Online Branding – Does Your Business Have a Personality?

conveying personality to your social media posts
conveying personality to your social media posts

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!

Facebook Changed Social Media For Businesses

facebook business organic reach marketing
facebook business organic reach marketing

Where does the future of social media take us?  It’s virtually impossible to say.  Facebook changed social media for businesses. One thing we know for sure though, is that you have to keep up with the ever-changing world of social media.  Many business owners are noticing that their organic (unpaid) reach has seriously been declining on Facebook pages.

If you're one of these business owners, you are not alone.  It’s not necessarily because you don’t have amazing content.  Back in April of 2012, pages were reaching about 16% of their fans on average. That number has reportedly slid into the low-single digits.

For big companies that have the budgets to buy paid ads and boosted posts, this reduction may be a good thing.  It weeds out many of their smaller competitors that had depended on the free reach previously enjoyed by page managers.  So what does this mean for small businesses that have put a lot of time, effort, and money into building a strong presence on Facebook?  Well, it means that it’s time to get creative!

Content Has Always Been and Will Always Be King

Your posts aren't showing up in as many timelines as they used to, but if you want good interaction and sharing from the small chunk of people that will see your posts, you still need to post good stuff! Also, even though you may not be getting the same amount of likes and interaction that you used to enjoy, people still want to see activity when vetting a company...These days, online research is a large (if not the largest) part of that vetting process.

Expand Your Social Media Horizons

-Are you on Twitter? Don’t let this platform become a ghost town with nothing more than an automatic feed and a stretched out, pixelated cover photo.  If you are active on Twitter and have a nice looking profile, it is pretty easy to draw engagement!  What good does that do?  Well, remember…Social media management isn't always about hard conversions (especially not right at first).  It’s less about advertising than it is about branding and trust-building.  Think about it…People follow you because you post useful/interesting/funny/unique stuff.  They might not need your product or service now…But they’re much more likely to come to you over your competitor when they do need it!  An active, engaging, useful online presence tends to add legitimacy, personality, and trust to a company.  People often prefer to do business with other people, not with faceless entities.  People want to relate.  Social media is a great way to give your brand a personality...The type of personality that people want to do business with!

-Are you on Google +?  This is one that you really don’t want to overlook.  Google Plus for Business is now completely streamlined with Google Places, YouTube, and Reviews.  From the new dashboard, you can see your insights and what kind of activity your page sees.  Even posting as little as once a week will have a tremendous impact.  When anybody Googles your business, as long as your business is verified and you've got your Google + Business page all set, your Google listing will show your location on a map, reviews, and a feed of your latest posts.  It seems as though there is less commenting/interaction on Google + than some other platforms (for now), but the number of views per month is through the roof!

Record and Analyze

Not too long ago, Facebook was pretty much the standard metric for how your social media program was faring.  This has very quickly become false.  It will get worse too…Many experts speculate that Facebook will decrease organic reach of pages to 0% over time.  This means that if you don’t pay to show up in peoples’ timelines, you simply won’t show up in them at all.  This may seem alarming, but don’t worry.  We still feel that it’s good to have a solid presence on Facebook, but do not worry when you see your insights slipping.  This will happen no matter how great your posts are (to varying degrees).  When analyzing the success of your social media program, look to other platforms; don’t rely on Facebook.  Twitter and Google + both provide insights and may provide a much more realistic view of your social media impact.

So basically what we're getting at is...Carry on!  Post the best content you can come up with no matter what platforms you use.  Branch out to other big platforms and have an awesome presence there.  Don’t let your Facebook turn into a ghost town, but also don’t get scared when you see your reach and interactions falling.  Facebook is not the be-all, end-all of social media.  Just like years back when MySpace fizzled out and led way to the growth of Facebook, another platform will take its place.  This may happen more slowly because although brands get the shaft with the new Facebook algorithm, individuals still interact with other individuals well on Facebook.  No platform can reign forever though.  You'll get through this!