Thursday, January 1, 2009

Monday Morning Marketeer, Web 2.0 Series: Secrets of Using Web 2.0 for Branding

The Secrets of Using Web 2.0 for Branding

Consumers are flocking to blogs, social-networking sites and virtual worlds. And they are leaving a lot of marketers behind.
For business owners who want to become involved and successful marketers of their business, Web 2.0 offers a remarkable new opportunity to engage consumers.
If you as a business owner could only figure out how to do it, Web 2.0 could be the economic downturn lifesaver that allows you to successful brand or rebrand your business and get the word out to thousands, and if you manage to go viral possibly millions. You can do this very cost effectively sometimes by just rolling up your sleeves and getting it done yourself or if you time is at a premium you may have to outsource. But this is a conversation on Guerilla Marketing, so we will not talk about outsourcing at this time. That’s what this series on Web 2.0 has been about, finding effective ways to brand and market your business at low or no cost. What are the opportunities and how deep do your marketing pockets and branding pockets have to be?
What potential marketing opportunities do Web 2.0 applications and tools offer your company? Which Web 2.0 tools have worked well for your company, and which were less successful? You have probably jumped on the bandwagon of e-mail marketing and e-zines, how has that worked for you. More and more people are averse to the amount of e-mail they are getting so there need to be other ways to use Web 2.0 for branding. But first, a more basic question: What is Web 2.0, anyway? Essentially, it encompasses the set of tools that allow people to build social and business connections, share information and collaborate on projects online. That includes blogs, wikis, social-networking sites and other online communities, and virtual worlds.
Millions of people have become familiar with these tools through sites like Facebook, Wikipedia and Second Life, or by writing their own blogs. And a growing number of marketers are using Web 2.0 tools to collaborate with consumers on product development, service enhancement and promotion. But most companies still don't appear to be well versed in this area.
So here's a look at the principles we arrived at -- and how business marketers can use them to get the best results for branding that brings business.
1. Don't just talk at consumers -- work with them throughout the marketing process. Have you heard of a focus group, what about an on line focus group, instead of constantly bombarding your clients or prospects with information, perhaps you may want to send out a blog post and invite comments, use your blog like a focus group to figure out:
a. Do they want or need your product?
b. Are there benefits that should add?
c. Have you gotten your message right?

2. Some people will be concerned about negative reviews:
In sales I always learned that a no is a bridge to a yes. The fact that someone has blogged on your website negative or positive to me is a sign that they care enough to be in touch with you. Recovering from poor feedback by openly offering a solution can really get the blood of your business moving. Correct your mistakes openly and then be sure that you follow through. In the end you can look like a hero. You could also ask some of your satisfied customers to give you some testimonials to the fact that you have done it right in the past.
3. Web 2.0 tools can be used to do what traditional advertising does: persuade consumers to buy a company's products or services. An executive can write a blog, for instance, that regularly talks up the company's goods. But that kind of approach misses the point of 2.0. Instead, companies should use these tools to get the consumers involved, inviting them to participate in marketing-related activities from product development to feedback to customer service.
Dove Cream Oil Make your own commercial for the Oscars was a great example not just of branding but double branding using Web 2.0, Dove put up a site and advertised a contest for their new product, Dove Cream Oil. Content for their site was user generated, by those who wanted a chance to be one of the three commercials showcased on the Oscars for Dove Cream Oil. Visitors to the site could view the videos and then vote on which commercials they liked the best, voting was limited to three days before the Oscars. Millions of people visited the site and thousands entered the contest, what great double viral branding.
4. You can also use on line groups to create collaborations both its business partners and consumers. Among other things, company employees have created wikis -- Web sites that allow users to add delete and edit content -- to list answers to frequently asked questions about each product, and consumers have added significant contributions. For instance, within days of the release of the new Microsoft version, Vista, consumers spotted problems and posted a way for users to deal with it. If only Microsoft would have listened, you as a small business owner are in a particularly flexible niche to listen when your prospects and customers talk.
5. Give consumers a reason to participate.
Consumers have to have some incentive to share their thoughts, opinions and experiences on a company Web site. One lure is to make sure consumers can use the online community to network among themselves on topics of their own choosing. On my Positive Pittsburghers networking forum on Ning a group started up called No Excuses where a group of people got together to support themselves in losing weight.
Some companies provide more-direct incentives: cash rewards or products, some of which are available only to members of the online community. Still others offer consumers peer recognition by awarding points each time they post comments, answer questions or contribute to a wiki entry. Such recognition not only encourages participation, but also has the benefit of allowing both the company and the other members of the community to identify experts on various topics.
• 6. Get Sociable: A New Approach: Marketing these days is more about building a two-way relationship with consumers. Web 2.0 tools are a powerful way to do that. If someone starts to follow you on Twitter, follow up with them. If a prospect signs up for your newsletter, at least have a friendly auto responder set up for them.
• 7. Learn from the Pioneers:
• The Lessons:
• A. Get consumers involved in all aspects of marketing, listen to and join the online conversation about your products outside your site, and give the consumers you work with plenty of leeway to express their opinions.
• B. Put up a calendar where they can post their events
• C. Allow them to start Discussion groups
• D. Make your site as easy to use as possible. I like Ning because you can control spam and still allow your prospects the freedom to do their own thing. Be sure to give clear simple instructions for those who want to participate.
• E. Listen to conversations on other sites: Consumers tend to trust one another's opinions more than a company's marketing pitch. And there is no shortage of opinions online.
F. Keep your eye on sites like and that track the most popular topics on the Web, to see if there's any buzz around their new products, and whether they should be adjusting, say, features or prices.
G. Resist the temptation to sell, sell, sell. Many marketers have been trained to bludgeon consumers with advertising -- to sell, sell, sell anytime and anywhere consumers can be found. In an online community, it pays to resist that temptation.
When consumers are invited to participate in online communities, they expect marketers to listen and to consider their ideas. They don't want to feel like they're simply a captive audience for advertising and if they do they're likely to abandon the community.
H. Don't control, let it go.
This blog post can be reproduced in its entirety with the following information:
© Joanne Quinn-Smith, Monday Morning Marketeer 412-628-5048
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