It used to be that if you wanted an effective online presence then all you needed to do was create a well designed and functional website that extolled the virtues of your brand to the online community. Then came the need to have a social media presence commensurate with your brand values. But now, this is not enough. If you want to succeed online, then it has much less to do with presentation than it used to, and much more to do with interaction with your audience.
This new dynamic means that the old rules of effective online branding are beginning to be turned upside down. I believe that there are now a whole new set of rules that companies and organisations need to consider if they are to make the most of their online brand presence, and I have devised my “6 steps to online success”:
1. Take part in the conversation – It is vitally important that you are a key part of the conversations that are going on around your brand. It is all about building effective relationships and social media gives you the capability to do this. It’s not enough just to have a Facebook page or a Twitter account, you must actively participate by making regular posts and responding to messages from your customers or prospective customers. The expectation of users is that they should receive a response to key issues in minutes, so you need to give it to them. You will want to keep up to date with what is being said about your brand, so you must devote time and effort in responding. It’s all about building that effective relationship.
2. There’s always room for you if you offer something interesting – It would be easy to shy away from taking part in online forums etc. as the marketplace is certainly a crowded one. However, you always have a chance to make your brand stand out if you can add value to the content. Who would have thought 20 years ago there would be such a huge commercial market for a product that most people can get by switching on their kitchen taps? It was all about creating demand back then, but now it’s all about adding value to your online message and successfully targeting your niche with content they will find stimulating.
3. Make all the headlines that you can – putting yourself forward in the media as the “industry expert” can go a long way towards building your brand both online and off. You should target media outlets that are most relevant to your own particular areas of expertise and send them targeted presentations. Leading PR protagonist, Suzanne Howe, owner of SH Communications, says that “if you want to be the expert, then it helps to give producers an insight in to your personality by referring them to video clips on your site”. This can take a lot of effort, and often centres around one individual, but it is well worth it in the long run and will certainly help to raise your brand’s profile. This has always been the case, but now it is even more important as the online message can spread like wildfire.
4. Showcase your best work – In the online environment, a strong brand is all about trust and relationships. There is no better way to build both than by posting testimonials or listing big-name clients you’ve worked with. That will certainly lend your business credibility and kudos as you attempt to spread your message to the online community. You should try to incorporate your clients’ logos somewhere on your page as an added visual element. Mentioning awards and recognitions your company received, as well as community service work, green initiatives, and interesting facts, will also make your business more appealing, not forgetting to highlight any ways that you have demonstrated social responsibility in your everyday business.
5. Don’t forget to keep telling your customers “About Us” – This is often the page of your website that gets forgotten or just left to “fend for itself” once your site is up and running. The “About Us” and “Why Us” pages are often the most scrutinised by your potential customers. These are usually the pages that receive the first clicks as they are normally the landing pages for your site, so they need to be cared for like no others. Of course you need to include all the basic information here, but you also need to make the page exciting and interesting to read so that the user will want to delve deeper in to your site. It sounds obvious, but it is crucial to your online success. Avoid too much text, provide some personal and professional history, consider setting up links to your blogs here and make sure there is readily available contact information showing customers that you have nothing to hide.
6. Constantly monitor your brand’s reputation, and be ready to respond – Don’t think it is just Facebook and Twitter that have to be monitored for customer feedback. There are countless other sites on which customers rant and rave about their experiences. A question or complaint left unanswered on any of them has the potential to harm your brand and scare away prospective customers. New tools are springing up to help you monitor what is being said about you online, and it is a good idea to check them out and see if they can enhance your information gathering. There are also more basic services, such as Google Alerts and Pickanews, which allow users to select keywords to track and to receive e-mail updates whenever they appear on the Web. Others, like Social Mention and HootSuite, specifically scour profiles on social networks such as Twitter, Facebook and MySpace for relevant comments. It is also a good way to gather intelligence on competitors and the market in general. Some of these services also rank comments made as either positive or negative, allowing you to determine which need an urgent response.
So there you have it, my “6 Steps to Online Success”. If you want to find out more just get in touch and I will be happy to help.
Paul Ruocco Consulting
Tel: 07793 517493