Like all new frontiers, social media is a lawless place where anything goes, especially when it comes to brand. Everyone seems to have moved into these boom towns with a population of more than 12 million people projected for Twitterville alone this year. It’s a on-line, communications gold-rush, a world of wonderful opportunity – but exactly what is social media? Is it a tool for social interaction or business commerce? At the moment it’s both.
So with a poorly defined and misunderstood purpose, how should businesses of one to a thousand employees build their brand image on-line? Like all brand building exercises, your social media presence should be consciously directed by a brand strategy; it should be strategic first and tactical second. Currently the vast majority of business presence in social media is driven by what we call ‘Scategy’, a tactically obsessive approach of trying to do a little bit of everything and trying to mean a little bit of something to everyone. The result – your brand ends-up meaning nothing to anyone.
Here are what I believe to be the crucial five steps to building your brand image on social media.
Step 01. Why am I here?
The first and most critical step is to ensure you have clarity around why you are utlising social media in the first place. Is your Twittering, Facebook-ing and LinkedIn-ing a social pursuit, or does it have a commercial focus? Presently there are many Tweeters who seem to have a foot in each camp. If your social media activities have a commercial role, then you need to be clear on the role your activities play in building your brand. Tip: ‘Everyone is talking about Facebook and Twitter, so I didn’t want to miss the action’ isn’t a strategy.
Step 02. How’s my hair?
Your brand strategy should drive the thinking for the rest of the steps, including the biggest of all social media questions; photo or no photo? The answer to the photo question is dictated by the nature of the presence. As a brand presence it is expected that you present a well designed brand mark and brand image. As an individual representing a brand it is acceptable to use either a photograph or a brand image, but your photograph must be a reflection of the brand. Tip: I’m rather partial to kayaking down the amazon with kids-in-tow myself, but it is not how I wish to communicate my brand as a professional business person.
Step 03. What’s the word?
Like all things in life, the fewer there are, the more precious they become. The same goes for those 140-odd characters we use to communicate in Twitter or those short paragraph updates we use in LinkedIn or Facebook. What you write is a direct reflection of your brand’s expertise, professionalism and personality. Tip: ‘Good night peeps, I’m off to sleep’ is not considered a professional conversation unless you’re in the bedding business.
And when it comes to words, none are more important than the handful you choose to position yourself with in your description. Think long and hard about these, they should reflect your business, your role within that business and your brand personality.
Step 04. Do I look good in this?
Your social media backgrounds are one of the strongest opportunities you have to present your brand image to market. A well-designed background provides a glow of professionalism and brand persona to the information presented and communicated from that site.
Tip: The available background templates usually provide a clean and professional canvas for you to build your brand presence upon. They may not be original, but the templates provided are often a better result than many of the personalised backgrounds haunting the net.
Step 05. Do you love me?
The thing about social media is that by its very nature it is social. And like any social interaction, you need to be either interesting, informative, an expert, offering me something, or at the very least amusing if you want people to stick around.
You need to be clear on the role that social media will play for your business and it’s market. Are you:
• Conducting customer conversations like Starbucks
• An expert advisor like Brandscientist Peter Singline
• Telling me what you are selling or where you are selling it like Kogibbq
• Building a brand personality like urbansmiler
Whatever you do for business and wherever you do it, do it with conscious consideration and your leave the ‘scategy’ for those without strategy.