You have a #socialmedia presence whether you like it or not and it is not going away anytime soon.
Don’t just ignore it, make an effort to be a part of it, both online and offline.
Some companies are doing such a horrible job of relating to their public audience that they ultimately damn themselves. A&F said anybody over a size 10 is basically fat and shouldn’t wear their clothes, Nutella attempted to sue a customer that started a recipe fan page without their lawyers consent, JC Penny and Puma stepped in it with tactless controversial products and ad imagery, and many, many more examples can be found all over the world.
All points to branding as one of the most important things a business can do for themselves. Branding can make and break a product and/or company. There used to be a lesson, one that I was told early in my career “…there’s good publicity and bad publicity, either way it’s publicity,” but I’ve learned that it’s how you choose to deal with that publicity which determines your future. That is why some companies can bounce back so quickly with the controversial content swept under the rug or made trivial in comparison to their resolve. For some it was an immediate public apology, possibly with a charitable donation, for others it was simply crafty rebranding and/or taking advantage of the general publics lack of attention span (look a new shiny object!).
Branding is more than just what people see… it’s what people feel when they think about your product or service.
All this publicity, the good, the bad and everything in between, all boils down to a companies brand and its “consistent” efforts to maintain it. Consistency is crucial and those companies that wait too long to engage or issue statements with little or no empathy toward the very customers that made it the success it is, are only doomed to the mercy of those customers who may have better branding skills than their highest paid PR firm. In this age of a social media savvy public, companies cannot hide behind a fancy designed logo and think that ignoring their customer base will make things go away.
The quality in which you handle your customers will shadow that of your product or service and thus build brand loyalty in it’s wake. It’s definitive that you won’t please them all, but always stay above the fray. Humor is great when dealing with trolls, but take all customer interactions with a level of seriousness and empathy to their situation.
In summary, if your business doesn’t use social media to promote your product or service, know that your customers do. Branding is more than just what people see, it’s how you treat your employees, it’s also customer service, it’s what people feel when they think about your product or service. So plan your brand(ing) as if you have a #socialmedia presence at all times.