Branding: Be a Rock Star to Your Customers
Rock stars and sports teams live and die by their fans, and your business is no different.
No fans, no performances; empty stadiums, empty bank account. Today, rock stars in all industries rely on social media to build relationships with fans.
No matter what you may think of social media, you can’t ignore it. Leading social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn have become branding forces. They can shape and support your brand, for better or worse. Ignore them and you’ll be left in the dust.
Embrace social media and the sky’s the limit. Just look at Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber – the two most-followed musicians on Twitter. Gaga just passed 19 million followers, and Bieber is right behind her, at 17 million.
Reacting to bad reviews
Your customers now have a public voice about your business, and they’re using it.
Virgin America learned that the hard way when one disgruntled passenger recorded and uploaded the experience of being stuck on the ground in the aircraft due to a weather delay. Another passenger continued to update her Facebook status with her complaints: “Aren’t there laws about this? VA gets a big thumbs down today.”
The airline certainly couldn’t control what the passengers posted any more than they could control the weather.
What they could control was the company’s treatment of passengers who were forced to endure the 16-hour trip, which ultimately involved both air and bus transit. And what passengers complained most about was the treatment they received from the flight attendants during the ordeal.
Multiple passenger social media reports painted a picture of an uncaring airline. And accurate or not, perception became reality for Virgin America.
Virgin America CEO, David Cush, was tasked with turning the situation around. He started by sending an apology letter to every passenger, with the promise of a full refund and future credit. He called the passenger who filmed the flight. He publicly took full responsibility.
Whether his actions were enough to repair the damage done to the brand is hard to say. However, the woman who’d posted her complaints to Facebook followed up with a post thanking the airline for its resolution and claiming she’d continue to be a loyal passenger.
Be part of the conversation
The lesson? Your customers are already talking about you. They’re sharing good and bad experiences.
Once you become part of the conversation, you have the opportunity to shape how people perceive your company. How you react to kudos and complaints will affect what else is said about you.
Your customers are also watching you and may be recording the interaction. To avoid becoming a YouTube sensation for the wrong reasons, make certain your employees put patience and stellar customer service at the top of their priority lists.
It’s good business with or without social media.
Nipping negativity in the bud
Some companies have even become proactive in an attempt to maintain a positive brand image. Comcast, for example, has taken a different approach to managing its reputation online. Embracing Twitter, Comcast developed @comcastcares to help customers in need.
Spurred by a customer who started a website ComcastMustDie.com, Comcast recognized the first step to turning negative feedback around was admitting the customer experience they were providing wasn’t always good. The second was changing the corporate culture, by focusing on improving customer satisfaction.
To do that, Comcast’s employees aren’t just waiting for unhappy customers to find them. They have become very adept at trolling for problems and negative comments shared on social media sites. When they find one, they reach out to learn how they can turn a complaint into a positive experience.
Monitor – It matters
The lesson? Learn to monitor what’s being said about your company on the Internet. Set up alerts, like Google Alerts, to stay dialed in. You can create alerts for your company’s name (and your own name), and you will be notified via email according to the parameters you create (by occurrence, daily, weekly, etc.).
Additionally, you may opt for professional help to monitor and manage your online reputation. Companies like Yextrep monitor social media and review sites on your behalf and deliver results in real time to a customized dashboard.
By staying on top of customer feedback, you have the capability to better manage your brand reputation. Listening, taking action, and confirming the customer received the resolution they wanted is sometimes all that is needed to earn a lifetime fan.
Building your fan base
Focus on your core competencies and deliver a rock solid product or service, as Whole Foods does by selling organic and all-natural groceries.
Offer value at every turn, just as LL Bean does with its lifetime product guarantee and free shipping for LL Bean credit card holders.
Open a dialog with your fans on social media; ask what they like. Ask what they don’t like. Listen. Starbucks solicited ideas from customers and ended up creating a number of products and promotions, such as the Starbuck K-cup line.
Get personal – let your fans know there are real people just like them behind the face of your business. Zappos employees regularly converse with customers via Twitter.
Brand building is based on two-way communication and interaction. Fans love when their sports stars take time to sign a few autographs and when rock stars sing the requested encores. Today that two-way communication is made even easier through social media sites.
Treat your customers right, both online and off, and you’ve taken a giant step to turning them into raving fans.
What kind of branding strategies do you use to create loyal fans?