Digital leadership : your brand in the social media age

When the directors of Samara magazine came to my office recently we had a long conversation, fuelled by coffee and pastries. We covered a range of topics but one area we kept coming back to was, “How does one promote a brand in the new social media economy”. It is a question that lingered in my mind for some time afterwards, and it is worth sharing a few thoughts.

To answer this question we have to first acknowledge one basic principle. Branding and promotion is hard work. It always has been and it always will be. Social media has not made it any easier; quite the opposite in fact. Every day each one of us is bombarded by over 3000 marketing messages. Trying to get noticed in the midst of that noise is difficult. It’s no longer a matter of buying more media spots or having a louder voice. People are very good at tuning that out now. To really get noticed in today’s environment you need to clearly and quickly provide value and demonstrate leadership.

Social media has changed the way people interact with brands. For most of the online population recommendations from those they trust have become increasingly important – and far more public and immediate than it has ever been. Twitter and Facebook now give the average consumer a platform to voice his or her thoughts on a brand. This is why providing value is so important. It may feel like you are giving something away but in reality you are inviting the public to give you a positive recommendation. You are providing a reason for people to click the “Like” button.

What the value proposition actually looks like is really about who your customers are. Start with understanding them. Learn as much as you can, ask questions, understand what they want and you will quickly learn what is of value to them. Then work out how to provide just enough be useful. You may end up writing articles, creating videos, posting images or hosting a conversation. The method is not the important thing. It’s aligning your content to your audience so they can see the value you offer.

The really interesting point is that if you  get the online value proposition right- if you hit the right nerve – your audience will be willing to give you much more than a recommendation. They will be willing to give you their personal data – information such as an email address, name, age and all types of other personal data that allow you to communicate more directly and effectively. This should be your aim; to have your market give you permission to continue the conversation.

It is important to remember that the value you can offer is your expertise or insight. Your audience is looking for the thing that makes you different – the topic they can learn more about from you or some other source of value they will extract from you. Spend the time to clearly articulate what makes you unique and you will find an audience willing to follow you.

This is what online leadership is all about. Giving others the opportunity to learn from, and communicate with you. Define your voice, build your brand and you will find that others will be willing to follow. Once you have a following ask questions, engage with your audience and find out how to better tailor further content. Your audience will be more than willing to help you, as you will be helping them in return.

Building brand is never easy, but social media allows you to get feedback quickly. In the hyper-democratic culture of Facebook “Likes”, you can test ideas to see what work and what won’t. When you get it wrong you can fail quickly and move on. You now have all the tools you need to be nimble and proactive.

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