Think of all the ways that companies use branding to build awareness of themselves or to promote their social awareness and customer service values. A few things come to mind such as greeters at the entrance of your my favorite store, go-green awareness issues, charity drives that "give back" to the community for every purchase made, TV screens playing music videos or news as you wait in line, and the list goes on.

None of these things lead directly to conversions but they do lead to higher company awareness and the good old fashioned fuzzy-feelings we get when we know that that we are valued as a customer. Most times we are probably not even be aware of these things on a conscious level. But the effect shows as we have a tendency to patron these companies more frequently than the other alternatives.

Branding is a viable marketing strategy

Businesses worldwide invest millions of dollars in branding campaigns each year. In fact, let's put aside pure branding campaigns. If you think about it, providing good customer service is branding too. The quality of customer service a company provides (good or bad), causes an image of that company to be branded into the consumers mind. Over time, a little here and a little there builds up into a solid perception of that company. Whether they like it or not they have established a recognizable brand by doing little more than going about their business.

When it comes to realizing the benefits of branding, most companies will tell you that it is valuable. But increases in sales can rarely be traced back to a single customer service or branding event. But that doesn't negate the value or stop companies from investing their money into these types of campaigns. The lack of trackable ROI on a per-sale level doesn't make branding (or good customer service) an unnecessary expense. In fact I don't think any consumer would argue against the necessity of excellent customer service.

So what's all this have to do with social media?

Social media is branding

Over time Target may see an increase in brand awareness and overall sales due to their clever TV commercials that do little more than show people dancing around a red target symbol, but I doubt they can trace any sales increase to a single commercial spot. I'm sure Wal-Mart can't track a single purchase to the addition of the elderly employee standing at the entrance greeting customers. But when we walk through those doors, we feel that Wal-Mart cares just a little bit more about me, the customer. So goes social media.

When we engage in social media and online social networking, we similarly don't see any immediate, trackable results. But, like branding and customer service, we don't need to in order to understand that it's valuable. When companies engage in social media they can't think of it as a traditional marketing expense with a return on investment that can be shown on paper. Results won't be seen immediately and usually only after a very long period of time, and you'll not likely be able to pinpoint a single new sale or customer on a particular branding campaign.

But social media is still important. It provides a way for companies to get out there and get noticed. It's an opportunity to go where the consumers are and create a presence. Like a TV ad, you don't have to wait for consumers to find you, you go where they are. But instead of forcing yourself on them while they are watching their favorite TV show, social media let's you actually hang out with them. You're not the ad on the wall, you're the guy holding the drink telling stories that your audience finds fascinating.

Social media is better than branding and customer service

Because of the direct interaction social media affords the client with their customers, it truly is better than any branding campaign, including one-on-one customer service.  Customer service means that the target consumer has to become a customer first (or at least be very close to becoming a customer) before you can make a good impression.

Social media, however allows you to brand yourself long before anyone becomes your customer. And it can often be the catalyst that brings them over. And why wouldn't they? You've already become a part of the group. In fact, if you've done your social marketing right, you've already become their friend. This is interactive branding at work.

So don't be afraid to participate in social media just because you don't see the ROI. You're not likely to, at least not immediately and not in a way you can pinpoint one event causing another. But over time, you can build your social reputation. This leads to credibility. And over time that credibility and awareness will very likely lead to an increase in your customer base.


March 4, 2008





Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.

If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.

Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.

Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.





Comments(10)

This is absolutely on point! Branding is absolutely necessary for any given company and now is a better time to do it than ever. There are a variety of outlets for all budgets and more businesses must realize that over time, this method can prove to be extremely beneficial.

Actually there are measurable, trackable immediate results. Everyone knows the moment they've been StumbledUpon if they watch their stats.

Likewise, the measurement of getting on the Digg front page is whether your site even stays up during the onslaught.

Other measurements are links from other blogs who pick you up specifically because they saw your story on Digg, Propeller, or other news sites and mention that fact in their post.

The biggest misconception, especially among some SEOs, is that social media marketing is not viable because it's not trackable. I track everything that happens in my social marketing efforts. It's just a matter of knowing what to look for and noticing a different cause/effect situation in social marketing results than people are used to with search marketing and other marketing efforts.

Walmart and Target cannot track branding efforts because those are TV commercials. On the web, the only way to be in the dark is not knowing how to track social marketing efforts.

Video on the web is the hardest thing to track results for due to how video sites restrict us, but even that is somewhat measurable in terms of links, number of views, and popularity (can't get that on TV).

Social Media Tracking is beginning to form as a discipline. It's true that it does not have the same input/output as one gets with PPC or other forms of direct advertising, but tools from Nielsen and others are beginning to track activity based on key terms or on conversations. Also new tools are out that can identify "influencers" and track linkages among participants within communities.

This is an exciting time to be in Social Media.

The inability to closely track some of these things drives me crazy, but it does well to keep in mind that the overall effort does have an effect. And good to be reminded of it -- thanks!


True enough. Social media does not provide instant results but it will still take some time that you will realize its effectiveness!


I was doing this for branding purposes! I always create videos my promotional use. It may not provide me fat results but as long as i informed people about who i am and what i am offering, i do believe i am effective enough by that, right?

This may be effective than others. But I have not used this so far. I am going to use this new trend.

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Thushara

Social Media Marketing

It does not a matter whether we are businessmen or not. Every time we think about the effectiveness. We always like to use the most suitable way when we want to do some thing. I think that social media marketing is the most suitable solution. All should try to change their schedule towards this trend.
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Nishantha
sri lanka

We always like to use the most suitable way when we want to do some thing.
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Celisa
http://www.esteembpo.com

Great points Stoney. I love social media for branding. Thanks for the insight it's very appreciated.

Jonathan Mac

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