Your business is a brand. A living, breathing "thing" with its own reputation. (Like it or not, it is.)
What you do, say, and share online is a huge part of your brand message. Even if you’ve never stopped to think about it, I can guarantee that people in your community already know you for something. But your brand is not just your logo. It is not just your cleverly crafted mission statement.
Good or bad, your brand is what OTHER people say it is.
This can be hard for us control freak entrepreneurs to understand. But your brand is largely made up of what everyone else around you is saying about your company. If you tell people that your business provides great customer service, but people in your community think that your staff is rude, you are probably not doing a good enough job of building a brand internally or presenting your brand to the world externally.
But don't worry. There is hope.
Building a brand or changing your image will take time. Their is no magic formula that can change public perception overnight. It will take hard work and consistency, but once you start doing the small things right, you will start to see the results you want.
Here are a few steps you can take to achieve success on your website and on social media:
Define Your Goals
Start with the Why - Why are we passionate about what we offer, and what motivates us to provide these products or services?
Define your Audience – Determine who you want to reach online. Is your target audience for young families or 40 to 50-year-old professionals? It will make a difference in where you focus your energy.
Choose Your Channels – Once you know your target audience, you can then better choose which social networks to prioritize. For example, if your target audience is teenagers, Snapchat and Instagram will be much more effective at reaching them consistently. But for the 50+ population, Snachat would be a waste of time (for now). So research what networks your target audience is on and go from there.
Develop A Strategy
Determine your Action Steps – What do you need to do to connect with people on social media? Can I join community Facebook groups? What equipment do we need to take good quality photos? Who will be in charge of it? What interests people that are similar to my ideal customers?
Learn your Local Community – You can use online tools or social media searches to find out what your community is talking about. Search locally and see what interests them and then get involved in the conversations.
What & When – Map out what types of things you want to say and then determine the best times to say them.
Be a Resource, not a Billboard – If you jump on social media only when it benefits you and your business, you won’t find success. Use the 80/20 rule. 80% of the time you should share something that only benefits your followers. 20% of the time post things like invites to buy something or attend an event.
Be Personal – You are not a robot. I repeat, you are not a robot. People will always trust your business more when you give your social media accounts some personality. Interacting with people by answering questions, telling stories and simply talking about what matters to them will give your online presence the trustworthy stamp of approval!
Create Recognizable Content – Nothing says “Hey, we have no idea who we are” than poor branding or a poorly thought out message. Your content needs to look the same across all platforms and your message needs to be heard through one voice. Consistency will help the community get a sense of who you are and what they can expect when they walk through your doors.
Don’t Disappear – I know it’s hard to consistently BE there on social media. Many small businesses can’t afford to hire someone to only manage our social media accounts. If your team is going to commit to social media, they must be willing to invest the time it takes to get it done right. Put checkpoints in place to keep you accountable - have it on the staff meeting agenda, or schedule a recurring time to gather with the members of your team who help with content.
Obviously, this is not a definitive list for creating your brand, it is simply the basics to get you started. Building an online community is tough, but necessary. It is an ongoing process that takes a heck of a lot of sweat. Take these ideas and get started building your brand... right now.