A lot goes into developing a brand that embodies all that your business is and does. Although you might think there’s little more to it than selecting a name, a logo, and associated marketing materials, your brand image does a lot more than that; it tells consumers who you are, what you stand for, and how you want to be seen by the public, the press, investors, and anyone else who might be taking a look. But branding strategies have grown even more complex over the past decade thanks to the widespread use of online platforms for business promotion. On the one hand, it’s exciting to think that even small businesses can gain recognition on a global scale. But marketing to a worldwide audience is different than promoting your brand locally or even nationally. And finding ways to acquire customers in the vastness of the online arena requires a whole new way of thinking. So here are just a few branding tips to help in your online pursuits.
- Build a home base. Any online venture must start with a single, operational hub, and for most businesses this is a website. Your online presence begins and ends with a dedicated web address that allows customers to find you and that provides a portal to act as a first impression of your company and a point of sale for your products or services. It will also be hub for expanding your online network, providing the virtual foundation from which all of your branding efforts spring. After all, what good is it to list with online directories, build a social media following, and even advertise online if consumers have no recourse but to seek you out in the real world rather than simply clicking through to your business website?
- With literally thousands of new websites springing up every day (nearly a million a week, on average, launched in 2012), you can imagine that you’ll face a lot of competition in the online arena, which means you’ll have to find ways to be heard above the din, so to speak. Search engine optimization has emerged as perhaps the very best way to ensure that your online presence extends beyond your current consumer base or word of mouth. When you make an effort to ensure that Google (and other) search bots find you at every turn, you can raise your page rank to the point that you are one of the top listings for specific search terms, helping to generate a steady influx of targeted consumers that are seeking what you have to offer.
- Utilize tools. There are so many tools at your disposal when it comes to using online branding in your efforts to acquire new customers. Suppose, for example, you decide to launch a viral video campaign as a way to spread your brand name, attract the attention of previously unaware consumers, and entice them to patronize your brand. You’ll need platforms like YouTube or Vine to launch your videos and encourage sharing, as well as tracking and analytic tools that can deliver data about how your video is used, liked, shared, spread, and converted.
- Damage control. It’s not enough to know what people are saying about you online; you need to find ways to control the tone of that content and ensure that rival companies, disgruntled employees, and unsatisfied customers aren’t smearing your brand unfairly. Social media monitoring is an important part of this process, but you can also hire image consultants and online reputation management firms to help you with the heavy lifting.
- Spread the word. There is no shortage of inroads to consumers online, from listing with targeted and brilliant directories to setting up social media accounts, to running promotions with industry blogs. No matter what strategies you choose to pursue, though, you need to make sure that you track consumer response in order to ensure that your branding efforts are as efficient and effective as possible, helping to spread your message and delivering the returns you seek.