Archives for branding

Blogging is Doing

Search engines are used by billions of people every day, helping them find products to buy, stores to buy them from, information on anything imaginable or the directions to their grandmother’s house. Because search engines are such a huge part of consumers’ lives, they have become a huge part of how companies do business. Users are often unaware of the existence of businesses because they don’t show up on the first page of search results, creating the need for business to employ search engine optimization (SEO) in order to gain a wider audience and generate profitable conversions.

Having an official blog is an effective method of gaining rank in various search engines, particularly since Google’s Panda update was rolled out, favoring pages with high quality content over weak, shallow pages. As part of both a social media marketing campaign and a service being provided to customers, a well-maintained, attractive blog featuring informative, useful content can provide tremendous support for a business.

By emphasizing valuable content and displaying the knowledge of the company’s employees in their field, a corporate blog can build relationships with customers while gaining the positive attention of Google and Bing. Integrating the blog into social networking initiatives and making it part of a cohesive brand will increase the likelihood of being ranked highly in search results and of increasing customer retention and brand awareness.

Content is King

Google’s Panda update made it clear that the search engine values quality content over anything else, particularly the overuse of keywords. While websites could formerly get away with having long pages of machine-generated, mostly incoherent text that included repetitive uses of the same keywords, the method for gaining ground in the post-Panda world revolves around well-written pieces that match the context of the site. By writing content with customers and potential customers in mind, businesses can satisfy both their intended audience and search engine bots.

Show What You Know

In addition to providing well-written, pertinent information on their blogs, companies should provide useful information for consumers. Blogs should not be used to advertise a company’s products (though a short post announcing a new product is okay) but should instead educate customers on frequently misunderstood aspects of their business or field. For example, a heating and air conditioning repair company could feature blog posts concerning tips for homeowners to keep their HVAC systems running efficiently or posts describing the various heating and cooling options available to homeowners, along with their strengths and weaknesses. By providing valuable information to consumers, businesses have an easier time maintaining brand awareness with potential customers and being seen as leaders in their field.

Get the Word Out

Every blog post should be accompanied by social buttons that will allow readers to share the post with their friends and colleagues on the most popular social networks, such as Twitter, Google+ and Facebook. Integrating the company blog with other social platforms can increase the visibility of each post–and the blog as a whole–to both consumers and search engines. By keeping the user experience integrated and as seamless as possible among the various social platforms and the company’s website, users will be able to recognize the company and its brand more readily and search engines will notice the uniformity and rank the site more highly.

Branding the Sales Funnel

What does your brand say about you? Or does anyone even know your brand?

Something that you hear a lot of in social media is the idea of branding.  We also hear about branding in exclusion to sales. But is branding just a marketers excuse for not delivering the sale? What part of the sales funnel incorporates branding?

Branding

When a marketer isn’t deliver the sale you will often hear them say:

“We are building your brand recognition”

“Creating a strong brand”

“Getting your brand out there”

What does that mean? What is the value of branding? It might sound like a bucket of horse apples, but there might be more to it than you think.

A brand is a name you know, like and trust. So branding is the art of becoming knowable, likeable and trustworth.  Not sure you are fully seeing the value?  Lets look at some of the ultimate branding successes:

Kleenex – Your nose is runny to you ask for a facial tissue or a kleenex?

Coke- Have you ever said you wanted a coke and then were asked what kind?

Xerox– how often do you make photo-stats or do you make a xerox

Even Google has become one- “Let me google that” instead of “let me search for that”

These are words that have become a part of our vocabulary and encompass everyone in their category. Of course most people won’t achieve this level of brand recognition, but it doesn’t mean that branding doesn’t play a valuable roll in your business marketing.

Brand recognition is what separates you from the pack. Your name becomes synonymous with your reputation. If that reputation is good then your name carries its own capital value. If your reputation is good and your name is synonymous with your reputation, then you will breed trust with your brand. That trust then also becomes a part of the brand reputation.

Does branding get you the sale?

Not in the short run. But it will in the long run. When you are building your brand you need to focus on establishing your reputation. People don’t yet know you so they don’t yet trust you. If they don’t trust you why are they going to click your link and buy from you?  However, once you have brand recognition they will buy from you because they do trust you. Not only will they buy from you but you will have better loyalty and be able to command a higher price than your unbranded competition. People are willing to pay for reputation.

In some cases your reputation becomes a status symbol, like Bently or Rolex. There are plenty of other diamond encrusted watches that are good. But you know Rolex is good and that they stand behind their product. So you are willing to pay a premium for what you know to be a quality product with good customer service and a high retained equity value. That is another place where branding comes into play. The value of your brand also extends to its long term equity. If you are known for excellence in your products, that can generate a higher resale value, which intern makes buying your product an investment.

Social Branding

Branding is not the end all be all of marketing. You still need to go out and farm the lead and work the sale. Though it will great help you in the long run, you still have to get the sale in the short run.  This is why social media is so effective to accomplish both. With a good strategy you can generate leads while you simultaneously work your branding. As your branding improves, so will your sales.

Using the social networks to get in front of your audience and participate in topic relevant conversations are a great way to get your brand in front of your potential customers. By thoughtfully participating you can begin to boost your reputation by establishing yourself as educated and informed. This is the first step to being trustworthy.

Brand your Sales Funnel

You do not have to have a million dollar marketing budget to work on branding. You need to get the sales.  But your branding should not be separate from your sales, it should be integrated.  While you are finding your leads and closing your sales, keep in mind that your brand will be helping you along the way. So help it back. Hop onto your networks and jump into the conversations. Offer your knowledge and contribute.  You will be surprised at how many leads you can generate by simply participating.

 

Will Fan Pages Get the Timeline Update?

Facebook has been rolling out the “timeline” update on the newsfeed and on profiles. Will fan pages be the next update? It is the logical progression. Since the fan page update at the beginning of 2011, Facebook has been updating the layout of the fan page in conjunction with the profiles. The main goal being consistency in the user experience.

The latest update for the profiles was not only a dramatic visual change but also a UI (user interface) change. It is changing how users are using Facebook. In fact, the new timeline profile is deepening the emotional connection between Facebook and its user. If Facebook updates fan pages as well, it has the potential to have a similar emotional effect.

The cover image will be a great opportunity for branding, with the profile image being the “face” of your engagement. The more graphic display will really encourage fan pages to post more dynamically using significantly more photos. Beyond using more photos, it will encourage businesses to use a more cohesive and truely graphic based brand strategy. The page itself will be like an interactive page from a magazine. It has the potentially to be incredible.

No profiles have gone public yet. Below is a mock up by the New York Agency Skinny of a potential fan page. The branding opportunity is incredible! Of course this means that people will need to strategically implement their fan page design, which means that marketing firms need to embrace social media design. The game is changing…and getting more aesthetically pleasing!

Burbery TImeline Fan Page

A mockup of the Burberry Fan Page by New York Agency Skinny. Click the image to see more mockups.

Whatever you do don’t do this! …on Social Media

Trust is an essential part of being a social media manager. In fact, it is cornerstone. When you are managing people’s social media, you are doing more than just tweeting or posting on Facebook. You are acting as their voice, their persona. You are representing them to the online world. This is not a responsibility to be taken lightly.

As a social media manager you have access to private information, to passwords, possibly even real life friend connections. What you do online can boost a brand or career or harm it.  This is the same as all forms of marketing. A bad campaign can do brand damage just like bad PR or bad social media. But in the social-verse it is significantly easier to to damage very quickly. Conversely it is significantly easier to boost someones image and improve their reputation.

However, the dangers of a social media presence are active for anyone using social media. The benefit to using a social media manager is that they are extremely cautious about what they say and how they represent your brand. They err on the side of caution both for your brand management and in regard to the rules and regulations of the various social networks. The great thing about a social media manager is that they will be aware of the ever changing developments, trends, and social taboos.

But for those of you who do not use a manager, you need to be cautious and thoughtful about what you post and tweet.

Whatever you do, don’t do this!

  1. Don’t post your email address. This is just asking for spam and viruses. Plus you don’t know who is going to see that number.
  2. Don’t post your home address. With Foursquare being as popular as it is, this is a really easy thing to accidentally do. But if you post your home address you are telling everyone where you live…exactly. Better to play it safe.
  3. Don’t share you password with anyone other than you social media manager.
  4. Don’t say anything you wouldn’t want your mom to hear. People get into more trouble because they forget that their posts are visible to the entire world.
  5. Don’t post pictures you wouldn’t want your mom to see.  (Wiener, are you paying attention?).

SEO…yourself? Optimizing your Personal Brand

Article first published as SEO…yourself? Optimizing your Personal Brand on Technorati.

When was the last time you googled yourself? For many of us, it was not that long ago. But when was the last time you checked your SEO value?

Your what? Personal SEO value? Yes!

SEO, aka. search engine optimization, has more value than just boosting your website search ranking. It can also boost your personal brand.

In my writing I speak a lot about social media and related topics. However, I also frequently reference Smith College. I am an alumnae and a very proud Smithie. Recently when writing I referenced my alma mater. In looking for an image to use with the post I did a quick search for “social media smith college“. I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that the first two lines of the search results turned up three photos of me and one graphic I created.

Lauren MacEwen Google Image Search

The success of personal SEO branding can be seen when you are associated with other strong search terms

Through my writing, linking and social media efforts I have associated myself with Smith College and social media. This is an honor I will gladly accept. Not to mention in image searches the results are usually flooded with generic clip art and stock photos, it is great to see your own personal branding infiltrating the sea of brand X images.

Social Business

The social business model is becoming the leading trend in business development. Companies are realizing that social media is more than just chatting on Twitter or playing Scrabble on Facebook. It is a way to directly communicate with your consumer base. It is a way to improve your reputation, build your authority, create a new avenue for customer service, and of course sell. Often what happens, especially for smaller businesses, is that one person becomes the voice (and face) of the brand. This is why managing your own online reputation is an important component to managing your online business reputation.

When you become the face of a brand then you are the person that is looked to as the authority. You are the person that is building the trust. You are the one people look to for answers to their questions. The more of an authority you become the more of a resource you become. This will extend beyond your brand. You can actually establish yourself as an authority in your area through personal branding. Do you think people only talk to Mari Smith or Chris Brogan about their services? Of course not. They are authorities on business social media and people look to them for advice and opinions on all avenues of social media, not just ones related to their business.

By building your personal brand you establish yourself as an authority in your topics. Part of the way you do that is by doing SEO on yourself!

SEO Yourself!

  • Get the Byline!

Writing a blog is a great way to get yourself out there. But don’t forget to give yourself the byline. Even if it is your blog make sure that it says “By …” at the top of the post. When the search engines crawl your site, they will also be crawling your name. The more time it comes up, the more you will be associated with keywords in your post

Guest blogging will also help get your name out there. The more bylines you have in more places, the better your personal ranking in Google.

  • Photos!

Every time you use a picture of yourself put your name in the image title, in the alt tag and in the description. You know the picture is you. Your audience might know the picture is you. But search engines do not know the picture is you, so make sure you tell them.

  • Social Media!

Social media is a great way to communicate with industry relevant people. The more you talk to people in your industry the more you will be associated with that industry. The search engines rank Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Sometimes having a conversation with a “influencer” in your industry can give your personal brand a huge boost in SEO. Through the conversations with influencers, they lend you their authority. Not only do other people see that you are talking to them, and they to you, but the search engines see it to. It would be like if CNN linked to your website. Your authority increases because of their authority.

Excuse me Officer, mind if Tweet this arrest?

Noah Elliot Tweet from a police car

The now infamous pic that Noah Elliot tweeted from the back of a police car

Social media sharing has just reached a new level as the CEO of Twitpic, Noah Everett,  a photo sharing app for Twitter, shared a pic of the back of a police car as he was being arrested. This bring us to the question of how much sharing is too much sharing? Or a better question, is there such a thing as bad sharing in business?

Many people would argue that people share too much about themselves, their lives, their..ahem..intimate details. But that is in your personal life. What about your professional life? Is personalizing your brand now becoming a tell-all? Is twitter the new corporate Taxicab confessions? Already we have had Red Cross getting drunk, Chrysler tweeting road rage and Weiner showing his, well…

The red cross rogue tweet ended up in extra fundraising, Chrysler buried their story as fast as possible and likely fired the guy who made the tweet, and Weiner stepped down from his office but was offered a job at Huslter.

But Twitpic is not hurting their brand. Though you could argue that every CEO is the face of their brand. Lets be realistic. If Steve Jobs got arrested for public nudity people would care. The CEO of Twitpic….who? What it did show was that power of social media for creating brand awareness.  Because he is the face of Twitpic, even if it is a face that you are unfamiliar with, and he did tweet this sensational event, the drama and humor of it was too much to contain.  Yes his picture went viral. Of course it helps that he has 2.8 million follower on Twitter.

Because of who he is, the sensational element of his tweet made it go viral. Because no on is invested in the public (or private) activities of Noah Everett, announcing to the world that he was getting arrested does not really affect his personal brand. What it did do was bring his actual brand more into the public eye.  This was his real world demonstration how you can share anything on Twitpic….literally anything.

Though not an intentional marketing strategy. Noah Everet did successfully put his brand in the headlines and might have created a public brand for himself in the process.

Tweet? What F***ing Tweet?

Every once in a while a bad tweet makes the news. Recently, the F-bomb was dropped on Chrysler’s twitter, @ChryslerAutos.

Chrysler Re-Tweet:“I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to f**king drive.”

Chrysler quickly responded by saying their account had been compromised, apologized and deleted the account. Sure, the account was compromised; it was compromised by someone on their social media staff.

Not too long ago, we saw another big corporate slip-up with the now famous #gettngslizzerd tweet.  This one was also acted upon quickly and the Red Cross used humor to dilute the situation. In fact, it was turned it into an impromptu fund raising campaign for the Red Cross by Dogfish Beer who rallied their followers to donate.

What is the difference between the two? Damage to the brand.

The Red Cross tweet was funny. It was social and off the cuff. Someone commented on their own life, and in many ways it was a tweet many people could relate to.

The Chrysler tweet was not funny. It was offensive and rude, criticizing the very people who support the company.

The Red Cross staffer who posted was reprimanded, but her own sense of guilt was more than enough punishment.  The Chrysler guy probably got fired.

Making a bad post on Twitter is all too easy to do.  In fact, it happens all the time.  We all learned to stop and think before hitting the send button on emails, but most of us don’t when tweeting, as it is so spontaneous. And so public. The difference between being able to spin a bad tweet in a positive way or potential toxic fallout due to a cascade of brand damage is the nature of the tweet.

As a social media professional you have to take that extra second to check which account you are tweeting from. Take another second to re-read what you wrote to make sure that it is generally palatable.

If it is damaging to another brand, maybe you should question how it may ultimately damage your personal brand?

The Softer Side of Facebook: Zuckerberg’s Puppy

Mark Zuckerbergs new puppy

"I am a Puli, which is a type of Hungarian Sheepdog. I was born in Grants Pass, Oregon and now I live in Palo Alto with Mark and Cilla. I am extremely cute."

From the start, Mark Zuckergberg had the air of a highly motivated genius who created a social network that became the definition of social networks.  Since its inception, Facebook has dominated the social networking world.  As it got bigger, people wanted to know more about the mastermind behind it, and Mark Zuckerberg became a household name.

Fast forward to the movie The Social Network, and Zuck transformed from driven genius to megalomaniac.  As they say in the movie “Mark, you are not an ass-hole. You are just trying really hard to be.” Obviously the movie is not a documentary and everything needs to be taken with a grain of salt. However, what it does convey is the flip side to the socially awkward computer genius. He is also someone who will fiercely defend his creation.

The movie definitely left the impression that Zuckerberg is a bit of an anti-social jerk.  Though people admire him and are constantly impressed with his accomplishments, he has not recovered from his own image. Now, Mark is possibly taking hold of this by offering a “softer side of Zuck”. He has created a Fan Page for his new puppy.

The Fan Page features pictures of Mark and his girlfriend playing with his very cute fuzzy-faced puppy.  You are probably asking, why do I care? Well, good question. Zuck is using Facebook as a way to create a new facet of his image.  The Fan Page for his dog is not that interesting. If it wasn’t for the fact that it was Zuckerberg’s dog, I would not care.  But it is his dog. I am interested in him. I am interested in who the person behind Facebook really is.  So I Liked the page.

Social media is a living network. What happened yesterday might be written in ink but it is not written in stone. This means that just like the real life version of yourself, your online persona is changeable.  You might never be able to shed a bad brand image entirely, but you can reinvent it to a degree.  Mark is using his new puppy as a way to show that he is a real person who is caring and funloving.

Use your tools.  Your brand is not always what you create, but it can be highly influenced by you and by alternate perceptions of you.

Finding your voice

Cartoon drawing of a woman saying "I Love my voice!"

You may love your voice, but does your audience?Are you speaking to them in a way that resonates?

Finding your voice is an important part of the social media process.  It seems like this should be easy, but it is not.  We all have ideas about what we want our online identities to be when we start our social networks.  People usually just decide to be themselves. As a business, one generally has an idea of the business “personality”. However, Twitter and Facebook are very different kinds of networks and ask for distinct kinds of interactions.  So, our personalities often adopt diverse expressions in these different networks.

However, the crafting of your personality needs to be carefully based around your objective and your audience. Although you may have an idea of who you are online, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be what elicits the most responses from your audience, or drives the most sales.

When I first start working with a client, I take a splatter approach to posting.  I experiment with a variety of posts, with different tones and  content.  I do this to begin establishing what their audience will respond to.  Your online followers are a unique group, thus you cannot base your communications on the success or failure of someone else.

I had two separate clients who essentially shared the same audience.  Client A mainly talked about his family. Client B mainly talked about controversial issues.  When Client A tried to talk about controversy, it was not well received.  When Client B talked about his family, he had very little interaction. The reason for this related to the branding they had done. Client A was seen as a family man and that was how his audience wanted to engage with him. Client B was thought of as a dissenter and someone who was fighting the people in power; the fact that he was a family man as well did not seem to interest his audience.

If our online personalities are a product of our branding, they can also be extremely formative to the evolution of our branding.  Pay attention to what your audience responds to, because if your goal is to reach them for sales, support or awareness, you need to know what approach and tone will engage them.

Your social media is customatic, optimitaic and emblematic; why, it’s Grease Lightning!

A screen shot from the movie Grease during the Grease Lightning song

Is your social media Grease Lightning?

Customatic, optimitaic and emblematic: is your social media Grease Lightning?

As the world of social media grows, so does the world of social media solutions. It is easy to get confused by the sheer number of options out there. What you need to determine is: are you looking for a regular oil change or are you looking for a custom paint job and ground effects? In other words, are you looking  for simple account maintenance or are you looking for a comprehensive strategy?

There are big differences between the two.

Management is your oil and lube job. It is simply taking care of the undercarriage of your accounts. It is admin, setting up accounts, posting, responding to comments and questions, and growing the network.  When you have a large network, the management side of your social media can be daunting.  In fact, I have a former client who occasionally brings me in just to clean up his account. I do not mean to minimalize management, it is an important aspect of your social media. If it is not handled properly you can miss a lot of networking, customer service and sales opportunities.

Strategy is what converts your car into Grease Lightning. It is your custom paint job, leather interior and fancy rims. It is the brains and beauty behind your social media.  This is where you bring in tools that direct growth, brand building and reputation management. This is how you create your sales funnel and grow leads. Strategy is focused on customizing your profiles and generating landing pages that drive your larger brand message. All this results in substantive relationships that lead to sales. It also provides continuity between your traditional marketing and your social marketing, establishing cross-platform support.

A lot of people confuse the two and think that management will accomplish what strategy promises, at a fraction of the cost. This is simply not true. Management is not a growth strategy, it is maintainence supporting your status-quo in current time.  So if you are looking for growth and development in your social media, you need to work beyond simple managing and ramp up into active strategizing.