One of the interesting developments in recent years has been the shift on how you represent your brand and engage with your customers on the Internet. Whereas years ago your presence on the web was limited to your own website, today you need to think about your online presence as scattered pieces. In other words, your online presence is no longer *a website* but rather a series of conversations that are taking place at many online places at the same time. In some of this places you control the message and tone of the conversation and in others you have no control of the message and the conversation.
Under this new scenario, your communication strategy is complex and at times scary. It is difficult to let go of the idea that you no longer control the messaging of your brand. But the quicker you understand this, the sooner you'll be able to create strategies for them. What you don't want to do is ignore that these conversations are happening.
So, how do you wrap your mind around this? I thought of a simple communication matrix where you can easily place your "online brand pieces" and start creating strategies to deal with them.
The matrix is based on two simple dimensions: "Control of Message", and "Formality of the Conversation". With these, a presence can be placed in four distinct quadrants.
I. High Control, High Formality. This is the "old way" to look at your internet presence. A typical example of this would be your corporate website. You completely control your message and the tone of the conversation is very formal.
II. High Control, Low Formality. In here is where you start looking at other levels of conversation but still control your message. Corporate blogs and company's twitter feeds fall in this category.
III. Low Control, Low Formality. This is the place that most companies are scared about, but where there is a lot of opportunity. Facebook groups created by customers, conversations taking place on blogs and bulletin boards fall in this category.
IV. Low Control, High Formality. Another scary place given that people can take them very seriously and with the wrong messaging it can tarnish your brand. Your company's Wikipedia page, or LinkedIn page fall in this category.
Identifying all the places where your brand is or is talked about is the first step. Plotting those places in this matrix is the second step and creating strategies on how you deal with all of them is the third step in gaining some ownership of your online presence.
Finally, don't forget that the Internet changes constantly, so you will need to go through this exercise on a routine basis as part of your communications strategy.