One of the ways we source ideas for blogs is by having conversations with prospects or current clients, who have questions/theories about social media marketing. Common conversations include things like “why can’t I buy followers?” or “how is this profitable?” These are great, valid questions, and we love talking about them with our clients and collaborators.
Recently, there has been a little shift in what our prospects and clients want to discuss. There is a new, consistent buzzword in town: “branding.”
Communication is fascinating because when we ask our clients, “what does the word ‘branding’ mean to you?” – the answers vary. We’ve heard things like “branding is when people see your work, and they know it’s yours, without having to see a logo.” Another answer is, “branding is our culture.” Truth is, we agree that both of these answers [among others] can be considered correct.
However, Google defines “brand” as both a noun and a verb. The noun is defined as: “a type of product manufactured by a particular company under a particular name.” The verb is defined as: “an identifying mark burned on livestock or (especially formerly) criminals or slaves with a branding iron.”
Neither of those definitions include what clients and prospects are talking about, but truth be told: communication is evolving, and key elements in business are evolving, too.
It’s 2016, and at this point, it is safe to nix the term “social media marketing” and swap it for “social media communication.” Marketing implies sales of products and services, while communication makes us think of people first. And that’s the key. People first. Think of our name: H2H – Human to Human, Heart to Heart.
Long gone are the days of studying a pre-made hierarchy of tools for success, and then practicing them until profitability. Social media communication is daily, it’s emotional, and it’s personal. Social media communication is not the traditional, corporate mumbo-jumbo a lot of folks are used to.
Defining a brand identity starts with you: the business owner, the leader of the brand. No one knows your brand better than you. It’s true. Believe it, and accept it. And more than anything else, embrace it.
A good book to start this process with, is called Emotional Branding, by Marc Gobe. It includes some great brain fuel to get business owners in the right frame of mind to really dive in to their brand, and the story they’ve already begun to write!
Funny enough, a couple of negative comments on this book are what spurred this post. That, and the fact that everyone we talk to, is seriously concerned with the idea of “branding.”
One of these comments, from a small business owner, talks about how the book did nothing for them, and that they “kept reading and reading this book hoping that the next chapter would let me in on the secret of emotional branding. How do I start branding emotionally? After reading this book, I still don’t know, and I’m not sure the author does either.”
What’s interesting about this comment, is that it sums up so many common frustrations of small business owners. It is evident that small business owners, like this one, crave a template or success model to follow when it comes to branding [and social media]. However, to be blunt, it doesn’t actually exist. “It” being a success model to follow.
Metaphors are a great way to get points across. So, here’s one for this post: think of branding like you would humans and health.
Humans are all unique and different, all complete with their own makeup and predispositions. Right? Is there a single success model for a healthy 90 years on this earth, with no illness, disease, or injury? No.
Branding is similar in the fact that each brand is unique, complete with its own stories, quirks, and results. Combine that with the fact that branding is more human than ever before (via social media communication and the rise of digital), and you’ll find the same scenario: there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach to branding.
At the end of the day, branding is personal, not linear. Think socially, not scientifically, and then you’ll gain some traction.
Driving Your Brand Forward
Let’s keep this last part simple. These are the top three ways to drive your brand forward, based on our 7+ years of social media communication experience:
1. Listen to your tribe, and to your clients
Once you’ve established your brand voice, you can start experimenting with your creativity. Talk to your tribe, and to your clients. Listen hard, take notes, and collaborate with your team on moving the brand forward. After all, you might have the wheel in driving the business, but your best navigation system can be found in those who are personally invested in your brand.
2. Nurture your own voice
Following up on number one, stay focused on what matters most: your voice. Think about things like the future of the brand, the brand’s integrity, and what sets your brand apart from others in the space. These ideas will create opportunities for your brand to not only stand out, but yield authenticity.
3. Don’t compare your brand to others
This is a big one. If you can’t admire another brand without wanting to replicate it, do whatever you have to do to stop that process. Whether it’s unfollowing them on social media or staying away from their website. One of the most lethal habits of failed branding attempts is to want to be like someone else.
We’ll leave you with this quote from TED speaker, Faith Jegede:
“The chance for greatness, progress, and change dies the moment we try to be like someone else.”