One of the big topics they stressed in college marketing classes was how your brand or business was perceived by the customer. This could comprise anything from price to quality, and everything in between. Whatever it was, there was a reason people thought this way about you.
It's much easier to improve your business and do well when customers already have a positive view of your operation. Maybe it is your quality customer service, or long-standing tradition of giving back to the community, but there is source of this sentiment. Most, if not all businesses have one.
Lots of times this is called your competitive advantage. What do you do better than the others? Why do customers return?
Landing sales and creating valuable marketing becomes a lot more challenging when customers have view your business in a negative light. Many times heavy advertising and PR campaigns are meant to remedy this situation. Companies big and small need to make sure this get's reversed so they can continue to generate sales.
Since social media has entered the marketing world and effectively taken over all things digital, it's important to analyze how it can be used in regards to customer perceptions.
Clearly the two sides to differentiate here is whether it is done to restore a positive image or part of a campaign to maintain an already good image. Let's start with reinforcing the positive notions of your business.
As we all can imagine, if people think good things about you and your business, it would be best if that did not change for the worse. That being said, social media provides several options for continuing to let people know how awesome your organization is depending on where your strengths already are.
If even if you're small, by using your competitive advantages and leveraging them on social media you can compete with the big guys.
Making the most of direct customer communication on sites like Facebook and Twitter can really improve your overall image. Most of these dealings are done publicly, so other customers can clearly see how you are going above and beyond to satisfy your customers.
Good PR isn't the only benefit that can come from this. The ease at which you can respond to complaints or problems on social media should be noted. There is no need to call a specific number or email an already full inbox just to speak with a person. Creating a clear method of simple communication is something all consumers can agree makes dealing with a business much easier.
Conveying Brand Personality
Many times people like your business for nontraditional reasons. Maybe they just like how you approach business, the style or your products, or the brand personality you have. The visual nature of social media and the freedom to say things however you want online contributes a lot to conveying this personality.
If you brand is colorful and bold you can maintain this with images and consistent marketing on social media. If it's more minimal and simplistic, you can easily have this come across online. Nike is a good example seen here. They use social media to maintain their in your face, number one attitude that can be seen in most of their marketing.
But what if you're doing the marketing to repair a broken image? Or just want to compete with the bigger players where you have an edge? I would suggest taking a slightly different approach on social media, while still trying to manage customer perception.
A fairly basic principle of Public Relations is to focus on the positive things your business has to offer, and avoid dwelling on the bad. The idea is to get people's minds off of whatever is dragging you down and shifted onto something more beneficial for your brand.
One of the best ways to go about this is to reinforce the advantages your business has. If you need to mend the fences with your audience, do so quickly and effectively. But move on just as fast. As I already mentioned, use the public nature of social media to your advantage.
Concentrate your social media, and whole digital marketing campaign if necessary, on the good you have to offer. Be bold in the images, videos, and posts you share. Remind customers exactly why they like you. Convey the low prices you bring to the table, your top notch customer service, or the bold personality people remember you having.
By focusing on these points and repeating them over and over you can bring the customer's perception back to where it once was.
Sometimes our feelings as customers get a little hurt beyond repair. Positive imagery definitely helps, but if your company is in a deep ditch other approaches might be more affecting to leverage and regain positive customer perceptions.
Take the BP Gulf oil spill a few years ago for example. I'm sure they lost plenty of money because of it, with fines and lost revenues, but a major fear I'm sure was the permanent loss of loyal customers. This would hurt their bottom line more than anything or any fine that could be imposed.
To counteract this possibility, they went on the offensive with a massive goodwill campaign. Some might believe they were obligated to do so since they caused a massive ecological disaster, but still it's part of their marketing approach.
Watch BP's commercial for "Our Ongoing Commitment" here. Don't those words just strike a chord?
The point of all this is to show goodwill publicly. They need to make sure their past and future customers have some sort of positive image in their head when choosing who to fill their tanks with. If BP showed no remorse or no mass televised commercial apology, people would be left with negative feelings they got from the spill and nothing else.
Sure this is an extreme example, but I use it because it is so clear and over the top that lessons can be learned for businesses of a much smaller scale. Sometimes a public apology is what's needed. Some publicized goodwill to go with it might be the best approach to lead customer perceptions in the right direction again.
Combined with ongoing positive imagery, which BP used as well and it can be quite effective. Especially on a public forum like social media which they shared this on as well. I'm sure their sales are doing just fine now anyways.
Have some other ideas how customer perceptions can be leveraged and improved on social media? Let us know in the comments.