The Good, Bad and Ugly: Social Media’s Impact on Your Brand
There's no denying that social media has taken the world by storm. Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter boast millions of users. Social media is a huge engagement, staffing, retention and, increasingly, branding tool. It's at the foundation of what I call tri-branding — i.e., when companies use social media to link both product and employment brand, and to get their customers to sing their praises or live their brand.
Companies need to proactively leverage social media to drive their tri-branding efforts. Companies should be leveraging social media to boost their brand via tweeting, posting and blogging. Posting recent wins, new products or services, job openings, key promotions and hires, and press releases are all opportunities to brand who you are.
Tri-branding occurs when your customers promote you on your behalf. When keynoting, I often show a YouTube video of a Southwest Airlines flight attendant singing a country song as part of her opening comments to fellow passengers to "buckle up." This YouTube video has now been seen by millions of viewers. Think of the marketing benefits of this example for Southwest Airlines. A customer on their own branded Southwest's product in a positive way, with Southwest being the beneficiary of millions of views.
How much would it cost Southwest to proactively seek similar brand and culture exposure? Another example of "The Good" within the airline industry is Cebu Pacific, an Asian airline. It's also the beneficiary of tri-branding, with its customer base uploading YouTube videos on its behalf, resulting in millions of views. Tri-branding is all about your customer base branding — and in fact, funding — your message. Think of the cost to Southwest or Cebu Pacific if they had negative cultures or if a customer had a negative experience.
Many companies are afraid of the realistic downside of social media (e.g., employees saying the wrong thing, customers saying negative things about the company, etc.). Their concern is often legitimate as employees and customers, along with other stakeholders, often say negative things about a brand, especially if they have had a negative brand experience or if the brand has a toxic culture. Unless you take control of social media, you risk social media taking control of you.