No matter what stage in your business or career you are currently in, social media can help you achieve some of your goals. Establishing yourself as an expert with credible authority will help you gather a willing audience if you build and maintain a positive online reputation.
I ran across these five easy steps to consider that were originally posed in one of my favorite online resources – 30-Minute Social Media Marketing. I think you’ll agree that they apply equally to your personal brand as well as your professional reputation.
I’m not going to revise or alter the original content because I think they are right on point:
1. Begin with Branding
The first step to joining the digital age and starting your journey on the social Web is to evaluate your own brand promise. How do you want to position yourself in the marketplace and in front of your target audience? A focused brand is a strong brand, so determine your niche and use it as your primary brand message and image.
Your audience needs to develop expectations for your brand in order to develop loyalty to it and feel secure enough in your brand message to talk about it with their own friends and connections, particularly across the social Web. You must meet customer (i.e., audience) expectations in every brand interaction or people will feel confused and turn away from your brand in search of another that does consistently meet their expectations. Don’t let your audience get away. Determine your brand promise and position and stick to it at all times.
2. Create Your Branded Online Destinations
Once you know how you want to position your brand in the minds of your audience, you can create your own branded online destinations. The destination you choose to start with is up to you and depends on the types of tools you enjoy using and feel like you can stick with for the long-term. Start a blog, create a Twitter account and get on Facebook, and then play with the features and get a feel for which tools you actually enjoy using. Those are the tools you should focus on using as your original branded online destinations.
Most importantly, choose one branded online destination to be your core branded online destination. This is the place where all of your online content and conversations will lead back to. It will be the central hub of your online presence and will become the go-to place for people to learn anything and everything about your brand and writing business.
I recommend a blog for a core branded online destination because blogs are so search engine friendly and flexible, but the choice is yours. The most important factor is that your core branded online destination is kept fresh with new content that effectively represents your brand promise and invites interaction and sharing.
3. Find Your Best Audience
Who do you want to connect with online in order to build your business and/or career? You can engage with existing and potential clients, online influencers, experts, customers, and more on the social Web. You simply need to determine who you want to talk to and go out and find them. Visit Google.com and type in the keywords your audience is likely to use to find brands, businesses, content and conversations like yours. Follow the links. Chances are you’ll end up finding multiple sites where your target audience already spends time.
When you find your target audiences’ online hangouts, spend some time listening to the conversations happening on those sites. What topics are important to them? What gets them excited? This type of information-gathering is extremely valuable and allows you to create your own content strategy to best meet your target audience’s existing wants and needs.
4. Join the Conversation
Look for social destinations such as blogs, Twitter profiles, Facebook pages, forums and so on where you can interact with other people by publishing comments, asking questions, and answering questions. However, you must avoid self-promotion. No one will want to engage with you if you spend all your time trying to sell your writing products and services.
Instead, apply the 80-20 rule of marketing to your activities, and make sure at least 80% of the time you spend on social media activities is not self-promotional and only 20% is self-promotional.
In time, those audiences will get to know you and develop expectations for your conversations. Eventually, you can lead them back to your own branded online destinations through links to related content. There you can deepen relationships. It’s this type of relationship-building that enables you to develop a band of brand advocates online who will talk about your brand and defend your brand against naysayers. There has never been a more powerful form of word-of-mouth marketing, and you can tap into it thanks to the social Web!
5. Publish Shareworthy Content
How do people find information in the 21st century? Do they pick up the printed Yellow Pages directory or go to the library? No. They log into their computers or pick up their smart phones and visit http://www.Google.com where they type in keywords related to the business, product or information they want to find. You need to be represented in search results when people search for keywords related to your business or area of expertise!
One way to make sure you’re effectively represented is by publishing amazing content that people want to talk about and share with their own connections. In time, you’ll benefit from what I call the compounding effect of social media. The more content you publish, the more entry points there are for Google to find, index and deliver in search results.
If your content is amazing, people will read it and talk about it on Twitter, their own blogs, and so on. This conversation not only boosts word-of-mouth buzz about you, but it also creates more incoming links to your content. More incoming links mean more ways for people to find your content across the web and higher search rankings from Google.
Coming Full Circle
Your social media participation cannot be one-sided. You need to focus on building relationships, getting on people’s radar screens, and indirectly marketing yourself, your brand, and/or your business. Remember, quality trumps quantity, so don’t spread yourself too thin. Organic growth of quality followers will deliver the best long-term growth results. Every day that you wait to join the online conversation is a missed opportunity.
What do you think about these points to begin your mission to build a solid online brand? What would you add, change or delete?