6 Benefits of Building a Brand in the Blogosphere Age

November 30, 2010

From American Express Open Forum, by Lena West, XynoMedia Technology

Social media has put the one-to-many model of marketing and branding on steroids. It used to be that companies had to market to people by sending catalogs, brochures, postcards or other direct mail pieces. It was time-consuming to get all that promotional material printed, collated, folded and out the door into a local mailbox. Whew, it feels like a lot of work just describing that process (not that there isn’t a place for direct marketing still).

But, for the record, let’s talk about what a brand is and isn’t. A brand is not your logo, your corporate colors or the font you use for callouts on your blog. A brand is the culmination of the total experience your market has with your company. So, it is all of those things collectively, yet none of those things separately.

For example, my brand promise is built on generosity, reciprocity, no-nonsense, cut-to-the-chase, make it simple principles. This comes across when I’m speaking on stage and in person. I’m amazed when people tell me that I’m the same person onstage and off. My brand comes through in my writing style. I write how I speak. The logo for my company is very strong and solid, because that’s who I am. This is starting to make sense, yes?

We’ve entered a new era riddled with dichotomy. There are more eyeballs than ever, yet consumers are more educated, private and cautious than ever. They can friend and unfriend you all in the same minute. The market isn’t fickle, it’s downright erratic at times. How on earth can an honest company build and execute on a brand promise with all this undulation?

Social media allows you to:

1.  Seize the opportunity. When done correctly, social media can create a depth of experience with your company that would normally take years to cultivate. Take Twitter for example; companies have employees Tweeting on their behalf. What does this do? It makes the face of even the largest company, human. Have you ever seen Verizon’s Twitter page? You get to see faces behind the Tweets and the use of the Twitter shorthand up carat allows people to speak directly to a company’s Twitter spokespeople and have a real-time conversation. Company Twitter representatives can offer support, general direction and praise all without picking up the phone, drafting an email or leaving the office. You can’t beat that with a stick.

2.  Choose who you are. All social media platforms have one element in common: a user profile. The user profile allows you to craft your brand experience based on the words you use, the words you don’t use and the energy in which the content is expressed. Of course, your network updates and Tweets need to reflect the same tone. For example, if your company’s description is very punchy, your market’s experience with your company won’t be the same if your updates are stiff and straitlaced.

3.  Tell the same story everywhere. If your business is represented and active on a few social media platforms, this gives you the opportunity to underscore exactly what your brand is about again and again and again. It doesn’t serve you to deliver one experience on your blog, a different experience on your Facebook Fan Page and a third type of encounter on Twitter. That’s inconsistent and will never help you build a sustainable brand that people like – and your market needs to like your brand.

4.  Leverage instantaneous feedback. The double-edged sword of social media is that your company can get feedback as fast as you can ask for it. Just ask the folks at Gap. Sales had been down for some time and without warning, pomp and circumstance, the company changed its logo from the classic, serif font we’ve all known to grow and love to something that looked like it belonged on a t-shirt tag in a strip mall.  I love Gap, but this new look was about as palatable as sourball candy. Now, don’t try this at home kids… the scuttlebutt about the logo did get the company some much-needed attention and sales are up. Did Gap do this on purpose? Did they use social media to drum up some social attention? We’ll never know, but the response across social media was, and still is, undeniable. The team at Under Armour has had the exact opposite experience with their Protect This House online video and commercial campaign. It’s called a double-edged sword for a reason.

5.  Invest time only. Many social media marketing tools are low-cost or free. You don’t have to pay for printing, stamps, paper or ink. If you can type, point and click, you can participate.

6.  Topple the leader. Social media platforms are just that – platforms. They are ways for your business to listen to your market, build a fabric of conversation around your brand, and when done right, eat the competition’s breakfast, lunch, dinner and midnight snack. It is not my intent to imply that this can be done quickly, but depending on your competition’s social media credibility (if they have any), there’s a potential to corner market share and mindshare. I forget who wrote this, but I read somewhere that nowadays everyone has a megaphone – it’s called a blog.

Using Mind Maps to Brainstorm Blog Content

November 25, 2010


Photo: playgallery.org

A mindmap is a diagramming process that can be very useful in creative problem solving and in the generation of ideas for blogs. Arranged around a central key word or concept, mindmaps are visual tools that allow you to identify and sort through the structure of a given subject while visualizing how different pieces of information relate together.


Mindmap by Paul Foreman

In addition to general brainstorming, mindmapping is great for developing social media content–especially blogs. The process can assist you in developing, visualizing, structuring, and classifying ideas, as well organizing information, solving problems, and making decisions. For your blog, you can use mindmaps to:

• Make connections between different topics

• Focus your story ideas

• Explore your story from different perspectives: this is very useful in social media as it’s important to speak to your audience’s interests, not just your own.

Tips for Making Your Own Mindmaps

• Use single words and simple phrases

• Use color to separate ideas (yellow is supposed to enhance short-term memory)

• Use pictures: pictures are easier to remember than words

• Draw links: cross link ideas to reinforce how one idea relates to another

Some Mindmap Examples


How to Twitter” mindmap by Adam Sicinski


“Choosing a Blog Topic” from growyourwritingbusiness.com


Getting the Message Across” from mindmapart.com

There are also numerous mindmapping software applications available, some free:

MindMeister:
http://www.mindmeister.com

MindOmo:
http://www.mindomo.com

Mind42:
http://www.mind42.com

FreeMind:
http://freemind.sourceforge.net/wiki/index.php/Main_Page

Bubbl:
http://bubbl.us

WiseMapping:
http://www.wisemapping.com

Personal Brain:
http://www.thebrain.com

In The Blog Workshops we engage participants in a number of creative exercises, including The Imaginative Storm process which James Navé developed from the Artist’s Way Creativity Camps he’d been teaching with Julia Cameron, bestselling author of The Artist’s Way. The Imaginative Storm work frees you from that negative inner critic and from the “shoulds” that inhibit you from stepping outside of yourself to create fresh ideas. It is an improvisational creative process based on two principles:

1. The imagination will give you gifts, if you let it
2. Look for energy, not perfection

Do you have any techniques you’d like to share for developing ideas?

Blogging at Mother Earth News Fair

November 12, 2010

We were honored to be invited in September by Mother Earth News to offer two short blogging workshops at their fair, which drew more than 9,000 visitors to the Seven Springs Resort southeast of Pittsburgh.

If you missed this inaugural Mother Earth News event, you’ll have a chance on the west coast where they’ll be hosting two fairs next year. The hands-on sustainable lifestyle event features an expansive eco-friendly marketplace, organic and local food tasting, live music, plus dozens of practical workshops from the leading authorities on gardening, green building, renewable energy and more.


The Most Important Leadership Quality for CEOs? Creativity

October 11, 2010

The following article is reprinted from Fast Company, May 18. 2010:

For CEOs, creativity is now the most important leadership quality for success in business, outweighing even integrity and global thinking, according to a new study by IBM. The study is the largest known sample of one-on-one CEO interviews, with over 1,500 corporate heads and public sector leaders across 60 nations and 33 industries polled on what drives them in managing their companies in today’s world.

Fast Company‘s annual list of the 100 Most Creative People in Business just took on a whole new depth.

Steven Tomasco, a manager at IBM Global Business Services, expressed surprise at this key finding, saying that it is “very interesting that coming off the worst economic conditions they’d ever seen, [CEOs] didn’t fall back on management discipline, existing best practices, rigor, or operations. In fact, they [did] just the opposite.”

About 60% of CEOs polled cited creativity as the most important leadership quality, compared with 52% for integrity and 35% for global thinking. Creative leaders are also more prepared to break with the status quo of industry, enterprise and revenue models, and they are 81% more likely to rate innovation as a “crucial capability.”

Other key findings showed a large disparity between views of North American CEOs and those from other territories.

For example, in North America, 65% of CEOs think integrity is a top quality for tomorrow’s leaders, whereas only 29-48% of CEOs in other territories view it as such.

Ironically, while company leaders in North America will bring more integrity to the job, they also expect far more regulation than foreign heads — both presumably reactions to negative public perception and heavy government intervention following the recession. A full 87% anticipate greater government oversight and regulation over the next five years — only 70% of CEOs in Europe hold this opinion, and 50% and 53% in Japan and China, respectively. Meanwhile, nearly double the amount of CEOs in China view global thinking as a top leadership quality, compared with Europe and North America.

The area of focus the regions can all agree on is customer focus: 88% of all CEOs, and an astounding 95% of standout leaders, believe getting closer to the customer is the top business strategy over the next five years.

This article is from Fast Company, May 18. 2010. Hat tip to: Center for Creative Emergence.

Sidebar image via LitReview.

Blogher ’10, a Wow Event

August 8, 2010

We were thrilled these past 2 days to be a part of more than 2500 bloggers in New York City at Blogher ’10. We met amazing bloggers and other influential woman voices such as feminist icon, Gloria Feldt, former president and CEO of Planned Parenthood, and Marie Wilson of The White House Project. Feldt spoke about how all our stories are important–how the personal is political. The power of women bloggers was very clear as evidenced by the presence of brand sponsors such as Chevrolet, Pepsi, P&G and others who were there to grab the attention of the more than 1200 Mommy bloggers in attendance.

We attended a some wonderful informational sessions from which we walked away with some great tips to share:

Know Your Goals
Tech consultant, Adria Richards, Nancy Martiera of Ketchum PR, The Web Farm’s Keidra Chaney, and Wasabimon blogger Stephanie Stiavetti’s panel on Bog Stats was terrific. Some ideas gleamed: If you are treating your blog as a business, write a short business plan or a mission statement to identify your goals, timeline (5 years?), your targeted audience, and spell out what you want your readers to do. It’s ok to change your goals or to add to them, but having goals gives you a plan and also allows you to monitor and track your progress using tools such as Google Analytics.

Never Stop Learning
There are wonderful free tutorials available online. Check out Google’s Conversion University for lessons on how to interpret and use your analytics effectively. Learn, for example, about Bounce Rate and why sometimes having a high bounce rate is not bad.

Blogher ’11 will be in San Diego–we encourage you to attend.

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