With a world of information at the fingertips of nearly every consumer, businesses are being more thoroughly vetted than ever before. Especially when it comes to spending a decent chunk of money on one product or service, people want and are able to learn just about as much as there is to know about the provider of said product or service before committing. If your company doesn't have a solid online branding presence on the web, you may be missing out on a lot of business.
Online Branding Through Directory & Review Sites
For companies that don’t have big advertising budgets, social media online branding can be a wonderful tool. It basically entails a few things. The first part is creating and maintaining free directory listings on websites such as Yelp, Kudzu, Manta, and others. Keep your online branding consistent across all platforms. Have a logo that you identify your company with, and make sure it is present everywhere your company name is. Keep information about the company consistent.
Keep Your Online Branding Natural
Most people want to feel as though they’re going to be dealing with real people, not faceless entities. This is where online branding through social media and trust-building play a major role. If you are not paying for visibility and ads on social media, return on investment (ROI) looks a little different than you might expect. Social media online branding differs from social media marketing in that marketing usually includes paid advertisements and the purchase of audiences on various platforms; while online branding is more about making natural connections with potential customers.
Social Media Online Branding
Next, do the same for the major social media platforms. The free reach business pages used to enjoy on Facebook is slipping drastically, and will continue to do so, but it absolutely doesn’t hurt to have a nice Facebook page that applies your branding and your company message. Even though companies don’t get as much interaction as they used to, many consumers do still use Facebook as a part of the vetting process.
Social Media Online Branding (Cont...)
Google Plus is now streamlined with Google Maps, Local, and Places. It is imperative that you have a nice, professional Google Plus page that is verified through Google Places for Business and connected to your website.
Try to maintain this platform and update it often. You may not get a lot of interaction initially, but when somebody Googles you, your Google Plus page is part of what pops up in the right-hand side along with a map of your location and your reviews.
It has not been proven yet, but there is a lot of speculation that a good, verified presence on Google Plus may be looked at favorably by the Google Search Algorithm. Next, create and maintain a Twitter. As of right now, with a moderate amount of effort, Twitter is a wonderful tool for getting terrific amounts of free exposure.
Establishing Your Business' Personality?
Now back to your business’ personality. Once you’re on (at least) these three major platforms, focus on your content. Too many businesses treat social media as a place to advertise and talk themselves up. Remember, social media branding is not about hard conversions in the way that social media marketing is.
The idea is to connect with people, not to spit information at them. Make posts that are legitimately interesting, useful, funny, engaging, or any combination of things that would make people actually WANT to interact. Personify your business. Make potential customers feel comfortable by projecting your company as one that is made by real people, for real people.
ROI Is Not Always Evident
Keep in mind, the ROI does not come the same way it would with paid advertising. With branding and trust-building, your ROI may be a little further down the road. If you create a professional and consistent, yet down-to-earth and relatable image, people will think of YOUR company when they need your service. You might not get somebody to decide they suddenly need your product or service overnight. That’s ok though. When that same person eventually does need a product or service that your company offers, you will have built a memorable and favorable image. When they need what you offer, they will come to YOU.
It basically boils down to natural human sociology. The average citizen, including myself, would much rather work with a business they feel is personable and genuine than work with a faceless entity with little communication and engagement. Everybody wants to feel as though they personally matter to the person/company that they are paying for a product or service. Nobody wants to feel like just another drop in the bucket who just wants to get a job over with so they can get paid and never think of that customer again.
Social media online branding, when used properly, is probably one of the most effective tools for reputation management, trust-building, and branding. Be the company that everybody in your area thinks of when it comes to the products or services you offer.
Be the company that interacts and cares with people who are interested, regardless of whether they are a paying customer today, or a potential customer a year from now!