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How to Influence Online Conversations Using Social Media

Avoiding what people are saying about your brandMy colleagues Melissa Murray Balsan and Venetta Linas Paris have already posted about the myth of, “If you build it, they will come.” But that’s not the only social media misconception that can drastically impact a company’s brand. Many businesses still believe that by avoiding social media they prevent individuals from expressing their views about their organization online.

The reality, however, is that even though it may seem scary to think about, such conversations are taking place, regardless of whether a company chooses to engage in them.

Take, for instance, Visteon, a global automotive supplier that ranked on the most recent Fortune 500 listing. The company currently does not have an official social media presence, but individuals around the world continue to discuss it online. (Please note: Visteon has several community pages on Facebook, which were auto-generated by the platform; there are also a handful of unofficial, user-generated pages from various regions.)  In fact, in a recent search on socialmention.com, using the keyword “Visteon”, more than 650 results – with positive, neutral, and negative sentiment – were found.

As you can see, Visteon’s lack of an official social presence hasn’t stopped people from expressing their opinions or sharing information about the company online. On top of that, let’s not forget about the viral effect of social media. When an individual comments or posts content online, everyone connected to him or her is exposed to those messages.

To be honest, I’m not sure why Visteon has decided not to engage in social media. Maybe it is to prevent the currently existing naysayers from posting on its accounts. Maybe the company isn’t ready to tackle such negativity. Maybe it’s unsure of how to tell its story in a positive light. Or maybe the company is still trying to figure out if they need a social media strategy. No matter the reasoning, without its own social media presence, Visteon isn’t able to respond, defend itself, answer individuals’ questions, or take advantage of the opportunities to transform unhappy individuals into brand enthusiasts.

Speaking of brand enthusiasts, it’s important to note that while negative comments may occur and most fear the ‘what if’ of that dreaded negative comment, our team has seen substantially more positive interaction on the more than 150 client accounts we’ve worked on over the last year alone. And in taking a look at the conversations captured via socialmention.com, Visteon is also seeing a ratio of 6:1 in terms of positive to negative posts.

Even though some negative discussions about the company exist, majority of conversations are from potential or current brand enthusiasts. And that brings us to one of the keys of being successful in social media – leveraging your brand enthusiasts. Visteon has some great opportunities. One potential success may be with Akshay Koshti, who when leaving the company in March stated that his “tenure in (the) industry is a memorable experience.” While it’s not clear if Akshay left on his own accord, that’s a moot point for now. If Visteon had its own social media presence, the company would be able to leverage several opportunities. For starters, regardless of the circumstances, Visteon could thank Akshay for his years of dedicated work at the company. Secondly, Visteon could invite him to keep in touch with the company as well as all of his friends and former colleagues via the official Facebook and/or Twitter account.

By now, you’re probably wondering if people are talking about your brand. Well, let me assure you they more than likely are. So how do you find out what they are saying? Research! Today, companies are able to uncover their employment reputation by following the user-generated content and conversations on social media through various third party tools, such as socialmention.com, openbook.com, and Radian6.

But to be successful in leveraging brand enthusiasts, it takes more than just looking at the user-generated content; as referenced earlier, it’s vital for companies to analyze the findings. In order to truly uncover users’ perceptions of a company, it is necessary to identify where conversations are happening, listen to them, and analyze the findings. Every company should keep the following questions in mind:

  • Where are the conversations taking place?
  • What are the conversations about?
  • Do the conversations show a disconnect between the company’s key initiatives and employee perceptions?
  • If so, how can internal initiatives or promotions be adjusted to better align those views?
  • Are people misconstruing internal messages and, if so, is it worth adjusting the messaging?

After finding the answers to such questions, take action! By conducting research and doing nothing, you’re doing your company a major disservice – and that of your customers, both loyal and passive. Engaging with people in social spheres has the power to shift perception, broaden awareness, and drive actual transactions – whether it’s encouraging them to apply for a job or to buy a toothbrush. Instead of just watching and waiting from the sidelines, initiate conversations and foster relationships that last longer than a single website visit.

I challenge all of you to find out what people are saying about your organization and to make an action plan for engaging those in conversation with your brand today. What steps has your organization taken in creating a robust social media presence? Does your organization have an established social media policy? Let me know what you and your company are doing in the comments below.

Bridget Maiellaro

About Bridget Maiellaro

As a project manager of CB Social, Bridget Maiellaro manages, analyzes, and develops the social media presences of companies across the United States, Canada, and the UK. Working as an extension of each client’s team, she’ll help them uncover their goals in the social space and craft an overarching strategy to achieve those business objectives on both day-to-day and long-term levels. Hailing from the University of Illinois, Bridget graduated with a degree in News-Editorial Journalism when the print industry was at the brink of decline. After one or two (or 20) panic attacks, she assessed her options and realized that social media was the way of the future. She jumped into the field full force, creating her own website and blog, and utilizing her educational background to break into the online sectors of local publications. In addition to her role at CareerBuilder, Bridget still remains true to her journalistic roots, contributing to a range of publications and multimedia projects via Web, magazine, newspaper, and print and electronic newsletters – most recently Chicago magazine. Connect with Bridget on Twitter at http://twitter.com/bmaiellaro or on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/bmaiellaro.
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