The last hurrah.

As the deadline for content of this blog looms ever closer, I thought it would be a good time to make some comments on my learnings over the last few months.

Exploring the digital landscape and its use by brands to build on their reputational capital has been an interesting journey. With key concepts including medium theory and the second media age forming the backbone of my posts, I sought to show how social media has offered new tools for interactive and dialogic communication between brands and consumers, and between consumers themselves. Importantly, it has become another channel for brands to build on their reputations via relationship building and exposure in the digital world.

Drawing predominantly from ‘Reputation: realising value from the corporate image’ by Charles Fombrun, I hope to have shared why brands need to consider adapting to the new online media ecology and start participating in conversations and have tried to anchor these concepts in recent and interesting examples.

Finally, a big thank-you to all my spectators, without whom this blog would have had no interaction! You have all provided me with some great insights and your (sometimes) challenging questions have been very thought provoking. I do hope you have enjoyed my posts as much as I have enjoyed readings yours, no doubt I will speak to you soon!

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Invasive or not?

The case studies I have presented in recent posts highlight the successful use of social media to increase reputational capital. These have uncovered the means by which brands are using the digital landscape in order to create wealth.

Having recently written a paper on the political economy of new media, I can’t help but think about how two sides of the social media coin have been brought to life – both of which promote brand reps in different ways.

On one hand, we can see how brands are tapping into the non-commodified relationships that people are having online to not only increase brand presence and reputation but also to produce capital.

In the case of KLM Airlines, it was clear how social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and FourSquare were commodified. The individuals who were targeted for a gift had their social media presence analysed in order to determine an appropriate gift.  The campaign demonstrates how brands can mine the data collected about individuals online in order to leverage their brand.

On the other hand, we see how social media is providing a ‘democratising’ voice to marginalised views. By interacting with her fans directly via social media, Lady Gaga has created inclusionary spaces around her celebrity status and shared interest in her music for her fans to discuss issues such as their ‘imperfections’.

Is it invasive for brands to use the data created by consumers based on their social / cultural interests?

Do you think that it is invasive for brands to use the data collected about the things we do online? Are the privacy settings we set really private? Do you feel as though the consumer has a democratising voice online?

Social media monster – Going Gaga

If there is one celebrity who has successfully harnessed the power of social media to extend her reputational capital, it would be Lady Gaga.

Last year, Lady Gaga made $52m, reached a Klout score of 94 and has a Twitter following of over 30 million. Not only does she hold the number one spot for most followers on Twitter, Gaga’s Facebook page ranks among the three most popular pages in the world. It is not surprising that she is one of the most socially influential people in the digital landscape.

Gaga has created a social media monster machine that has allowed her to interact directly with her fans to sustain her celebrity status and music.   Her success is due in part to her control over her social media accounts. She not only uses her account to cross-promote her upcoming releases and tours, she also actively writes her own tweets and demonstrates her appreciation for her fan base aka ‘Little Monsters’ by retweeting and responding to their tweets / Facebook posts.

Lady Gaga shares personal photos of herself with her fans

Recently, Gaga created her own social media platform: Little Monsters. Set to rival Facebook, this social media networking site is dedicated to the fans of Lady Gaga. It is a space for fans to convene to participate in discussions, “put their paws up”, and post photos.

Gaga’s all-encompassing presence is a result of her integration of social and traditional media, engaging audiences in real-time and telling a story that is relateable and worth spreading. She has found the economic value of building her brand online by tapping into the relationships and interests that people share in the digital landscape.

What can Mother Monster teach us about building reputational capital?

Encourage participation: Provide opportunities for your fans to actively participate. Engage with them by allowing them to contribute at a personal level so they become invested and begin to identify with your brand.

Empower your fan base: Form genuine connections with your fan base. Be conversational and personable and real. Just like real relationships, companies should thank their fans /  followers for their loyalty, receive and respond to feedback and offer incentives.

Provide valuable content: Highlight offers, prizes and content that will keep your followers interested.

Integrate your platforms: Cross-sell your promotions and content across your online channels – whether that be your website, Facebook or Twitter – to create a uniform voice.

Social media creating spaces for views that challenge norms? Have some m$therf*cking’ compassion! Check out Kate’s blog on Gaga’s Body 2013 Revolution

Creating uniqueness: KLM airlines

The digital age and the rise of social media has increased the visibility of brands and hence competition for reputation.

As I mentioned in my post Why reputations matter, reputation is built on respect and trust which creates competitive advantage.

Attracting customers to products or services, employees to jobs and investors to the brand’s securities create a favourable reputation that improves a company’s profitability and enhances its chances of surviving. It is derived from a brand’s uniqueness.

My uni colleague, Sarah Hanniffy, shared a great article that highlights the importance of exploring the different uses of social media platforms but brands to achieve different needs. There is no such thing as “one-size-fits-all strategy” for building a brand’s reputation. As such, the next few blog posts will be dedicated to a number of brands that have successfully harnessed the power of social media.

Today BRW covered an example of a social media campaign tapping into the ways customers communicate in order to build rapport and differentiation.

The brief:
Dutch airline, KLM aimed to create brand uniqueness in an industry known for uninspiring passengers.

They wanted to transform boredom into happiness and engage with customers to make them feel special.

The response:
KLM went out of their way to be more approachable by undertaking a social media campaign to engage with their passengers. This involved tracking down passengers waiting to board flights and presenting them with small gifts to thank them for using Facebook, Twitter or Foursquare to indicate they were travelling with KLM. The passenger’s social media presence was then analysed by KLM to work out an appropriate ‘small gift’. The campaign was run over a few weeks.

The results:

  • KLM airlines received over 1m tweets during the campaign period as word spread
  • They received 17, 528 followers on Foursquare
  • Twitter following reached 2.6m
  • Received over 250,000 views on YouTube

Key learnings:
Shifting ways of brand to customer communication to understanding customers and the way they communicate with them to personalise experiences and differentiate their brand.

This has not only included engaging with customers / passengers in new, creative and memorable ways, but also using social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook profiles as business networking tools. The program, ‘Meet and Seat’ allow passengers to request to be seated next to a person as an opportunity to network.

What do you think of this campaign?

[edits. 25, September 2012]

The airlines are so across their social media, they’ve engaged with me within 12 hours of posting a tweet about them!

Why reputations matter

I’ve been throwing around the idea of ‘brand reputation’ and its relation to social media without really clarifying why brands need to pay attention to this intangible asset in the digital landscape.

Charles J. Frombrun’s book, Reputation: Realising value from the corporate image, has been useful in providing a theoretical framework for how companies not only compete for market share through strategic positioning, but also for reputation.

Why?

Winning brand reputations provide competitive edge and privileges.

We trust companies we respect and are familiar with. We willingly pay for their products, believing the products are more likely to fulfil our expectations that the products of lesser-known companies.

A great reputation is difficult to imitate and limits what rivals can do.

It is derived from the company’s identity and it creates wealth.

But reputation also comes with responsibility. There are raised expectations for the brand to live up to its reputation and a brand’s reputation must be managed by building strong relationships with its stakeholders. When the brand serves it’s stakeholders well, its name becomes a valuable asset that creates reputational capital or brand equity.

In a digital context – with increased transparency and information access – reputation is playing a big role in keeping brands ‘honest’ and forcing them to make more definitive actions to build relationships audiences who are talking to them online.

So who is doing it well online? Coca Cola continues to build its reputation online with the integration of social media sites such as Facebook as a means of building closer ties to their customers.  They have created a common space for their customers to congregate and share their stories about their experiences with the brand and in turn create a stronger brand identity. How do we know they are doing it well? Over 51m page ‘Likes’, over 1m talking about this, and active engagement from customers on all posts.

Which highly reputable brands can you think of that have been doing well online?

Do we need more proof?

The #socialmedia revolution is proving to be more than a fad – these figures show why brands need to jump on the band wagon – develop a strong social media presence, tapping into and joining the conversations of the upcoming generations (millennials) to promote world of mouth.