How to Brand Your Company Online
In our previous post, Understanding Social Media Optimization, we continued our series with a discussion on how to increase your visibility, linkability, and inclusion in social media. In this post, we take a look at how to brand your enterprise online, and look at some of the key components of branding online.
Brand Your Company Online
You may employ branding tactics in your offline marketing, or you may feel that you either don’t need to, or don’t have the money to.
Online, you must pay at least some attention to branding efforts. A brand is a promise, and it’s also a handle by which people can find you, refer to you, and talk about you online. We’ve said before that online, if you build it, they won’t necessarily come. And if you have a haphazard, disorganized, or confused brand online, they may not come because they don’t associate what you do with your online presence.
All your online marketing efforts should reinforce your brand, and aim to drive traffic to your Website, the center of your brand presence. It’s great to get people to read your blog. It’s great to have thousands of followers on Facebook or Twitter. The goal, however, should be to make your Website the hub of all your social media activities.
The first step is to ensure your domain name (the part after the www) is easy-to-remember, easy-to-spell, and content-appropriate. Make it simple, direct, and if possible, the first thing that comes into people’s minds when they think about the problem your business solves. Don’t be too clever.
For example, if your products deal with drinking water filters, ensure that the word “water” is part of your domain name.
If it’s going to serve the purpose of being a hub of social networking activity, your Website needs to be optimized. At a minimum, your site must:
- Have a call to action
- Clearly describe your business, purpose, and products
- Enable users to bookmark, tag, or email your URL to a friend
Have a Call to Action
Of the Must Have Three, the call to action is the most important. If your site merely explains what you do and, somewhere buried on an interior page, allows your visitors to take an action to support you, it fails. Period.
Design your site to clearly communicate what visitors can do to help you, and give them a positive action they can take, whether it be a buy button, a “Like Us on Facebook” button, or at the very least, a newsletter signup button.
If you’re not doing these things, don’t begin using social media.
The reason is simple. Much of your activity on social networking sites can’t actually enable a direct action. For example, the best action that can happen upon reading one of your tweets is for the reader to click on an URL to go somewhere else. That somewhere else is your Website. Other social media sites are similar: Blogs, tagging sites, photo sharing sites, and so on, all lack features to complete a significant action. They’ll all lead people to your site, where you must make it easy for them to act.
We discuss the importance of a consistent social media branding and graphic presence in the Triangulate Your Social Media Presence section in our book, and we talk a bit about site organization in the Engagement on Your Site section, as well. These activities will help reinforce your online brand.
Here are a few other specific recommendations for “socializing” your Website:
- Ensure that your About page clearly describes your business in a way people will respond to. Yes, your board and your corporate structure is important, but is that the main thing you want people to know about your enterprise? Link to all your social media sites in this section.
- Organize your site from your users’ perspective — If your site is organized based on your organizational structure it likely is not optimized for your users. This penchant for site structure mimicking organizational structure is called showing your corporate underpants.
- Add commenting to your site — You’ll come to love it. And don’t require approval before comments are posted. See the previous post, Dealing with Negatives for reasons why. A nice, free option for adding comments is DISQUS, but be careful of privacy concerns when users use Facebook or Twitter to log in to post comments. We use DISQUS on our site.
- Add an RSS feed to your site — RSS is short for Really Simple Syndication and is a way for people to subscribe to a page or a site and receive updates using an RSS reader such as Google Reader or others. It’s what’s behind those little orange icons() you may have noticed on Websites. If your hosting software doesn’t already provide the ability to add RSS feeds to your pages, you may need to get a techie involved. You can also use third party software such as FeedYes and others.
- Ensure your site is usable — Usability is a deep and broad subject and beyond the scope of this book. But in general, use text and background colors that provide a lot of contrast; don’t make text too small (especially if you want older folks to read your site); and avoid garish or distracting graphics. Also you need to think about your major navigation and whether it is logical to the typical user. And beware of putting important material in the upper right of pages. Users often ignore that area since it very often contains advertisements.
- Ensure your site loads quickly — Sure, everybody in your organization might love the Flash movie that loads every time a user goes to your main page, but is it really worth a 30-second load time? And will it just annoy frequent visitors? Aren’t the frequent visitors you want to optimize your site for?
- Register your site with all the top search engines — You need to be found.
- Claim your blog on Technorati.com — Technorati indexes tens of millions of blog, but to be sure you get into their directory, you need to claim your blog. This allows you to specify categories your blog will appear in, and specify tags for the blog, enabling others to find it. In addition, Technorati will track the effectiveness of links you embed in your blog, calculating your Technorati Authority.
- Search Engine Optimize your Website — Use WebsiteGrader.com to make sure your site is attractive to Google.
Once your main site is optimized, you’re ready to start to build or improve your online brand.
How to Brand Your Company Online is the 71st in a series of excerpts from our book, Be a Person: the Social Operating Manual for Enterprises (itself part of a series for different audiences). We’re just past page 219. At this rate it’ll be a long time before we get through all 430 pages, but luckily, if you’re impatient, the book is available in paper form at bit.ly/OrderBeAPerson and you can save $5 using Coupon Code 62YTRFCV
See the previous posts What is Social Media?, Social Sites Defined, Why Social Media? How is Social Media Relevant to Business? First Steps Toward a Social Media Strategy, and Decide What Your Business Will Do About Social Computing, pt. 1
Next up: Online Branding Campaigns