What is Social Media and Why Should I use it

by Eric Tsai

How can social networking help my business?  Is it a complete waste of my time or can it really do something for me?  Those are the same questions I asked only a few months ago.

Instead of following the hype, I signed up for some of the most popular social media tools and have since become a believer.

socialnetwork02Bottom line: I wish I had started using it earlier!

If you’re using social media tools such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter you should already know the value they bring to the table.  If you’re still struggling to understand and how to best utilize them, keep reading.

What is Social Media?

In plain simple words, social media is a platform allowing people to interact and share information with each other online.  It encourages dialogues (many to many) instead of monologues (one to many) by facilitating the discovery, participation and sharing of content.

You can become your own broadcasting station distributing information in the form of audio, video or written content.  Instead of just going to a website and read a piece of content, you can now comment on it, redistribute it, or share it with other people.

Why Should I Use Social Media?

Social media allows people to connect online to form relationships for personal and business reasons.  It’s often refer to as social networking.  Business can engage their customers faster and individuals can reach other individuals easier.

Why Businesses use social media

  • Business Branding – Businesses are using social media to build trust and gain creditability for their brand via interactions with their customers.  It’s a new tool for people to learn about the company and social media profile is the new “brochure” to find in-depth information about what the company is all about.
  • Networking – Social media creates new business opportunities and leverages word-of-mouth marketing to build a communication channel that can help generate sales leads.  Social media enables businesses to connect to millions of people they otherwise wouldn’t have.  It’s a new way to distribute information between businesses and people.
  • Customer Feedback – Companies are responding to customer questions directly via social media which can improve customer satisfactions and customer retention.  Most social media sites have search function, so companies can search and see what people are saying about their products and services.  It creates awareness and helps to improve the overall experience with the brand which can lead to direct sales.

Why individuals use social media

  • Personal Branding – Similar to a business you can leverage interaction between you and other individuals to strengthen your personal brand.  In addition, you can influence them by becoming their fan, keeping them informed on what’s going on, or endorsing them through commentaries. Many individuals today are web celebrities because they constantly publish their expertise on a specific topic and became known for it and people perceived them as experts. Even mainstream high profile individuals are using social media to build a solid online fan base to take their personal brand further.
  • Personal Networking – You can use social media to network with others to find opportunities for jobs,  joint venture projects, market your personal brand, as well as get the latest news on the topics of your interest.  It’s a fantastic way to start conversations, learn from notable peers by participating, and get free advice.  It’s also easy to reach someone and find answers or resources you need.

So now you understand why businesses and individuals use social media, next I will show you how to use them to benefit your business or personal brand.

8 Tips on How to Add Value to Your Brand Effectively

by Eric Tsai

This weekend, I went to my usual barber shop to get a haircut.  When I got done, my barber gave me a customer rewards card for one free haircut after I get nine.

Interestingly, I’ve been going to this same barber shop for 10 years and it’s the first time they’ve started a rewards program of any kind.

The purpose of such a program is to keep the customers returning.  It’s a simple tactic to create stickiness by recompensing the loyal clients.

This is a proven marketing tactic that increases the impression of value – the trick is knowing what value means to your customers.

What Does Value Mean To Your Customers?

Most business owners already understand the importance of continually adding value to their business.  It’s by knowing and consistently adding value, brands remains competitive and have the opportunity to grow.  Companies must focus on:

  • Increasing customer retention
  • Knowing what value means to your customer not to you

So what does value mean to your prospective buyers?  Is it the competitive pricing?  The free add-on services ? Or is it the customer loyalty program?

The answer: focus on customer needs and always demonstrate value through trust. In my article on “How Opinions Disrupt and Transform,” I observed that public opinions are good indicators of what’s important to consumers, especially when opinions shift from “wants” to “needs” like it is now.

Creating value is about staying relevant in your customer’s minds. It enables you to connect with what you do with what they value so your message resonate with them emotionally.

You’re not going to stop a consumer from purchasing generic soup over Campbell’s or picking up no-name tissues over Kleenex. You can either compete on price, value or both.

Here is a sample comparison for the two types of customers:

Buy Name Brand

42-15556081– Quality is priority
– Price is important but not the main concern, it should meet my needs
– Had good experience in the past, going to stick with what I know
– Saw lots of marketing about it, going to try it
– Heard good things about it from trusted source

Buy Generic Brand

– Price is priority
– Quality is important but I’ll settle for second – it should meet my budget
– Had good experience with generic brands in other categories
– I may get more value with generic brands since all the money goes into the product instead of marketing
– Fits my basic needs – I am willing to try if it means I save money

Clearly the two types of customers have very different needs.

Depending on the product or service, a customer may choose name brand at times and generic under other circumstances.

Pricing competition will shrink profit margins over time. Competing on value must be consistent with the change in the perception of value. This goes back to knowing your customer’s needs and bridging the gap between their needs and wants.

For example: a few years back Coca-Cola started selling the 8 ounce mini-cans.  They anticipated a consumer trend towards counting calories and becoming more health conscious.

Per ounce,  the mini-can isn’t cheaper than the regular can. In some cases the price could even be the same as the regular 12 ounce can.

So why would someone pay the same stuff for less?

Don’t we all want a deal?

Coke did its homework and found that the mini-cans reduced the amount of guilt that a consumer felt for snacking while minimizing the chances of overeating.

Coke realized that consumers were no longer relying on the value-for-money as the sole factor for deciding to buy.

Instead, consumers wanted to eat smaller portions, particularly in the sub-100 calories area which Kraft originally started with its mini snack packs of chips, cookies and crackers.

The company understood the emotional needs of their customers and they provided a solution to solve their problem without loosing their brand integrity or customer perceived value.  The product is still the same…just smaller portions.

In similar fashion, the smaller portion strategy has recently been implemented by many fast food chains.

Jack-in-the-Box’s “mini sirloin burgers,” Burger king’s “BK Burger Shots” and Quiznos “Toasty Torpedo,” are all tactics to tempt consumer.

Consumers who are spending less on meals away from home due to the recession NOT for health reasons.

8 Tips to Increase Your Brand Value

Here are 8 tips on what you can do to have an immediate impact on adding value to your brand:

1. Stay on top of your customer needs – Be “high touch” with your A-level customers, build solid relationships, and keep tabs on their problems.

Setup Google alerts, search on Twitter or discussion forums, read all reviews (yes, don’t ignore them!).

Visit customers regularly not only when they need something, and attend network events are great ways to strengthen the relationship and expand your reach at the same time.

2. Be visible to your customers – Make sure they’re aware of your value continuously; try to remind them of your value strategically.

Offering an updated version of your product or tagging on a free service are good ways of letting your customer know you are constantly improving.

Convince your customer that your existence makes their lives easier, better, happier by providing them with information they value and care for.

3. Know your competition – Always be on the lookout for what others are doing out there.  Be ready to explain your value proposition versus your competitors’.

You must be able to provide the facts to back up your claims.

It will make you more competitive if you can level the playing field just like how all the restaurants are offering smaller portion meals in their own way.

4. Go the extra mile – Do things that are outside the scope of your business.   Go above and beyond your normal routine by solving their “other” problems.

This will help you stand out from the competition.

5. Reward loyalty – Similar to the rewards program, give your customer something more for sticking with you or using your products and services.

It could be tickets to a baseball game, gift certificates or discounts for doing business with you in the future. You want to build a relationship that extends as long as possible so focus on customer lifetime value.

6. Try new ideas – If you’re in a highly commoditized market, you need to think about where you make your profits.  Most of times there is no point in competing on price or service alone.

Try new ideas like the “freemium model” where it may be worth it to give some of your products or services away for free and charge for value-adds or premium account later in exchange for maintaining the relationship.

Gmail is free because Google makes their money from ads displayed in Gmail, giving them more advertising channels.  Some Apple iPhone basic apps are free because they have a full version that will cost money.

7. Improve experience – The entire experience in doing business with your company should be present from start to finish.

Try to make every step as frictionless as possible and think from your customer’s perspective.

They should know that they can contact you with their concerns with the expectation that you will respond quickly and effectively.

This also creates great leverage for word-of-mouth marketing.

8. Include a human element – Many companies don’t focus enough on humanizing their brand.  As a result, customers can feel out of touch.

They need to feel like they are more than customers.

Logos, slogans, taglines and websites are just references, they’re marketing vehicles.

Besides receiving your newsletters, brochures, emails and phone calls, allowing your customer to reach you in other engaging ways can help your company grow.

Don’t be afraid to be creative about it; throw events, create a blog, or connect via social networking tools such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

What is Personal Branding and Why It Is Important Now?

by Eric Tsai

Simply put, a brand is the ‘unique’ collective experience and information people remember.

Coke is a brand not only because you recognize it as an icon for soda, but because you’re familiar with its commercials, advertising, logos, designs, colors, taste, and yes, the sizzling sound.

Branding is the process of achieving brand impression.

personalbranding02Branding helps people to identify a distinctive characteristic which allows them to retain the experiences from their engagement with the brand. The goal of branding is to stimulate prospective customers and help them to identify with the brand as the main reference or the “go to” solution to a problem.

Brands create audiences and evoke emotions.  They motivate new behaviors and build reputations. Ultimately it’s how brands differentiate and influence the perception of value that determines the brand equity – its true value.

It is simple to identify brands. They are the shoes you wear, the car you drive, the restaurant you eat at and the cell phone you use. You decided to go with a brand because you thought it demonstrated value for you.

A brand can be a company, product, service or a person. It’s about standing out in the crowded space of their respected categories – become the Apple-like buzz or the Obama-like craze.


The Power of Personal Branding Today

In recent years the term “personal branding” has taken on a whole new meaning.

Similar to business or product branding, personal branding is simply you and everything associated with your career and achievements. You are the distinctive brand that people engage with, recognize and form opinions on. Your email address, website url, and social network user names are all part of your brand today.

A strong personal brand can single handedly put a company’s name on the map. Think about celebrity endorsements: Oprah can instantly sell your book simply by recommending it. Richard Brandson made Virgin Group popular through the fascinating story of his life and entrepreneurship. They are the powerful brand because they act like their credible leaders.


Why It Is Important …How can I differentiate?

personalbranding01Personal brands connect the perception of your fame and glory to your audiences. They create visibility, trust and loyalty with transparency and clarity for the audiences. They’re subjective perceptions but that’s the whole idea, just like an election – the goal is to earn those votes from people around you regardless of how much they know of you.

Personal branding is more important today than ever as skills and knowledge become ubiquitous–especially in a recession when perception of value is shifting in anticipation of delivering more with less.

It is also the time when brands shuttle up and down fighting to reposition their place in the market. It’s simple: if you are a powerful brand, you will get more leverage. More leverage means more opportunities. Opportunities to generate more wealth than you thought possible, opportunities to get jobs where you couldn’t before, opportunities to network and meet other celebrity-like leaders in your niche.

So how do you become a powerful personal brand?

Start now if you haven’t already.  Here are 7 tips to help differentiate your brand:

  1. Network, network, network – it’s who knows you…not who you know
  2. Help others to succeed.  Leave your mark at whatever it is that you do
  3. Become an expert at something that has high value and stay focused
  4. Have a vision, be a leader, a mentor, an entrepreneur
  5. Treat it like a business.  Be obsessed with pragmatic outcomes
  6. Continue to educate yourself and build up your source of knowledge
  7. Market yourself.  Build a platform for your audiences and be visible

There is no single path to success for personal branding.  It’s a combination of all the above. You are in charge of your brand. You just have to start building your name as a brand today. This is your opportunity to emerge as the new brand that people look up to and take place of those that fade!

Simply put, your personal branding plan is your growth strategy to become the brand new brand:  “YOU.”

Share your personal branding strategies, what worked and what didn’t? What marketing tools do you use? Add your comments here.

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