There’s no doubt that social media has grown into a massive and very much out-of-control beast. Sure, the companies running those social media sites feel they have control – much the same way a race driver feels he has control of a car barreling down a track at over 200 mph. It’s an illusion of control. For all intents and purposes the social networks bring together hundreds of millions of people.

Last we checked it was virtually impossible to fully control a million-person strong flash mob. That’s exactly what you have when people suddenly swarm on a brand – whether it’s a positive or negative response; you can’t truly control the action of that mob but there are some things you can do to try to influence the direction in which your brand is carried.

Some big companies have had to deal with this type of corporate branding and witnessed first-hand the power of the people within social media. Nestle was attacked by hundreds of thousands of followers on their Facebook in early 2010 over outrage pertaining to palm oil and deforestation around the world. Their social media accounts were overrun by angry posts, boycotts and more.

Could Nestle have done anything to actually control all of those individuals attacking their Facebook or other social media accounts? Would it be more appropriate to consider what they could have done to influence the world to better position their brand?

Consider these tips to help you both monitor and influence your corporate branding online:

Draft an Official Media Policy
Setting guidelines for employees and representatives – right down to the people handling blogs and social media updates – can help you maintain control of what is said on the web. Your policy should provide guidance on what is acceptable within both company contacts as well as personal social media sites in relation to the corporate brand.

When employees start linking their jobs (“I’m employed at…”) with social media accounts then a company starts to lose control of their branding to a point because the brand is now associated with the content those employees are posting. This also relates to employees retaliating or replying to content, reviews and negative posts about your brand online. An official media policy will let you better control those employees that are acting as ambassadors to your corporate branding.

Build Social Proof
The age of a company doesn’t matter anymore. Consumers and clients generally recognize that even a small start-up can deliver the same quality of a major corporation that’s been dominating the industry for years.

It’s extremely important for your corporate branding that you build credibility (social proof) that it’s worth someone’s time to do business with you. Whether that’s reviews on sites like Yelp, an editorial piece on a blog by an outside influencer, a LinkedIn recommendation or even testimonials on your website. Social proof ensures that when people are searching for information about your corporate brand, they find information that you’ve strategically positions to help put your brand in a positive light.

Monitor Negative Content, Posts & Reviews
If you want to maintain some measure of control and influence over your corporate brand then you need to set up active listening monitors that alert you when people are talking about your company. When your alerts go off, especially for negative comments or reviews, you can respond accordingly.

Have an action plan in place to respond to negative press, most often using something like the ARM approach (Acknowledge, Response, Make it Right). The added bonus here is that if you can handle the negative reaction publicly with positive results then you’re boosting your corporate brand with more social proof. You’re essentially showing anyone who views the negative press that you react accordingly and are capable of handling issues that customers or clients pose.

Corporate branding online is always about influence, not control. You may not be able to control the conversation that takes place on the web surrounding your business but you can join the conversation; contribute to it, engage those involved and influence the way they perceive your corporate brand.

Author's Bio: 

My name is Matthew E. Alleyne, A.K.A The “Toot" Guy founder of WikiToot.com. I have been a serial entrepreneur my entire life, starting when I was in my nappies – it’s just in my blood!

For the last 20 years I’ve launched one successful business after another and have fallen in with the crowd of best-selling authors and public speakers in the branding circuit.

When I’m not involved in hands-on interaction with my businesses, I’m mentoring others. I’ve led hundreds to personal and professional success and look forward to continuing that trend.