Why is your online brand important?

At the end of the day people buy things from other people! And the easiest way to earn the trust and rapport needed for that basic relationship is to connect in a human to human way. In fact, we actively seek this out most of the time. How do I know this? Just by looking at what you do or at least the people around you.

Have you ever looked someone up on Facebook before reaching out to them? What about Google? Maybe you even use LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter or some other social platform? The point is that countless times each day people are looking for the online brand of others to get a sense of who they are before doing business. I’m sure they’re looking for your profile too!

Sometimes living in a regional area can make life even harder still. How many of these statements can you relate with?

  • I live in a small town and everyone knows my private life and my history. It makes business life hard at times.
  • It’s hard to meet new people who might benefit from my business or services because there’s only a limited population around here and they’re dispersed over several towns anyhow.
  • There’s limited opportunities around here. All the best opportunities are in Melbourne (or insert relevant major city).

Having an active and current online brand instantly spans the width and breadth of the country. It’s why your online brand is so important. Although it doesn’t solve all the problems of living in regional areas, your online brand isn’t confined to a particular region and puts you on a level playing field with other people in your industry across Australia.

So before I start crafting my personal brand, what do I need to consider?

In a recent podcast, Pam Moore from Marketing Nutz described seven different traits that business owners needed to consider to rock their own personal brand. Read on to discover why each is essential for any business owner in regional Australia.

1. Stop making excuses.

You don’t need to be a writer, a programmer, a brand guru or some kind of rock star to create your personal brand. You just need to have the commitment to start.

Remember that people and your potential customers are already looking online for information about you. But if they see nothing, ziltch, zero… what are they left to think? Establishing your personal brand is about filling that gap so others don’t fill it for you (and that’s more scary in my opinion). The technology isn’t really all that hard, and people are incredibly forgiving when you get it a little wrong at the start. So stop making excuses that you can’t work out Facebook, or you don’t have the time and start giving your customers what they keep looking for.

2. Be self-aware.

Know thyself! The point of having an online brand is about allowing the world to see who you are, so don’t try and be something that you’re not. Keep your strengths and your weaknesses in mind. Focus on what you’re excellent at and worry less about your imperfections. If you’re great at storytelling then tell stories through your brand. If you just love facts and figures then the way you create and manage your brand will be different to someone else.

3. Have branding goals and objectives.

Fact – going on a journey without a map is a great way of getting lost and/or wasting your time. Having goal or objective in mind when crafting your personal brand is essential in not getting swept up in the ebb and flow of the web. It’s a bit like walking into a really big crowd – without keeping a landmark in sight you’ll end up going where the crowd pushes you.

Maybe you want to establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry, or perhaps just the go-to person. Perhaps you want to enhance your existing online brand or your business brand. Maybe you are looking to attract better career or other opportunities? Whatever your reason having a brand strategy will keep you on track.

4. Know who you are and what you stand for.

This is the meat and potatoes of your brand – who are you? Let me ask you this… if I had to sum you up in one paragraph what would you want me to say? In fact, I suggest you try doing exactly that – write a paragraph about yourself and stick it on the wall. Now have a look down your Facebook wall or other places that you’ve put comments, photos and information online. Does everything you do online help paint the picture of that single paragraph?

5. Know your audience.

You know what? Your audience is different to mine! And the guy next door. We want to attract the attention of different people around the world. As such the kind of content that we share online should be vastly different.

But to do this we need to know what our particular audience is after. How are they different to my audience? Which social platforms do they hang out on? What are their political beliefs? What time of day do they engage the best? Are they older or younger? More visual or more factual? These kind of questions will help you highlight aspects of your personal brand that resonate well with your audience.

6. Remember, you are your brand.

As a business owner you are also your brand. In fact, employee online brands also impact a business brand too.

Do you vent online about local council, the football, or the latest television fad? What about posting stupid jokes online that probably aren’t appropriate for work? Or have you ever been angry, deceitful or outright vulgar online?

You need to remember that some people will look at your online profile before engaging with your business and some of these traits just leave an icky taste in your mouth BEFORE they’ve even come into the shop to see you.

While I’m not suggesting you take a Mother Theresa style approach to your online brand, you just need to be aware that what you say and do online can will have downstream effects on your business (that’s what we’re aiming for isn’t it… at least in the positive sense). Just be authentic. Just be you. But be you when you’re out to Sunday lunch!

7. Focus on a meaningful journey.

Too many people get caught up in the metrics with online brand and reputation management. Keeping an active tally of the number of Likes on Facebook, or the number of reviews on TripAdvisor is not the way to judge whether you have a successful online brand. If you spend too long counting your steps then you’ll lose track of where you’re going.

Focus instead on the journey, rather than the milestones along the way. Keep your brand strategy front of mind. Enjoy the ride, but remember that your task here is to be more competent and confident tomorrow than you were today.

But is it all worth it?

Within a quick online search I can find out a lot about people, and if they are who I think they are. I can know where they’ve worked, who their friends are, what they think, whether they have kids, what they do on the weekend… and the list goes on.

Now you might be saying “Caolan, I just don’t put that kind of information online.” And that’s cool, but I want to ask why?

As a business owner why wouldn’t you want to give people the very best information about yourself? Why not ensure that your online brand is a good representation of your real self? And knowing that people don’t buy products and services from business cards, but rather from people, why not ensure that you can be found online… and that you appear approachable, friendly, knowledgeable and full of integrity.

Try this for me! Open a new internet window. If you can, open it “incognito” so the browser doesn’t ignores any cookies, existing logins, etc. Now just do a search for your name and your town, such as “Blake Jones Wangaratta” and have a look at what comes up… click on a few links. Now ask yourself this – does a potential customer feel compelled to do business with you with what you just saw? I suspect the answer is no because there’s not actually enough information there… and that often means that they’ll go on to the next person on their list instead and pass you by.

Establishing, growing and maintaining a good online reputation isn’t easy. And it’s not quick – its a journey that can take months or years. But it’s simple and straight forward and I definitely think it’s worth it for all regional business owners.

Now it’s your turn.

Let me know if you think your personal online brand is worth it? Do you have some success stories to tell? Or some challenges that the rest of the community can help you with? Pop your questions and comments in the box below.