Corporate branding–it’s all the rage these days. Social media blogs wax on about the companies doing it right, the companies doing it wrong, and the companies that have yet to get involved at all. As a small business owner, it can be a little intimidating. How do you go about building a brand while building a business at the same time? Well, there a few places you should start.
Below you’ll find five ways to begin building your brand online. You’ll actually find it’s pretty painless.
1. Know what you want it to be.
You can’t build a brand if you don’t know what you’re trying to build. Social media is about amplifying your voice in a way that connects with customers. So what do you want your voice to sound like? Who are you in your space and what do you want people to associate with you? Everything you do on the Web and off of should work to strengthen that. Your actions now have a purpose – to create the identity you’re after. Once you know this, you have a road map for everything else.
2. Listen and learn.
The power of listening is twofold. First, listening allows you to understand your community. By being quiet and eavesdropping on the conversations they’re already having, you can find out what’s important to them, what they value, what they think about your competitors, how they view you in the market, what they’re struggling with and what their problems are. The intel they reveal is often far more trustworthy than what they’re telling you to your face. What people say and what they do is often quite different. This allows you to listen in and gain information without having your presence alter their natural behavior.
Second, listening can help you find problems in your own system. You can identify areas where customers struggle and things that constantly trip them up, and then fix the problems. Monitoring what people are saying about you is a great way to learn and make your company better. Listen to their words and watch behaviors to find opportunities for growth and interaction.
3. Identify where you you’re needed and get involved.
Where are your customers online? Where are they talking about you and discussing problems they’re having? These are the sites you want to find. They might be on Twitter, on LinkedIn or on their own blogs. Wherever your customers are talking about you is where you need to be and where you should get involved.
Once you find out where your audience is, become part of that community. Get in the conversation and build those important relationships that breed loyalty. By becoming part of your customers’ online communities you set your company up as one that is human, accessible and trustworthy. That’s the basis upon which everything else will be built.
4. Find your team.
When you’re participating in online communities, keep an eye out for your brand evangelists–current customers who love you and enjoy spreading the word about you to their friends. Once you find these people, befriend them. Thank them for what they do for your company and find ways to help them do it better. That may mean making them part of your process or giving them special access to parts of your brand. The best way to build your brand is to make it easy for others to do it for you.
5. Give people something to share.
Whether it’s an idea, a video, a quirk, a corporate value, whatever, you need to give your tribe of people something they can pass along. Doing so will unite them around your company and strengthen your brand identity. People align themselves with companies that make them feel something. Once you figure out the feeling you want to inspire (see #1 above), think about how you can make that feeling part of your customers’ daily interactions with you.
If you’re new to this corporate or personal brand thing, the five tips above can help you get started on creating a brand image that will resonate with users.
The importance of #1 can’t be understated. Too many companies wander out onto the internet with no idea what they want to accomplish, how they’re going to do it or how they want to be perceived.
If you’re in doubt, think of how you want to be viewed when you meet someone in person. Now how can you convey those same attributes through your online presence? K.I.S.S.
I see too many companies and business owners ignoring #2. They are so focused on promoting their message, they come across “spammy” because they’re just shouting their own message. There is so much to be gained by listening to what others are saying about your industry, your company, and competitors. By listening, you are then able to engage others and strengthen their bond with you and your brand.
Engaging and interacting is a key part to building your brand. Just as Robert mentioned, when you meet someone in person, you don’t dominate the conversation by just talking about your message and what you’re selling. Instead, you engage them with conversation, ask them questions, and try to understand their problems and goals.
Just because it’s online, doesn’t mean you forget basic networking skills and common courtesy.
Lisa, I’m with Robert. It is so easy to have an unfocused message or an idea of what you’re trying to achieve with your “brand.”
Hi Lisa, I like number 3. Finding your place and making yourself different from the pack is the only way to show your value.
All very good and succinct points. Trust is the key to that connection, and the key to that trust is that the brand seem human to them. More than ever in this uncertain world, people need friends – and not necessarily of the Facebook variety.
I’d also add that smaller brands are going to be key in the new economy. As older structures fragment, the successful entrepreneur makes his or her move. And the ones with brands that fill a need and truly connect will go far.