Branding encompasses all points of contact with the public, but communicating your brand on social media can feel like a challenge if you’re only familiar with more traditional marketing formats.
Social media has its own norms and requirements, and while some generalizations can be made about social media as a whole, each channel is distinct and must be learned and mastered individually. However, the rewards for taking the time to get it right can be substantial.
Social media facilitates the crafting of a persona and message within a structured format. You have less freedom than on an owned piece of internet real estate such as your website, but working within the conventions of the format can improve your effectiveness and creativity, not lessen them.
Here are five ways to use social media to build a positive online profile:
1. Identify your audience
Get specific about your audience. These are potential clients or customers, and you need to know them in order to build a profile that successfully connects and communicates with them. This should infuse everything you do. It will influence what channels you choose, what kind of visual cues you send, what kind of content you share, and how often.
A positive online profile is subjective: what one audience might view well, another may feel is negative. You can’t be all things to all people, so start by identifying your people and then be what they need and/or want.
2. Choose your persona
This may sound counterintuitive if you believe that social media is all about presenting an authentic, transparent, genuine or personal version of yourself or your business. What you need to understand is that it is only a version of yourself. No matter how hard you try, you cannot communicate the entire image of you or your company across one limited platform.
You will have to pick and choose what to share, and how, and you should do that based on your audience and your goals. This doesn’t mean you should throw integrity out the window! Decide what matters to you and/or your business. Work out what your audience (your potential customers, clients or fans) need or want. Your online persona is at the intersection of your goals and values and your customers’ needs and wants.
3. Create your messages
On any channel, you will do two different things: interact with other people’s content, and share your own content. “Content” in this case meaning anything posted, tweeted, ‘grammed or otherwise put out on the platform. When you comment on a post, retweet, like, reblog, etc. you need to be aware of your audience and your persona in order to craft and maintain a positive brand presence. This takes extra work if you’re representing a brand that is significantly different from your own natural inclinations.
4. Keep it consistent
This builds on the previous three ideas. A positive online presence offers a predictable (but good/enjoyable/valuable) experience to the right audience. Your voice or online persona shouldn’t change. Your content and interactions become trustworthy and valued. When in doubt, keep it simple.
Mark Green, an American politician with a background in the military and medicine, is running for office. If you look at his content, you’ll find the content he shares or engages with on social media is invariably about family or politics, and frequently combines the two. You may or may not care about either of these two topics, but the consistency reinforces a positive image of a family man who cares about important things in the political arena, and builds trust and engagement with his constituency.
Consistency is your friend. Find that niche at the intersection of your goals and your audience’s needs and stay there.
5. Follow the rules
Finally, don’t try a one-size-fits-all approach. You should spend some time on a new channel before trying to engage and learn what the norms of the community are. Research algorithmic preferences, sharing tools and graphics requirements before jumping in. On Facebook, sharing links makes it harder for your content to be seen, for instance, while in Instagram, links aren’t even active in the first place, but on Twitter, link tweeting and retweeting are a great way to stay up to date.
You can improve a lackluster online profile or build a powerful platform on social media. Start by understanding your audience and your goals. Interact and share content that consistently meets your audience’s interests and needs, but that also supports your (or your business’s) goals. Take the time to learn each channel, and follow the community norms to make a good impression and get the best results from your efforts.