Jan 30, 2012

What’s Weakening Your Online Brand?


By: Dianne Heath
January 30, 2012

As the world grows more reliant on the internet to obtain information, building a credible brand online is imperative to expanding your client base and opening the door to more opportunities. The web is connecting people to each other and a strong online brand is a powerful avenue to connecting you to customers, employers, fans and other influential people that are interested in what you have to offer. Position your brand on relevant platforms and social networks, and you'll soon find yourself attracting such people. Your online brand also doubles as your first impression therefore a weak online brand can make you forgettable. Since there is so much competition, the obstacles to building a positive online brand are plenty while simultaneously the need for a positive online brand has become stronger.


The Obstacles to Having a Strong Online Brand

1. Not having a well-known or even budding offline presence- Your offline presence is used as  proof that you should be taken seriously online. Strong branding almost comes naturally when your offline presence is established. Being an authority or unique figure in your field attracts social networks, backlinks to your points of contacts and online influence. The masses are still living the majority of their life offline therefore your talents and skills need to be appreciated in your field offline even if it’s just locally. Your offline brand and presence creates a more rich online image and evidence that your claims of skill are credible. What you do offline creates a richer online brand due to knowledge you gain, the people network with and the portfolio you build. For example, instead of blogger just focusing their efforts on writing content online an ambitious writer could make plans to write a novel. Bestselling novels attract media, admirers that will find you instead of you wasting time trying to find random people who don't have a vested interest in you. 


Offline is your time to let people grow to know you and feel personally connected to you through your content or product instead of you shouting in the wilderness. In other fields such as photography or web design networking offline and moving up the ranks gets the buzz going online. Just remember that your online image extends your brand but it doesn't necessarily start it. However there are special cases when YouTube stars blow online. However even they provide value for their audience offline in the form of entertainment, makeup or other tutorials. Even people that become "internet famous" move offline. Become successful offline or doing something that attracts gossip and people will want to want more about you online. For example, Bad Bail Boys lost their Google ranking and therefore starting going to games wearing their company shirts. This offline controversy helped them to increase their rankings online. People want to appreciate what is tangible in order to build a relationship or connection with it. Even online giants like Amazon are connecting people to offline products. Create significance or add value to someone's life offline even if you are solely online.

2. Barriers to creating an online brand or presence are low therefore competition is more intense - Previously the effort to stand out was low. The early age of internet enabled people who didn't even have an offline presence to build a strong brand. In a sense they had proven themselves to be experts by being the first to know how to capitalize on the opportunity. Now with everyone jumping on board it seems less authentic. There are scammers and people that offer no value that are diluting the internet. Also the amount of platforms to build your online brand has skyrocketing diluting the strength of the relationship. In the past you could just master one or two platform(s) since the retention rate of the audience was higher. There were less places to hangout online so people just stayed in one area growing together for longer period of time, building trust and genuinely networking. It wasn't the competition of the next shiniest platform. Therefore it's important to remain consistent and remember that since the barriers to entry are low, many will discontinue their efforts.

Most importantly you want to be interesting and have the clout of personality. So focus your efforts and skillfully put your all into it. Don’t be the low quality or scammy AdSense ads that are almost on every site and usually ignored. Be the brand that is able to capture the attention of the audience through personal connections such as through social media and other interesting innovative marketing techniques. That's core of branding! This same outlook can be applied to online branding. Don't be the wallflower AdSense ad but strong & personal brand.

3. Negative online image- A negative or contradicting image can destroy your efforts to portray yourself as the ideal professional or authority in the field. Offline brands face similar dilemmas. There was an uproar over Sasha Grey reading to elementary students even though she is no longer a porn star. Your online image is quite similar. You will be judged by your past. Even if you change or just have a multidimensional character, your online brand must remain consistent so that it doesn't weaken. If you are accused of doing poor work try to openly resolve the issue with a pleasant tone. Always have your portfolio easily accessible online and large social network that naturally backfires against claims. 


Your portfolio doesn't have to an official portfolio but you need proof of your work. For an example a person can claim on a hate site that a beauty guru does make up terribly. However that beauty guru’s brand should be so strong that she ranks well in Google and her social network/audience should be so strong that it pushes your brand to the top. Others can view her videos for themselves as access if the claims were true. A support social network and audience that gives you positive feedback also can combat negative online image.

4. No strategy and lack of knowledge about branding - The dangers of going in full steam without knowing what you are doing can inadvertently result in you have a negative and/or weak online brand. You'll write weak social profiles as - Annemarie Cross elaborated in Are Your Building or Damaging Your Online Reputation - and showcase a blog with poor content and an amateur design. You won't be perfect when you first start building your brand but you want to at least know that you need to edit and redefine. That knowledge can help you refrain from avidly advertising a weak brand. If you are unfamiliar with branding or social networking, start off by using your observation skills, exploring and being a casual participant. Watch how the experts skillfully use platforms before plowing ahead and then being full of regrets. I remember reading a blog post, of a now experienced blogger, about her Digg account getting deactivated when she was a new blogger. Due to inexperience and naiveté she shared too much of her own content. That probably resulted in lost contacts. 

In my own experience, I deleted an account from a forum that might have been very useful today. When you are equipped with the knowledge then you can strategize. I can identify since I'm still trying to redefine my social media activity. Strategists think about the content that aligns with their brand, which online platforms are best for promoting their brand and they know how to navigate the various cultures of social platforms. With knowledge and a strategy you can confidently trail braze through.

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