Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief of Wired Magazine and author of the best-selling book The Long Tail, once stated that “your brand isn’t what you say it is, it is what Google says it is.” In a world where most website visitors find your company through search engines, this statement seems truer than ever. When search engines assign the same weight to bloggers as multi-national corporations, how much control can you exert over your brand?
The Challenges of Brand Management on the Web
It wasn’t many years ago that when people wanted information about a company or product, they looked in the Yellow Pages phone book. They might call or visit the company, talk to sales staff, or pick up a brochure.
Today, the first point of contact with a company or brand is often through search engine results pages. Studies show that consumers use the web to research products and services before buying. Most of this research involves search engines.
Consequently, a consumer’s first exposure to your brand will include content generated by people who are not official brand representatives. Your brand website will be presented along with web content created by supporters and critics.
Fortunately, there are strategies you can employ to exert more control over your brand in the online environment. You may never reach the level of control of the pre-web 2.0 world, but you can be an active participant. Used effectively, these strategies also bring new opportunities to connect with current and potential customers.
Strategies for Managing Your Brand
1. Optimize your website for search engines
Make sure that people can find you. You don’t want to be on the tenth page of search engine results while your critics are on page one.
2. Monitor what is being said about you
If you don’t know what is being said, you can’t respond. There are a number of tools available to monitor what is being said about your brand, your competitors and your industry. Google Alerts allows you to select search parameters and notifies you when it finds your search term. Technorati provides a similar service for blogs.
Use search engines to see what results are returned when searching for your brand, your executives, and your products and services. Check to see who is linking to your website and find out what they are saying about you.
3. Respond to critics
There is no better way to allow others to dominate a conversation than to not participate. It is not easy to jump in when your brand is being slammed, but it is critically important.
Be polite and identify yourself as a brand representative. Even if you can’t fix the problem, acknowledge the issue. This can go a long way to diffuse hostile situations.
Online discussions about your brand are an opportunity to solidify brand loyalty and reach new customers. The comments of your critics may live on the web forever, but so will your response.
4. Claim your space on the Web and in social media
Most companies recognize the importance of claiming their domain name on the web, but it is equally important to stake your claim in social media. Many social networks do not verify the identities of people creating new accounts. You need to get there first. Put links to social networking sites on your website so that people know they are connecting with the real goods.
5. Consider the pros and cons of going after unauthorized users of your brand
For years, marketing was about protecting the brand. Companies would quickly block any unauthorized use. But on the web, consumers have developed websites, blogs and even promotional videos for their favourite brands. Monitor these activities and jump in when necessary, but let your supporters do some marketing for you.
Branding Challenges Bring Branding Opportunities
Google may influence how your brand is perceived, but so can you. By jumping into the fray, you will not only manage your brand but reach new customers.
See how Webcopyplus can help put your brand on equal footing.