Do you check your online updates and emails before hitting the send button? It’s not rocket science, sloppy messages can make you look unprofessional and might even get you in trouble with clients or business partners.
Businesses big and small are reaching out to people worldwide, making the size of a blunder directly proportional to the size of their audience. When it comes to online communication, it seems like, the smaller the business the blurrier the line between branding and personal opinion seems to be, leading to quite a number of mistakes with consequences ranging from loss of followers to public outrage. Want to know what you can do to avoid them? Let’s get to it, shall we?
Make a plan and stay on topic
Playing social media posts by ear means you’re likely to post inconsistently and share things that won’t necessarily help you achieve your goals online. Being ineffective and damaging your brand’s image, however, are two very different things. When you’re not working based on a clear strategy, you’re much more likely to start talking about things you feel are share-worthy rather than the things that interest your audience.
The biggest danger is picking up trending topics without contextualizing them for your brand. If you sell gourmet coffee and your audience starts talking about the Oscars a lot, it’s perfectly fine to pick up the topic if you throw in a bit of your brand into the mix. In this example, you could easily pair a neat visual of someone enjoying a cup of your coffee while getting ready to watch the Oscars with a catchy caption. It makes a lot less sense if you randomly start reposting photos of the best and worst dresses at the show.
Not only will sharing for the sake of sharing not make sense for your audience, but because your business no longer seems to do what it says on the tin, soon enough, it will cancel all your branding efforts and you’ll gradually loose your audience. A little strategy goes a long way and your content plan doesn’t have to be too complicated, however, at the very least it should connect what you do with why your audience should care about it.
Let’s get one thing straight – your brand is not you. Even if we’re talking about personal brands, that’s still not you. Their function is to portray a professional persona, not become an accurate representation of who you are in your day to day life.
Small businesses have a huge problem with properly separating their owner/ manager’s personality and personal views from that of the business. That’s often because small business owners have such a strong sense of ownership over their brands that they want to control every aspect of it. Not only is that completely unhealthy for both the owners and their brands but it makes branding about as useful as chewing your own arm off.
Your brand’s personality is a balanced mix between whatever differentiates your business from your competitors and the things that will appeal to your consumers. It doesn’t make a lick of difference that you despise sweetened coffee if your consumers love it, unless that’s one of the differentiators of your product. In a nutshell, it’s fine to be a sugar hater if you position your coffee brand as just black, however, bashing sweeteners will cut out a big chunk of your audience and consumers if you want to enter a broader market. Also, excluding sweet topics when your brand sells shoe shine is just as much of a shot in the foot.
Listen and keep listening
In time, your brand story changes, evolving with your business and if you want it to remain appealing for your consumers you’ll have to take the time and put it the effort of tuning into audience radio. People have absolutely no issues voicing their opinions online and, instead of talking at your audience and removing comments, you can use their insights to develop your brand story and content strategy.
Listening is one of the most valuable actions your business can perform. Listening to active feedback, be it positive or negative, will allow you to answer difficult questions assertively, putting concerns to rest, solving issues with customers and even putting people in their place without being offensive. Listening will also clue you into your audience’s lack of interest in the topics you touch on, by allowing you to measure the difference in engagement for each of your posts.
Equally as important, listening will enable you to develop your business in a direction that ensures the loyalty of your current audience, as well as provides you with new product ideas and services that respond to their changing needs. And it all starts with building a strong connection with your audience, through content that showcases a personality they like and want to get to know better.
The Bottom Line
People expect brands to be extremely self-interested online, spamming them with self-advertising and providing very little in terms of actual, authentic communication. We’re very good at picking out the actions that validate our expectations, so a little slip can do a lot of damage to your brand’s image, even if you’ve done very well up to that point.
Staying true to the brand personality you’ve built, not pushing your own personal agenda and carefully listening to your audience will help you maintain a strong and credible presence online, otherwise your following will start to thin out and, if you’re out of sight, you’ll soon be out of mind.