Blog­ging as Brand­ing in the So­cial Me­dia Age

Thai-American Business (T-AB) Magazine - - Communications And Public Relations - Writ­ten by: David Nor­cross

Craft­ing a unique brand iden­tity in pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions meant hir­ing a Madi­son Av­enue ad­ver­tis­ing agency to cre­ate TV, ra­dio and news­pa­per ad­ver­tise­ments for your com­pany. The pro­hib­i­tive cost of ac­cess­ing th­ese me­dia plat­forms meant that SMES were gen­er­ally ex­cluded from the process and had to limit their mar­ket­ing ef­forts to parochial ac­tiv­i­ties, such as dis­tribut­ing fly­ers lo­cally.

How­ever, the dig­i­tal rev­o­lu­tion which has taken place over re­cent years has meant that even the small­est com­pany can now po­ten­tially reach a huge au­di­ence on­line. Dig­i­tal con­tent mar­ket­ing al­lows for low­cost, two- way in­ter­ac­tion with cus­tomers like never be­fore, en­abling you to drive sales, ar­tic­u­late your com­pany’s unique story, build pos­i­tive as­so­ci­a­tions with your brand, and dif­fer­en­ti­ate from your com­pe­ti­tion. The best part is that a suc­cess­ful dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing cam­paign can be suc­cess­fully im­ple­mented us­ing freely avail­able tools.

BLOG­GING

In the in­ter­net’s salad days of the late 1990s, blog­ging was cool. For the first time, in­di­vid­u­als were able to by­pass tra­di­tional me­dia and po­ten­tially get their mes­sage out to the whole world. While the pop­u­lar­ity of main­tain­ing a per­sonal blog de­clined in the early 2000s, the prac­tice never re­ally went away, and many writ­ers with tal­ent and unique sto­ries have built suc­cess­ful ca­reers from hum­ble blog­ging ori­gins.

The ar­rival of Mys­pace in 2003 was in­dica­tive of the chang­ing na­ture and po­ten­tial of the in­ter­net as it al­lowed peo­ple to con­nect and share im­ages and videos with friends all over the world; this shift to greater in­ter­ac­tiv­ity laid the foun­da­tions for the highly so­cial and in­ter­ac­tive in­ter­net we know to­day. The higher- speed in­ter­net con­nec­tions which en­abled th­ese de­vel­op­ments also made dig­i­tal com­merce fea­si­ble, and sud­denly a num­ber one rank­ing on Google was po­ten­tially worth mil­lions of dol­lars.

Google’s al­go­rithms de­ter­mine which web­sites rank well, as well as which sites are con­demned to lan­guish in the uncharted wilder­ness be­yond the first page of search re­sults. Th­ese al­go­rithms give favour to web­sites which pro­duce new con­tent on a reg­u­lar ba­sis; there­fore, an un­ex­pected by- prod­uct of the need to rank on Google has been the re­turn in pop­u­lar­ity of blog­ging for busi­nesses.

There is no charge for host­ing a blog on a web­site. The chal­lenge is de­cid­ing what to write. You have full edi­to­rial con­trol from the com­fort of your desk and, as one of the main rea­sons peo­ple choose SMES is for the per­sonal touch, you should use a pro­fes­sional but con­ver­sa­tional tone in your writ­ing. Al­though achiev­ing the ideal au­thor­i­ta­tive tone - while also ap­pear­ing friendly and ap­proach­able - can be tricky, try to imag­ine you are writ­ing as you would speak in a busi­ness meet­ing: a more for­mal reg­is­ter than in ca­sual con­ver­sa­tion for sure, but fo­cused on the ob­jec­tive of de­liv­er­ing your mes­sage as clearly and con­cisely as pos­si­ble.

BRAND­ING

You are al­ready an ex­pert in your field; the se­cret is to find a way to im­part this ex­per­tise on your au­di­ence in a way that de­fines your brand’s iden­tity and builds in­ter­est and hype around your prod­uct or ser­vice. If you of­fer pro­fes­sional ser­vices, then ad­vise po­ten­tial cus­tomers on con­tem­po­rary and ev­er­green top­ics in or­der to build your cred­i­bil­ity as an in­dus­try thought leader. It takes time for thought lead­er­ship ini­tia­tives to bear fruit, but if done well, peo­ple will look to you and your firm for anal­y­sis of emerg­ing trends, keep­ing your name at the fore­front of their mind when it comes time to pur­chase goods and ser­vices. Many com­pa­nies choose to pub­li­cize their key brand­ing mes­sages through their CEO’S blog, and larger com­pa­nies ben­e­fit from hav­ing their ex­ec­u­tive team blog about a va­ri­ety of top­ics which cover their dis­tinct fields of ex­per­tise. SMES can also use this strat­egy to ap­pear much larger than they re­ally are by hav­ing key mem­bers of staff write thought lead­er­ship blog ar­ti­cles. How­ever, it is a lit­tle­known, but un­sur­pris­ing fact that, due to their busy sched­ules, a lot of ex­ec­u­tive blog con­tent pro­duced by ma­jor firms is ac­tu­ally ghost- writ­ten.

Em­ploy­ing a ghost- writer en­sures a uni­fied brand mes­sage is main­tained and that pub­lish­ing dead­lines are al­ways met. This writer can be an ex­ist­ing em­ployee or sub­con­tracted through an out­side copy­writ­ing firm, but they must have a thor­ough un­der­stand­ing of a brand’s mes­sage and tone, as well as of the writ­ing style and per­son­al­ity of the per­son they are em­u­lat­ing.

The same prin­ci­ple ap­plies to firms of­fer­ing more light- hearted prod­ucts or ser­vices. Know your au­di­ence and build pos­i­tive as­so­ci­a­tions by writ­ing about con­tem­po­rary top­ics, such as movies, trends, songs or events. This ap­proach shows that you are con­nected to, and care about, the same things as your au­di­ence, and en­cour­ages them to en­gage with your brand by read­ing, shar­ing and com­ment­ing on your con­tent.

SO­CIAL ME­DIA MAR­KET­ING

Now that you have your blog ar­ti­cle writ­ten, it is time to find an au­di­ence. Face­book is the out­stand­ing choice for so­cial me­dia mar­ket­ing pro­fes­sion­als due to its world­class ad­ver­tis­ing sys­tem, which al­lows for the kind of laser- fo­cused au­di­ence tar­get­ing that was im­pos­si­ble to achieve just a few years ago. While this sys­tem is not well­known to the gen­eral pub­lic, it en­ables you to en­sure that your con­tent is seen by your

tar­get de­mo­graph­ics, while en­sur­ing that ev­ery cent you spend is bring­ing in re­turn on in­vest­ment: sales, down­loads, en­gage­ment, etc.

Face­book’s mar­ket­ing tools also pro­vide an abun­dance of data with each cam­paign, al­low­ing you to an­a­lyse what is work­ing ( and what is not) and re­fine your con­tent and tar­get au­di­ence each time to max­i­mize the im­pact of your cam­paigns. The ex­is­tence of this data is truly a rev­o­lu­tion in mar­ket­ing. While pre­vi­ously you could only spec­u­late as to which cam­paigns brought in busi­ness, now you can know with ab­so­lute cer­tainty ex­actly who your clients are, ex­actly how they found you, and ex­actly what words, im­ages and con­tent brought them to you. This knowl­edge gives you an im­me­di­ate pulse on the in­ter­ests of your cus­tomers, and saves you time and money that can in­stead be spent on fine- tun­ing fu­ture cam­paigns.

Th­ese days many com­pa­nies have en­tire de­part­ments al­lo­cated to so­cial me­dia mar­ket­ing ( SMM), re­flect­ing the im­por­tance of th­ese so­cial chan­nels for rev­enue gen­er­a­tion, PR and cus­tomer ser­vice. For the first time in his­tory, ad­ver­tis­ing is an in­ter­ac­tive process and au­di­ences can now pub­licly com­ment, praise and crit­i­cize in real time. There­fore, while mis­steps can be eas­ily am­pli­fied, neg­a­tive per­cep­tions can also be ame­lio­rated over time, and long- term client re­la­tion­ships can be kin­dled and grown. While set­ting up an en­tire SMM depart­ment may be too much of a dras­tic first step for an SME, if you are se­ri­ous about dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing then the man­age­ment of your so­cial me­dia chan­nels needs to be as­signed to some­body in your firm who speaks the lan­guage of so­cial me­dia and has their fin­ger on the pulse of your brand iden­tity and val­ues. An­other op­tion is to out­source the whole con­tent writ­ing and so­cial me­dia mar­ket­ing process to ex­ter­nal pro­fes­sion­als. What­ever ap­proach you de­cide to take, a con­sis­tent and co­her­ent brand iden­tity should be main­tained across all so­cial plat­forms, in­clud­ing Linkedin, Twit­ter and In­sta­gram.

While both Linkedin and Twit­ter al­low for ad­ver­tis­ing, nei­ther al­lows for the pre­ci­sion tar­get­ing of Face­book and both are sig­nif­i­cantly more ex­pen­sive. None­the­less, th­ese chan­nels should not be ig­nored. Linkedin is an ex­cel­lent tool for net­work­ing with B2B con­nec­tions, and Twit­ter is an ex­cel­lent way to en­gage in con­ver­sa­tions and use hash­tags to keep abreast of trend­ing top­ics.

In­sta­gram is an im­age- host­ing web­site, which has be­come very pop­u­lar in re­cent years, es­pe­cially since it was ac­quired by Face­book. Be­cause of this ac­qui­si­tion it is now pos­si­ble to use Face­book’s au­di­ence build­ing tool to run pre­ci­sion, ROIled ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paigns on In­sta­gram. You can use In­sta­gram to ex­tract quotes from your blog posts, de­liver core brand­ing mes­sages, show tes­ti­mo­ni­als, run

CON­CLU­SIONS

SMES can make a huge im­pres­sion with a smart con­tent mar­ket­ing strat­egy, and it all starts with an on- site blog. One well- writ­ten, in­ter­est­ing and help­ful blog post can de­liver more mea­sur­able ben­e­fits than an ex­pen­sive tra­di­tional mar­ket­ing cam­paign ever could. You are show­ing your ex­per­tise di­rectly to your au­di­ence, while also pre­sent­ing your­self as ac­ces­si­ble and ap­proach­able. At the same time, al­most as a fringe ben­e­fit, your Google ranks are im­prov­ing due to the new con­tent and in­crease in web­site vis­its, mean­ing that po­ten­tial clients will be able to find you more eas­ily when search­ing for your in­dus­try.

By driv­ing traf­fic to your web­site and so­cial me­dia chan­nels, you are build­ing up an in­ter­ac­tive re­la­tion­ship with peo­ple who care about your prod­uct and like the con­tent you pro­duce, as well as es­tab­lish­ing an au­di­ence for your fu­ture posts and an­nounce­ments. In 1995 Bill Gates said that the in­ter­net was go­ing to be “a mar­ket­place of ideas, ex­pe­ri­ences, and prod­ucts,” and this dec­la­ra­tion is truer to­day than ever be­fore.

The dig­i­tal rev­o­lu­tion has changed the way we do busi­ness for­ever. While in the 1990s it was dif­fi­cult to find an au­di­ence on­line, the mar­ket­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties avail­able on so­cial me­dia to­day are im­mense, and with a smart con­tent mar­ket­ing strat­egy, it is now pos­si­ble for SMES to out­rank multi­na­tional com­pa­nies ( MNCS) on Google. The new busi­ness mod­els made pos­si­ble by e- com­merce have en­abled the world’s big­gest taxi com­pany to own no cars ( Uber), the big­gest ac­com­mo­da­tion provider to own no real es­tate ( Airbnb) and the most valu­able re­tailer in the world to main­tain no in­ven­tory ( Alibaba). Now that news and com­merce are data and bytes trav­el­ling at light speed, your blog post can travel far and help de­fine your brand’s iden­tity, while in­creas­ing your Google rank­ings, sales and client en­gage­ment as it goes.

David Nor­cross is Dig­i­tal Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Di­rec­tor at Lex­i­con Busi­ness Com­mu­ni­ca­tions. He can be con­tacted at david@ lex­i­con­thai. com.

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