It’s Time to Start Building Your Online Brand
Much like with a brick and mortar establishment, building your online brand is an exercise in understanding a need, and then filling it. And along the way, it’s also all about getting to know the people who have that need, and want it to be filled.
Here’s a little secret: everyone thinks of platforms first. You need to be tweeting! Oh my God, why aren’t you on Facebook already? No, SnapChat is where it’s at. What about LinkedIn?
Ai yi yi you are putting the cart before the horse if you go about it this way. Instead, you want to follow what’s called the ‘POST strategy’.
P is for Persona
What’s a persona? That’s the typical person with that need you’re trying to fill. That person might be male, or female, or even trans. They might be under 18 years of age, or over 65 or even over 90. They might be Caucasian, or Asian. Wait a minute – which Asian? For you should know that there’s a big difference between people from Thailand, India, Japan, and Hong Kong.
There are other things you need to know about your persona (also called your ‘buyer persona’). Are they married? So are they parents? Are they well educated, or not so much? Are they homeowners? Do they work? What’s their political background?
This is also called the customer avatar.
What’s the Skinny on Determining the Right Persona for Building Your Online Brand?
Essentially the question is: what’s in it for them to click on your webpage, retweet you, share your Instagram photos, or save your Pinterest pins to their own pin boards?
You may be wondering – how the hell am I going to do this sort of market research if I have no real marketing budget? Or maybe you think you just don’t have the time. While it’s understandable that small business owners – particularly in newer companies – are short on both time and money, not knowing your market is a big mistake.
It’s a lot like going for a ride to Boise when you’ve loaded your GPS with directions to Milwaukee. Or maybe you didn’t even bother loading directions at all, or are just driving aimlessly. You will never get to Boise that way.
And the same is true with building your online brand and achieving success. Fortunately, the kind of market research you do for your brick and mortar will work here as well. You can send out surveys to your customers, or have your salespeople ask them a few questions while making a transaction (but not about marital status – you just know someone will think they’re being hit on), or add a sign up for a club for coupons which also asks demographic questions. Warranty cards are good for this, too. Why do you think warranty cards have everything from your age range to whether you want to be called Miss, Mrs., or Ms., or Mr.?
People will do a lot, and will give up a lot of personal information, for 10% off.
O is for Objectives
An objective is a goal. You want to get to Boise. You want to double your sales. Or you want local fame as the best tuna salad maker in your city. Whatever it is, your objective needs to be clear. Send it to MARS:
- Relevant and
Wanting to be a better kids’ clothing store is vague. Wanting to increase sales of girls’ party dresses in three months, by 15%, is a great Martian goal.
S is for Strategy
You need some sort of a plan for increasing your sales of girls’ party dresses or getting to Boise or whatever your objective is. A good strategy will focus on the value you can provide. Again, what’s in it for the people? What can you offer which is meaningful and can help you to reach your objective?
Increasing your sale of girls’ party dresses could mean offering discounts or maybe even a fashion show. As they say, think outside that proverbial box. But your main focus needs to be on how you are giving to someone else.
What’s the Lowdown on Determining Strategy for Building Your Online Brand?
Yes, really! I know you want to make money, and I respect that, of course! But at the same time, the online world, in this instance, differs from the offline one. In the offline world, the value you have to offer is usually pretty obvious. It might not be so obvious in the online world.
Plus the online economy is one of give and take. Customers, fans, listeners, and viewers are far more proactive and empowered than they have ever been in history. So you need to give them something. And sometimes that can mean lending an ear and listening to their suggestions, and acting on them, too.
T is for Technology
Okay, now we can talk about platforms and the like. Fortunately, the demographic data on most of the bigger platforms is online. For example, in mid-2017, Facebook announced they had 2 billion users.
Just go ahead and Google the name of the platform that interests you and the word ‘demographics’. Do they match your persona pretty well or very well? Then that’s probably a platform you are going to want to be on and learn well.
Facebook – the 800 Pound Gorilla for Building Your Online Brand
No matter what your studies say, go here. Why? Because over 90% of your buyers are likely to use Facebook, at least on a casual basis. You cannot ignore the ‘Book when building your online brand.
Facebook is truly, astoundingly, enormous. According to Statista, Facebook has 2.2 billion monthly users worldwide, as of the end of 2017. Yes, that’s ‘billion’, with a B.
In the United States and Canada, Facebook has about 239 million monthly users, per Statista.
To not be on Facebook means you are missing out on customers, big time. Even if you don’t sell on Facebook, you will need to have a presence there, however small it is. Even if you don’t have a presence there, someone inevitably will create one for you. And you can’t count on them to be nice about it or helpful.
YouTube – the 700 Pound Gorilla for Building Your Online Brand
The video platform of choice also has a robust search engine, good enough that it’s second only to Google. Yes, the YouTube search engine is bigger than Bing and Yahoo. There are a good billion mobile video views per day, according to Brandwatch. YouTube is also the third-most visited site on the internet, after Google and Facebook.
While the biggest videos have views in the billions, you don’t need that much in order to make an impact. It’s better for you to target your customer base well and make as many views count as possible.
If you don’t like appearing on camera, you can always go with a slideshow. PowerPoint has lots of good templates; just pick one and add your own verbiage or pictures, or even a voice over.
Smile and Start Building Your Online Brand on Instagram
Better photography deserves a better image platform, and that’s exactly what Instagram is. Instagram skews heavily toward younger folks, with nearly two-thirds of all 18 – 29 year olds reporting they are on the platform, according to Statista. Monthly usage climbs every month, and has since 2013. In September of 2017, per Statista, there were 800 monthly users worldwide.
Don’t think your business can be beautifully photographed? Think again. You can show off new machinery or your location, or just your employees, if you like. As with other platforms, even a small presence is better than none.
Building Your Online Brand, Tweet by Tweet
Twitter is rather different from other social media platforms. It tends to be one big, long conversation. According to Statista, the number of monthly active Twitter users in the United States was 68 million in the fourth quarter of 2017. Twitter’s American demographics, according to Statista (as of 2016), tend to skew young. Just over 40% are in the 18 – 34 age group.
Twitter usage falls off considerably for seniors, who comprise only 5.9% of all American Twitter users. Hence if your product or service is more for seniors, Twitter should not be your primary platform. However, that doesn’t mean you can ignore it completely.
Companies use Twitter in a variety of ways. One popular method is to tweet out information about discounts and specials, particularly with Twitter-only coupons (these help show how effective your advertising is, and what your reach is, on Twitter). Another use for Twitter is to provide a degree of customer service, such as generalized announcements of server outages or if the store is closed on an unexpected day. Another use is to field a crisis, as you might see complaints on Twitter but nowhere else.
Building Your Online Brand with Google My Business
Join up and get the word out – for free! Google My Business is easy to set up and then, unless your company goes through some major changes, you’re done. What sorts of major changes? Moving your headquarters or changing the management team come to mind immediately.
Takeaways for Building Your Online Brand
Yes, you can do it! So start building your online brand and watch your business take off. Your online brand is your reputation, so make it an excellent one.
The online world can support your offline marketing efforts. Just follow the POST!