The fundamentals of branding haven't changed, but your approach to them needs to. Here's how to make an impact in the digital age.
You have to brand yourself. And digital branding has simultaneously made branding much easier and much more complicated.
Logically, that sounds impossible, but for any small business or entrepreneur understanding the struggle is real.
There are so many tools, resources, and ways to make your mark, not to mention conflicting expert advice, that it’s hard to know where to start.
But if digital media has changed the "how" of branding, the fundamentals remain the same. Branding has to be relevant, personable, and most of all, memorable.
Be Clear and Relevant
The first step to creating and maintaining a successful brand, whether you’re a large firm or an individual consultant is to figure out what you really do best and who wants you.
While most businesses and entrepreneurs can service a multitude of audiences, being everything to a few clients is not as cost effective as being just one thing to many. Your mission needs to be singular to make any sense to prospective leads and build a brand.
Part of that means being consistent. If you do need to shake things up, alert your loyal clients beforehand. Go ahead and overhaul your site, change your price points, and add services. But remember communication is key.
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Down With the Elevator Pitch
Marketing and branding used to be about communicating why a customer should choose your business over a competitor. With digital marketing and the rise of social, that's out the window as marketing has become more consumer-centric.
Use social media to listen to what your audience wants and build relationships with them. Copy on your sales page or social posts should speak to your audience’s, not your competitors', needs.
Personal branding genius Ashley Ambirge of The Middle Finger Project says businesses and entrepreneurs need to “profess” instead of “pitch.” Digital branding is about creating and selling products you’d actually want to buy – in a way that you, too, would want to hear about them.
Something to Remember
If you’re clear, relevant, and personal, being memorable is simple. Sometimes this means having a name and a logo that people just can’t quit. Or maybe it’s the way you present yourself and your business on social media that makes you a must-follow across networks.
One simple, digital option for making your message stick is having the right social handles and top level domains.
This far into the web's lifecycle that's easier said than done. If you were lucky enough to grab your desired .com, consider yourself lucky. There are a lot of brands out there who've been forced to accept less appealing or mismatched domains to keep their chosen name prominent in their URL.
Even worse are the businesses with a tortured a string of unmemorable words jammed into a URL for the sake of a .com.
Whichever category you fall into, there are new creative domain options that may increase your search visibility while leaving a memorable impression at networking events, even if you ditched the business cards years ago.
And they're brilliant. Consider the small law firm in Florida registered as “jacksonville.attorney” through TLD service Rightside. Their domain speaks to exactly where they are and exactly what they do. It doesn't get much clearer than that. Or more memorable.
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Getting a Handle on Social Identities
Likewise, your social handles should be easy to grasp and pronounce. It might sound like a tiny detail, but it’s the kind of tiny detail that means everything on digital. The ideal scenario is when you can use the same name across all web and social channels, but it's not likely you'll be able to.
It's not always a matter of availability, either. You might be able to nab @JacksonvilleAttorney on Twitter, but do you really want to lose 22 characters just on your handle? If consistency isn't an option, go for relevant and memorable. @JVilleLaw would be an option for the lawyer mentioned above. It's short and snappy, but doesn't stray so far from the website URL as to lose the connection.
This is also a route to consider if you're an individual brand with a hard-to-spell name. You don't want to run the risk of being confused with another person or brand that may not elevate your status. And making it easy on your followers only helps you in the long run.
That's the important thing to remember as you navigate digital trends that come and go. The fundamentals of branding haven’t changed one bit. Keep things simple, consistent, and memorable, and your fans will always be able to find you, no matter which trendy digital platform you're on.