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BizReport : Social Marketing : October 02, 2007

Do social networks hurt brand image?

At least one major corporation thinks social marketing efforts could hurt the brand image, and is proceeding with a lot of caution toward social marketing.

by Kristina Knight

The benefit of social marketing ventures is the young demographic that is attracted by social networks. Marketers who want to tap into a younger market in order to keep the demographic returning to their products and services year after year have a huge opportunity interact with them online. The downside is that marketers have basically no control over what will be said about their brand by social networkers.

Citing an inability to vet what any social networker might say - either positively or negatively - about their brand, one Citi executive says they are "proceeding very cautiously" into the social realm. This is interesting because other online advertising avenues are bombarded with Citi ads for their various programs and services.

Does Citi have the right idea in not moving into the social marketing realm?

That remains to be seen, however, they may have a point. When Chevy allowed online users to create their own campaigns for a new vehicle in 2006, some took the opportunity to create ads against that vehicle.

However, the vast number of users signing on to social networks cannot be ignored. Rather than ignoring an entire segment of the online world, perhaps marketers should invest in a brand tracker so that they know what is said about the brand around the Web. In that way they can protect the brand by having negative images or untrue statements removed before damage to the brand can be done.

Tags: brand image, social marketing, social networks

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