Building an Online Brand
If you’re successful with your new full-time gig, there will be a point at which your efforts don’t simply result in an enterprise, but a complete brand—a name that people recognize and readily share with others.
You don’t simply “luck” yourself into a brand. It’s built brick-by-brick—or, in this case, customer by customer.
The goal is to eventually arrive at an enterprise that is so automated that it practically runs itself. Imagine a website that attracts its own customers, social media that attracts new followers constantly, and even headache-free customer communication. If it sounds impossible, your brand might not quite be at that level yet. Here’s how to do it.
Using Social Media and Online Profiles Effectively
Many people build an online presence for the sake of having an online presence, the same way they keep a stack of business cards in their office that never gets used.
You’re going to do better than that. Here are a few great examples of how to use social media to build your brand:
- Twitter: Speak to your customers. Many people reserve their Twitter account for Instagram photos, conference highlights, and linking to important news stories. Not JetBlue. The company, which was one of the original members of Twitter way back in ought-Seven, discovered that asking their customers what they wanted gained far more followers than simply tweeting at them. It echoes a point made in Chapter Three: start marketing from the idea of “giving.”
- Facebook: Get people talking. Check out this case study of Corcoran Group Real Estate in which the real estate company veered off-topic and started posting discussions about Jeremy Link or the New York Giants. If people are talking on your page, they’re participating, and that’s a very good thing.
- LinkedIn: Build awareness. Citigroup wanted a better image amongst female professionals. Once again, the effective marketing strategy was to give rather than simply ask to receive. The plan? They created “Connect: Professional Woman’s Network” which gave professional women a place to be heard on LinkedIn, enhancing their brand just as they’d wanted.
- Google+: Get exclusive. Want to motivate people to visit your social media page? Give them exclusive content there. H&M did exactly that with Google+, going so far as to create specific content for their Google page. Now that’s marketing that gives. Also, content you share on Google+ has a better chance of being seen in Google search results by those you are connected with.
Making the most of every social media outlet won’t only promote your reputation as a brand, but it can help win you customers—which was precisely the goal all along.
The Website that “Runs Itself”
No matter what you do online, your business will always be located on one central hub: your website.
In addition to using the tools described in Chapter Two, it’s important to remember that a website should have incentives that draw people in. Once again, the idea of giving your customers a great deal of content before you expect anything in return comes to the forefront.
Naturally, it’s important to connect your social media to your website. Otherwise, all of the work you just put in applying the previous section won’t really mean much. Keep a link to your website on the home page and don’t be afraid to link to your own blog posts.
Just remember that people aren’t going to check them out unless there’s something in it for them.
It’s also important to reduce customer choices. That’s right—you want your customers deciding very little about what to do once they’re on your site. Call it the “Netflix effect.” Have you ever sat down in front of Netflix and browsed through hundreds of movies, unable to settle on a single one? The paradox of choice is that the more choices you have, the less likely you are to make a decision. Give customers and clients simple choices. Don’t give them a dozen places to contact you—give them one.
Lastly, don’t place an emphasis on SEO tricks or schemes. Google is too smart for that. Always, always do what’s best for the use. Build a site that has long-term staying power. Google rewards sites that have been around for a while—they’re considered more “trustworthy.” In addition to building trust in search engines, your website’s improvement over time will add to its staying power. Play for the long-term and you’ll always be in the game.
Using Online Communication Tools Consistently
Consistency is the key to branding, because with consistency comes reputation. Here are some of the most popular online branding tools that you’ll want to handle on a consistent basis:
- Newsletter tools like MailChimp and Aweber are industry standards for keeping track of contacts, sending out mass emails, and tracking the results from your newsletter content. Don’t send out newsletters too often, though; just let your customers know you’re thinking about them.
- Customer relationship tools like those already mentioned—like SalesForce—are invaluable to managing your online brand. Without effective customer relationship management, you’ll never gain a reputation as a client or customer-friendly enterprise.
- Use media-merging tools like Squarespace or Hootsuite to make communication easier on yourself. The easier it is to reach out to customers across all of your platforms, the more likely you are to actually, you know, follow-through.
Consistency doesn’t have to mean corporate, but keep things professional. It’s ok (and actually positive) to be warm, friendly, and human.