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Establishing Corporate Identity in Social Media

For corporations with a legitimate presence on social networks, full disclosure is mandatory. Companies like JetBlue, Zappos, Popeyes Chicken, Dell, and GM have done an outstanding job of this. On Twitter, for example, Dell employees generally append Dell to their online identities, using names like RichardAtDell to make it clear they represent the company.

For consumers, there are several ways to verify the authenticity of a social network identity, and companies should do everything possible to help them make these determinations. Each network has a user profile that should include a link to a company website, and should employ some form of brand identity. Until business use of social networks is more established, companies need to take steps to assure consumers they are talking to an authorized company representative. To provide additional validation, you should add your company's social network affiliations to the corporate news page on your website. This will also create awareness and drive traffic to your social network activities.

One company that has done a nice job of identifying its social network affiliation on its corporate website is Wachovia. They have placed a simple banner that promotes and links to their Twitter account (Figure 4.2). In the small space of a banner ad, perhaps the only place on the web other than Twitter where space is so limited, Wachovia has not only validated its presence on Twitter but has explained that a consumer could subscribe to "get updates via Web or cell phone."

Figure 4.2

Figure 4.2 Wachovia provides links to their Twitter account.

In time, social networks may introduce and enforce more restrictive Terms of Service to protect consumers and corporations alike and to make the services more valuable as corporate communications tools. Without an assurance of trustworthiness, all forms of social media are useless to bona fide businesses.

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