22 Mar 2012
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Get social and build your brand

It is one thing to have a great service or product; the challenge is making sure the world knows you are the expert where that service or product is concerned. This is where branding comes in. 

Personal branding is the way in which a small business presents itself. It includes marketing, but is much more than that; according to Dan Schawbel, every one of us is a brand, and as such can leverage the same strategies major corporate brands and celebrities use to have as much presence as they do, regardless of how small – or new – our company may be. 

Before doing anything else, you need to establish what your brand is. Do you provide a service? Do you sell a product....or are you the leading distributor of quality products in the local region? It’s more than simple semantics; it’s about identifying your company passion and vision.  

"Brand discovery,” Schwabel says, "is about figuring out what you want to do for the rest of your life, setting goals, writing down a mission, vision and personal brand statement (what you do and who you serve), as well as creating a development plan. Have you ever been called intelligent or humorous by your peers or coworkers? That description is part of your brand, especially if you feel those attributed pertain to you.”

He goes on to say you will know when you have discovered your brand – whether your personal brand or that of your company (keep in mind, it’s quite likely the two are closely linked): 

Your self-impression = How people perceive you

Once you have identified your brand, you need to set up a tool kit to help you promote it. This is where you can really make technology work for you.

1. Business card

Despite the array of devices to choose from, traditional cards are still a good starting place. They’re convenient, simple and easy to carry around and if you lose one or two, it’s not a big deal. 

Combine them with your smart phone and a good business card app, however and you are really revving things up. Smartphone apps like Bump make it easy to collect and collate business card information; subscription based web apps like  Highrise make it easy to manage your contacts from any computer, anywhere. 

2. Portfolio

Whether you take the traditional route of photographs and clippings or decide to Facebook, Tweet, or Google+ your latest offerings, you need to be able to show a potential client what you can do and what they can expect from you.  

With mobile devices like smart phones, tablets and notebooks becoming more affordable and accessible for everyone, it is easy to keep a portfolio current and relevant.  

3. Blog/website

Yes you do need a blog or a website; there may come a time when you need both. This doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive - thanks to platforms like Wordpress, Joomla, Drupal, and the like, it is easier than ever to have an online presence. Keep it simple and make sure it corresponds with the brand you are trying to build.

4. LinkedIn profile

Twenty years ago you would have asked for a letter of introduction when trying to build a client base. Today you need to be on LinkedIn. More and more people are turning to LinkedIn for information on skills, experience, expertise, and referrals from other clients. Be sure to keep your LinkedIn profile current and relevant and in line with the brand you are building.

5. Facebook profile

Depending on your brand and your audience, Facebook could be your biggest ally when it comes to branding, simply due to the sheer number of people who are on the social networking platform daily. Be sure to stick to the guidelines laid down and remember the name of the game on Facebook  (in fact on any of the social networking sites) is engagement. Don’t simply spam potential clients; make sure your posts fit the brand you are building. 

6. Brandyourself.com

When you are starting out it, it can seem as though all you are doing is trying to get noticed. Some days it might feel as though you are posting, updating, networking, cold calling and blogging but still you’re buried in the depths of google and the phone is not ringing.  

If you are clear about your brand and you’ve set up your website and social media sites, why not try using a site like Brandyourself to boost your ratings. Brandyourself helps you promote your name in a positive manner and within the guidelines of good, White Hat practice.  Sign up is free (there is a more indepth, paid service available) and the site is very simple and userfriendly. 

Once you have your toolbox set up, the next step is to set some goals. Next week we’ll look at some great apps, websites and online tools to help you do exactly that. 

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