This week we look at how to build your brand identity using social media.
So far this season, we have looked at building your e-mail list, search engine optimization, and designing your website. All these are critical because they are your face to your customer that you own. No one can take this away from you. You are not at the mercy of a website’s algorithm; you cannot be made to pay to be represented on your site. However, without paid advertising, it is unlikely that anyone will find your site unless you have a social media presence. Just hanging out your shingle will not get you much business, so a social media strategy is essential.
Let me be candid here; social media is hard work. Take LinkedIn as an example. Only about 1% of users post articles, 9% comment on posts, and 90% consume content. Despite the power of LinkedIn to help you connect with your potential clients, only some people can find the time or the discipline to post. And even fewer folks can find the energy to post regularly. And has been shown by research that posting consistently is the key to success.
Let’s dive into planning your social media strategy.
Social media branding is simple, but it’s not easy. While the idea behind building and maintaining your brand on social media seems straightforward (e.g., set up an account, set up your posting schedule, and post consistently), the details can get unwieldy.
The challenge becomes even more acute for consultants and coaches since reputation makes up a considerable part of your business model. Social media is an excellent place for consultant coaches to showcase their expertise and position themselves as thought leaders.
Today’s post provides a brief but complete guide to building your brand identity strategy. Please remember that in creating these guides, I am sharing with you the best information I have found on the Internet, as, like you, I am a bit of a novice in building a consulting business from scratch. I have a consulting business that delivers a six-figure income, but that was created by working with the CFO Centre, a leading provider of Fractional CFOs. Today much of the content comes from Rebecca Matias, writing for Call Box Inc. I have supplemented her article with my thoughts and research, but I fully credit Rebecca for her excellent article. Next week I will share what I have learned on how to build valuable content. For the balance of season 10, I will share my trials, tribulations, and hopefully some successes in implementing what I have shared with you.
Building your brand entity depends on four essential things to work as expected: identity, audience, content, and design. It would be best to nail each of these down before creating your strategy.
Your brand identity is simply the things that people think of when they come across your company or service. Your brand identity conveys your firm’s purpose, values, and qualities to your target audience. It goes beyond brand identifiers like logos, typography, and colors. It’s everything that your brand identifiers represent.
To clearly define your brand identity, carefully go through the following checklist (brought to us by Andrew Spence at Jiggle Digital):
• Know your firm’s position relative to competitors (a SWOT analysis)
• Define your mission and set what your company strives to achieve
• Explain why you exist (How do you improve your clients’ lives?)
• Describe your brand’s personality
• Craft your unique value proposition (the value that no one else can deliver except your firm)
There’s no hard-and-fast formula for success in social media branding. But the surest way to fail (borrowing an idea from Herbert Bayard Swope) is by trying to appeal to everyone. Narrowing your target audience strengthens your branding since targeted messages are more relevant and compelling.
Aside from identifying your audience, you must also understand them inside out. That means getting into their shoes and learning about their problems, motivations, and needs.
Different sources suggest different ways to narrow your social media branding audience, but the key steps are:
1. Create audience personas (profiles based on age, gender, job title, income, hobbies, and interests—to name a few)
2. Study how your current clients interact with other brands and users on social media
3. Look at your competitors’ social media audience (check out competitors’ followers and fans, including their social media activities)
4. Estimate your audience size (use tools like Facebook Ad Manager and LinkedIn Ad Targeting to determine your reach)
The content you share on social media helps define the brand image you’re trying to project. It’s essential to know the difference between content for branding vs. conversion-oriented content. Branding-focused content seeks to grow the size of your audience, while lead-generation content taps into the audience you’re already reaching to identify potential new clients.
Social media speaker Rebekah Radice recommends building your content strategy using what you know about your audience and finding out what content types get the most interactions on social media. For starters, she suggests experimenting with any of the following content types:
• Blog posts
• Case studies
• Special Reports
• White papers
• Workbooks / Downloads
• Podcast interviews
• Checklists / How-to’s
• Video guides and tutorials
If you listened to my shows during season 8, you might notice the similarity of this list to actions Dorie Clark recommends in her book Entrepreneurial You. If you missed those broadcasts, you would find it worth your time to listen to Episodes 45 to 52. Dorie has much to teach us.
This may be another one of my digressions, but it is worth keeping in mind that people learn differently. Some experts have identified up to 7 ways people learn but let’s look at the four most commonly recognized ways of learning.
Visual – Visual learners can better retain information when presented in a graphic depiction, such as arrows, charts, diagrams, symbols, and more. Similar to how designers use visual hierarchy to emphasize specific design elements, visual learners thrive with clear pictures of information hierarchy.
Auditory – Sometimes referred to as “aural” learners, auditory learners prefer listening to information presented vocally. These learners work well in group settings where vocal collaboration is present and may enjoy reading aloud to themselves, too.
Reading & Writing – Focusing on the written word, reading and writing learners succeed with written information on worksheets, presentations, and other text-heavy resources. These learners are note-takers and perform strongly when they can reference written text.
Kinesthetic – Taking a physically active role, kinesthetic learners are hands-on and thrive when engaging all their senses during coursework. These learners tend to work well in scientific studies due to the hands-on lab component of the course.
Using social media, it is a challenge to provide a hands-on experience, but the first three – Visual, auditory, and reading/writing can be covered; you may want to consider providing a mix of the three types. The final design is another part of building your brand identity.
Social media is primarily a visual channel. That’s why good design goes hand-in-hand with compelling content in social media branding. Visual elements influence the way your social media followers see your brand identity. So, it pays to maintain consistent design practices across your social media assets that align with your brand image.
Having a social media style guide helps in bringing a coherent brand experience to your social media audience, no matter which platform they interact with your brand. As I have said in the past, this is an area I find challenging; being color blind and with less than artistic eye, I recommend you listen to some of the excellent branding experts available on IBGR.network.
As I said at the outset, building your brand identity is hard work, progress may seem slow, but eventually, it will deliver tangible results.