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The 5 Key Elements of Social Media with SoulWith how competitive the Internet is, how do you stand out from the crowd? How do you make sure your brand doesn’t drown in the social media sea?

While every business owner reaches success in their own way, there are key traits successful business owners utilize to build high-quality, unique brands backed by a loyal tribe of followers.

1. Transparency

Some say being transparent is the ultimate way to connect with your audience and create an accurate depiction of what your brand stands for. Others believe if you reveal too much, you’re putting your brand in unnecessary danger.

But how much is too much? How much is not enough? You don’t want to sound like a robot, but at the same time your readers don’t need to know what kind of sandwich you had for lunch.

How does a brand owner strike a balance between information and anecdotes? The short answer: there’s no such thing. However, there is such a thing as harmony between the two, and each brand owner has to figure out what their sense of harmony consists of.

You shouldn’t worry about whether you’re revealing too much; you should focus on revealing yourself in the right context. Sharing your personal stories helps your readers understand why your passion exists and proves you’re in the trenches with them.

Sharing your personal stories is a big pro, but if you don’t reveal them properly, they can be a big con. You want to use your stories as a gateway for your readers to get to know you, not to show off, or brag, or act like a know-it-all.

Storytelling is an art form, and many bloggers use stories as a way for their audience to connect to what they’re saying and personalize it to their own circumstances. This builds rapport with your readers, and helps you build credibility in your niche.

When incorporating personal anecdotes into your posts, always ask yourself:

  • Does the anecdote support the core of my blog post topic?
  • Is it an anecdote my readers can easily relate to?
  • Is there a lesson they can take away from it?
  • Will they be able to take action and improve their lives?

Integrate your stories so they flow within the key points you want to make. You want to put words in your readers’ mouths they didn’t know were there. You want to verbalize what they’re feeling but are unable to put into words. You want to give them something to think about.

Transparency, done correctly, will mean:

You’ll build trust between you and your reader.

Sharing personal anecdotes on your About page, through your blog posts, and through your social media accounts will help you earn your readers’ trust. Your readers will know you’re accessible and “real,” and they’ll feel good about supporting your brand.

You’ll build strong relationships and customer loyalty.

Your readers will get to know you, and the more you let them in, the more they’ll let you in. They’ll become so comfortable with you they’ll feel compelled to make your brand a part of their everyday lives. More than that, you’ll be giving them a context with which to understand you.

You’ll create a loyal fan base for your brand.

As you launch products and services, your readers won’t question the quality of what you’re offering since you’ve already been providing them with amazing content for so long.

You’ll find it easier to build your following.

Your readers likely know others who share in your passion, and you’ll notice your brand begin to grow with every share and retweet. The more open you are, the more targeted and accurate your readership will become.

You’ll rise to the top.

Everything’s been written about before, but it’s your personal spin on things that will take your brand to the next level. Each unique attribute you bring to the table (or rather, the blog) are what you’ll become best known for.

Every blogger’s bottom line is to become one of the dominant faces in their chosen industry, and the ones who are already there made it by being transparent.

Transparency is you being you, period. Don’t share what you feel your readers want to hear. Share what you know they need to hear.

2. Honesty

While we use robotic forms of technology to market our brands, such as feeds and automation, there’s no reason why how we communicate has to be.

Every top blogger has become a top blogger because of their personality and honest approach to sharing content with their readers.

Darren Rowse, Danny Iny, Gretchen Rubin, Jeff Goins, and plenty more, have built strong foundations for their brands based on honesty and a level of vulnerability that makes them inspiring and easy to relate to.

Gone are the days of the infomercial approach, where the pros of a product or service are shoved down our throats like they’re our knight in shining armor. Now, it’s about honesty, being human.

It’s not about creating a perfect product; it’s about creating an honest product, and you can be honest without being rude. Terez Howard of TheWriteBloggers put it best:

“If you’re always honest, your brutal honesty might scare people away from following you. If you’re always nice, readers might wonder what the deal is if they find you contradicting yourself for the sake of niceness. The solution: be both.”

Aside from the above, top bloggers have four things in common:

  1. Even though they’re known as an expert, they don’t pretend to know everything.
  2. They’re constantly learning, both from their mentors and from their readers to make sure their content is always top-notch.
  3. They share what they learn with those who want to carve their own niche.
  4. They focus on communicating with their readers, not on traffic. Whether they have an audience of 1,000 or 100,000, they always act like they have one reader: you.

Honesty and vulnerability doesn’t equal weakness; the opposite, in fact. They give strength to your connections, and help you build meaningful, “real” relationships that enhance both your life and the lives of your readers.

What they’ll learn from you will teach them strength in their own convictions, and in order for that to happen, you need to be honest about your own.

Besides, isn’t that what being a passionate entrepreneur is all about?

3. Quality

While there are suggested guidelines to creating quality blog posts, don’t fall into the trap of following a specific formula. It will make your content look generic and shallow.

Quality content is a combination of:

  • a strong voice.
  • a unique viewpoint.
  • a stellar approach.

It’s important to use a variety of techniques to best communicate with your readers. Mix and match with each post to keep your content fresh and inviting.

Start by:

  • Choosing a topic and creating an outline of the points you want to cover. Choose one idea, and stick to it.
  • Creating a head-snapping title that will make your readers instantly click on it out of curiosity. This is the most crucial part of getting the attention of your readers, so make it count! Men with Pens once published a post called “You’re An Idiot (And You Should Embrace It.” Titles like this magnetize your readers’ mouse to click on it and read further.
  • Crafting an opening line that hooks them. Two popular ways to hook readers is to start off your post with a question that relates to a problem they’re having, or starting with a personal anecdote that ties in with the post.
  • Using bold headings for each of your points to break up your content and make it easy to read.
  • Creating a call-to-action for the end of your post to spark conversation with your readers.

To help deal with information overload, most people scan articles online and read the points that apply most to their individual situations. If you focus on breaking up your content in various ways, it will make your content easier to read, a.k.a. “scannable.”

Ways to accomplish this include:

  • Incorporating compelling images within your posts as they relate to your most important points. Your readers’ eyes will be drawn to your content thanks to the visual impact of the images you choose.
  • Remaining concise with your words. If you can say something in fewer words, do so. You want your post to pack a punch, and this doesn’t mean writing a novel.
  • Highlighting the most important points of your post with headings, subheadings, bold words, bullet points, block quotes, etc.
  • Keeping your paragraphs short will ensure a reader can comfortably scan your content and receive its full worth.

This is why it’s uber-important to study the top blogs in your niche. Top blogs have already gone through the trenches and have found their unique system for content creation and reader communication.

Study them to see what works, what doesn’t, and create your own identity so your brand doesn’t become an echo chamber of others in your niche.

Know when to break the rules as they suit your voice and demographic. Allow yourself to be brilliant.

4. Opportunity

The one thing that will keep your readers coming back to for more is providing them with opportunity. Be great, and your readers will be motivated to become great too.

You want them to take your words and put them into action. Ways to do so include:

Calls to action

After your reader has finished your stellar post, they’re all fired up, and you need to lead them toward what you want them to do next.

Whether it be asking them a question to compel them to comment, or sending them to a related article, or even encouraging them to check out one of your products, your call to action needs to clearly define the next step they should take.

Pillar Posts

Pillar posts are essentially posts on steroids. They’re much longer than regular blog posts, and are proof of your authority in your niche.

Pillar posts:

  • are longer, detailed posts that give a large amount of value to your reader.
  • are timeless. They have a long shelf life.
  • are easily shared. Pillar posts receive a lot of incoming links from other websites, are ranked higher on search engines, and are most likely to be shared through social networks by your readers. If you want word to spread, pillar posts are key.

Products and Services

As you continue to build your brand you’ll begin to notice what’s missing in your industry. Use this information to create products and services to help your readers take their goals to the next level.

Define the “bleeding neck” problems your readers have – the problems they’re having that need to be solved right now – and create products and services that cater to solving those problems.

Community

Make your blog a place where your readers feel welcome to share their thoughts, insights, and get to know each other. If they feel at home, your blog will become one of the central places they visit for new information and inspiration.

Content Curation

Follow the top blogs in your niche, news sites as they relate to your industry, and stay up-to-date on the latest trends. Share this information with your followers through your social media accounts. Find the information your readers are in desperate need of, and watch your following grow.

5. Authenticity

Being authentic should be the easiest element of building your brand, but many get caught in the trap of being who they feel they need to be for purposes of connecting with the right audience.

Being professional doesn’t equal being stiff.

Sure, there are basic rules to follow when blogging and engaging with your audience through social media, but they’re not set in stone. Consider the suggestions you read as guidelines, and you’ll immediately breathe out and come one step closer to creating your authentic voice.

It’s easier to be authentic than you might think, and here’s why:

Being authentic is being yourself.

Don’t be an echo of other blogs in your niche – be you. The way to your reader’s hearts is through connecting with them on a personal level.

Let go of all preconceived notions of what you think your brand “should” be, and create your brand how you want it to be. In fact, consider the word “should” no longer a part of your vocabulary.

You’ll find it a lot easier to create blog posts and share information through your social media accounts, because you’ll be creating and sharing from a genuine perspective.

Being authentic is being a friend.

Our friends are our friends for a reason. They’re who we feel most comfortable around. They’re who we can depend on to accept us for who we are. They’re who we can ramble on endlessly to about things that matter to us most.

Your followers are your friends too. If you want them to open up to you about what’s on their minds to create the best possible brand for your niche, you have to take the first step. Write to them as if you’re sitting with them, having a coffee (or a caramel macchiato if you’re feeling fancy).

As your followers open up to you, you’ll learn more about your niche and the void your brand needs to fill than through any research and statistics you find on your own.

Being authentic is being a voice.

You are your brand, and your voice is a representation of what your brand stands for. You’re also the voice of your readers, who are following you because they share in your convictions. The more you let your natural voice speak, the more distinctive your brand will become.

As your brand grows and you become more well-known, no matter what you write – blog posts, eBooks, or guest posts – your followers will know it’s written by you before reading the byline.

Much like musicians, each piece you write to communicate on behalf of your brand will have its own flare, but similar threads of truth your followers will use to connect with you.

You might be wondering, “How do I know what my voice sounds like?”

Think about the last time you went on a passionate rant about something. Remember how naturally the words flowed (or perhaps, shot) right out of your mouth? Communicate with your audience using that same “oomph,” and there’s your voice.

In Conclusion

As artist and writer Hugh MacLeod once said, “Don’t try to stand out from the crowd; avoid crowds altogether.”

The level of success you want to reach and how you’ll do so is already in your DNA.

Always Remember:

  • Use personal stories to build rapport with your readers.
  • Honest + nice = trustworthy.
  • Quality content should be based on your voice and the needs of your readers, not on a formula.
  • Provide your readers with as many opportunities as you can to help them grow, thrive, and succeed. Be their guide.
  • Being authentic is your key to greatness.

What key elements are you currently using? Are there more you would add to this list?

Photo Credit: Gimme Five by billaday

Post with PurposeYou know the importance of building a social media following for your brand, but are you really using this knowledge to your advantage?

Are you building significant buzz, or are you posting only because you’ve been told how important it is?

If you feel like you’re floundering through the social media waters, here’s how to reel in your random acts of marketing and get your audience talking.

Define Your Why

What are the objectives for your brand? I’m not referring to business objectives; I’m referring to emotional objectives.

Everything we want to accomplish is because of a deep-seated, personal desire. What are your personal reasons for wanting to build your brand? These reasons are what will drive your social media following to grow and word to spread about what your brand stands for.

Your “why” is what you’ll use to build a community of like-minded people who will support your brand for the long haul. If you don’t have a clear definition in place, your audience won’t have anything to connect to or take action with.

Your brand is a representation of who you are as an online entrepreneur. Your “why” is what your following will use to identify with you and your brand. Without your “why” clearly defined, your “what” and “how” won’t matter.

Your “why” is what your audience will use to become inspired in their own lives and take action through your offerings. It will become their definition of the value your brand brings to their lives.

Clearly define your values and build your brand around those values. Create a point-form list you can refer to each time you update your social media accounts. This will ensure the content you’re delivering is always aligned with your message.

Define Your Purpose

Now that you’ve defined the emotional aspects of how your audience will connect with you, how will you take this information and turn it into stellar content and resources for your readers?

More than that, what is the purpose behind you doing so? What do you want your audience to do with this information once they learn it?

It’s no longer about why your brand is better than another – it’s about how you differentiate yourself from your competition, and the unique value your brand has to offer your following.

It’s about setting yourself apart, offering information, products and services beyond what your competition offers.

Define the most important elements of your brand, and prioritize them in order of importance. Making a mental note of the elements you want to become known for will help ensure your content is always on the mark.

Never (I repeat, never), deter from your purpose. Random posts that have nothing to do with your brand, regardless of entertainment value will confuse – and sometimes disappoint – your target audience.

Every single post has to be useful to your following in some way. Don’t waste a tweet on something random when you could use it to influence your target audience.

Your posts should always enlighten, educate, and inspire.

Set Specific Goals

What do you want your brand to mean to your followers? Answering this important question will help you set goals and make sure the contribution you want to make to your industry is met.

The more specific the goal, the more likely you’ll reach it. S.M.A.R.T. goals are:

  • Smart
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Timely

Start by creating general goals outlining the ways you’re going to influence your followers. For example, your general goal list might include:

  • Blogging
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Blog Comments

Your S.M.A.R.T. goal list might include:

  • Write two blog posts per week, and launch the blog posts on Mondays and Fridays.
  • Post to Facebook 3 times per day: once in the morning, in the afternoon, and in the evening.
  • Post to Twitter once per hour.
  • Post to Pinterest twice per day: once at 2pm, and once at 4pm.
  • Comment on one industry blog related to your niche per day.

By clearly defining your social media goals, you’ll be able to successfully integrate them into your daily social media schedule.

Be Consistent

Once you’ve created a blogging and social media schedule for your brand, do everything you can to maintain it.

There are plenty of tools you can use to help you accomplish this. For your blog, use the Editorial Calendar plugin to plan your blog posts in advance. This will ensure your content stays varied enough to maintain your followers’ interest, but targeted enough to always maintain your brand’s message.

For your social media posts, use scheduling programs such as Buffer or HootSuite to make sure your social media accounts are always filled with fresh content.

Do a daily check-in for blog and social media post comments to maintain reader engagement, and to confirm the information you’re providing is truly benefitting your audience.

According to Hubspot, companies that auto-publish to social media generate 50% more leads, so make your posts count!

Consistency is not only key in your social media scheduling, but in the level of information you provide to your following. You have to show, again and again, that what you say is what you mean, and what your audience believes in is important to you.

Consistency doesn’t just build your brand’s credibility. The repetition of your brand’s message will help your brand become top of mind for anyone who is in need of your products and services.

When you think of Nike, you think “just do it.” Every single ad, every single image, every single video, and every single product that Nike promotes to their target audience inspires them to succeed and simultaneously drives their brand messaging home.

With how fast changes occur in our lives, giving your followers a brand they can depend on will make them feel comfortable, secure, and inspired.

Define What Success Means to You

Obviously, your ultimate goal is to make a living through your brand, but in order to reach your ultimate goal you have to define what your other success points will be.

Building your brand’s following is one thing, but what will you do with your following once you’ve built it? With how much time you’re going to be spending on your social media efforts, you need to create highly specific benchmarks to define the ROI (return on investment) you’re looking to receive.

Otherwise, you’ll spin your tires, and your brand won’t stand out amongst those who are also looking to amp up their online marketing efforts.

It’s not about how many followers you have; it’s about how many quality followers you have – those who will stand by your brand, comment on your posts, and share your information with their friends, family, co-workers, and online following.

You don’t want to build a large following, and then think to yourself, “Now what?”

In order to grow your brand, you need to analyze where you currently stand – which social media accounts are receiving the most activity, the content mediums sending you the most traffic – so you can get to know your audience and learn the best ways to communicate with them.

Posting with purpose will help you build toward your ultimate goal of making a living doing what you love.

Always Remember:

  • Define your why based on the emotional connection you want to make with your audience.
  • Define your brand’s purpose not on the purpose you want it to have for you, but the purpose you want it to have for your audience.
  • Make every social media goal you set a S.M.A.R.T. one.
  • Be consistent, both with your posting routine and your brand’s messaging.
  • Define success benchmarks for your brand to help you reach your ultimate business goals.

What steps do you take to ensure your posts always fulfill your target audience’s needs?

Photo Credit: Audience by Jacob Batter

I had a great conversation with Leo Babauta of ZenHabits.net on my radio show, One Click Society. He didn’t build a base of more than 200,00 subscribers in four years with just his good looks! He has a way of knowing what the people want and giving it to them. He succeeds by empowering others. It’s all very Zen-like, for a reason….

“Basically, I don’t like receiving spam or junk or a lot of promotions. I don’t like ads myself when I’m reading someone else’s site, and so, for my site, I wanted it to be consistent with what I like and so I try to be as simple as possible. I think really what I have is my reputation and people’s trust in me, and I think if I spam them or try and over-promote my stuff or other people’s stuff, it erodes that trust over time and eventually they think, “This guy’s trying to sell to me.” But when they feel like this is someone who just wants to really help me and share what he’s learned, then I think that trust can stay for a long time, and it forms a good relationship with my readers That’s really what I’m looking for.

Listen to my entire interview with Leo here.

Just click here to download the transcript of my discussion with Leo Babauta