NB: This is a guest article by Simon Morgan from Veribo, providers of online reputation management tools.
Marketing a company image and building a brand name’s popularity used to be largely in the hands of the company itself.
Through paid advertising in print media and television a company could craft the image it wanted to have. Modern society has turned the process of building brand identity on its head.
Every consumer has the power to tell the world of their good or bad experiences with a company, and they won’t hesitate to do so.
This new form of media is referred to as Consumer Generated Media, or CGM. CGM is media that is entirely devised by the consumer and there is no direct way of controlling whether a business is portrayed positively or negatively.
Businesses and marketing departments need to ensure they understand CGM and how it works in order to benefit from a system they have no control over. Knowing where to find CGM and adjusting to the message is the best way a company can make CGM work for them.
Here are five tips that will help any business understand and benefit from CGM:
- Build a brand through imagery
- Share to win
- Tell us how we can change
- Brand improvement and social good
- Challenge consumers to create FOR YOU
1. Brand building
The old saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” is vital in CGM. One bad image can be much harder to overcome than a few bad blog posts or negative comments.
A business such as a hotel can engage their followers and encourage positive brand imagery by inviting guests to post pictures and short clips from a recent stay at a special website.
Lure fans in and encourage positive brand imagery by announcing that the best or most exciting pictures and clips could appear in upcoming print and television advertising for the hotel chain.
This tactic empowers guests to speak out and highlight the best part of their stay. Guests feel appreciated with the opportunity to appear in print, while the hotel receives positive online brand imagery in return.
Blogs, message boards, and forums allow everyone that has interacted with a company to voice their opinions online. Here again, no business can exercise control over what is said about their business. However, that does not mean businesses can’t work to help spread good stories.
An all-inclusive resort looking to spread feel-good stories about their services could run a “Share your story and win a prize” campaign online. In exchange for good stories about previous visits to the resort, the guest with the best story could win an all-expenses-paid weekend trip to the resort.
By encouraging fans to share good stories on blogs, message boards, and/or forums, the resort is helping spread good stories about their services while also improving their image with the offer of a free visit.
3. Get better
Review and rating sites offer some of the most effective forms of CGM. These sites are used by consumers who have already had a direct interaction with a service or product, and as a result have developed a full opinion of your brand. Review and rating sites allow consumers to essentially give a business a grade based upon their performance.
A travel related business such as a tour guide group depends immensely upon word of mouth and positive opinions to drive future business. A tour group looking to drum up business could offer vouchers to the guests who provide the best constructive criticism on a review site.
This allows customers a genuine opportunity to leave critical remarks, makes the company look good by rewarding honesty with free or reduced-price tours, and also provides the business a chance to learn from its mistakes.
4. Real world issues
Hundreds of companies invest money in philanthropic and charitable groups. Encouraging others to do so is another form of CGM. For example, a cruise line operating in the Caribbean Sea could start food or clothing drives to benefit third-world countries.
The cruise line would have the means of delivering donations directly to island nation populaces in need. On the surface the cruise line is doing a wonderful thing and reaping the reward themselves in positive brand imagery.
5. Involve everyone
Businesses can issue a challenge to consumers that will pay off in the end as positive, consumer-created advertising. A travel agency could run a “Dream Job” campaign where consumers are encouraged to dream up and describe their dream hospitality or travel related career.
The reward for the best answer could be a trip to see how that job, or a similar one, is performed in a tropical locale.
Consumers generate positive buzz around the travel agency and spread the brand name. At the same time, the business gets the opportunity to reward the winner’s creativity with a trip and improve their image as a great agency to work with.
The most frustrating part of CGM for businesses is the lack of control. Consumers can create and post CGM at the drop of a hat. They can’t be erased and they can’t be altered by anyone but the creator.
However, that doesn’t mean that companies can’t work with CGM to produce a positive identity. Help share the positive images of your brand and learn from the negative opinions posted about your brand to improve your service or product in the future.
NB:¬†This is a guest article by Simon Morgan from¬†Veribo, providers of online reputation management tools.
NB2: Consumer crowd image via Shutterstock.