Protect your brand on social networks

Protect your brand on social networks

By Alisa Gilbert

In today’s digital world, truth and rumors travel at lightning speed. People around the globe can potentially learn of some breaking news via social media networks much quicker than the traditional media outlets meant to deliver that same breaking news. This can be a great boon for business owners and entrepreneurs, especially if their product or services go viral; however, it can also lead to a ‘flash-in-the-pan’ effect that can spell disaster for certain companies that fail to manage their brand online, especially if the cause of that flash is not an exciting product-launch, but instead is a much-maligned advertisement or appalling man-made disaster.

Perhaps the greatest recent example of poor brand management during a flash-in-the-pan crisis is how BP reacted immediately following the Gulf of Mexico disaster. And by immediately, I mean sluggishly. As Jeff Rutherford and others in the blogosphere have pointed out, it took BP seven days to respond to the crisis on Twitter. In that time, an anonymous joker established a fake Twitter account in BP’s name. You simply have to compare the two Twitter pages to understand how greatly this affected BP’s brand. The fake account had double the followers as the legitimate BP account. Yikes!

What can you do to avoid losing the branding battle over social networks? Surely you’re not playing in such a high-stakes game as BP, but at the very least you can still put in place some strategies that BP should have done. Learn from their mistakes; don’t repeat them. Here’s how:

Your first step is to control your brand name and any variation of it. It’s better to have a dead account that you own the password to, than it is to have someone else using it to interact with their teenage friends (or worse, using the account to drag your brand through the mud). Certainly, you can’t anticipate every variation on your brand name, so don’t worry about that. Instead, you just want to control the most obvious keyword-related accounts.That includes and other malignant forms of your brand name.

Once you control the brand name, you have to then be active in at least one of those accounts. Simply setting up a Twitter feed to Tweet every time you update your company’s blog is not enough. In fact, that ignores the wonderful potential that is the Twitterverse. On Twitter (or Facebook), you have to make an effort to be a significant player in the community. As everyone knows by now,  this means being active, responding to others, and sharing interesting links and so on. By doing this, you’ll indirectly promote your own brand.

Finally, if you do have a crisis that involves your brand, you should act immediately and honestly to deal with it. Through your account, try to present a human side of your brand. Apologize if need be. If the problem is massive, give updates and keep in touch with your audience. By showing constant activity, you demonstrate that you are aware of the problem and doing your best to fix it. Consider tapping into the hive mind of Twitter and Facebook to seek out solutions to the problem. By involving your audience, you can show that you are willing to get help from others. (For more on this topic, read Bonnie’s post on Crisis Communications in the 2.0 World)

In any case, never give up in working to maintain the integrity of your brand. Even if you take a fall, there’s a chance that you can pick up the pieces and rebuild with the help of social networks.

For a more in-depth look at BP’s Twitter brand crisis, check out this TechCrunch article. It has a great amount of information regarding the confusion with which BP approached social networking in the days following the spill.

This guest post is contributed by Alisa Gilbert, who writes on the topics of bachelors degree.  You can reach Alisa via email at alisagilbert599 at gmail dot com.