Build your brand across social media

designyourcareer_AMP_001 23Social media is regarded as essential to the survival and prosperity of modern business, and this guide will help you develop the right strategies on the right technologies.

The term ‘Social Media’ is still recently new. It describes web based interfaces that house content generated by a group of peers. The content is gathered from the ground up rather and not necessarily by ‘experts’ or a company. This peer-to-peer content generation and sharing means that it is more likely to be trusted and articles shared are viewed as recommendations by friends.

Many businesses will have Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook because they feel they should. Unless these are used regularly and in an interesting way, they can actually be detrimental to business (the biggest crimes being underused accounts and incomplete or mis-leading profiles). Social Media can positively enhance your business if used in the right way as it allows you to enter into a one-to-one dialogue with your customers and build a considerable audience through the trust and good feeling of your followers.

Before we look at what to do here is a checklist that should help you decide which aspect of social media is best for you:

Do you enjoy using the particular service?

Do you have the time to engage with the service and audience?

Will you update the page/service regularly?

Enjoyment is key to getting the best from any form of social media: if it becomes all about business then you will loose the social aspect and it will feel as much of a chore as filing tax returns.

I would suggest that if you do not like using a particular service that you do not leave an open account. It can look really bad if a Twitter or Facebook page is not updated for a long time, and this lack of attention can reflect badly on your business. Always give things a go because you never know which service will take off, but it’s not a good idea to leave static or dormant accounts live.

Additionally, social media can be time consuming. Users of some services (Twitter for example) expect fairly rapid responses, so knowing what time you have may dictate the service you use to promote yourself.

Though a number of services are termed ‘social media’ they can work in very different ways and attract different audiences. In terms of your business aims, this may make the choice of platform easier too.

Whichever service(s) you invest in there are some simple tricks to ensure that your brand is consistent and applied evenly across the board. Firstly all social media platforms allow you to add a profile picture and it is a good idea to keep consistent so that you develop good brand recognition. If you can it is helpful to keep the url’s similar and use something related to your company and brand (remember, Twitter only allows short URL’s, so it might be worth selecting this first).

There is a biography option on each platform, and again keeping these consistent can help. You may also want to adjust colours and typefaces where possible, or add similar background pictures.

For many people the most difficult thing to judge is tone of voice, and you really want to keep this consistent, but sympathetic to the platform. Facebook is the most social of the services, and therefore calls for a slightly more chatty post type, however LinkedIn is more professional and overly friendly banter would look out of place here.

Next think about the type of content you want to share; again this should have some commonality, but vary depending on the place it is being posted. No one is interested in a constant sales pitch, but they do want to know about you, what you make and your specialist knowledge.

Whatever you post across the various platforms, the main aim is to set yourself apart as the expert if your field and achieving this can result from distribution of self generated content complimented by other sources. If you find an article interesting, then share it – it’s a good bet that your audience will find it of interest also. Many experts will give you ratios for the amount of links, new content and re-posts, but the best thing is to do what is natural and what fits your tone of voice.

It can be difficult to think about yourself as a brand in this way, especially if you are working alone, but in the hectic world of selling online a clear and consistent approach will help you be recognised and stick in people’s minds. Remember, on the web you are competing with some large brands and sellers, so you can look to some of these (even the biggest companies) for tips!

Once you have established the above try linking the services in with your site or online shop by adding ‘like’ or ‘tweet/pin this’ buttons.

Lastly remember social media is about being social and soft marketing, so have fun with whatever ever platform(s) you choose.

The ID Group's Mark Masters discussing messaging.

Twitter

Twitter moves fast and is generally the quickest way to connect with, and develop and audience. The restrictions applied to length of posts (or tweets) means that you have to be very direct with your messages and this can lead to interesting developments in strategy and tone. The ability to add photographs (or link with services such as Instagram) and links means that you can easily use Twitter as a means of bringing people to your site with a short and direct promise that is image or text based.

Tracking conversations is easy with this service, but it moves fast and it looks a bit odd to users if tweets are replied to several days after they were first posted.

What to share will depend largely on what you do, but a constant stream of ‘buy from me’ will likely loose you customers. Give your audience an insight into what makes you tick and create, let them see your processes an working methods. You don’t want to share your secrets, but offer enough to hook and intrigue. Once people are interested they will naturally migrate to your main website or online shop, and if they have decided that they like you, they will invest.

The great thing about Twitter is the amount of gatherings you can join. By following and using hash tags you can find groups of similarly minded people, or source customers. People interested in designer makers will likely follow #TALKT (take a look Tuesday) or similar has tag conversations. Some of these tags are specific to certain times or days, but make an effort to join in the conversation when they are happening and you will soon be seen as the expert.

Facebook

Facebook if the first big social media platform and in the west it still has the largest amount of users; but remember that as with all sites of this type, although it feels like it, not everyone is a member.

Activity on this platform can reach a large number of people, but to be heard by the largest amount will likely cost some money. The good thing is you can share many types of content and have a good chance of being viewed around the clock. Once a person likes your page your content will appear alongside their friends and families posts.

A good tone of voice for Facebook would be similar to Twitter, but you have the chance to post more content. Additionally you have the chance to post different types of conversations with your audience, such as sending invitations to events that will link to a users calendar. Additionally, you can target your audience in a far more clever and specific ways (if you pay a bit).

LinkedIn

To reach other professionals, suppliers and collaborators, LinkedIn may be the best platform. Of the various services, LinkedIn is the least social and should be treated as such if you want to get the best from it.

A Facebook style post would look really out of place here, but if you want to get advice about, or research your specialism, then it is perfect. While LinkedIn may be the least customisable of the platforms, the groups are the best way to converse with other professionals from your arena.

Generally personal pages with pictures of yourself work better that branded pages here, but you can create company pages too. Visitors to your page are looking for specialist knowledge and skills, so you need to reflect this in the way the profile is put together (again, Facebook style will likely be too informal).

YouTube and Vimeo

Many people forget that YouTube and Vimeo fall under the category of social media, possibly because content is added regularly by corporations (perhaps YouTube more than Vimeo), but still at their core is the ability for anyone to upload video content and spread their message.

Video services offer more of a one way conversation with the audience (if you exclude the comments section) but they can be a remarkably effective tool. Here, more than on any other platform your can prove you are the expert in your field and the right person for your audience to go it.

Videos can be developed in a number of different ways, but if used right you can really show of your knowledge. Consider tutorials, Q&A sessions, lectures and tours of your studio or workplace. These videos can be a good way to get to know you, and once trust has developed the audience will be more likely to buy into your brand.

Pinterest

Often the best way to communicate your interests is with pictures, and until the advent of Pinterest there wasn’t an easy way to show an audience your influences in one clear place. A blog is good for text and sharing images centred around a particular subject, but Pinterest paints a bigger picture.

In terms of promoting your own work, there are many ways that you can link from Pinterest (bio’s, etc), but the best way to use the site is to get your work on there. If you ensure that you have ‘pin this’ links on your site posts and shop items the audience will do the job of promoting your work for you. You can also pin your own work and set it amongst the images that inspired you, but this can put people off as it’s quite obvious self promotion and people prefer to use this as a friendly recommendation service.

Instagram and Hipstamatic (oggl)

Similar to YouTube and Vimeo, these photo blogging tools allow you to share a bit of yourself with the audience. Like any other social media application it is good to decide on an approach, you might want to show works in progress and shots of your studio, or go for a more personal approach. It is good to have one clear direction with media like this as it will get the audience back wanting more, but if it becomes muddled people won’t know what they are coming to you for.

You may also consider short photo stories, like trips to exhibitions or shows. All of this will paint a picture of an expert in the industry, and mark you as the go to person.

Blogs (Blogger, Tumblr, WordPress and more)

It’s easy to forget blogs when discussing social media, but it is important to remember that Twitter was first referred to as a micro-blogging platform (essentially combining the idea of a blog with the format of a text message).

Blogs are a really good way to share more in-depth content and really tell a story. Additionally, it is a great way to get the attention of search engines as a blog entry will likely cover lots of keywords and answer many queries. You can also lead people in by using other social media platforms to promote posts.

A good blog entry is very shareable, and this can really help you build an audience. If you post good content, people will make a point of coming back to your site, especially if you have themed posts that happen at certain points. However, if you do start a blog it can take quite a lot of attention. Answering questions, queries and comments can take time, but if you are getting the traffic to generate conversations the likelihood is these people will eventually become customers.