How To Build A Brand Online
Every business has a brand whether it’s something that you have taken the time to develop or not. Branding can be defined as the sub-total of every experience and association that a customer has with your business. Whilst a strong brand is essential to attract and retain customers, fortunately achieving this online doesn’t require a significant financial investment as you might expect.
In this post I am going to run through the fundamentals of a cost effective strategy for developing your brand online. In a subsequent post I plan to go into the details that will help maximise your chances of success with this.
Research Your Audience
For any brand building effort to be successful, it goes without saying that you need to be knowledgeable about your customer base. I would assume if you are already operating in a definable niche then you will probably have quite a clear idea of your typical customer. For you online branding campaign you will need to know not only the kind of views and opinions they hold, but crucially about their online habits and preferences.
This will inform you of which online environments you should be most active in, for example Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Forums. There are research products for this from providers such as Google & comScore which go in real demographic details; however you should be able to get a pretty good idea just looking around yourself.
It’s hardly surprising that everyone is talking about content marketing these days as this strategy is completely free apart from the time cost and not only gets your brand noticed in the right places but is also great for SEO.
To take advantage of this strategy you will need a blog and various social media accounts. It is then a matter of regularly producing high quality original content on your area of industry. You should be active on relevant forums, and contact websites that you know to be read by your target audience and ask if you can guest blog.
This is a long term strategy that does require consistent effort; however the rewards in terms of the exposure and trust that you will gain make it worthwhile.
You should use your social media accounts to share other peoples content as well as your own. The content you choose to share says a lot about your brand identity by which other websites you wish to associate with.
For this reason it’s a good idea to use Google Alerts and follow lots of other blogs in your industry before deciding which ones you want to align with. Choose carefully, with the aim being to make your Facebook / Twitter feed a unique source of information and content.
A key point is to make sure at all times that you are engaging your audience in a 2 way conversation through your content, but not forcing it upon them in a way that appears spammy. You will be able to measure how well you are doing this easily using the metrics that already exist on your chosen platform, i.e. “likes”, “shares”, “retweets” etc.
Don’t try and copy another successful brand too much as over time you want to develop a unique tone of voice and viewpoint so that your posts and updates serve an identifiable purpose in your niche.
If possible you should try and produce video content as well, something that lends itself well to tutorials and also gives you the opportunity to get creative and try and make something with viral appeal.
Following on from the previous point, your online connections define your brand positioning. Simply becoming friends with a page that you know is popular amongst your target audience is going to affect their image of you for the better and will probably get you a few clicks.
As with sharing other peoples content, don’t go too mad with this or it will appear inauthentic. A good idea is to brainstorm and think of a handful of complimentary brands whose audience you would love to get your business in front of, before creatively reaching out to them by offering them something of benefit.
Consistency of your online tone of voice, as well as the visual aspects of your business is crucial to ensure that your online marketing is effective. This seems like an obvious point however you may not be fully aware just how much this benefits your business.
Firstly, people want to do business with people they like and trust. With a genuine tone of voice and a consistent angle to your content, people will feel like they know you which in turn will make them significantly more likely to buy from you and become an advocate for your brand.
Secondly, with so many businesses online vying for the attention of customers, you need to make sure that over time your brand stands out and builds a reputation. Without consistency this will never happen. This is why really taking the time to plan your online branding strategy first is worthwhile.
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