5 tips for crafting an engaging online brand for startups

Building a brand

Building a brand

The advent of the digital age has made it simpler than ever to not only further brand awareness but to also establish your brand in the public eye.

But too many businesses proceed from the belief that “if you build it, they will come” – based on the misconception that existing is all that it takes to succeed in Africa’s bourgeoning economic environments. In the past, when innovative startups were few and far between, this may have been the case, but in today’s accelerated African growth environment, being is not enough.

While your best bet for crafting a strong online presence for your brand would be to partner with a specialised branding agency, as a startup, that isn’t always possible.

To get your brandcrafting on the right track, here are a few simple tips to crafting an engaging online brand.

1. Build the best website you can

Today the digital world may be aflutter over augmented reality and responsive web design, and tomorrow it will be whatever the newest innovation the tech-wizards in Silicon Valley send our way. Whatever the latest trends are, one thing remains constant – your website is central to crafting your brand, so make it as good as you can. In addition to being an online space providing all the essential information about what you do and how you can benefit consumers, consider your website to be you – explaining not only what your business is, but who it is, what it believes and its story — in essence, explaining your brand.

While this may come through via the copy on your site, it doesn’t end there. You don’t merely explain a brand, you also show it. The look and feel of your website must also convey these brand intricacies. For instance, Comic Sans, horrid as it may be, would be less jarring on a toy store’s website. But if you’re a medical professional, perhaps give it a miss.

2. Think, before liking, following, or pinning

  • Facebook — 1.15-billion users
  • Twitter — 500-million users
  • Pinterest — 70-million users
  • Mxit — 50-million users

Well, with those statistics, only a fool would say you’d be a fool to not be present on all of these social networks.

Sure, the opportunity to speak to an almost countless number of consumers at once may be very alluring, but again, consider your brand – does Mxit fit your target market? How will Pinterest work for your business?

Consider where your audience is more likely to be and target those networks. Have a plan about how you’ll leverage the specific features of a given social network to not only connect with consumers, but to grow your brand with content that is both relevant and informative to the consumer and, at the same time, also in keeping with your core brand positioning.

3. Be ‘smashable’ and consistent

Online or offline, regardless of where your brand is being displayed, your identity needs to be consistent over all platforms. In an online context this means that whether it’s the image which represents your app in an app tray, the background to your website, or the avatar on your Twitter profile: those representations must consistently convey your brand and be instantly recognisable.

Of course the simplest way of doing this, would be to use your logo, but that isn’t always an option, or advisable.

This is where the idea of a brand, or logo, being ‘smashable’ comes into play.

By smashable I mean a logo or brand having elements that can be used across multiple touch points: from email signatures to business cards, without having to be entirely replicated. Think about the simple, yet immediately identifiable packaging of Apple products or the shape of a Coca-Cola bottle: that’s smashability.

4. Don’t sell (too hard)
It may seem crazy, but using your online brand presence, whether it’s your social media accounts or website to only sell yourself and your products is a sure-fire strategy for getting ignored.

Give your consumers something that is of interest to them beyond your product. In fact, think of your consumers as an audience. But as always, stick within the parameters of your brand.

If you’re a florist, even if it’s the most fascinating piece of news to you, perhaps an article on the latest innovations in the construction industry isn’t for your audience. But hey, an article on Kim Kardashian’s latest wedding floral arrangement? Definitely.

Basically, share the love.

5. Make it as easy as possible for people to find you

The internet is big. It’s huge. It’s massive. After all, that’s why you want to get your business out there, isn’t it? If that’s the case, make sure people don’t have to dig around to find your digital assets. Make it easy for people to find you online.

Include the obvious like having links to your website and social media platforms in your email signature. Include links to your website on your social media accounts and vice versa. Have your URL present in print ads. Wherever people are interacting with your brand, let them know they can interact with it elsewhere. Chances are they’ll find their preferred platform to engage on.

Talking at people is no longer effective. Individuals listen to their networks. We trust our friends, families and communities. Ergo: getting networks talking about and living your brand is priceless. Talk to individuals where they want, when they want and let them talk back – or even better, share with each other. By giving them something to talk about – something they want to share with others, you’ll be well on your way to crafting an engaging online brand.



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