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WHO ARE YOU ONLINE? A Beginner’s Guide to Social Media Branding

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NamiMScott_HeadshotOh, hey! Welcome to the Internet! It’s become increasingly clear, after all the web surfing and Facebook trolling you’ve done (don’t lie about the latter, we’ve all done it), that if you want to get your name out there, you better start branding yourself, right? But hold up, people. Don’t just dive in. The reality is that properly branding yourself takes planning.

Here are some steps to get you started on the valiant quest to brand yourself. I’m assuming you already know what you want to put out there. If you’re having an “I don’t know who I am” crisis, you may want to sort that out first. (I know it’s tempting, but “schizophrenic branding” is kind of an oxymoron.)

Brainstorming

Take a piece of paper (or open a doc on your computer – this is a technological time, afterall) and begin listing out words & phrases that describe who you are and how you want to be perceived.

Be realistic about this, folks. Don’t write “cartographer” if you know nothing about maps. You want to get down to the essence of who you are. Not who you wish you were. (Yes, I’m projecting.)

Distillation

Done? Ok. Now, create 4 columns underneath it:

Persona • Tone • Purpose • Language

Start listing 3 to 4 words from your cloud into each column that best describe you. It helps to consult friends or colleagues to get an objective perspective.

Here are examples of what might fall under these categories:

  • Persona: Confident, Knowledgeable, Handy, Beauty Expert
  • Tone: Genuine, Friendly, Serious
  • Purpose: To perform, to educate, to spot trends, to DIY
  • Language: Technical, Casual, Witty

Remember, there’s no wrong way to do this. It’s an exercise to help you figure out your brand voice and how to communicate online. No one’s going to grade you on it and it’s not set in stone.

Where to Interact

Feeling good about where you’re heading? Good! Now, it’s time to figure out where to represent yourself.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Vine, Tumblr, LinkedIn, a blog, IMDB, your own website. The list goes on.

There are TONS of social media platforms, or what could be considered platforms, and a common mistake is to get on every single one because “everyone else is on them!” Well, calm yourself! You need to figure out what makes sense for you.

Note: This has nothing to do with your personal accounts. I find it’s good practice to keep your professional persona and your real persona separate, though sometimes the line is blurred. Lifestyle bloggers, for instance, are more likely to keep their social platforms the same because people are attracted to their personal life.

Save your road rage rants for your personal page and give your fans a dose of what they came to you for in the first place.

Examples of social media platform logic:

  • DO have inspiration boards and step-by-step photo tutorials on Pinterest  if you’re a DIYer.
  • DON’T have a Pinterest board if you’re a film critic.
  • DO have your own website or IMDB profile to show your credits & training if you’re an actor.
  • DON’T have an IMDB profile if you’re a beauty blogger.

I DO suggest everyone create a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and an Instagram account. Those are three platforms everyone will expect you to have and are easily integrated if need be.

You can always try new platforms later, but start small and focus. You don’t want to just repeat the same stuff on all of your platforms or stress out about creating original content for each platform either. You want your social media experience to be manageable.

Keep in mind a lot of folks have teams of people managing this stuff, so don’t feel inadequate if you have to start with a handful. Quality. Not quantity.

Here we go!

So, you’ve set up your various social media platforms. Now it’s time to give ‘em a go! Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get immediate traction. Slow and steady wins the race when it comes to social media.

Your goal is to amass genuine followers and fans. Use your personal accounts to announce the launches of your various platforms. Try inviting your friends (who are already fans of you as a person) to follow you.

If you’re putting out great information, chances are it’ll be shared and that’s the first step to getting known on the Internet.

Interaction

Now, remember all that brand voice building you did in the beginning? It’s time to put it to use.

Every piece of information, every post, tweet, image…they should all be created using the lens of your brand voice. This is why it’s so important to create it based on yourself.

You don’t want your brand voice to be so painfully different from who you are in reality that it becomes impossible to maintain it!

In addition to creating content, be sure to use that voice when responding to people. A huge way to create a true fanbase is to interact. I’m a big believer that no comment should be left un-responded…unless it’s offensive or from a spambot.

A few important notes

So, you’re well on your way, but it’s a learning process. There are a few points to note here. Keep these things in mind:

  • What’s in a Name: A lot, as it turns out. Create handles, page names, and URLs that are easy to remember and make sense for your brand…as much as you want to make your handle @NinjaLasers. (Yes, projecting again.)
  • Be flexible: As you continue to interact online, some communications will be more effective than others. Take a step back to reassess your brand voice. If you find something is working better, revise your word columns accordingly.
  • Share the love: Social Media is not only about your content, but about other people’s interesting content. Share relevant information on Facebook and retweet & regram often. Not only are you now a source of original content, but a source for additional content. That just makes you that much more valuable. And don’t forget to tag often!!! You want to give credit to those who made the content you’re sharing and let them know that 1) you exist and 2) you’re a fan. It’s a great way to build online relationships.
  • Use analytics: Many social media platforms will allow you to see analytics. These are the hard facts of how engaging you are. Use this information to further perfect your communications. See a post on Facebook that’s doing better than the others? Try to figure out why and recreate the situation. See a tweet receiving more replies/favorites/retweets? Break that tweet down and try to understand why people found it so interesting. Why did that Instagram photo do so well? What was in the photograph? What hashtags did you use?
  • Be realistic: The “sweet spot” is always in flux when it comes to the Internet. Something that may be trending one day is gone the next. Just when you thought tweeting in the morning got you more engagement, it changes. Just when you thought taking only photos of your dog on Instagram was working, your fans get bored. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Use this knowledge to ride the wave. People who truly love what you’re doing will keep following you.
  • You are NOT a commercial: No one wants to see ads in their newsfeed. We deal with that enough already. If you have an announcement, make it…but don’t make the same announcement 5 times in a row. Space those babies out and, in the meantime, intersperse content that is valuable to your fans. No one wants to feel like they’re being spammed.
  • Know your audience: Chances are your fan base consists of certain types of people. You can find that information out by doing a little digging. There are a number of social media platforms that allow you to see breakdowns of your fans/followers. Information like age range and location can be used to find even further information regarding they’re habits online. What time are they active online? What keywords attract them? If you’re serious about appealing to a certain audience, research is key.
  • Social Media Never Sleeps: But you need to! Take advantage of applications that help you manage your social media. Facebook now allows you to schedule posts. Apps like Hootsuite allow you to schedule tweets. There are tons of ways to keep track of social media without having a laptop taped to your face 24/7. Your fans won’t get angry if you need to sleep and respond to them 12 hours later. Chances are they’ll be delight that you responded to them at all.

So, there ya have it. Remember to stay true to what you want to convey. Though you may tweak and polish to make your online presence more engaging, this doesn’t mean you should completely change who you are and what you want to share with the world.

Good luck and don’t forget to have fun!

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About Nami Scott

Hailing from NYC and living in LA, Nami M. Scott is the Social Media lead at Noise in NYC and has worked on brand voice building and social media strategy execution for Vitaminwater and Trident. She is currently the voice & face of TRESemmé social media. A self-proclaimed “Life Enthusiast,” she is also a blogger branching out into vlogging. She specializes in beauty, fashion, and lifestyle and hopes to soon expand into videogames as well. Formerly a graphic designer, hairstylist, clothings stylist, and photographer, she considers herself “creative,” but also adores a good spreadsheet. She is currently on the road to a voiceover career and tap dances (though, by no means, considers herself even remotely good), games, writes, acts, models and paints in her free time. Any Internet fame she gains, she credits soley to her dog because she’s a crazy dog lady who thinks her dog is the cutest.