Brand your online business

We see it all the time with celebrities – branding that looks like a cute nickname, when it’s really a whole lot more than that.

The Barefoot Contessa from the Food Network is a good example of branding. You instantly get the image of a beautiful Italian woman leisurely cooking a delicious homemade meal in the comfort of her own home.

30-Minute Meals is a brand that isn’t instantly connected to a person’s name, but immediately, you grasp the concept – simple and easy. This would appeal to very busy people.

Paula Deen used to be “The Lady and Sons” when she was starting out and had her sons as part of her main business. She became so popular that her name overshadowed her starting business brand. 

Two Ways to Brand Your Business

You have a couple of options here. You can brand your business as a whole, or you can brand each site and endeavor individually. There are pros and cons to each.

It’d be nice to be the go to person for an umbrella niche – one that housed all of your efforts in one namesake. But if you’re varying your business a little, it might be hard.

For example, a site that’s on dog training and promotes tangible items on Amazon won’t fit well with your Wedding Planning eBook.

It’s okay to have multiple brands. You might be the “Dog Training Aid Advisor” or the “Wedding Wonder Woman” – but you can brand each site on its own.

If you feel uncomfortable about using your real name for a lot of different things, then use pen names that you make up for the rest. Or brand it as a business entity with an angle, not a name, such as:

·         Weddings Under $5,000
·         Fat Free Fare
·         Paintball Pro Guide

You get the idea.

But I’m Not an Expert!

Some entrepreneurs (especially those new to online marketing) get very anxious about being an expert – or I should say, not being an expert.

You don’t have to worry so much about your authority and expertise. You’re going to tout it without having to be perfect. There’s no PhD required. No college education required.

Now this might be more difficult to achieve in certain niches. For instance, if you start trying to dispense serious medical advice on your website, you might have some trouble with people wanting to verify your credentials.

But what expertise would you need to have with the weigh loss niche, for example? You could enter into this niche without ever having had a weight problem. Teach good, solid advice that’s not going to endanger anyone and you’ll be fine.

Or, if you were once overweight and now have used certain methods to slim down, share those with others and your own journey makes you an expert of sorts.

Don’t try deceiving your customers. This isn’t worth it – and with the FTC cracking down on scams, you don’t want to get caught having made false claims that could get you into trouble. 

Branding Through Social Networks

Social networking can be promising if you use it the right way. The problem is, many marketers teach unethical branding methods and then you risk getting banned or creating a bad reputation for yourself as a spammer.

There are two different types of social networks you can brand on. Some are content-based and others are interactive with your audience.

Content-based social networks include sites like:

·         Squidoo
·         Hub Pages
·         Google Knol
Interactive social networking sites, where you’re watching a stream of posts and commenting and sharing are sites like:

·         Twitter
·         Facebook
·         Google Plus
These sites all have certain restrictions for their terms of service, so you want to read those carefully. They may limit the number of links you can post, or keep tabs on which topics you write about.

Some have special branding tools available to you. For example, you can create a FaceBook fan page for your business. This is perfectly within their rules.

But if you go creating a profile for your page and start befriending and spamming people, you’ll get shut down (and if they connect your real personal profile to it, they may nix both of them!

Google Plus has said that everyone must use their real names, but they understand the importance of branding, too. So while the site is still in its infancy, they’re working to create branding pages for those who want to market.

This is good because it keeps the marketing separate from the friendly interaction among users. Twitter is less strict about this type of communication, but they don’t allow abuse of their network, either.

LinkedIn is a great place for you to join as a social media marketer. It can help you network with others in the same or relevant niches, but it’s less about reaching your core audience.

Whenever you’re using social media platforms for your networking and marketing efforts, try to share a variety of informational resources. You can share links, but don’t only share your own.

If you’re using forums as a platform for your marketing, then make sure you see if you’re allowed to use a signature file, which is a way to hyperlink a short message or image to your own site each time you make a post or reply to someone else’s.

On all of these sites, make sure that you brand your messages – with image and text recognition wherever possible. We’ll get into that a bit more in just a minute. Whatever you do, complete your profile on the sites. An incomplete profile can hurt your branding abilities.

One thing that’s smart for you to do is implement a FriendFeed profile that pulls all of your social media into one clean platform. So those who follow you can get all of your information in one spot, rather than visit each web 2.0 site separately. 

Branding Through an Image

An image can represent you online. It’s great for your prospective customers to be able to put a face or logo to the name of your business. Here are some of the image opportunities you have to brand yourself online:

Avatars are the thumbnail images that are using in profiles on the web. If you comment on someone’s blog, for example, then you may see your “gravatar” show up next to your comment.

Site graphics like a header, foot, and background can help brand your business online. You can order ordinary templates that brand your niche to some degree, but they won’t be customized to help you build a specific brand name.

Video can even carry your brand image in it. You can create or order an introduction and ending to insert into your videos. It could be a combination of music with your logo and a tag line to introduce your video content.

Don’t try to use images that you create yourself if they appear unprofessional. This is a business, so you want your brand to shine through – even on a thumbnail!

You have options for ordering custom made branding images. You can go to someone who specializes in that particular media format. For instance, there are minisite designers who can create a “per site” brand for you for about $100 – which includes:

·         Header
·         Footer
·         Background
·         Testimonial box
·         Opt in box
·         Order buttons

If you prefer to have designers come to you, then consider placing a project on a site like Elance.com where people can bid on your project and you can browse portfolios.

If you’re using your own picture as an avatar or other image, consider what type of image you want to project. You may even want to get a professional to photograph you. 

Branding Through Text

Branding also comes in the form of the content that you post online. You should always be thinking about what you want your brand to project. Unless your intention is controversy, try to watch what you say under your brand’s profiles.

Regardless of what your niche is, you want to project authority and expertise in your niche – even if you’re new to it! There’s nothing wrong with being honest and saying:

·         “I’m going to conduct a review of ___________ and tell you what my thoughts are!” [affiliate marketing]
·         “I was tired of not being able to find good information on __________, so I scoured everything and compiled the best data I could find on _________ so that you don’t have to!” [info product creation]
·         “I’m just starting out ghostwriting online, but my passion for non fiction writing surpasses my  client list right now – which means my schedule is open for YOU!” [services]
Keep track of any and all publicity that your brand receives and toot your own horn about it. If someone on another blog writes something positive about you, then talk about it and link to their blog so they can see the kudos for themselves.

Make sure you have an easy contact format for people to get ahold of you to discuss your brand. This could result in interviews on many formats – radio, TV, and other online sites.

Complete your “About” page on your site. Some people neglect this or simply give a short paragraph on what the company is, but a good About page goes into detail about the brand and what its goals are.

Set up a Google Alert so that you can get instant notification of whenever someone posts about your name or your brand name. This way if there’s a fire, you can put it out and if it’s something positive, you can help create a buzz about it. Implement these ideas, too:

·         Offer to guest blog on other people’s sites.
·         Put out a newsletter that has tips, emphasizing your expertise.
·         Get yourself published via CreateSpace and Kindle.
Personal branding for your name or a business entity can help further your online profits – much more than if you leave it to fate to make your site the one a consumer happens to buy from. 

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