Web 2.0 Impacts Brand Communication

By Fatmanur Erdogan, Hürriyet Daily News

Today’s marketing and communications professionals face a serious challenge. New internet technologies are changing our customers’ communication styles dramatically, and failing to keep up with them is failing to prepare our businesses for the future.

It used to be that the higher you went in your career, the fewer details you needed to know. Now, though, you can’t be a knowledgeable decision maker if you don’t have a hands-on understanding of what’s happening online. The best way to do that is to use these new web 2.0 social media tools yourself, so you can see first-hand the opportunities they bring. In a nutshell, they allow you to engage with your customers like never before, but they progress very quickly, and falling behind will hold you back in your business and your career.

Just because these tools are “social”, though, doesn’t mean you can be lazy in how you use them. If you use Facebook just like everybody else, advertising on it simply because of the number of people there, you will waste your money. Go beyond casual use and haphazard ad placement. Think in terms of heat maps, and your target audience’s website usage patterns. Don’t rely solely on agencies to tell you what works and what doesn’t. Get into the details yourself, because your agencies are learning these tools themselves. Letting them learn with your money might be costly.

Or consider Twitter, a microblogging service that asks a simple question, “What are you doing now?” Too many users respond with a casual approach, leading to banal responses like, “eating an apple”. However, a few forward-thinking communications professionals are learning how to use Twitter for profitable business communications, and they are the ones whose businesses and careers will flourish because of it.

Keep in mind that web 2.0 has its own communication style. It is very open, honest, and direct –- “naked”, so to speak. It is about sharing information and building communities. It is customers connecting with each other, and, hopefully, engaging the companies they are writing about.

This open, transparent style doesn’t always fit well with traditional styles of marketing communications. Traditionally, marketing communications has been about controlling the message and managing perceptions. To me, “perception management” implies you need to manipulate your audience’s thoughts, to benefit yourself. And professionals typically defend the practice by saying they are trying to explain their companies better, to shrink the gap between who they really are and how they are perceived. But what I say to that is, if you manage your company well, and explain what you do clearly, and let your audience engage back with you, all you need to do is communicate the facts. The perception will manage itself.

Today, more of your brand’s reputation is formed in the arena of web 2.0. If you use the tools well, you can hear like never before what your customers are saying about you. Yes, the community can spread the word faster than ever, and your customers have more voice now. But that is an advantage, because customers are no longer outsiders looking into your brands and products. Instead, they are involved in your well being, and letting them into your business life benefits your company. So, get involved in the conversation, connect directly with your customers, and get away from corporate speak.

This might feel like a new and unfamiliar skill, but remember that companies pay big dividends to those who push the boundaries forward. So have the courage to move past the anxiety, and to push the envelope in your own industry. Learn the tools well, use your imagination, trust your professional instincts, and your company will benefit from your creativity.

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