How Social Media Is Changing Brand Management

We can safely say that social media is here to stay. Key platforms have now reached a critical mass of users and their use has become increasingly embedded in people's everyday working and social lives. This rise of social media has fundamentally changed the way brands and customers interact, turning existing brand-customer relationships on their head. We have witnessed a change from organisations talking and the customer listening to dynamic, two-way, customer-led interactions.

This presents exciting opportunities for organisations, who can harness social media to grow their customer base and execute their brand strategy. Social media provides a wealth of data on consumer feedback, which, if harnessed properly, can help businesses to better understand their customers and, in turn, generate exciting, targeted content that strengthens their brand. This is about taking the social experiences we have outside of work, and carefully introducing them into the enterprise.

Starbucks is a great example of a company that has taken the lead in harnessing the power of social media. With 32 million 'Likes' on Facebook and almost 3 million followers on Twitter, the numbers alone are impressive. But it's the depth of engagement Starbucks achieves with its customers that makes it stand out. For example, recognising that more and more users are accessing their accounts from a smart phone or tablet, Starbucks recently launched a Frappuccino Happy Hour photo competition. Each day for two weeks Starbucks gave its Twitter followers a different photographic challenge. Users had to tweet a photo of themselves, including the @StarbucksUK username, for the chance to win a £10 Starbucks card. This campaign achieved maximum exposure for minimal cost, recruiting many hundreds of thousands of unofficial 'brand ambassadors', who were generating online buzz about Starbucks.

On the other hand, social media also presents organisations with a number of challenges, as the changing relationship between business and customer frequently puts brand reputation at risk. The customer is now more proactive than...

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