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How to empower a brand online

According to a recent social media report carried out by web monitoring company Nielsen, American Internet users spent a combined total of 53.5 billion minutes on Facebook in May 2011. Now, at first look, this may not seem that high, Facebook does have in excess of 750 million users worldwide after all. However, when you consider that this figure is greater than the next four most popular sites (Yahoo, Google (ex YouTube) the AOL family and the Microsoft family) combined, you begin to realise the power of Zuckerberg’s 7-year-old Harvard creation.

The size of Facebook therefore raises serious questions about how brands can command an audience, voice and extend their reach in a market dominated by social networking particularly when the social juggernaut continues to innovate and widen its product offering into existing, new and emerging markets.

So what can brands and companies do to combat this? How do you stand out from the crowd? How do you capture an audience? How do you keep them engaged?

The first myth to dispel is that content is not key. Many people think that if they produce prolific amounts of content they will engage thousands of people and end up in control of a hugely successful and powerful brand. Whilst that may have been the case 10 years ago, in the social media age, that approach simply falls flat.  For instance; there are over 50 million Tweets posted each day on Twitter, more than 3 billion videos viewed each day on YouTube and in excess of 2 billion posts liked and commented on each day on Facebook. The chances of one of these being linked to your content are relatively low, especially if you are flooding the market with content on an ongoing basis.

The answer is simple. Great content, effectively packaged and distributed to the right audience is key. It’s important to know what’s relevant and when, in addition to what is the best medium, whether that is a blog, video, Tweet or photo in order to capture the story and message in the most effective way possible. If you can achieve this for your brand across your website, PR campaign, marketing, and company positioning the chances are your content will be highly amplified.

It’s also not just about social media. Having a presence on the main social media websites is just one way of widening your core reach. It’s not the only way though, especially now that every company under the sun has created its own Facebook page for instance. The most important thing to consider is ensuring your core website and brand positioning are strong.

In layman’s terms you need to effectively demonstrate who and what you are and how you are going to impact people positively. This essentially boils down to being unique, knowing what makes you different, establishing your core messages and primary audience and subsequently effectively communicating these in the fastest most direct way possible. Establishing a clearly identifiable and distinguishable brand is at the heart of this. Images are essential to this and help to entice people to stay on and explore your site for longer. Also keep text to a minimum, and ensure that it is SEO compliant. Overloading websites with text can look cluttered and limit customers understanding of what you do.

Editorial endorsement is the final step. This can make or break a brand. If you are a technology company for instance and get your latest product announcement into Computer Active, PC Pro or Wired then customers will instantly relate to your product and brand in a positive and favourably manner. Achieving this is not easy and is where an effective and well constructed PR strategy comes into play. Product reviews are another fundamental component. If a journalist writes a review of a product, it is there personal opinion, backed up by a comprehensive testing process which typically considers other similar products in the market. This instantly adds huge value to your brand, because that journalist is evaluating the merits of your product and providing a balanced professional overview for customers, so they can then make an informed view as to whether they will buy it or not. If you don’t have endorsement of any kind, the public are not going to have any basis on which to judge you or your products. If they read a piece of editorial from an experienced professional, they have a trustworthy independent perspective on which to inform their viewpoint on you and the products and services you have to offer.

Convergence is the ultimate aim though. These aspects only work if they translate into sales and returning customers. The best way to achievethis is to always add value. Everything on your site and within your PR campaign needs to excite, stimulate and provoke reaction.  Only then can you ensure that you will turn an engaged audience into a bankable, profitable and brand loyal one. That’s assuming Facebook don’t branch into DIY, fast food, PR, or TV on demand services.

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