Originally posted at SheSpeaks

In the past, marketing owned the brand, using a tightly controlled set of messages piped through carefully selected channels to ensure brand “ownership” through control….but that’s no longer the case.  The increasing integration of social media into our consumers’ lives has shifted brand ownership away from marketers and into the hands of the consumer.

We marketers like to think that social media is primarily a set of tools for our marketing purposes, but in reality, social media is also a strong set of tools our consumers use to share and influence opinion about our brand.   Our consumers now have “the channel of me.” Consumers’ opinions now create the “reality” of the brand — if enough consumers say negative things about your brand, your brand loses its credibility, and (thankfully) vice versa.

There are two main ways we can react to this change:  we can fight it or accept it. I highly recommend accepting it.  If we fight to retain control of our brands, we are likely to hold on so tight that we suffocate the flexibility and outward-looking awareness our brand needs for survival.

On the other hand, if we can accept the change and step into our consumers’ “channel of me,” we can gather valuable direction for the success of our brand.  They can (and will!) tell us how they expect our products to work, and what they expect from our brand.  When we let go of the notion that we own our brand, we have an incredible opportunity to fashion the brand that our consumers want.

If we consider consumers to have ownership of our brand, how would the questions change when we host them in our online branded communities?   We would ask consumers about “their” brand, not ours, and then we would hear their answers as insightful directives for the future of our brand.

When we listen to our consumers as though they were brand owners, we give them the same respect we give our own brand marketers.  And in this social media world, authentic respect is one of the greatest customer experiences we can provide.

Brand ownership has shifted, but if you are willing to tune into your consumers’ “channel of me,” you can make this the best news yet for the relevance of your brand.  It’s time to change the channel!

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