Growing up online: Building a brand in an ever-changing world

Credit: Mario Brothers

Credit: Mario Brothers

And with a simple snip with the ceremonial ribbon-cutting scissors…voila!…my new website is live. Phew!

Like a proud parent I wistfully thumb through the mental photo album of my online brand. I chuckle at my clumsy first steps using Mac’s iWeb template. I smile proudly at the adolescent ambition of my first logo and brand identity (The ‘M’ and ‘W’ made a double diamond- more voila-ness!). And now, like a young hopeful striking out on his own for the first time, I sit here weary and dizzy from the demands of the real-time communication.

You’ll see from my website and blog that I kept certain things in place that others may not agree with. (Websites are dead! Blogs are dead! Lifestreams are dead!) I wanted to explain why in case it’s helpful. It was a fascinating exercise in brand building now that there’s such a premium on real time communication.

There are five core silos to my ‘Social Web Footprint’ (I think that just means you’re in more places than one).

1. Website – While websites are not the nexus of real-time traffic, they are important as a repository for all the things you want to say about your brand that your audience is not ready to hear. You must first frame all real time conversations around what interests them, and if your product is positioned as relevant to that discussion, they will then visit your website willingly. Otherwise you might as well be yelling at someone who isn’t listening. Your website is also as a place to establish your credentials whose importance was well argued by Brian Solis.

2. Blog – I believe the value of a blog is to give away your expertise for free. Your audience has unlimited access to information and choices for expertise. I think this is essential to attracting their attention.

3. Twitter/Facebook FanPage – Obviously these tools are essential to real-time dialogue. Again, not about yourself, but around issues of interest to your audience specific to your niche.

4. YouTube – Video is King (for now) and your YouTube channel is its home (alright, castle). I’m sure brand communications will migrate to multi-media extravaganzas soon enough, but for now, video rules the day.

5. UStream Show – Whether a brand is a corporation or individual, I believe its important to give it a “face”. For corporations, in the absence of a camera ready and willing CEO, that means a distinct brand personality that informs all brand experiences.

Having just gone through this exercise for my own brand, I am surprised by the continued reticence of some brands to embrace social media. While Fortune 500 companies are jumping in, 54% of companies apparently ban the use of social media at work, 75% of small businesses are not using social media and as many as 70% do not measure their products based on social media feedback. That’s despite data that suggest 94% of employees believe their companies should be using social media and some pretty eye-popping new data on the growth and usage of social media.

Each of these issues warrants its own discussion but what is clear is that social media can be an effective brand building tool both internally and externally if a company uses it properly. And by refusing or delaying to embrace it, many brands are simply refusing to grow with the marketplace.

While there is no definitive way to launch, build and manage a brand online, one thing is certain. A brand must keep up with the ways its customers are using technology. If not, that brand is no longer part of the conversation and that is extremely bad for sales. And that need to constantly change isn’t going away.

I hope you like the new site. Let me know what you think. I’m up for any suggestions or criticism.

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