Brands Defined By 'What We Say About Ourselves' and 'What Others Say About Us'

Back in late 2006 I wrote a column for Search Insider describing how the link graph is symbolic of both what we say about ourselves as companies, and also externally what others think about our companies.  it doesn't take too much of a leap to understand that the same is true in networks in terms of the conversations around a brand, and  for the Web as a whole.

Now more than ever, the identity of a brand is largely reflected in these areas of both search and social media.

In search engine results pages, there is both a primary results set of earned assets (a brand's web site for example), and there are the other "un-owned" assets that appear in that results set that also define the brand.  Negative results, complaints, praise,charitable giving, etc. all define a brand in this area, whether they are good, bad, or indifferent.  Again, the search results page is a shared space between what we say about ourselves, and what others say about you.   The resulting sentiments can lift or destroy a brand.



In social, the same holds true.  Brands can brag all day long about how great they are and what they stand for, but the second that this message is perceived to be incongruous in any way with audience perception, a conversational correction will be due. So again in this respect, the conversation and brand definition is largely a shared one, both in "earned" social spaces, and as well as un-owned social spaces. 

The implications of this simple concept have far-reaching effects in digital publishing.  Brands must be authentic and sincere, both in what they publish, and how they converse with those who publish about them.  If there is a spirit about their brand, it must be maintained as a shared identity in search and social, keeping in mind that the spirited and authentic voices of a brand may be both inside and outside their company.   These voices should be embraced. 

If a company utilizes bad business practices, they will ultimately be defined in this way.  The results and conversations will stick.  Unfortunately though, sometimes good names get falsely smeared in search and social, but the good news is that the truth will rise through if others know it is not true.  One of my best clients is thought of so highly by its customers, that they have no need for damage control or reputation management, because their customers set the record straight for them. 

So again, just food for thought today:  think hard about the messages you are putting out, and the messages that others are putting out about you.  Ask yourself honestly if they are true or not.   Think hard about whether your brand walks this walk, or is just all talk, because in search social the balance will be struck for the brand, regardless of what it says it is.

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