Building online brands: the influence sphere of brand communities

Online brand Some companies use social media as a new way to broadcast advertisements. Wrong, of course. Social media marketing is not about one-way distribution of promotional content.

Social media marketing is about listening, talking, participating and sharing. Not just talking. People do not accept broadcast techniques in the social space. Well, in fact, they increasingly do not accept them anywhere anymore. 

That does not mean that everyone who uses social media will literally talk to you. There is only a relatively small group of people that really actively participates. 

Even in social media there are many people who just listen and watch. Blogs are a good example. They are social channels and invite their visitors to participate and share. E.g. by commenting. But most visitors to your blog will simply read your posts. 

However, all social media are different. On Twitter, for example, there are many more dialogues than on blogs. 

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Everything you do has an impact on the perception of your brand

Starting conversations does not happen overnight. You need to engage and involve people and encourage them to interact.

Of course, it is not because people do not talk to you online that they do not talk about you. Your brand is discussed all the times in various conversations. Not only in direct social interactions between people and (the representatives of) your brand.

This is one of the reasons social media listening is so important. It helps you to know what is said about your brand. 

That’s crucial since everything that is said about your brand and everything you do as a brand (in the social space) has an impact on your brand.

And when people talk about your brand, that’s also because you did something, online or offline: like making a lousy product, launching a really silly TV campaign, offering a superb customer experience, firing 20% of your staff, supporting a good cause, whatever.

An online brand listens, has a face and a life of its own

On social media, brands often get a different “identity”, almost a life of their own. Besides the original brand, as people know it, an online brand emerges. 

That online brand influences the brand as it existed and was perceived before. Obviously, the brand perception in general also influences the perception of the ‘online brand’, certainly when you start joining the social conversation (and I promised on the Twitter, I will as from now try to never say ‘join the conversation’ again).

Make sure your online brand emerges in interaction with others in the social space. To have an online brand that is accepted, appreciated and even loved in the online world, you simply need to communicate. 

Again, this means listening, sharing and being committed, besides only talking.

An online brand has a ‘human’ face. It is therefore, important to involve the people within and around your company to participate in the development of your online brand.

Online brand communities and conversion

An online brand has the possibility to be the basis and conversation space of a community and engages people to have conversations within the sphere of that community.

Your employees are part of that community. And of course your loyal customers. The challenge is to grow that community beyond the influence sphere that your ‘traditional’ brand has. You can only do that by being a valuable participant in the social Web.

Ultimately, the community and people in and around it are your online brand. 

It is up to you to convert the people that step into the influence sphere of your online brand and community (because they trust and value you) into leads, customers and advocates of your brand. 

Both online and offline.

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