The evolution of internet-based technologies has completely changed the way we communicate with each other. Social interactions have moved to virtual platforms and have allowed us to communicate faster and more efficiently than ever.
This global trend has given consumers a voice. Consumers are not just passive receivers of information anymore. They can now actively participate in the brand creation process by collaborating with companies and other stakeholders or by creating brand manifestations of their own.
As a result, brand managers have to rethink the way they interact with consumers. Acknowledging the role of consumers as co-creators of brand meaning is the first step to success.
After the rise of social media, ‘word-of-mouth’ received a whole new meaning. Suddenly everyone could express their opinion online, without even being a customer or user of the product. In fact, ‘word-of-mouse’ would be a more accurate term to use nowadays.
What is more, the access to blogs, forums, video sharing sites etc. allows people to not only express an opinion but to create content themselves that can be experienced by other stakeholders.
The challenge for brand managers lies in the fact that power is shifting away from them and towards consumers. Increased visibility is also becoming an issue as consumers have access to an unprecedented amount of information.
Transparency in relationship management should be a top priority! And remember that the conversation is ongoing. One wrong tweet from a careless employee can end up damaging your whole brand.
Engaging consumers in a conversation is a good way to create value. Making them part of your product is even better. By engaging consumers actively in the creation process, organisations can foster sustainable growth with long-term benefits.
Companies that have successfully implemented this strategy are TripAdvisor, AirBnB and Uber. All three brands are based on the concept of consumers helping consumers, which is a powerful driver of engagement.
With the help of consumers TripAdvisor has evolved from a network to a marketplace in a short period of time. According to an official press release, TripAdvisor has an average of 390 million visitors every month and has collected 435 million reviews and opinions so far.
We have established that social media provides great opportunities for cultivating communities. By fostering brand communities, organisations can empower consumers to take ownership of the brand, strengthening loyalty and satisfaction in the process.
The main key to strong brand communities are relationships. Because ultimately, people want to be a part of a group for the social links and not necessarily for the brand’s reputation. For this reason, communities cannot be completely controlled by managers. Organisations can simply create conditions to support the community’s growth.
Take Nike for example. Currently, there is a running community in Copenhagen, Denmark called NBRO that was born out Nike’s “TakeCPH” campaign in 2010. While Nike might sponsor the group occasionally by providing free merchandise, the founders don’t allow Nike to meddle in internal community management decisions.
Then what connects members of the group is their passion for running, not Nike.
In today's interconnected reality, the only way to build strong brands is to be a good listener. Find what inspires your customers and engage them in a conversation!
By Maria Boradjieva, communication assistant at Market Inspector
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