Tonight, I’ll be joining a panel of some very smart folks to discuss how to create and protect your online brand. Big thanks to the Jewish Federation for setting up the event, and allowing me to take part.
Before I join the panelists, I thought I’d share some of my ideas on the subject, and hopefully by writing about them here, make my verbal presentation that much sharper I’ll let you know how that goes.
Let’s start with how to build your online brand:
- Choose a topic: seems simple enough. But I think having a very clear vision about what you’re selling or talking about is important. It’ll help you figure out what kind of content to focus on, and it will also help you forge relationships with like-minded people online. If you have a small business, it’s probably a pretty easy step. You’re focused on the products of your company. If you are your brand, then you should focus on your strengths, or the skills that you’d like other people to know you have. Take my blog, for example…I’m focused on social media, because that’s my trade. It’s what I know, have opinions about and on what I’d like other to engage with me.
- Build up credibility: In order for your brand to gain recognition, you need to build up credibility. You need to prove why people should trust you. The easiest way to do that online, is to create content around your topic. For example, let’s say you have a small business that creates cookies. Actually, if you have a cookie business, you should probably send me a sample…I love cookies. But, I digress. If you have a cookie business, a way for you to gain credibility is to start a blog, and/or a Facebook fan page, and/or a Twitter handle, and to start talking about cookies. Talk about everything involved in the process. Show off your expertise! Write a blog post about how to make a perfect cookie. Or make a video, and upload it to YouTube, about the process of selecting local, sustainable ingredients. As you continue to build and promote this library of content, people will see that you’re an expert in your space, and this can help differentiate you from your competitors.
- Show your personality: All work and no play, makes Shanee a dull girl. The same is true for your online brand. If you only talk shop, you might turn off potential fans, reader and customers. You should show your company culture, or your own personality, as you demonstrate your expertise.
- Be timely: A great way to get discovered, is to inject yourself into timely conversations. A great example of a company doing this, is PBS. Following the presidential debate, where the fate of Big Bird was called into play, PBS immediately took to twitter and jumped on the popular hashtag, even purchased a promoted tweet. So as thousands of users were talking about, and looking up discussions about big bird, they also fell across PBS own content, which included a link to their about page, explaining where funds go.
- Engage: If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If you write a ton of great content, and no one sees it, does it have an impact? Not so much. So the best way for your to get discovered, is to introduce yourself to your target audience. @reply to people who are talking about topics related to you. Answer their questions. Give them some valuable information. DO NOT cold pitch people. Instead, pretend like the internet is one big cocktail party. You wouldn’t go up to a complete stranger and say, hey, BUY MY COOKIE. No, you’d go up, say, “Hi! My that’s a lovely dress. What is it that you do? Ohhh, you’re a restauranteur, that’s so great. What restaurant? Oh, what do I do? Well, I happen to make amazing cookies. Here’s my website, you should check us out sometime.” And, the next time you see them, you’ll be even more friendly. It’s exactly the same thing online. Say hi to people, interact on overheard online convos. And eventually you can bring it back to your own company/brand.
Now that you’ve set the foundation for your online brand, how do you protect it?
- Monitor: Knowledge is power, online. So you should always be monitoring for mentions of your brand. On twitter there are tons of ways to do this. You can use an app like TweetDeck, or a tool like Hootsuite. Or simply go to search.twitter.com. You can also set up specialized Google alerts. You can use a site like socialmention.com to search for your brand across a variety of social sites. The point is, you should know what people are saying about you.
- Act quickly in crisis: If for some reason, someone is defaming you online, or somehow speaking negatively about your brand, the best thing you can do is act quickly. Of course, you should understand the situation first, but as soon as you do, respond. The best example of this happened to my company, NVIDIA, during last year’s consumer electronics show (CES). The internet was abuzz with discussion about SOPA, a bill that was introduced to help stop online piracy. It was an extremely contentious bill, and most consumers and big brands came out against it. Initially, NVIDIA had not issued a statement, however a gaming organization called the ESA had commented on it. As a member of the organization, we were passively associated with their message. In turn, all of our CES blog posts, facebook updates and tweets were getting blanketed by angry fans asking us why we are supporting SOPA. We quickly called our legal and communications team together, put together a succinct response and published it across our properties. You can read it here: http://blogs.nvidia.com/2012/01/nvidia-does-not-support-sopa/ Our stance was simple: We do not support SOPA. While there was still a significant amount of follow up discussion, it turned much more constructive, and it was no longer distracting from the rest of the news we had at CES. We understood that our fans are passionate, and they deserved a response. It was our quick action which helped control the situation and mitigate what could have been a much more detrimental incident.
- Admit fault: this one feels the most uncomfortable at first, but I cannot emphasize how effective it is. If you’re wrong, admit it. Say you’re sorry, take responsibility and explain what you’ll do to rectify the situation. You will be surprised at how well people respond to this. They like humanized brands. What’s more human than making a mistake?
This is of course, a very quick and dirty overview of some ways to build and protect your online brand. I’ll update this post with some more of the discussion we have tonight. But, I’d love to hear any questions or comments you have, in the comment section below.