As posted in the Gaston Gazette
It’s relatively simple to pick out digital brands that feel like they’re going stale. The sense that a brand needs an update often is rooted less in logo or color and more in the way the business approach is articulated to its customers and how responsive that business is to suggestion, growth and change.
The problem is that many businesses, especially small ones, still aren’t sure how to manage a digital brand because the nature of the internet requires that branding be a dynamic process rather than a static one. How can a small business cope with the demands of being responsive when they’re juggling so many other competing responsibilities?
Here are a few ideas for how you can keep your digital brand relevant and revitalized:
- Treat it as a way to build your reputation, not just your image. We used to think of branding as a way to push our presence out into the world toward consumers (along with sales, of course). Digital branding can help pull customers to you if you spend time building your skills, value and brand credibility rather than merely searching for the next sale. If you take the time to develop your skills, learn how to articulate your organization’s value and focus on tangible ways to boost your brand’s credibility, you will have a better handle on your vision, mission and your business’s strengths and challenges. You’ll develop the confidence to speak more clearly and directly about what you do that no one else does, and, thus, you’ll have a better understanding of your company’s brand. If you can articulate that clearly in a digital space and demonstrate it in concrete ways, you’ll be using the digital arena in a much more effective way because you’ll be promoting and selling your skill and expertise – not just a product or service.
- Plan to focus on the big picture. An important part of making your digital brand stand out is making sure that what you’re presenting is consistent across all platforms and apps, so it’s important to do a regular status check to ensure everything is running smoothly. Is your website presenting the same information as your social media accounts? Do all industry, newspaper and Chamber of Commerce listings provide the same information? Has it been updated recently? Are you using a combination of engaging images and text to communicate your vision and mission? If you have one big picture item that’s not functioning as it should, it could interrupt the seamlessness of your digital brand and presence, so make sure that checking in on the big picture is part of your routine.
- But don’t neglect the details. In addition to focusing on the big picture, you also must focus on the nitty-gritty details. That doesn’t mean you have to obsess over the placement of every period, but it does mean that you need a consistent, rotating schedule for taking a close look at each platform you’re using and how the brand is being executed there. A good policy is to establish a regular schedule for updating your brand and to always look at your approach anew when you’ve made any kind of significant change in business strategy or focus. There’s no set timeline for doing so, but regularity is key. Depending on the nature of your business, you might need to make those updates more often, but since looking closely at your digital presence is very time-consuming task, starting with a regular but consistent schedule will give you the time to make changes and the ability to stay on top of it without getting overwhelmed. The real key in both big and small picture maintenance? Make it a regular happening rather than a special event.
- Find your niche. Those three words sound simple, but they mean more than just figuring out where your business fits in. Part of finding your niche is about looking at digital platforms and determining where it’s best for you to spend your time getting your brand out into the world. Does your business lend itself more toward the visual? Then Instagram might be the best outlet to spread the word to potential clientele. Are you more text-driven and focused on timeliness? Then perhaps you should spend more time making yourself known on Twitter. But finding your niche is also about learning to key in to the digital trends and subcultures that are specific to your business and your skills. One of the ways that businesses can make themselves known and to gain a following is to tap into cultural branding, which involves analyzing topical issues and trends, figuring out the opportunity where you can interject in a way that can shift thinking or discussion on the issue, and then engage with potential customers who are passionate about that issue. This approach illustrates that digital branding isn’t just about the images and words that you use to communicate your vision, but also about the ways in which you engage with people about your ideas.
- Treat your brand just like your business: as an innovator. With a digital brand, you have just as much opportunity to make your mark as you do with your business itself. Your digital branding is the front door for your efforts; if it works as intended, it’s going to bring customers your way who may not know you at all but like the looks of your approach. What that means is that you need to treat your brand as a symbol of your ability to innovate. Remaining competitive is an everyday challenge and not an occasional pastime, so that means that your efforts to innovate your branding and your business need to be regular work. And that work of innovating both brand and business needs to be rooted not just in self-knowledge and the ability to attract customers, but in building connections and community. That approach to digital brand-building – the focus on community and connection – is a natural byproduct of reputation building and will boost your efforts.
It’s not always easy for businesses to tackle the ongoing responsibilities involved in making a brand shine in the digital world, but this approach is one way that will help you head in the right direction. As long as you continue to focus on building both your reputation and your willingness to try a combination of innovation and a critical eye, you’ve got a great chance of maintaining a brand that will appeal to customers both potential and established.