internet and its marketing offspring, social media, have spun the effort around by 180 degrees.
Remember, a brand is not a physical thing. It only exists when a product’s image is fixed in a consumer’s mind in a positive way. Until a consumer assigns value to the product and decides that it’s different from other products, there is no brand. So the key is to convince the consumer to see the value in the product.
A marketing suite of social media tools can help fix that brand in a consumer’s mind. It can show a consumer why buying the Ajax widget makes sense because it fulfills a need. Social media can make a particular brand stand out from all of the various other messages that hit a consumer.
So how’s it done? It’s not simple, and it’s time consuming, but in the long run it is more effective than any other kind of branding effort.
What social media does is build word-of-mouth. Forrester Research has determined that a single post on Twitter or Facebook reaches an average of 150 people. If those 150 people resend that post, there is a potential that over 22,000 people will see it. When people spread a post it means they are endorsing the product.
The starting point should be blogging. As Cambridge, Mass.- based Hubspot has found, a company that blogs sees a 55 percent increase in visits to its website.
However, a blog is not a sales tool. It is way for a company to demonstrate its knowledge and expertise in its particular industry. The idea is to show consumers that the company knows what it’s doing. It builds confidence in the company. That, in turn, shows consumers that the company’s offerings are quality products.
The second thing a company should do is start a YouTube channel. This can feature product demonstrations. People are much more likely to buy something if they can see it and see how it operates.
Blender maker Blendtec increased its sales by over 700 percent through its “Will It Blend” YouTube video series. The videos show company President Tom Dickson using his company’s products to blend everything from golf balls to an Apple iPad. The point of the series is that the company’s blenders can stand up to anything. The videos went viral, having been viewed hundreds of thousands of times.
Now, Blendtec could have done a conventional television commercial that showed its blenders making smoothies. It is doubtful that its products would have been as successful. Once potential customers started watching the videos and spreading through the word through Twitter and Facebook, the company’s business exploded.
Blendtec took advantage of all four social media tools: blogging, video, Twitter, and Facebook. By using those in concert, it created a unified campaign that established its brand as one of tough, reliable blenders that could handle any task.
Blendtec is an example of what every company should shoot for — using social media to build word-of-mouth.
Jeff Cole is a marketing communications consultant based in Milwaukee, WI. His agency, JJC Communications LLC, http://jjc-communication.com provides social media, traditional public relations, and marketing services. He is also a blogger on social media, public relations, and marketing at http://www.pr101.biz. Prior to becoming a marketer, Cole was a working reporter for 25 years.
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