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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Exercise 1: Branding & Online Social Reputation

What people are saying about Costco

People absolutely love Costco, they could not have better things to say about the national warehouse retailer. Here are some positive posts from twitter:

"Costco is soo cool, It's like USA in a building :D"

"You probably have other way cool stuff that we don't get. We love Costco. It's a fun place!"

However, there are some customers that don’t hold the retailer in high regard according to their Twitter posts:

“I feel fatter and dumber just for walking into Costco.”

"Costco is always fun. I do like samples"

The retailer has mixed reviews on Twitter, from what I saw it was mostly positive.

Interestingly, Costco does not maintain an official Twitter page. There is an unofficial page, Costco_online, which reminds its followers by tweeting that it is not the official feed for the company. However, this feed does boast 5,943 followers.

Costco also has an official Facebook profile. It has a welcome page and others that really add great content and create a positive and inviting atmosphere on the company’s profile. Besides the welcome page, the profile has a wall, info, what’s new, new offers, and terms & use policy page. The terms & policy page is interesting because this is where the retailer solicits feedback, stating that they welcome positive and negative feedback, will adhere to copyright law, and there is a section for Costco employees that would like to post to the profile.

The posts to their FB profile page wall are mostly compliments and thank-you’s from their customers, with a few exceptions. This is the bulk of their social media presence, an official FB profile and multiple un-official Twitter feeds.

In addition to browsing the social media tools I am already familiar with, I used Social Mention to gain a greater understanding of how Costco could at the very least monitor what is being posted to the internet about the company. Mostly there are pictures of people showing which free samples they received while shopping and others have posted their opinions of the products they purchased. Many posts are positive and some are negative. I also used Google Blog Search to see what people were saying about the company. I found many blogs related their products, such as the Costco Wine Blog and the I Love Costco blog. Both are unofficial and have a positive perception of the company.

Costco’s response via social media to user base

Unfortunately, the company does not seem to be actively engaging their customers or users through social media. The extent of their interaction is to allow customers, those that are FB members, to post to their profile wall, but not respond to them. Since it is Superbowl weekend, the company FB status update says, “Hey Sports Fans: how does Costco get your Game Day party started?” Also, the company does not use social media on their own Web site.

I am stunned, to say the least, that Costco doesn’t have a more robust social media strategy. This is because from all indications they have a huge support base to draw from. As we have all seen/read this week, there is much to be gained from using social media to help maintain a company’s brand. Moreover, social media is certainly an efficient way to help quell negative information about the company and develop better customer service and customer satisfaction.

The tools used by Costco for proactive communication

Although there are many social media tools out there, Costco is not proactively communicating with their user base or customers. There apparently is not even an official blog maintained by the company or any of its employees. As can be seen in the Balwani article, 10 of the Smartest Brands in Social Media, it benefits companies greatly to sell their products and interact with their customers by taking full advantage of social media. Costco could learn a great deal from reading this article, paying close attention to number three, soliciting ideas directly from their customer base, and number ten, creating a social media strategy that could greatly increase revenues.

The learning process

I learned much more than I thought I would during this exercise and throughout the readings this week. I found the readings regarding online social reputation and branding enlightening and informative. Browsing and using a few of the brand monitoring services was hugely exciting, since using them is unlike using a regular search engine. They are specifically for monitoring your ‘brand’ and are powerful tools for individuals and companies.

Most importantly, I learned this week monitoring your brand online is important to a company future. Many of the articles provided graphic examples of how not implementing a degree of corporate transparency and engaging your customers can have negative consequences to company’s social reputation and overall their brand.

While I was reading I could not help but think about what content has been posted about my employer or me as an individual. I was forced to think about how corporations perceive themselves, to what degree they proactively communicate to the online community, and how it engages the online community in order to maintain what they feel is their intended identity or brand. Even if the company is not actively using social media to monitor or promote their identity or brand they are still affected by the content posted by other using social media. The rest of the online community can still post content that will affect the company’s standing in the minds of current and potential customers. So whether the company’s overall revenue is affected positively or negatively by the online social content that the company is not aware of, they will still have to change and evolve. It is better for a company to be an active participant in shaping the content online regarding their company by using a social media strategy.

1 comment:

  1. It doesn't surprise me that Costco has no social presence. Costco in general really doesn't have a media presence period. I don't think I ever seen a commercial for one. They're a company that just relies on word of mouth from customers. Their "dumber and fatter" customers!