Remember the movie, Hoosiers? Remember the movie, Rocky? Remember the movie, The Revenge of the Nerds? Remember Napoleon Dynamite? Well, perhaps you’re seeing the pattern here. People are emotionally tied to the underdog, the small-time outfit, those who show character in the face of bigger competitors. We often embrace the smaller entities. Why? Maybe because the success of the biggie, the popular, is pretty typical; we’ve seen ‘that one.’
I read a good post this morning by Dr. Pete at SEOmoz, chronicling the ‘breaks’ of bigger brands. In some regards, the breaks of the ‘biggies’ seem unfair. They have more money for advertising, for outbidding for talent, for underselling competitors, and so on.
However, smaller brands have the luxury of less expectation, less anxiety to ‘live up to a name,’ and going at a patient pace, amongst others. Is your brand of the ‘smalls’ variety? Does your present station bother you? Why? Maybe you need to revisit some of the films above.
Have you ever gone on a diet? I’m lucky enough to be the same waist size as myself in my young twenties (must be all that reading). Have you ever witnessed someone on a crash diet? I have; most bite off more than they can chew, creating a very unrealistic weight and time limit. Are they building their project to an appropriate scale? No.
Small-waist brands don’t have to chase the rotund shape of bigger brands in respective verticals. If yours is a brand, so closely related to another, I think scaling is a secondary issue anyway. For those just starting, scaling to realistic proportions is an advantage you have over the bigger brands that often get caught up in the game of investors and popular-kid expectations. Most big brands already passed the point of no return, where it’s ‘do or die,’ ‘post numbers or shut down.’ A smaller brand has the luxury of patiently rising at the pace of its own ‘genetics.’
Maybe you’ve heard, social is a huge modern-day aspect of marketing. ‘Social’ means a lot of things; but, basically it means a brand can directly relate to its consumers. Let’s consider the dynamic for ‘biggies’ and ‘smalls’ brands.
Let’s say I have a Facebook issue. Let’s say it’s a genuine issue, of the un-fanboy variety; I really want to get a genuine answer from Zuckerberg, the brand’s owner. As a consumer, I really don’t think this is a mind-blowing request. However, Facebook has 800 million (or something like that) users. That’s awesome for Zuck; I get it; he can buy and sell me millions of times over; he doesn’t need to respond to me; chances are my question won’t even reach him.
Let’s consider another owner who makes himself more readily available to his consumers. I can (and do) directly email them with concerns, suggestions, questions about their brand, etc. As a consumer, I deeply value that; I really do. I’m likely to never forget that level of service. I’m no Google search engine; but, if someone treats me well, and someone asks me about my experience with a particular product or service, you can bet your bottom dollar I’m going to suggest those who treat me well. That’s a level of engagement, which is difficult or near impossible for ‘biggies’ to achieve. I vote for ‘Pedro,’ and not the only one.
I spent some time thinking about another cohort’s question on Dr. Pete’s post. John is inquiring about how a smaller brand can really compete with a bigger brand. I addressed his question in the comments; I also want you to read it too because I can’t over-emphasize the real power of branding; it transcends rank; it gets consumers to come straight to you, with no need to search for your brand’s offerings. Guess what? I also think it’ much easier for a smaller brand to effectively and consistently brand.
I’m not going to tell you to start a company blog because there are other ways to communicate brand messages and gain online traction. However, if you do have a company blog, you should concentrate on making it better and providing more value to readers.
It’s easy to say, “Start a blog.” I know because I’ve suggested such things before; but, there are as many reasons not to blog as there are to blog. You don’t have to be like anyone else is an immediate suggestion if you do blog. Don’t chase the style of influencers or popular brands; chances are you won’t find the same ‘magic’ during your trials. However, you could make the blogging process your own.
Consider the following ‘normal blogging’ alternatives:
Text is boring
I love reading; but, not everyone agrees. Actually, I bet a lot of people rather view a slide show or watch a video than read lines of text. Think of your days as a student. Not many people retain information from a textual once over anyway. Your blog doesn’t have to be textual at all. Some people enjoy speaking, opting to share information in that format. Are you more of a talker than writer? Begin podcasting your ideas.
I’ve ghost written before for other individuals. I love writing. Like reading above, there are those who would disagree with my choice of passion. It’s understood. If in-house workers are not natural writers, then don’t try to mold them into it; they’re likely to resent the need. I’d love to see someone attempt to make me into a ‘number cruncher.’ Alternatively, think about outsourcing your writing needs to…a writer, someone who enjoys doing it. I would suggest limiting the number of them. I think the more people involved, the less likely all parties can accurately channel the personality of your brand. Perhaps your owner can closely work with one ghostwriter, who can accurately capture the owner’s insight.
Don’t Do It
I know. I’m an online marketer telling you to dismiss an online marketing objective. You don’t have to blog at all, especially if your brand is going to do a poor job of doing it. This is something I wish more brands would realize: doing something poorly can grossly counteract online initiatives, creating poor impressions. For instance, I can’t count how many handles do an awful job of social media participation. Some brands would benefit from retiring their Twitter and Facebook accounts because the accounts are so poorly managed and curated. I hope your blog isn’t poorly managed; but, it’s not an out-of-this-world notion.
Optimization Doesn’t Equal Conversions
If you rank well on major engines for words associated to your services and products, you’re business is in a good place. But how many people ‘fit’ on the first page? Not many. I think an excellent ongoing branding campaign (for some brands) is just as good as great rankings. Good rankings ensure more people notice your brand. Branding does the same, yet ‘optimizes’ your brand toward its target market. Isn’t that who you want to sell to? I’m not saying dismiss all notions of SEO; I’m saying notice the widespread tools of online marketing. You don’t have to be number-one on Google to be successful online; you have to be number-one with your customers to be successful.
Have you ever chatted with someone who presents a story to you that sounds familiar, except for some minor-to-major details, which have been shifted, embellished, and distorted? It’s common in the world of gossip and akin to playing the game, whisper down the lane.
I used to teach in high school, where cliques wax poetic about gossip just as much (or more) as tweed-jacketed English teachers speak Shakespeare. The interests and cliques of teens can be capricious and fickle; yet teachers, those in authority, need to relay consistency. One of the best pieces of advice received from older peers regarded consistency, being ‘who you say you are’ and doing ‘what you said you would.’
The dynamic between a student and teacher is a bit different from that of a consumer and brand; however, the need for consistency remains integral to facilitate good relations. Mixed signals and contradiction, purveyed by a brand, is recognized by consumers. It frustrates and alienates the latter party.
Over the weekend, I read a post on forming a corporate identity manual. A brand does not need to be huge to host a manual; a brand consisting of one employee may benefit from a manual. Why? It addresses a brand’s character; it provides the ‘blue prints’ for a brand’s personality. Secondly, it serves as a graphic reminder (a ‘post-it’ note), mentally nudging all brand players about the importance of the brand’s identity and the consistency of expressing it.
Those practicing online marketing often get perplexed by Google; it must be very intimidating for those outside of the industry. A brief time ago, Google introduced privacy setting changes, creating a mass of confusion, with many expressing their frustration with the brand. Google’s engine is the most popular method of search; a communicative blunder (even of large proportions) is not likely to sink the brand; but, Google champions itself on creating the best user experience; being tongue-tied about mass-rolled-out changes is not consistent with its intended identity. This is not good for consumers and definitely not good for Google.
I own a phone powered by a popular mobile brand. I recently had a billing question, pointing out the disparity between written text on their Web site, what was explained to me while signing a contract, and what was relayed to me by a representative on the phone. My real frustration with the brand culminated in the feeling of helplessness; I can’t find a theme of consistency with the brand’s processes. I shouldn’t have to sleuth and elucidate contradictions. Before the brand takes my money, accepting me as an ongoing consumer, it should definitively engineer its policies, ensuring a consistent identity.
In the first example, Google did a poor job of ‘being who it says’ – a provider of the best user experience. In the second example, the brand did a poor job of ‘doing what it said it would’ in regard to the billing process.
Does This Hit Home?
The way I branded myself as a person of authority in the classroom was important. I needed to ensure a level of consistency; because, if I didn’t, I would be ‘called’ on it.
“Hey, Mr. P, can I have an extension on that project due on Friday?”
“No, sorry, I can’t budge on that.”
“Why did you tell Tommy in 4th period he could have one!?”
See what would happen if I was inconsistent with my branding? I would alienate some consumers.
“Hey class, I know I said I would give all of you some free time to do your homework at the end of class; but, I changed my mind.”
(Chaos and Mr. P voo-doo dolling ensues)
Do you have children? Did they ever ask a question at different times or to different parents, attempting to elicit a different response? High school teens do the same with teachers; they can be crafty. I did it when I was in school. Does your brand respond consistently to its consumers?
Branding myself and my methods was important before I started teaching. In the above article, the branding strategist maintains a graphic organizer with a signed ‘contract’ by the owner, the ‘contract’ enforcing the corporate identity.
Before teaching, I presented a graphic contract, ‘Mr. P’s structural bookends,’ having each student and aligned parent sign it. This way, all consumers and related associates had a clear understanding of my ‘brand,’ who I was, what I expected, and what they could expect regarding my instruction.
The author of the corporate identity article endorses the formation and regular revisiting of a company-wide identity manual. Have you considered such a process? Do all team members act uniformly toward consumers? Is each piece of content, produced by your brand, released with your brand’s intended, consistent message? Ensure all involved with your brand are on the same branding page.
Maybe you’ve noticed. The social aspect of online optimization is kind of a big deal. Choose your social tools: Twitter, Google Plus, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, etc. The unrelenting buzz generated from the online world likely creates points of anxiety for small brands and business owners who don’t have all day to scrutinize marketing tips and suggestions. That’s my job, in addition to relaying that information in easily-digested pieces of info to the SMB community, the novices of search engine optimization.
Social media participation is a good use of marketing time, but it’s not black and white; some forethought and meditation is in order. Treat your brand as an individual. If all brands could leverage the same results, there would be no need for a plethora of social media platforms; everyone would be dining on ‘vanilla’; and, it would be dreadfully unappealing.
Engage your industry’s and brand’s community. Do you need some suggestions? Read on.
You Can’t Win Em’ All
I wish I could advise your brand to take part in each and every social platform; so, each one ushers a plentiful amount of commerce to your site. I wouldn’t; it’s not practical. I would advise the following:
Choose platforms wisely, those that make the most ‘sense’ for your respective business. For instance, do you offer products? I would pay attention to Pinterest. It’s a very visual social media platform. Are you a consultant? Is your personality a big selling point to your services? I would suggest leveraging YouTube because viewers will be exposed to your ‘personality’ as compared to a Twitter account. Take a survey of some of the more popular brands in your industry. Which social platforms are they using? Why are some successful for them?
Don’t Double-Dip Followers
Awesome. You have a decent number of followers on Facebook as well as Google Plus. How are you differentiating the two platforms? Think about it. You follow a brand on multiple platforms, disappointingly being confronted by reruns of their shared materials. What’s the value of following them on multiple platforms? They have parakeet syndrome; the brand is mimicking itself, not offering anything new. Let’s think of methods of offering something unique on each platform.
Consider the layout of particular platforms as suggested above. Pinterest is a great place to feature pictures? That’s a target for graphic media. You want to showcase DIY tips and suggestions? You could write it out; but, the process is better relayed through video, giving viewers a ‘better’ picture of the information.
There’s No “I” in Engagement
Did you notice the word “social” in social media? Of course, I’m being facetious; but, it’s warranted. Whether they scoff at this section’s initial question or not, many brands use social media platforms to push their content…exclusively. Good, that’s one use for social media platforms.
What I would really like to see your brand doing is engaging your followers, friends, and consumers. Rather exclusively share your brand’s material, do unto others… Additionally, get to know some followers. I notice some people on Google Plus staring chats and ongoing conversations. When was the last time your social media handler engaged followers with pointed questions? Many consumers would love to contribute to your brand’s direction and insight. What are you waiting for, a blog post telling you to do it?
What do you think about using social media platform, Twitter? What are the advantages? What are brand expectations? What’s the end? What means are employed in getting there? Are you gaining a lot of followers? Are consumers impressed by the number of followers? Is it about engagement or branding games?
However, being diligently observant, patrolling tweeting streams for weeks and months, I’ve noticed some maneuvers, which are not facilitating great brand-consumer relations. Are you leveraging tweeting and mistreating? I hope not.
The Back-Turned Un-follow
Brands have freedom leveraging Twitter accounts. Follow and un-follow at will. Sometimes the un-follow makes sense; a follower may turn into a troll, with negative intentions. They can be un-followed, blocked, or reported.
However, some brands follow others for the sole purpose of improving onlooker perception. Surely, if your brand has a lot of followers, it must be highly authoritative, right? We see the same genuine dynamic take place in the SERPs, correct? That was sarcastic.
Just as brands ‘game’ rankings, some attempt to game the number of followers, liberally following others, hoping the ‘golden rule’ is returned, only to ironically drop followers to increase the contrast between those following and followed.
Tweet at will; you’re entitled. However, think about this. What’s more powerful, a number of followers or how your brand engages followers, people, (possible) consumers?
‘Thanks for the Follow’ Spam
When someone thanks me, I assume they’re expressing genuine gratitude. I hardly get a real-life friend approach me with a handshake, thank me for my friendship, and then parlay the scenario into asking me to be a part of some pyramid scheme. I’m not making any blind assumptions about your brand; but, if you really want to express gratitude then offer something other than an advertisement for your services.
Warning: shameful use of cute dog to prove point ahead
Would your brand truly like to thank followers? Rather than establish automated, spam-like, ‘thanks for the follow’ messages, offer your best blog post, a free white paper, a list of great resources, etc. It could even be as simple as link to a funny video, post, quote, or infograph. Have you seen what PointBlankSEO does when you sign up to his RSS? It’s unique, making one feel appreciated.
The High-Brow No Reply
So your brand has stepped into the social media ring of Twitter. Note the use of ‘social’ in the description. Have you snubbed followers with a high-browed, stone-faced reply? Please allow me to place such maneuvers in a real-life setting. It’s kind of akin to entering a conversation, consisting of a number of people (like being in a social sphere, if you will). Imagine you’re engaged in a social media platform, asking someone a question or making a comment, and having them…say nothing back as if you are some ‘ghost twitterer.’ Do you do that in real life? It must be lonely in your world.
I understand people use Twitter for all sorts of selfish reasons; yet, ensure your brand is being social when using social media accounts. I referenced treating followers well in my gentleman branding post yesterday. Make time for followers; kindness is a timeless fashion.
Would you like to learn more about social media usage? Read more of our WebiMax or SEOservices blog or read more about available social media services. Finding the right search engine optimization service is hugely important. Read how to find a great SEO service via our free white paper.
How would you like to save marketing dollars by getting your brand valued within its community? Wait. The gentleman branding process doesn’t work for every person or brand. There’s something I would like to point out to business people, regardless of your industry. There’s one aspect which all of the online marketing, SEO, social media, black/white-hat tactics can’t offer your company…personality. I try to pass on sentiments of great people and branding onto readers; but, I honestly can’t ingrain or grant character; that’s the man-in-the-mirror’s job.
I liken gentleman (or woman) branding to white and black-hat sentiments. White-hat and black-hat are adjectives rooted in the SEO industry. The former label is associated to ethical practices while the latter gets practitioners thinking of questionable and unscrupulous practices. Let’s be honest. I can’t definitively determine your brand’s intentions; but, mama didn’t raise a fool. I’m pretty people savvy, even online. After some time, I see your brand and associated personalities…as they are; so do your brand followers and consumers. Are you leveraging me or my brand for ulterior purposes? I hope not. Doing so sheds different colored lights on you and your company’s image. Don’t be a fool; consumers and cohorts discuss such impressions.
Support Brand Evangelism
PointBlankSEO aka Jon Cooper posted earlier today on this topic. His article contains good insight about appreciating consumers and brand champions (whether they’re paying or non-paying supporters). Does your brand or content attract a particular sub group of followers, ones who usually comment, tweet, follow, like, speak well of, and engage in all of those other behaviors, which give your brand the ‘warm fuzzies’? How does your brand show appreciation? As Jon addresses, noticing those who notice you makes for a better community and facilitates branding. Another Jon, Jonathan Allen of Search Engine Watch, does a great job of appreciating SEW’s brand followers and ‘evangelists.’ Take notice of the Twitter handles of Jonathan Allen and SEW, and how fans and brand supporters are appreciated and addressed.
Lend a Helping Hand
It’s highly likely there are other personalities within your brand’s space. Those who could use help understanding the industry as well as tactics and best practices. Company owners and practitioners, remember when you were younger, doing something mischievous, having your parents remind you that you are a reflection on them? (I hated that one; I was a toddler outlaw) The same holds true in the professional sphere.
What professionals do, how they act, is a reflection on their brand. Let’s give another real-life example. I had a genuine, professional question, and asked for help. Why did I ask Chris specifically? He knows his stuff for one; more importantly (to me), he genuinely wants to help. I’ve asked others for help, getting no response whatsoever. The ‘no responsers’ still have my respect as far as knowledge of the industry; I’m not really sure of their trains of logic, but that’s why they were asked to begin with. What do you think I think of their personalities and their brand after asking for help and getting ignored? Kindness is a timeless fashion…