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Brand Managers: Think You're in Control? Think Again.

SES magazine  featured an interesting article  which reveals a rather shocking statistic for many conventional brand managers. According to MarketingVox and Nielsen BuzzMetrics, “More than 25 percent of search results on Google for the world's 20 largest brands are links to user-generated content.”

This is going to be bad news for the brand managers, who believe they are in the center of the universe and they control everything about the brand that they manage. Apparently, it's not you who is going to decide at least 25% of the things said about your brand on Google search results. Your customers; both happy and frustrated, will add at least 25% of the content appearing in these Google search engine result pages (SERPs). Yes; this includes the lot you have frustrated with your last brand blunder!

What does this means for a brand manager? This means you have to rethink about the way you approach managing the communication about your brand. A few years ago, a bad comment about your brand on a weekend newspaper would have been easily countered with a lawsuit or a more diplomatic negotiation with the editor. But, majority of the UGC on these search engine results are anonymous or they don't have a legal liability (with sound preceding cases) about the content they published. You have to approach this problem with more diplomacy, and tactically.

This reemphasizes the fact that every brand now should have a clear social media strategy in its marketing mix. The lesson is, you have to build your social media efforts now, before you need them unexpectedly in the future.

Google never forgets! So, let it remember the good things about your brand, almost all the time. Google [at least pretend to] live by the business principle of ‘do no evil”, but this doesn't mean their SERP's won't do any evil to your brand if you frustrated a fussy customer. Therefore, the best starting point for you, is adopting the “do no evil” philosophy for your brand. In a way, social media will improve the level of customer service within companies, and the customer orientation in their operations.

Consumers are more likely to believe what other consumers say about your brand on these user generated sites. The good news is, you will be more benefited if the things said about your brand in the social media web are most of the time positive. The only way to keep the discussions positive is, to adopt a clear Social Media Strategy, with an objective to build your brand (not with the objective of earning some quick bucks by spamming links on Twitter & Facebook).

A well known global bank operating in Sri Lanka links to a user generated blog post with the title “A Bank operated by Thugs”, when searched for the keyword “Bank's Name + in Sri Lanka”. Sounds scary? Google for your brand now, and see ‘who's talking what?' about your brand. If you don't see anything scary, don't just sigh and relax. Remember, you have to build your social media efforts now, before you need them unexpectedly in the future.

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