Social media is a powerful way to increase your online brand awareness and the relative low cost of engagement makes social media is the cornerstone of small business marketing strategies. However, with so many social networks to manage, it’s easy for communication and branding to become scattered and inconsistent. Here are 5 tips to get your social media branding right.
1. Make Your Blog Match With Your Website
Branding starts with the look and feel of your primary website and any auxiliary sites where you have established your presence, starting with your blog. If you don’t have a blog, you should definitely consider having one, and use a self hosted blogging platform like WordPress to power your blog.
Social Media Examiner's Blog
Your blog is the most important branding tool in your social media toolbox as it is the one channel that allows you to have meaningful communication with your customers and potential customers on a regular basis. Therefore, make sure your blog matches with the look and feel of your primary business website. Definitely, do not use a hosted blogging solution that does not allow you to customize the design to match your official site or allow you to match the URL to your own domain, such as www.yourcompany.com/blog or www.blog.yourcompany.com. WordPress.com - though it is free, but, it limits you to a handful of blog templates and charges you a monthly fee to point to the default www.yourblog.wordpress.com URL to your own domain. At that point, you might as well have a self hosted WordPress blog, and hire a WordPress developer to skin a WordPress blog template that exactly matches your existing business website design for a nominal fee.
If you don’t have a website yet, or are contemplating a website overhaul, you may want to consider using WordPress as your content management system (CMS) and using a WordPress CMS theme that incorporates both website and blog layouts. This is a more elegant solution than having a website on one platform and your blog on another. Woo Themes and Elegant Themes offer a wide variety of beautiful, professional WordPress CMS templates for under $75. Another great option is the free Business Turnkey WordPress theme, which gives you 3 color schemes, layouts and font styles to choose from.
2. Make Sure Your Social Profiles Match Your Brand
This might seem like a no brainer, however, because different social networks have different layouts and accommodate profile image dimensions, you may find yourself designing a custom social media avatar that you can use on these sites. For example, Twitter profile images are 73 by 73 pixels, while Facebook Fan page profile images will be compressed and scaled down to 200 by 283. LinkedIn company profiles give you a 50 by 50 pixel avatar, and allow for a 100 by 60 pixel business logo. If your logo exceeds these dimensions in width, as many logos do, you will end up with an oddly cropped or stretched logo. If you decide to resize the logo, make sure your company name is large and clear enough to read. If it isn’t, then have a designer create images that are both optimized for each social network and consistent with your brand. It is well worth your trouble to have your logo optimized for social media sites as opposed to having them be oddly cropped, which looks unprofessional, or using a different image, which creates brand confusion.
While Facebook and LinkedIn do not allow you to completely customize your profile page, Twitter does. Consider hiring a designer to create a custom Twitter profile that matches the look and feel of your official website.
Social Media Examiner's Twitter Page
3. Use Your Social Media Profiles to Dominate Google
Once you’ve established a consistent brand presence on the social media sites of your choice, make sure you cross-link these sites to each other. You should have social media icons on your website and a blog that links to your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr, etc social profiles. On the flip side, you should make sure your social profiles link to your official site, blog, and other social profiles. Not only to help your customers and fans find and befriend you, linking to these sites also tells search engines that these social profiles are related to your brand. Furthermore, you should make link building an ongoing initiative – always try to link to sites you control with your company name in the link anchor text. The goal with this exercise is to have all your social sites show up in search engines for your company name. This is a great strategy for online reputation management – by preemptively occupying Google page 1 with social media sites that you control, this makes it harder for negative press or reviews to float to the top.
4. Be Strategic About Your Content
Now that you’ve established your presence on the social web, there are 2 ways you can be strategic about your content. The first is to use your social media outlets and networks intelligently to proliferate content related to your industry specific keywords. For example, if you are an eco dive resort in Fiji, you want to make sure every Facebook post, Tweet, Flickr photo, YouTube video, etc. includes relevant keywords, such as Fiji diving, Fiji eco resort, Fiji manta ray diving, etc. Use this content to increase brand awareness and to drive traffic back to your website.
The second is to syndicate your content as much as possible, so you don’t find yourself overwhelmed by the need to create new fresh content every day for every site. Use the Networked Blogs Facebook app to syndicate your blog posts to your Facebook Fan page. Use Hootsuite to schedule Tweets, Facebook updates and post blog posts to your Facebook Fan page. A gazillion free and paid tool exist to help with social media syndication. Pick the tools that make the most sense for you.
5. Participate in Conversations About Your Brand
There’s nothing worse than allowing dialogue to occur on the web about your brand, and to not participate in those conversations. It is easy to monitor the online conversations that are taking place about your business, products and services. The most basic way to monitor brand mentions is by using Google Alerts. Set up Google Alerts to deliver brand mentions directly to your email inbox, or as an RSS feed. You can also set up Google Alerts to alert you on product related keywords, industry keywords, and even competitor names. Other useful tools for keyword based monitoring include Tweet Deck, HootSuite, SocialMention.com and, on the pricier side, Buzz Logic and Radian 6.
Rather than just pushing information and messages out to your audience, don’t forget to take the time to respond. Read the comments they leave on your blog and social media outlets and write back. Many small business owners follow their first reaction to delete any negative comment when they see one, but this is a big mistake. When you see any comment – as long as it isn’t abusive – take the time to respond. You may be able to win over the person who posted the comment, but more importantly, you will show the rest of your audience that you are taking an active role in social media and are available if they have questions or comments.
A uniform brand and message across all of your social media networks is key to communicating professionalism and attracting the right client. Social media is a powerful tool to that can take your small business brand to the next level. With these 5 tips, you will be well on your way to compete successfully with big businesses in your niche.
(Image Credit for Social Media Landscape Image: FredCavazza)