Saturday, December 6, 2008

15 Internet Sites That Can Make or Break Your Brand

Once a brand enters the marketplace, it becomes the subject of many online conversations. Most of the time, these dialogs will stay under the radar and have little or no effect on overall revenue. However, profound business implications can occur for brands that become the topic of discussion on certain influential Web sites. These sites can greatly sway the marketplace in favor or against the brand, heavily influencing customer sentiment and overall sales. The following 15 sites possess such power.

1. Google: With a dominant share of search-engine traffic, Google is almost always a consumer's first stop online to find out more about a brand. The top 10 results returned by Google on a branded search will be perceived by most consumers as the prevailing public opinion about a brand, and the tone of these results can greatly influence whether or not a sale will be made. Google’s first-page results are so critical to business success that a whole industry has been created around the concept of online reputation management, and many businesses use online- reputation-management software to monitor brand discussions and, if necessary, engage brand detractors with the the goal of removing negative brand mentions from search results (or at least pushing them lower).

Power Example: Far fewer people would have been ripped off by multilevel marketing schemes had they entered them into Google first.

2. YouTube: Well over half of Web surfers watch videos online, and YouTube holds a dominant position as the top Internet video destination. Businesses should realize that brand evangelists (and detractors) make and post videos on YouTube, and that the videos that are creative and clever enough to go viral can reach millions of viewers and potential customers. For example, has leveraged a popular series of creative “Will It Blend” videos into incredible brand awareness and business success. Similar to monitoring search results, companies should monitor YouTube for videos about their brand for online-reputation-management purposes.

Power Example: One wouldn’t think that a video that encourages men to examine themselves for possible testicular cancer could become superpopular and go viral, but this one did.

3. Inc.: is the most popular online retail destination, and a Google search on the name of almost every product available online will return an product page as one of the top results. Consumers visit (even if they buy elsewhere) because no other Web site offers such a large number of trusted product reviews from previous product buyers. The consumer sentiment for a particular product will directly impact sales not only at but across the Web. Brand managers can quickly measure the health of their brand by reading reviews, and perceptive companies will quickly react and respond to their audience.

Power Example: Were you planning to buy the DVD of the "Ron White Show"? Don’t bother.
4. Wikipedia: Wikipedia is the de facto online reference encyclopedia that allows anyone to create or edit an entry — provided that their contribution meets site standards. Wikipedia pages almost always rank on the first page of search-engine results. This means that if your brand has a Wikipedia page, it will generate a lot of search-engine visits, and the content will be trusted because Wikipedia is considered to be an impartial source of information. While obvious emotional or commercial pitches about your brand will be quickly removed by Wikipedia editors, information pertaining to your brand that can be objectively sourced from “reputable” Web sites will likely stick. And if this information is negative or critical, your brand will be affected.

Power Example(s): Hoaxes abound on Wikipedia, and though they can be corrected, they still have the power to damage your brand. Examples that received tremendous publicity include George Washington did what?, Sinbad’s (the comedian) death and the John Siegenthaler incident.

5. Facebook: Facebook is the top social-networking Web site for adults and professionals. Prominent Facebook members with large numbers of friends wield tremendous brand influence, because when they post an opinion about a product or a service that they have used, it will be seen by their friends via Facebook's friend feeds. In addition, there are many popular Facebook applications that allow people to voice opinions on a wide variety of subjects (such as films and books) that will be broadcast throughout the Facebook network. Facebook also offers brands the opportunity to create engaging, clever and fun applications that generate a large amount of goodwill by spreading virally through people's friend networks.

Power Example(s): In conjunction with the release of Bob Dylan’s remixed greatest-hits album, a developer launched a Facebook application that allows users to graft a short message onto the placards within Dylan’s legendary "Subterranean Homesick Blues" video, which they could then send to friends within Facebook. This application has nearly 5,000 Facebook fans, and it got a tremendous amount of positive buzz from Dylan aficiandos. You can check out the Web version here.

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