By Harald Meyer-Delius.
“If you’re not on the internet. You don’t exist.”
Seth Godin said that – or maybe it was Winston Churchill? Whoever it was, they had a point. Dramatic? Definitely, but not any less true. If someone Google’s (it’s a verb now, right?) your business and it doesn’t show up, then you’re as good as dead.
But you already know this.
You’ve been doing the online branding thing for a while now and it’s not working! Your brand doesn’t have that many followers on social media or maybe it does, but they’re not converting. Or maybe you don’t know this stuff, and are just preparing to hop onto this whole online marketing train everyone keeps talking about.
Either way, you’ll be able to find some helpful tips in this post.
These tips are probably not going to be a magic cure for your branding problems (it’s not a 12 step program, after all), but are meant instead to refresh your online marketing strategy.
And if you’re a newbie then it should give you an idea of where you can start.
Here are 33 tips to refresh your online branding:
1. Be prepared to spend some money
If you want to make money, you need to spend money. A cliché, but it’s true. When it comes to online marketing that means investing in AdWords, social media campaigns, and content creation tools, among others.
2. Double check your mission and vision
Sometimes all it takes is going back to basics, revisit your brand’s mission and vision and make sure it translates to your online presence, including website and social media. This might be as simple as rewriting the bio section on your Twitter account or something a bit more complex like reconsidering the values you want to uphold through the content you produce.
The Skimm is a good example of a brand that knows how to translate their message into different platforms. The premise is simple enough, a daily newsletter with the skimmed version of the most important news of the day. What made them stand out was the witty and approachable voice in which they are written. With the simple tagline “theSkimm makes it easier to be smarter” the startup has successfully expanded through several channels and delivers the news to millions of people daily.
3. Revisit your target audience
Do you know who they are? If you do, then it wouldn’t hurt to revisit your buyer persona and make sure that your current online marketing efforts are aligned with her/him. If you don’t know who your target audience is, then it’s time to get crackin’!
4. Go over your SWOT
For the less marketing savvy, SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. They should be written down for every business and, in this market that is constantly changing, double checked every once in a while. They will help guide your online marketing strategy.
5. Strive for authenticity, not originality
They tend to get mixed up, but they are very different. Being original is about being different while being authentic is about being yourself. When brands are original for the sake of it, it can be seen as fake and that puts people off. This applies to everything you do.
Like any other high-end fashion house, Kate Spade cares a lot about its brand ambassadors. What makes the company stand out from the rest, though is its whimsical vision. For example, in their latest campaign they signed on Miss Piggy as a spokesperson. It is not the first time a clothing line hired a fictional character to model for them, but Miss Piggy is far more endearing than Lighting from Final Fantasy XIII. It ads a sense of humour that often lacks in that industry.
6. Make sure all of your visuals are on point
In order to have a cohesive online branding strategy, all of your graphics need to be coordinated. This is not just your logo, it also entails brand colour swatches, fonts and even the type of images you share. Hire a graphic designer if necessary. When you have visual continuity, it is easier for potential clients to identify you.
7. Grow your website traffic
Easier said than done, right? There are several ways to do this: invest in AdWords, update more often, optimize for SEO, publish a blog, link from your social media profiles, etc… Pick the tools that make sense to your industry and target audience.
8. Make your website mobile friendly
It goes without saying that nowadays smartphones are a big part of online marketing: those who don’t adapt their content to this platform could be missing out on potential leads. And don’t worry, thanks to pre-designed mobile friendly templates, there’s no need to hire a web developer.
Square Space offers good looking, easy to use, mobile friendly templates for all kinds of businesses*.
* I swear to God, we’re not sponsored by them (I wished). I just know this from experience.
9. Include location-based keywords in your content
If you’re targeting or offering services in a specific location, make sure you sprinkle your content with words related to that area. It helps to rank whenever someone is looking for services near your site.
10. Make it easy for your clients to leave reviews
May them be in Trustpilot, Yelp, or any other platform that’s relevant to your business, reviews build trust in your brand for both Google and future customers.
11. Get into email marketing
If you haven’t done so already, of course. Platforms like Mailchimp (one of the best) offer free services until a certain number of contacts is reached. Some may consider email to be obsolete, but in 2016, 89% of marketers state that email is their first source for lead generation.
Nerd Fitness is a company with an email marketing strategy that’s on point. Their mission is to offer comprehensive fitness and nutrition tips to, well, nerds! In an industry where smugness tends to reign, their humorous and self-aware approach is very refreshing. Once you sign up with them, the academy will send you a weekly email to help you keep up with your training and diet. The content, while sometimes extensive, is easy to digest – and if you fall off the wagon, they’ve got your back.
12. Consider Remarketing
Some people find it annoying, while others think its downright stalking, but it’s undeniably effective. Remarketing is not for everyone, though. Depending on your brand and products it might even be detrimental. To find out if you should try it, here are some basics.
But only if you are willing to put in the work and update regularly. Little does it do to upload a poor article every three months, which leads us to our next tip…
14. (Good) content is king
Not too long ago in order to climb on Google, all you needed to do was publish content filled with related keywords, but not so much anymore. Algorithms notice and shun those practices. In order to be shared and found you’ll need to produce useful and engaging content.
Known for their beautiful covers and affordable prices, publishing company Penguin creates not just books, but also online content for bookworms. Standouts are its blog and a podcast where they interview some of the best contemporary authors.
15. And don’t forget about your website
Nothing says “I’m not serious about it” quite like a forgotten website. Make sure to review it at least once a month to make sure everything is up to date, from work hours to product offers.
16. Use proper grammar
It may sound like a no-brainer, but proper grammar and spelling are imperative for online marketing. If necessary, hire a copywriter or have someone else proofread everything before publishing. You’d be surprised by how many potential clients can be turned off by a typo.
TightsPlease, a British company that used to sell (you guessed it) tights online, saw its conversations rise by 80% once the typo “Tihgts” was changed to “Tights” on one of their landing pages. But apparently, it wasn’t enough to keep them afloat as the company is not in business anymore.
17. Consider video
18. Distribute, distribute, distribute
It doesn’t matter if you hire Stephen Covey to write for your blog, if you don’t distribute it, then nobody is going to read it. Share on your social media profiles (that one is obvious), but also approach other bloggers (guest blogging), contact influencers, comment on forums, relevant online groups and even YouTube videos.
19. Select your social media channels strategically
It may be tempting to jump on every social media platform and start posting away. After all, you want to be found, right? Yes and no. Open an account on every platform to secure your name and just focus on two or three. Pick only those that are relevant to your target audience.
20. By the way, it’s called social media and not sales media for a reason
Social media is a place to build a community and engage with your audience – not to sell. If you ignore this basic rule, you may find potential customers running away from your brand.
21. Tell the same story offline
If your business has a physical store and your employees are directly dealing with customers, consider branding them as well. A great work uniform can help to tell the story of your brand.
22. Engage, but don’t overdo it
While it is understandable that you may want to answer to as many people as possible, it is important to remember that not every situation deserves a reply.
American Airlines learned it the hard way when they set up an automatic response to every single user that tweeted them. As you can imagine, things didn’t go that well.
23. Encourage user generated content (UGC)
UGC is a great and organic way to promote your brand through content without having to actually create it! This type of promotion builds trust in your brand and allows for a different type of interaction with followers. Here is a simple guide on how to dive in.
Starbucks is a great example of a brand that embraces UGC, their Twitter feed is filled with retweeted pictures of followers and they’ve also organised several contests where they ask customers to customize the famous cup.
24. Address problems as quickly as possible
Social media changed the customer service game completely. It allows brands to answer any inquiries and problems immediately – so do it! It you don’t address it, it might get worse or you could leave a customer feeling ignored.
Oreo is a perfect example of a brand that replies to their audience, even when most would just rather hit the “ban” button. On their Facebook page, you’ll find hordes of complaints from the flavour of the cookies to about how Nabisco moved their factories to Mexico. Whenever they reply, the person handling the account (who deserves an award) does not take the bait and answers politely and sensibly, which leads us to the next tip…
25. Don’t give into trolls
The Internet is a double edged sword. While it allows us to reach potential customers all over the globe, it also empowers anonymous troublemakers. Don’t let Gizmo get wet* and don’t feed the trolls – it will only make it worse. If it gets really bad you can always block them, or like feminine protection brand Bodyform did, use humor.
In a response to a rather unenlightened comment on its Facebook page, the company released the hilarious video above.
* If you get that reference then you’re old like me.
26. Don’t share just your content
Huffington Post is number one when it comes to Facebook, and unlike one might expect from an online news publisher like them, part of their social media strategy is sharing content from third party members.
It becomes obvious when you just promote your own content. Mix it up with other people’s stuff to make it more enjoyable for your followers and remember to always…
27. Post constantly, but don’t overwhelm
There’s a lot of competition out there, so in order to not get lost amongst the latest meme or political debate it is important to update often. How often? That’s more difficult to answer, it depends on the platform, but most people agree you should post at least once on all of them.
28. Consider teaming up with an influencer
We often associate them with video games and make up tutorials, but there are influencers in every industry. Approach a content creator that matches your brand. Tapping into this source allows your business to get exposure.
29. Use trends and hashtags, carefully
Using a trending hashtag or treating a popular subject may expose you to many users you wouldn’t have access to otherwise, but make sure you know what you’re talking about or you may get the wrong kind of attention. Most social media fails are caused by the incorrect use of a hashtag or subject. Don’t be part of the statistic.
American brand DiGiorno Pizza learned the hard way when it decided to sell frozen pizza on Twitter by using a hashtag meant to shed light on the stories of women who had survived abusive relationships. Oops…
30. Let your coworkers be a part of your online marketing campaign
This shouldn’t be an extra chore for them. Simply encourage them to add the company’s website to their social media profiles and tag them whenever you share content that’s relevant to their interests.
31. At least once a week, make some time to see what’s new
It may be doing research, listening to a podcast or taking a webinar. It is important to stay on top of marketing trends or you may run the risk of staying behind.
32. Leverage analytics
Analyzing data may be too abstract to some, but it is fundamental if you want to become better at what you do. Google analytics and the respective tools for each social media platform can be your best friends.
33. Humor sells
Everyone likes to laugh! Don’t be afraid to add some humor into your brand (if it applies), it will only make you look more human.1
If you don’t believe us, take a look at Innocent Drink’s Twitter account. It’s not “roll on the floor” type of humour, it’s more on the cute and quirky side, but we can’t stop ourselves from scrolling down.
Ad there you have them, 33 actionable tips for online branding. Remember that it’s never too late to start your online branding strategy or to revamp the one you already have.
Harald is an aspiring author (and brunch enthusiast) that has worked on many different fields from publishing to illustration and nonprofit organisations. In his spare time he likes to read, do yoga and waste time watching Youtube videos. Read more of his thoughts at Printsome.