Many businesses, particularly small businesses and freelancers, are confused about branding. They see branding as something that’s only for the big boys — Coca-Cola, Gap, Wal-Mart, Amazon, etc. Small businesses, in this worldview, aren’t brands. They don’t have the money or time to spend on branding. They’re just, well, businesses.
Spending money on branding isn’t what makes you a brand. Anyone who puts themselves out there is a brand. Small businesses are brands. Freelancers are brands. Job seekers are brands. Rock stars are brands. High school garage bands performing their first gigs are brands. Your local corner store is a brand.
In a world where every individual can establish a micro-brand, every brand matters.
Your brand is the way people talk about you. And if you’re putting yourself out there, people will be talking. People label your business based on what you do and the way you look. Their opinions and attitudes are your brand. Brands are a constructed identity. Ignore branding, and you leave the construction to your customers. Take branding seriously, and you join them on the identity construction site.
Which would you prefer?
This week’s featured Social Caffeine ebook is 10 Commandments for Building a Brand on Twitter. Inside, you’ll find the marketing know-how for your brand to ROCK IT on Twitter.
After February 15, the book will go back to its regular price of $2.99.
Just in case you’d like to try before you “buy”, here’s an excerpt:
Why Twitter is Non-Negotiable for Brands
Ever since cavemen shared the spoils of their hunt, farmers bartered produce, and merchants hawked their wares on the streets of ancient cities, business has been about relationships. You gain business by building relationships and getting to know people. Even in high-end business-to-business (B2B) selling, perhaps especially in the B2B market, this holds true.
The fundamentals haven’t changed. Relationships build trust. Trust leads to sales. The hard sell drives people away. But the tools available to build relationships have changed. Using social media has become vital for every brand.
Twitter is one of the new tools, and using it well is crucial for any successful brand in today’s world. Twitter is a place to connect with others, to listen to what they have to say, and to learn from them. All businesses can learn by listening more carefully to their customers. It’s also a place to develop a loyal community of followers.
Twitter has become non-negotiable for the 21st-century business. Being web-savvy isn’t enough. You must be social media-savvy too. Twitter has 140 million users sending out 340 million tweets per day. Half a million new Twitter accounts are created each day. Your customers and potential customers are there, building your brand for you and waiting for you to engage.
Twitter builds your brand through social proof, customer service, and networking. Let’s examine why:
We’ve plunged into the 21st century, and your customers expect your business to be present on social media. By joining Twitter, you’re taking an important step in showing potential customers you’re trustworthy.
Being on social media is the 21st-century equivalent of being in the Yellow Pages. Back in the 20th century, people would look in the Yellow Pages for a reputable business. Now they look to Twitter in the same fashion.
Twitter alone can’t make you a trusted brand, but being on Twitter is a necessary step in establishing trust. If you’re not there, your customers will wonder what you have to hide. Twitter builds trust because it helps to put your customers’ minds at rest. They know you’re available for immediate contact if they have any problems with your product.
Being available on Twitter is also fantastic for customer service. You can use Twitter to monitor customer complaints, even if they’re not addressed to you, and you can respond quickly and directly.
A recent consumer research survey by Maritz found that 5% of customers have complained about a product or service on Twitter. The same survey found that 85% of those who’ve posted a positive or negative comment online about a product have never been contacted in response to the comment.
By tracking what people are saying about your business online, and responding to comments, your brand will stand out from the crowd as one of the good guys who looks out for and takes care of their customers.
Have you ever tried to contact the CEO of a company to make a complaint, looked for an email or telephone number where someone would respond, or read through the terms and conditions of a product you’ve bought, struggling to understand a single sentence? I’ve been in all of these situations, and they make me angry. If you’re forcing your customers into these situations, you’re probably making them angry too.
Twitter shatters these barriers. Your customers can get in touch directly with you, one-to-one, and they like that. They don’t have to battle with a gatekeeper. They can engage directly in conversation with you. Your business can no longer hide behind jargon and legalese; you’re forced to engage.
For some businesses, this can be a major shift in mindset. By learning to interact well on Twitter and engage directly with your customers rather than holding them at arm’s length, you’ll learn to communicate better with all your customers. Your internal communications will likely improve as well.
Good brands know what their customers want, and they find out by listening.
Twitter is a 24/7 conversation, a giant, worldwide dinner party, and the door is open to anyone anytime. Because of this, Twitter makes listening as simple as typing a query into a search bar. If you know what you’re looking for, you can find it. Using the Twitter search tool, you can target specific conversations. You can find out what your potential customers are talking about. And you can join the conversation, asking questions to find more about their needs. When you know what your customers want, you become better at giving it to them. That can only be good for sales.
Like a dinner party, you don’t go in shouting about yourself. You politely engage. People on Twitter have plenty to say, so become a great social media listener and you’ll learn fast.
Join the Party
Twitter is about relationships, and relationships are built by helping others.
Being happy to help your followers, even taking the initiative to help them, improves your brand’s image and plants a seed in the minds of potential customers that your products might be helpful too. In addition, being helpful and showing what you know builds your credibility.
Aim to be helping others 95% of the time, while promoting yourself only 5%. That means out of every 20 tweets, only one should focus on you or your business. The rest should be about helping your customers.
Helping doesn’t only mean answering questions or responding to complaints. Helping includes retweeting the content of others and sharing information that’s valuable to your followers.
Keep up with the competition
Your competitors are most likely already using Twitter. They’re building their brands with a community of followers, and are likely winning customers to whom you could provide an equivalent or better service.
Signing up for Twitter is not only a way of keeping pace with your competitors. Twitter gives you the opportunity to look into the work they’re doing, to see who they follow and who their followers are. Those are all potential customers and contacts, so pay close attention.
Boost Your Google Rankings
You want your business to rank well on Google. The higher Google ranks your site, the more likely it is to appear on the first page of search results, and the more free traffic you’ll get. Google rankings are based on a range of factors including the keywords on your site, and the quality of the links directed toward your domain.
Social signals increasingly affect how Google ranks your results. The more people share your content on social media, the more likely it is to rank higher on Google. Being on Twitter is a way to make sure an ongoing conversation takes place about your brand, thus boosting links to your site and pushing you up the Google rankings.
Engage with thought leaders
Just as you become accessible to your customers when you join Twitter, thought leaders become accessible to you. Business leaders, celebrities, entrepreneurs, and A-list bloggers are all only a tweet away. You can send any of them an @ message, and if they manage their own Twitter account, they will probably read it. They’re human too, and everyone likes to hear from others.
You can check out who they’re following to see who they believe is influential, and therefore find more influential people to follow.
Use Twitter wisely to develop relationships with those who could bring your brand to thousands of potential customers.
Right now the buzzword of online marketing is content marketing. Content marketing is the creation of articles, blog posts, videos, and podcasts that share valuable information relevant to your target audience. By providing quality content for free, you become a thought leader in your niche and develop a loyal following of potential customers — to whom you can sell paid content or related products.
And because you’re providing so much value for free, your customers love what you do and act as brand evangelists on your company’s behalf.
Twitter is as vital to a content marketer as a decent hammer is to a carpenter. To market your brand online, Twitter should be one of the first tools you pick from your toolbox. Twitter’s users are there to find valuable content, and by sharing your own valuable content, you’ll build a loyal following.
Brand Loyalty and Evangelism
Twitter is one of the places where your loyal customers will spread word about your products and services. You can listen in to what they’re saying and discover what they love about you. A good tweet can make a great testimonial.
Twitter is great for brand evangelism, giving you an opportunity to engage more customers. One easy way to do this is through promotions — share special deals and contests with your followers. Promotions are one of the most retweeted content types on Twitter.
How Customers Engage on Twitter
Still need convincing as to why your brand must be on Twitter? If you don’t listen to your customers on social media, you’ll be shunned out into the cold. Listen to them, and they’ll love you.
Gap recently launched a new logo. Twitter users hated it, and they let Gap know by tweeting the heavens down about it. Within a week, Gap returned to the original. That’s a good example of a company listening to social media users. Think how much time and money Gap could have saved if they simply asked their customers in the first place.
Or take the example of HP. They recently announced they would no longer be making PCs. Yes, that’s the computer manufacturer HP. And no, it wasn’t on April 1st. Again, Twitter users were outraged, and they let HP know. HP quickly backtracked on their decision.
What Are You Waiting For?
Building a brand on Twitter takes time, energy, and commitment. Some weeks you’ll find your follower count has only grown by one or two. Other times you’ll have 100s of new followers in a couple of days.
Best of luck, and enjoy the journey!
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