It wasn't too long ago that it took millions of dollars and a significant allocation of resources to build a successful brand. Of course, those were the days when television was really the only truly effective medium for brand-building. As the Internet world mushroomed in the 1990s, it was assumed that wise marketeers would devise ways in which to harness the power of the World Wide Web to develop effective branding and/or lead generation tools. Quite honestly, the 'Net did not begin to realize its massive marketing potential until social media took the universe by storm over the past decade.
Nowadays, a small local business can take advantage of some very sophisticated online tools to generate more customers; and to quickly build a highly professional brand.
A savvy local business owner who may have been banging her head against the wall in 1995 trying to figure out how to out-duel a giant international conglomerate can now focus her energy on social media tools and online reputation management services in order to compete very effectively -- at least in her local community.
To illustrate, let's just examine one of the more popular B2B marketing sources: LinkedIn.
There are numerous features of LinkedIn, most of which are designed to help business professionals to enhance their visibility. Whether you are posting links to interesting articles and videos; joining or creating business groups; connecting with old and new colleagues; seeking recommendations; participating in group discussions; or even utilizing the job posting services; you are exposing yourself to a wide universe of potential business connections.
To get the full social media branding experience, it is important to:
- Grow your connections: Spend some time each day researching potential connections and checking out connections of your connections. The larger your network, the more exposure for your brand.
- Post interesting stuff: Don't just post links to your website. Eventually your connections will tune out your postings if they are a repetitive sales pitch. Include a good mix of interesting information, fun links, videos -- and sprinkle in the occasional soft-sales pitch.
Of course, whether you are utilizing LinkedIn, Facebook, Google + , Twitter or any other social media site, the advertising platform is a viable option for many marketing pros looking to generate leads, website traffic, new business opportunities and brand exposure. Most of these sites offer user-friendly advertising options that allow one to select their budget and fine-tune their target market. It pretty much goes without saying, but it is important to track your response rates carefully with any advertising campaign, and make necessary changes on a consistent basis to adjust the target audience, the message, the bid and all other aspects of your campaigns. Even if your campaigns do not meet your marketing objectives, take heart that the added exposure will help to enhance your brand.
Some warnings about social media:
- Protect your reputation. Remember -- anyone can see what is being posted about yourself and your business. Also, consider your clients and business associates, as well, when posting information. Do not post any images or comments that one may take as offensive.
- What does your photo say about you? Your profile image is the initial message you are sending about yourself and/or your business. Those snapshots of you wearing the lampshade at the party need to remain hidden from public viewing.
- Complete your profile. Most prospective connections will check out your profile. Make sure it includes any information that will help to enhance your business and your brand image. It is not necessary to include every job you held your entire life (who really needs to know you delivered pizza in high school?). You never know who will be stopping by your profile page and their interest level in your business, so it is important to provide a well-rounded profile.
If you following these basic pointers, and read up on other articles designed to enhance your social media brand exposure, you are bound to develop a stronger local brand that competes well in your local community.