When I began my speaking career nearly five years ago, the thing I heard over and over again was, “This whole doing business on the Internet thing is a fad.”
Someone once pulled me aside after a three-hour workshop and told me he was rooting for me as I traveled down a dark path not everyone wanted to follow.
But here we are, five years later. This Internet thing isn’t a fad, nor is social media. In fact, social media is becoming more about how you share information, how customers engage with you, and how prospects find you.
Many organizations aren’t yet taking advantage of what the Web has to offer them for business growth, and at this point it seems overwhelming to many.
So how do you build your brand when you’re first starting out and it seems like you’ll never get the business where it needs to be online?
It’s not a sprint
When you run a marathon, you don’t go out and buy new shoes, shorts, and a wicking shirt and then run 26.2 miles. You buy new shoes and you begin to train. You break in your shoes. You start off by running (or sometimes walk/running as I did) three miles. Then you add a mile or two every weekend until you’ve worked yourself up to 22 miles (which is the most you run before you participate in the race).
To go from couch to marathon easily takes three or four months. It’s impossible to run a marathon without that kind of training.
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The same goes for building your organization’s brand online. Though there are some quick things you can do to see an immediate effect, they don’t last long and should not be part of your larger strategy.
The branding marathon
Here are six things you can do to start slowly, begin to train, and win the branding marathon. Some of this may be basic for you, but we’ve discovered internally that we all need a reminder on how to get back to basics when we’re in the middle of a big campaign.
• Comment on articles and blogs. Many of us don’t have the time or inclination to create our own content. By commenting on articles and blogs in your industry, you begin to build a relationship with the people who can help you tell your story. It’s a heck of a lot easier to leave an intelligent comment (even if you disagree) on something someone else has written than to create the content yourself.
• Figure out where your customers and prospects participate online. One of the very best ways to find out where your audiences participate online is to ask them. There are tools to help, as well. You can use Fliptop, Xobni, or Rapportive to help you make educated decisions on where you should spend your time.
• Engage in conversation on one social network. After you follow the second tip, you’ll have a pretty good idea of where you should spend your time. Rather than take a stab in the dark and assume you should be on Facebook or Twitter, let your research about your own audience help you decide. Start with one network; you can add a second later.
• Follow, “like,” or circle similar accounts. This is something many of us do in the beginning and, as our networks begin to grow, we stop doing it. In the beginning, you want to go into the social network you’re using at least daily and find people to follow, “like,” or circle. On Twitter, for instance, you can search profile descriptions to find people in your industry or people who have a need for your product or service. Follow those people and find a way to begin a conversation.
• Share content that supports your thinking. When I began using social media, my strategy was to share 80 percent content that supports the way we think and 20 percent of our content. Six years later, I still practice that philosophy. The 80 percent comes from places such as SmartBrief, my Feedly feeds, and articles and blog posts in which we are quoted or featured.
• Look for opportunities to bring people back to something you own. As you expand your online presence, you want to bring people back to something that you own—your website or blog, for instance, to have the benefit of driving traffic to your own sites. If you follow the first tip here, for instance, you can post a synopsis of the article or blog post and your comment on your own site and then link to the original article. When you share that content, you link to the page on your site, and the author of the original piece gets the benefit of both increased traffic and a backlink. Both of you win.
You can try all six of these, only one, or a combination. Whatever you decide to do, and no matter where you are in the process (just beginning, getting back to basics, or scaling), any of these will help you compete in the branding marathon.
Gini Dietrich is founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, Inc. This story originally appeared on the blog Spin Sucks.