I am a Facebook (FB) user, and more and more, I've been seeing brands create fan page profiles on Facebook and other social networking sites. Are Facebook and other social sites effective marketing tools? How do I measure success? I am afraid that some of my customers or even my competitors may put negative things about my brand there for all the world to see. But I am also afraid that I would be the brand left out in this digital world.
Using FB and other social media sites is a cost effective marketing tool that has been proven to extend a brand's reach and broaden its audience, thus creating stronger brand equity IF used efficiently and properly. Thus, even before getting into success metrics, it must be determined what it is you ultimately hope to achieve by putting your brand out on these new social media. Do you want to talk to your audience? Do you want to boast that you have one million fans or followers? Or do you truly want to engage your prosumers?
While it is true it is necessary to be found in the web, especially where your audience is, it can also just be another step to prove your inefficiency. Again, we ask: What do you want to achieve by going online? Placing your brand online opens up channels of communication. Metrics would go beyond the number of fans or ad views to how your brand is able to effectively engage with the audience. And if you are not ready to engage the user in discussion or dialogue, then you would just be 1) wasting your time creating a social media extension and 2) setting your brand up to be a digital snob or an uncaring brand that does not know what it is doing in the digital space.
As to the concern of negative posts or comments, this is a natural part of the process and there are ways to deal with these. If it is blatantly obvious that a competitor is trying to destroy your reputation, you can always moderate or delete comments or posts left in your social media site(s).
However, if it is a concerned customer relating a bad or unfavorable experience, then this is an opportunity to correct what went wrong. Contact him or her; see what you can do to appease the aggrieved party and follow through on any promise. Rather than have customers destroy your brand in their other sites (as well as through word of mouth), you have now opened up a new channel for them to share their grievances.
A dialogue between the brand and the customer has benefits. For the brand, it is an effective way to improve, based on real opinions. It is also a cost effective tool for customer service. For the user, it is an open communication line between him and the concerned brand.
So, are social media effective marketing tools? Definitely. However, as a caveat, they are not an overnight solution. A customer relationship and user engagement marketing plan must come first, before the desired results are to be reaped. Social media, unlike other media, require 24/7 management and monitoring, and engenders a highly intense level of engagement between brand and media user. You don't just set up a fan page and then leave the page to let your fans do the talking. In most cases, your real fans won't always defend you, and at most, could get tired of doing so if you do not support them there.
This is a generation of brand engagement with digital as the most powerful medium, and not jumping into the bandwagon will leave the brand swimming in a little pond that will eventually lose its voice in the sea of prosumer interactions.
Donald Lim is the Chief e-Marketing Strategist of Mansmith and Fielders, Inc. (www.mansmith.net), the leading marketing and sales training company in the Philippines. He is also the CEO of Yehey Corporation. For inquiries, please e-mail info@mansmith.net, call (+63-2) 584-5858 /412-0034 or text (63) 918-81-168- 88.

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