“A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.” — Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon

For decades, branding for a business was the combination of a name, slogan and symbol that identified the products or services of a company. That combination differentiated your goods and/or services from the competition’s.

Then the Internet and social media came along, complicating things a bit. Branding continues to include those elements, but it also means the way you present yourself and interact with your audience across your website and social media. The elements, words, promptness and creativity you use when communicating is part of your brand.

Why is branding important?

The battle for customers intensifies every day. According to Internetlivestats.com, there are more than 1.86 billion websites, and this number is growing rapidly as programs make it easier to spit out presentable sites. The companies that survive this onslaught of new competition are the ones that consistently hit upon five business objectives:

  • Creates user loyalty.
  • Motivates the buyer to buy.
  • Emotionally connects your product and service with your target prospects.
  • Confirms your credibility.
  • Clearly delivers the company’s core message.

How to build your brand through social media

Finding your voice and building an audience through social media is, to say the least, difficult. By the time you have one channel figured out, your core audience may have moved on to another. Facebook remains the dominant platform, but if you’re trying to reach teenagers, you need to figure out Snapchat. It passed Facebook in that demographic in 2017.

Earlier this year, Sysomos released an ebook with some useful tips if you haven’t mapped out a social media strategy:

  • Determine goals for social media engagement. Are you a retailer trying to drive sales? Are you looking to catch the eye of influencers? Are you looking to push your customer service?
  • Determine your online brand persona. The restaurant chain Wendy’s created a lot of buzz when its Twitter feed adopted a sassy persona. That doesn’t work for everyone. Your persona and visual style should be consistent with your traditional media presence. Your tone of voice, though, changes with the channel. LinkedIn is more formal than Facebook.
  • Decide on platforms. Unless you have a large staff, you can’t do all channels well. Facebook is the new phone book. You almost have to be on Facebook. Your second and third choices take some thought. If it’s rapid customer service, Twitter is the best choice. If you are an artistic business, Instagram is the place to be. If your customer base is largely female, master Pinterest.
  • Get a social media manager. Just finding someone young who knows all the platforms isn’t the answer. A social media manager must know your company and your business well. They are your brand ambassadors, crisis managers, customer service representatives, they write content and handle advertising budgets. They are the online “voice” of your company, and you shouldn’t choose that voice lightly.
  • Be on top of your customer service game. Do not let a customer’s problem go unanswered on Facebook, Twitter or a blog. Reach out to see if you can rectify the concerns. This is a chance to show the online community that you are willing to acknowledge mistakes and learn from them.
  • Have a crisis management plan. In 2017, PricewaterhouseCoopers screwed up the Oscars when one of its managing partners gave the wrong envelope to the presenters announcing Best Picture. It wasn’t until all the people involved with “La La Land” were on stage celebrating that the screwup was figured out (“Moonlight” was the actual winner). Not every mistake needs to be that big to threaten your company’s reputation. In the social media era, small things can blow up quickly if they go viral. Have a plan in place to move quickly if the online conversation about your company moves in the wrong direction.
  • Build relationships with the media. You can be witty and funny and show off all kinds of great work. The items that consistently get shared most often are positive mentions of your company by independent bloggers and journalists. Follow journalists and bloggers that you’d like to pitch. Find their email addresses and compliment them when they do good work. Respond to requests. Journalism is an increasingly tough job to do well; companies that make their lives easier will get more coverage.
  • Find influencers. If someone with a lot of online followers likes and mentions your brand, that is Internet gold. This is advanced social media work. A number of tools are out there to help you find those influencers.

How do people view your brand?

The basic goals of a successful business have not changed in the Internet era. To be profitable, you have to sell your product or service and watch your expenses. Most companies are trying to be leaner and meaner, and figuring out whether your online brand is delivering the message you’d like to deliver may be something that takes too much time to comprehend.

On May 1, Thinker is presenting the workshop “Analyzing Your Business Online Presence.” In less than three hours you’ll learn:

  • The basics on the questions your website and social media channels need to answer.
  • How to use analytics to determine whether your site is delivering the necessary information.
  • Whether your messaging is consistent across all of the web’s points of contact.

When you come, be ready to participate. Part of the workshop will involve your peers reviewing your website, while you review theirs. Click here to sign up to learn how people view your brand on the web.