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5 Tips For Effectively Managing Your Small Business Brand Online

My last post provided tips for establishing and building your personal or small business brand. But what good is getting started with branding if you are unsure of how to bring it all together and carry on with these social media tools once you are up and running?

Whether you are building a brand as a learning experience or based on an existing business with a wealth of content that you are just itching to share online, keeping the below tips in mind will help you stay on track and grow your brand steadily.

  1. Create remarkable content. Create it regularly. This is an area that goal setting helps with immensely. For example, My current goal is to blog 3 times per week and post to Twitter a minimum of 3 times per day. Determine if you work best blogging on a set schedule or sporadically throughout the week. Also ensure that you do not let any “spokes” of your social media wheel stagnate, as you will likely attract different users across the different social tools and you want to remain active in the eyes of all of them. Once you are comfortable with blogging and tweeting and are looking to try something new, move into creating and sharing video blogs.
  2. Push your articles and blogs. One of the easiest ways to ensure that your brand remains active across all channels is to “push” your content. For example, you may opt to automatically newly posted blogs or tweets directly to your Facebook page. I currently choose to do so manually so as to have additional control over the appearance of my personal Facebook page. Twitter is more conducive to many frequent updates and so it is always advised to feed or repeat any new blog posts or brand-related information to your Twitter followers.
  3. Make it easy for your content to be shared and navigated. Taking small steps such as ensuring that your blog has some sort of “Tweet this” or “Share this” button attached to your posts goes a long way in ensuring that your content is easily “remarked” by your followers and brand evangelists. When tweeting about a new blog that you just published, ensure that a short functional link to the post is included. Also ensure that all channels of your brand are easily navigable and provide convenient jumping points between one another. For example, if your blog is the hub at the center of your brand, each other spoke or branding channel should link directly to the blog in a convenient and obvious location.
  4. Build relationships. The beauty of social media lies in opportunities that it provides to socialize and participate in discussions with your followers and other figures in your industry. A little bit of participation and engagement goes a long way in building a sting base of followers willing to spread the word about your business to their friends and family.
  5. Stay on top of what people are saying about your brand. Having the courtesy to comment on and thank someone for a response to a new blog post of yours goes a long way in building relationships and customer loyalty. The same goes for offering thanks to a follower for re-tweeting one of your tweets. Be aware of reviews for your business and the kind of attention that you may be receiving on review sites such as Yelp. If someone posts a negative review or complaint about your business, take it as an opportunity to make things right and portray yourself and an individual who takes their customer’s concerns to heart.

There are, of course, many other aspects to maintaining your brand online. However, these five points are those that I would consider “core” focuses, and most other aspects of managing your brand would fall under one of these overarching actions. Have any differing opinions or comments? Please share! I would love to hear your thoughts.

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Crafting Your Brand Online

It’s easy to find a wealth of information online and in textbooks around marketing a product or company online. However, newer on the minds of many marketers and business owners and the topics of actually branding yourself and branding your business as a whole online. How does this differ from traditional marketing? I like to look at ‘branding’ as creating and maintaining value associated with your name through the use of blogging and social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

If you have just begun branding yourself in a professional capacity and you are unsure of what your potential brand or value might be, a great starting point is to look at areas that you are interested in, knowledgeable of or skilled in. If you can produce a list of potential focuses that meet at least 2 of these three criteria, you are set. You can then begin creating meaningful content, networking and participating in related groups for the purpose of making connections. In doing so you will learn more about your respective area of focus and begin working to boost yourself to the point of eventually becoming an authority that people look upon as a reliable and definitive source of information in your field area of focus.

On the other hand, if you already have an established small business or have been working within a given field for a number or years, you likely already have a wealth of knowledge and topics at your disposal to begin sharing and discussing. You could blog or create content around your operations or any other interesting aspect of your business. Giving an “inside view” builds a personal relationship that customers value very highly and builds trust and loyalty. You could speak from a potential wealth of past experiences or share lessons learned. You may also already have made connections in person or to some degree online that you can now leverage to make aware of your new branding efforts and already have a dedicated follower base more than willing to remark upon the content that you create – helping your brand grow and gain momentum all the more quickly.

If you are lucky enough to already have an established brand that you are just trying to move into the online and social media space, you will find the move quite easy and will likely be kicking yourself for not getting started earlier. If you do not have a personal or professional brand, it’s simply a matter of picking your focus and getting stared. The barriers of entry and learning curves with social media tools are so forgiving that you really have nothing to lose and an immense amount of value to gain.

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3 Key Lessons Learned in Personal and Business Branding

These last few months have certainly served as a personal learning experience for myself in the world of personal and business branding. Thanks to a MBA course I am currently taking at the University of Nevada in Reno, I’ve really jumped in with both feet and taken control of actively branding myself  (associating my name with a value – a purpose) as well as building some meaningful and lasting personal equity online.

As someone who has really grown into a personal branding evangelist, I thought I’d share what have been my 3 key takeaways and lessons learned while building and managing my brand in the hopes that you will do the same for yourself or your small business.

  1. Building and maintaining a brand is incredible powerful for marketing yourself and your business. Usage of social media and networking sites has skyrocketed. Statistics do not lie and it’s evident that this is not just a fad. Not only is branding your business incredibly effective terms of reaching and converting customers, but it’s extremely cost-effective as well.
  2. Building and maintaining a brand is invaluable for personal growth and advancement. I have touted heavily the benefits of business branding to entrepreneurs and business owners above and in previous posts. However, branding yourself on a personal level can also be incredibly useful to more corporate and career-minded individuals. It is incredibly powerful for advancing your career – even if you don’t plan on working with social/online branding in a direct professional capacity. Blogging and microblogging grant you a forum in which to share your knowledge of your industry and prop yourself to a position of an authority – the “go to” guy or gal. It helps as a resume booster. You would be safe to assume that anyone considering you for a future position will type your name into Google or Bing to see what they can find. The good news is that you have a high degree of control over the results of that search based upon your social media and branding activities. Why not take advantage of that? Why not ensure that your LinkedIn profile, for example, is current and shows the value that you bring as a potential partner or employee, displaying your experience and recommendations from past or current colleagues and business partners?
  3. The tools used in social branding are incredibly powerful for learning and research. I have come to find that there is a group or community for everything. This applies to hobbies, industries, professions and areas of focus alike. Participating in groups on LinkedIn and communities on Twitter as well as in the blogosphere is a great way to connect with others who share your interests and values and to discuss and share new developments in those respective areas. These tools also allow excellent opportunities to put an ear to the ground and hear what your clients and customers are saying. It’s a great way to stay active in your industry and adapt your approach based upon what your customer are saying about current offerings and what they would like to see in the future. Be aware of the kind of reviews your business collects on sites such as Yelp. Social media also provides a great way to connect with other authority figures in your industry and connect with and learn from them.

I’ve been impressed with the growth of my own personal brand over these last few months. My efforts have given me a great opportunity to share and build upon my current knowledge of online resources for entrepreneurs and small business owners, and I certainly recommend that anyone considering jumping in as I have do the same. It’s not a massive time commitment – small doses of regular content are all that you need to start seeing results. So what are you waiting for?

Tweetdeck Possibly Worth $50M to Twitter

The popular social media dashboard tool Tweetdeck is in the news as the WSJ reported yesterday that Twitter is in “advanced talks” to acquire the small company for $50 million. If the report that claims sources consisting of “people close to the matter” is correct, this would mean that Twitter is demonstrating a serious interest in expanding the functionality offered by the website in terms of interacting with others and coordinating the ways that you post and find tweets.

Tweetdeck is one of a group of tools (including Hootsuite and Socialite, among others) that allow you to organize and coordinate your social media efforts. Such tools are extremely useful for those who follow many individuals or topics/hashtags and post frequently as they allow you to view multiple specified streams on a single screen. Tailoring such streams to your liking makes the Twitter experience much more streamlined and navigable and such functionality is understandably something that Twitter would like to call their own, though it’s unclear how twitter may end up using Tweetdeck. Another possible motivator behind the rumored acquisition is that Ubermedia, a potential Twitter competitor, was in talks to purchase Tweetdeck for around $30 million earlier this year. This may be Twitter’s way of letting any potential competition know that they mean business.

Another interesting fact – Tweetdeck, as a company, is comprised of a whole 15 individuals. That’s remarkably impressive and just goes to show the power that these social media giants like Twitter and the third party tools designed to work with them can wield.

So, the question now is – have you looked in to what tools such as Tweetdeck or Hootsuite can do for managing your small business’ social media presence? I plan to write a future blog that goes into their functionality in additional detail. However, I can tell you now that they incredibly easy to get started with and that once you have been using them for even a small period of time it is hard to imagine how you ever lived without them.

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A Social Network for Researchers and Scientists?

On my drive home from work tonight I came across a radio segment discussing Researchgate – a social networking site in existence since 2008 that claims more that 900,000 users from 192 countries and 1,100 social groups.

Having never heard of this before, I decided to look into the site a bit further to see what it was all about and what might make it appealing to researchers as compliment to (or replacement for) their use of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. What apparently sets Researchgate apart from other social media sites is its focus on helping scientific researchers network and become more productive. The site includes forums, job postings, built-in file sharing and a search engine that searches external research databases.

With the amount of research taking place and the number of publications out there, I can certainly see the value of a tool that allows individuals to follow those who may be in the same field or carrying out research and using methods that they find particularly interesting as a method of “filtering out the static”. Apparently, others see value in such a concept as well. The site was initially funded by a former Facebook executive and the same venture capital firm that helped launch Twitter.

I’m curious to know what others, both inside and outside the area of scientific research, think of this concept. This particular site has been around for a couple of years and has collected just under a million somewhat specialized users, so it has to have some appeal. A potential concern is that researchers may be hesitant to share certain information out of the fear that others will steal their ideas. However, the site’s founder, Ijad Madisch, is hopeful that the site will someday be such a valuable resource to the world of scientific research that it lands him a Nobel prize. It’s a great concept and a creative yet practical use of social networking, but I think he may be shooting just a little bit high. What are your thoughts?

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How Smartphones And Social Media Trends Killed The Flip Camera

If you follow blogging-related news closely, you probably heard last week that Cisco is killing off the Flip brand of digital video cameras that it bought from Pure Digital Technologies for over half a billion dollars in 2009. This is particularly relevant to bloggers due to the fact that these cameras were one of the most popular and frequently recommended brands to those just getting into video blogging with their low price point and ease of use for a camera capable of producing HD video. In fact, I recommended them not too long ago in a blog post about the power of video in social branding.

Cisco is choosing to kill the brand as part of a company-wide reorganization intended to steer their focus back to their “key priorities” – namely enterprise customers in the network hardware space. Prodded by a drop in second quarter earnings by 18 percent, Cisco CEO John Chambers made the announcement last Tuesday.

The announcement has certainly come as a shock to some. The cameras have still been selling at decent rates, but not well enough to claim near as strong a market share as Flip saw in 2009 when the company was purchased. It appears that a combination of competition from increasingly capable smartphones and a lack in innovation from Flip has sealed the brand’s fate.

This can be looked at as a testament to the power of social media in a way. In a world where individuals now want to capture HD digital video on a pocket-sized device and instantly upload it to sites such as Youtube or Facebook while on-the-go, the iPhones and droid-powered mobile devices of today grant this ability while the Flip falls short. As the phone makers improved the quality of video that they can capture, the Flip cameras improved video quality little and never developed the ability to connect to the internet wirelessly via wifi or 3G – instead needing to be manually connected to a computer in order to upload video. And so the mighty smartphones have, over time, made the pocket-sized video cameras redundant.

If you already have a  Flip camera and it meets your video blogging needs, great – stick with it. The demise of the brand doesn’t mean that you are now behind the times. The beauty of video blogging is that it’s such a simple format to produce content with. If you are able to churn out HD videos and upload them without issue, that is the important part and the viewer will never know or care how you captured the video. The tools will continue to evolve, but content is the area that most of us will need to keep working on and devoting our attention to.

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Getting The Most Out Of Microblogging

Wikipedia describes microblogging as a broadcast medium of blogging that differs from traditional blogging in that its content is typically smaller in aggregate and actual file size. Sounds simple enough, but what does that actually mean and how can you use this to benefit your small business? It means that microblogging is a great way getting content out there that may not necessarily warrant an entire post on a typical blog. It can benefit your business by providing an additional method of branding yourself or your company through the content that you choose to utilize a given microblogging platform to share.

Of the several microblogging platforms out there, the forerunners are currently Twitter, Tumblr and, to an extent, Facebook. I only say “to an extent” when referring to Facebook because while it can indeed be utilized as a microblogging platform if you choose to utilize the status updates feature, it is also so much more than that and has many additional functions as we all likely know. Twitter and Tumblr, on the other hand, are more or less entirely devoted to microblogging. Sure those posts can be used in various creative ways after they have been posted such as carrying a communication back and forth with another microblogger. However, they are still, in fact, always going to be microblog posts.

Before getting involved with social media to the extent that I am now, I was skeptical about just how useful a tool such as Twitter could be for business. In my defense, I would attribute this old opinion to the way that Twitter is portrayed in pop culture and on television. I really didn’t care to follow Ashton Kutcher or every Justin Bieber and discover what they just ate for lunch. However, after actually getting involved and identifying and following individuals relevant to my interests and areas of focus, I found that Twitter is really an immensely powerful tool for building your own personally tailored group of people relevant to you with whom you share information and become a part of a community. The amount of knowledge sharing that then takes place within these communities is really quite astounding.

As you add individuals who you wish to follow and start producing content, you will find that they and their followers will follow you back, assuming that the content that you are producing is relevant to their interests. As I have mentioned in previous posts regarding other branding endeavors, the key is always to produce remarkable content that adds value and props you up as an authority figure within your given industry or area of focus. You absolutely want to avoid using these powerful tools as a way to push your offers and services upon others, as this will only serve to drive others away. Instead focus on sharing useful information that others will find interesting or relevant and in turn pass along to their followers. As an example, lets assume you sell RVs. Rather than pushing an upcoming sales event, focus on sharing information that would make a perspective customer interested in the experience of RVing. This could mean sharing photos and directions to a great RV friendly campground you just found out about or sharing information about the direction of RVing in general. The possibilities are more numerous than the restrictions.

If you have been holding back with getting involved with a tool such as Twitter, know that it is very easy to get started with and that it provides a very worthwhile amount of information once you have picked up some momentum. It should certainly be a part of any healthy web or social media presence.

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