4 Steps to Grow Your Brand Online
By Veronica Fielding, president of search marketing consultancy Digital Brand Expressions.

Social media is one of the most effective ways for an organization to leverage their brand online. If you’re looking to implement and maintain growing, successful social media campaigns with measurable goals and objectives, keep these four steps in mind:

Step 1: Claim your name
Make sure all of your important brand names are claimed during this process—company names, acronyms (if possible), individual brand names, and so on.

Register user names in all formats that make sense for your brand—for example, WidgetsInc, WidgetsUSA, WidgetsCompany, etc. Think of all the ways by which your brand is referred.

Register user names even on sites you know you won’t use as part of a social media communications strategy and configure profiles to be private whenever possible. The purpose here is to protect your brand identity, not necessarily the ability to use the profiles moving forward.

Don’t give up if you find that your brand name is already taken as a user name. You can take steps to reclaim the user name in some cases. In other cases, the opening of an “official” brand profile can help clear up any misconception about who is speaking on behalf of your brand.

And don’t wait: Thousands have missed the boat on this important step that companies should take to safeguard their brands. Claiming brand names on multiple sites is time consuming, but it’s far less work than dealing with the aftermath of a profile set up by someone else around your brand name.

Step 2: Find out where your brand belongs
Find out where your competitors are in the social media environment. You’ll want to seek out communities made up not only of your customers, but of reporters and analysts who cover your industry.

Listen for conversations already going on about your brand or company. And don’t underestimate the value of niche social networking sites—they may not have the volume of users that the Facebooks and LinkedIns do, but they are concentrated pools made up of key audiences.

Don’t rush to participate in the conversation—the upfront research will be the basis of a social media communications strategy. It’s important to get the whole picture before embarking on ongoing social media activities.

Step 3: Build out active profiles for your brand
Choose a handful of properties that make the most sense for your brand—usually a mixture of niche and high-volume sites—and build those out carefully.

Make sure that you fully understand the features, functionality, and configuration options for the sites you’ve chosen so that your profiles are built optimally to get the most traction as part of your social media strategy.

Set trackable metrics for all your digital outposts so that once you get going, you will be able to see how your efforts are paying off.

Don’t look just at numbers like site visits or frequency of communication as indicators of success. One of the greatest benefits of social media is brand visibility, which is difficult to measure.

Wait until you’ve finished developing protocols before you start communicating with your audiences. You want to be sure that your efforts are contained, streamlined, and appropriate.

Step 4: Using the intelligence gathered from steps one through three, implement ongoing communications strategies to connect with your key stakeholders.
Actively manage your digital outposts. The social media space is always evolving, and you need to continually make changes and updates.

Ensure that you dedicate time and resources to maintaining your digital outposts. Keep content fresh, regularly communicate with your brand stakeholders, and be alert to conversations going on about your brand.

Use other channels to attract users to your digital outposts—newsletters, Web pages, print and broadcast media, are all effective ways to get the word out that your brand can be found in the social media space.

Don’t advertise. Brands that approach social media as an advertising channel usually find considerable backlash rather than success.

That said, you should integrate your offline marketing activities with your social media strategy— promote contests, new products or services, news and events, and so on.

---Source: iMerchant July 16, 2009 ( Veronica Fielding is president of search marketing consultancy Digital Brand Expressions (










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