As an entrepreneur, in many ways you’re selling the idea of you, not just your products and services. Your clients aren’t buying from a big corporate brand, so they need to get a sense of you – what you represent, your values and your beliefs. They want to know that they can do business with you. Making sure you represent that story and voice on all your online spaces can be the difference between excellence and confusion.
As in all cases, it’s about the what, but also the how.
Just like in real life, active networking is a key strategy to building a core personal and business brand. It does mean stretching yourself, as in real life, to take action and in some cases to push yourself into taking that extra step. There are, among us, the gregarious, externally oriented folks who are energized by the prospect of meeting new people and engaging with old contacts. For those of us who may be a little uncomfortable with networking, you may find yourself better motivated by giving yourself specific goals to that networking effort. Consider all your online platforms – your website, blog, LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter – as tools for appropriate networking. In each case, you set forth a personable and engaging personality, listen to those who engage with you on each platform and respond effectively. By the way, you don’t have to do all of them! Find the ones that make the most sense for your industry and your workflow-and your life-flow.
Just like in real life, active networking is a key strategy to building a core personal and business brand.
What does it mean to establish and display a consistent and authentic online personality? It starts with knowing what you would like to stand for. In Roopa’s case, as she developed her online brand, she set out to be thoughtful about innovation, leadership, strategy and business culture. She is also a coach, so her efforts often drive her to help her clients get to the answer themselves, not just telling them the answer. Her consulting hinges on having a nuanced understanding of all of these organizational drivers. In addition, her real-life and online personality melded – her intent is to be helpful and thoughtful. So her online voice is personified by her asking a thoughtful question about interesting phenomena she sees or articles she finds. Spend some time on her blog or Twitter feed and you’ll see what we mean.
Also recognize that this effort will take some time and discipline. In Sree’s case, this means a strategic use of a series of tools – Hootsuite, Crowdbooster, SocialFlow – and he likes to remind people that his tweets can take three-six minutes to craft. Getting 140 characters to truly represent your best thinking is not a trivial task. If you can, try and schedule a set time on your calendar, maybe even a 30-minute block first thing in the morning, to set up a Hootsuite (or Buffer) feed that will automatically post throughout the day – setting up your insights to hit your different networks at appropriate times during the work day.
Experiment and take chances – there are many free platforms out there for you. Find out where the right customer groups and eyeballs live for your specific business. For example, if yours is a fun product that is publicly used, maybe an Instagram and Pinterest feed that shows your product being used in fun and funky ways. If it’s about thought leadership, marshall the resources of LinkedIn, join the right groups where your thinking will be seen and recognized for its expertise. Watch the take-up of your work and then refine your use of the platform to put your best personality and assets forward.
Now take that big next step – let your physical and virtual worlds collide. Find those people you meet in routine and professional events, online. Engage with them, watch them, be supportive of them. Then draw the insights you see online into real life.
Always remember, online platforms are not just broadcast platforms – they are listening posts. Be expansive, listen to the topics that charge you up, and that are relevant. Sree recommends obsessing about “followees” as much as followers, because they will serve up extremely rare nuggets of information. In the end it’s not who follows you on social that matters – it’s who follows who follows you. Find and connect with influencers in your field.
Some concrete steps for you to take:
- Identify your brand drivers: What do you and what do you want to stand for?
- Recognize your voice: Be clear on how you want to sound online – thoughtful? irreverent? provocative? helpful? It doesn’t matter which – it should just be authentic to you or who you think your brand would be.
- Be clear on your goal: Are you selling or influencing? Both are important, but branding is about the latter, not the former.
- Experiment with platforms: test platforms on a trial basis to see what suits your target customers and influencers
- Choose a few paid tools that can make your work easier, including Crowdbooster, Hootsuite, SocialFlow (depending on your budget).
- Remember it’s about a suite of platforms: Things change online, and you shouldn’t be dependent on one platform. More importantly, each platform has its strengths, so make sure to use them well.
- Study Sree’s social media tips, which he’s been posting on Twitter with #LearnSocMedia and collecting at http://bit.ly/sreesocmedia
- Have fun: See Sree’s Social Media Success Formula