Last November, Motrin — the well-known vendor of over-the-counter pain-relief products — decided to try its hand at viral marketing, and it didn't go very well. Shortly after it released an advertisement on YouTube that suggested baby-wearing (putting your baby in a sling) was not very good for mothers, bad publicity started flowing in blogs, on Twitter — all over the online social networking world. While the social media firestorm was hardly the result for which Motrin was aiming, it did provide the pain-relief pill producer with an opportunity: It had the chance to respond directly to its customers.
Most companies don't have the opportunity that Motrin did. Although backlash against your company or its products might not be so obvious, you can be sure that people are talking about your brand online. You would be wise to monitor it, said Connie Benson, chief community officer at Techrigy, a vendor that makes a software tool to help businesses monitor their brands online.
Benson said that companies could be experiencing unmediated firestorms when consumers express themselves online. "A brand that ignores online conversations is taking a huge risk. In a matter of hours there have been cases like Dominoes and Amazon when they were impacted by social networks. Ford was able to turn a potentially bad situation around by joining in the conversation on Twitter."
She added that monitoring has utility for online brand defense. "Monitoring online conversations provides companies and individuals limitless opportunities to grow their business and brand. Listening to the conversations of their customers, potential customers and competitors provides information that can be used by every department."
But you want to be sure that you don't just sit back and listen. According to Stephanie Miller, vice president of market development at Return Path, if your audience is using any social media, such as subscribing to blogs, commenting on forums or writing product reviews, you will want to participate in, not simply monitor, the conversations. "It doesn't have to happen on your site to be influential to the purchase process — in fact, if it doesn't happen on your site, it may be more important to your purchase process."
She added, "If your customers allowed you to listen in and contribute appropriately to conversations they had about you — in any forum — wouldn't you do everything you could to be there? The conversation goes on whether you monitor it or not."
There are a range of tools available to help you monitor your brand online, from free search tools to commercial offerings like Techrigy. Regardless of the route you go, it's imperative that companies monitor online social network chatter and find creative ways to engage directly with their customer base.
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