We all enjoyed attending the inaugural two-day Corporate Social Media Summit in London last week. It was good to hear from a whole range of companies including PepsiCo, Dell, DHL, Intel, Nokia, Citi and UMBRO about how they are evolving their social media strategies.
I moderated a session on how companies can manage their reputations online through social media with Colin Hensley, head of corporate communications for Toyota and Jakub Hrabovsky, head of social media and web relations for Vodafone.
Here are some of the key points I made to the audience before Colin and Jakub took to the podium:
Customers feel that they are now the brand owners. Through social media, they want to tell you what the brand means.
They expect brands to engage in the same transparent and direct way as they expect from everyone in their lives.
Networks of people are now becoming the key force in brand communications. In this new paradigm, brands protect themselves by aiming to always create great products and services which customers love, and by dealing with individual customer complaints quickly and effectively.
Within the context of social media, brand communications has to move from aiming for solely commercial transactions to demonstrating that you share the interests of your audiences.
Protecting brands online is about building and participating in fresh networks with your customers and being useful and helpful within those networks. Because, at the end of the day, those customer networks are more efficient than any large organisation.
If you create a good relationship through those networks then it will spread fast, magnify and build positive word of mouth. Remember in this realm one person really counts because they have a whole network which they are a part of on Facebook, Twitter etc. However if you contribute to a poor relationship with your audiences then it will also spread fast with obviously less desirable consequences.
The art in this context is to make sure you use social networks strategically – and really think through how you are going to act and behave on your social media presences.