Many modern consumers now have their first contact with a business online, making it critical to have effective online brand management as part of an overall marketing strategy

It’s hard to overstate the importance of a brand to an organization. Effective online brand management is how consumers identify a company. The brand encompasses the message and the image the company presents to the public.

Establishing effective brand management is vital. Maintaining it is just as important. The brand must convey consistency. It also needs flexibility to respond to shifts in consumers’ needs and desires. This is at the heart of effective brand management.

Effective brand management also demands online brand management. Consumers research products and services online before deciding where their money will be spent. A positive online presence isn’t just desirable, it’s essential for survival.

That’s why many businesses partner with a brand management agency to create and implement an effective brand management strategy.

Controlling the Conversation

Online brand management includes a company’s website and social media presence. It also includes channels over which an organization won’t have control: third-party articles, online reviews, search engine results and anywhere users converse online. Because of this, online brand management requires consistent diligence.

First, though, an organization must establish a brand’s guidelines. What image does the company wish to project? What messages does it want to send to consumers? Businesses use messaging, design, fonts, colors, logos and more to convey the answers to those questions. Guidelines are necessary to give the organization’s online branding consistency. A brand that lacks consistency in its consumer-facing presence risks confusing potential consumers – and sending them off to do business with a competitor.

Essential to successful implementation of brand guidelines is ensuring that the brand’s representatives know and follow these guidelines. Anyone involved in representing the company online, from employees to contractors to those in executive suites, should have access to the latest version of the company’s brand guidelines to ensure all brand representatives are on the same page.

Become Part of the Conversation

A company’s online presence goes beyond its website and social media presence. It can find itself the topic of discussion in chats, reviews and other third-party sites. For this reason, a business must practice diligence in finding mentions of its name online, as the company name can quickly become a topic of discussion outside channels the organization controls.

Good, bad or indifferent, a company needs to know where it’s being discussed and what’s being said.

Whether the commentary is positive or negative, the organization needs to become part of any third-party discussions in which it is mentioned. This is especially important when dealing with criticism or complaints: A positive response that acknowledges the consumer’s issues and makes their satisfaction a priority sends the message that the company prioritizes its customers.

Take advantage of tools available to help organizations track its online mentions. Google Alerts sends email when the search engine encounters a designated name or phrase. Applications such as Hootsuite, Social Mention and Sprout Social are specifically designed to track mentions of a brand as monitoring tools across social media to track brand mentions and analyze social media traffic.

Consistent and diligent monitoring are essential to effective online brand management . Branding should be at the center of any organization’s marketing plans. Done right, branding establishes and then reinforces a company’s positive image in the minds of consumers.