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.