In anticipation of the March SMCLA gathering to discuss “Building a Brand Through Social Media”, we thought we’d offer up a brief primer, a series of quality links, and a few questions to stimulate thought. It’s always amazing to see what this group comes up with when we all put our minds to something, so let’s have at it, shall we?

Can you use social media to successfully build or manage a brand?  The sheer volume of Google results available to this query seem to suggest a resounding “YES We Can!”.  For those who don’t want to read all 8 million results, here’s a quick primer on what you can do to get started.  These are viewed as entry level tactics that are mostly free to use and easy to configure.  If you or your brand are already doing these tactics, go ahead and skip to the questions section to really sink your teeth in to what we hope to explore at our next meeting.

Quick Primer

Building a brand online requires a three tiered approach: generate content, monitor conversations about your brand/industry, directly engage with people in a meaningful and relevant way.

Generate Content
Be a good writer or hire one.  It all starts with well written content that provides value and encourages people to comment, borrow, re-post, and to come back for more.  You can gain trust, reputation, and respect based on the quality of your content.   Become trusted sources of information within their specific industries through blogging, document uploading, producing and publishing audio and video to fully blanket content channels with sources of information about you and your brand.  Adding professionally produced photos, videos and audio is an extra level of polish that you may wish to invest in as the quality of your content reflects directly upon the quality of your brand.

Tools Used:

WordPress Forbes Favorite www.wordpress.org
Blogger Forbes Best of The Web pick www.blogger.com
Blogsome Forbes Best of The Web pick blogsome.com
Movable Type Forbes Best of The Web pick www.movabletype.org
Textpattern Forbes Best of The Web pick textpattern.com
B2evolution b2evolution.net
LiveJournal livejournal.com
MSN Spaces spaces.msn.com
Squarespace squarespace.com
TypePad www.typepad.com
Yahoo 360 360.yahoo.com

Blog tools credit:  Forbes.com Best of the Web

Automated Dissemination (Makes Me Giggle Too)

Now that you’ve produced all this great content, you really want to get it in front of the people you’re targeting with your brand and your product.  Assuming that they will all take a minute to drop by the one place on the Internet where your content lives is a bit naive.  Taking that content and pushing it out into as many streams as possible is absolutely the way you’re going to engage with as many people as possible.    Thankfully, automation of posting and Social Media networks makes this part very effective.  One of our very own LA Tech stars, Sean Percival (@seanpercival), gave a very insightful presentation recently at “Startonomics” detailing out how he uses automation and aggregation to push his content out as far and wide as possible and how to follow and capitalize on trends.

Tools Used:
Conversation Prism: BrianSolis.comA full summary is available on PR 2.0: http://www.briansolis.com/2008/08/introducing-conversation-prism.html

Power Tools Used:
Friend Feed
Twitter Feed
Social Too

Monitor Conversations
Okay, now that you are a beacon for the world to tune into, it’s time to stick your nosy brand-building self right into the middle of all the chatter out there.  My boss was once misquoted on a conference panel as describing Twitter as a “large cocktail party”.   Ever since, whenever I read blog comments, I  picture these people leaning into a circle of conversation to add their two cents.  That visualization is actually a pretty good metaphor for what you should be doing when you monitor the conversations occurring all over the Internet.

Tools Used:
Google Alerts
BackType
Twitter Search
Technorati

Engage

Carrying the cocktail party metaphor right along, try to apply the same level of social engagement one would expect if you were to introduce yourself into that circle of people.  Barging in and announcing your product without really getting a feel for the conversation or the people engaging in it won’t get you the results you want.  In fact, you run the risk of turning people off due to your lack of finesse.  Ease yourself into the conversation by listening to what the people are talking.   Offer sage words of wisdom that are relevant to their post and actually help them or provide value to them in some way.  Perhaps your product is exactly what they need…wouldn’t that be magic?  At any rate, don’t be a poor conversationalist when you transition monitoring into engagement.

Food for Thought / Questions for the Next SMCLA

Good examples of Social Media Brand Building

Bad examples

  • Heavy Handed Comment Entries
  • Spam-like outbound messages and auto-replies
  • Large brands with non-existent social media presences

Questions
1. What are some more advanced ways to go beyond these basic tactics for social media brand management?   (What’s NEXT?)
2.  How does a larger brand use social media to manage their reputation?  deal with a crisis?  solicit product feedback?
3. Your questions and more via comments or tweets using the #smcla hash tag.  See you at the next meeting (details to be announced soon)

Helpful Resources

Sources used to research this post:
http://mashable.com/2008/07/18/building-your-online-brand/
http://www.briansolis.com/2008/08/introducing-conversation-prism.html
http://www.maxgladwell.com/2008/06/be-a-beacon-first-principle-social-media/
http://www.maxgladwell.com/2008/12/social-media-predictions-2009/#more-1109
http://www.docstoc.com/docs/3302506/The-Socialization-of-Your-Personal-Brand-by-Brian-Solis
http://www.seanpercival.com/blog/2009/02/12/video-of-my-startonomics-talk-social-media-is-dead/

Written by: @geoffabrown

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