Branding. It is easy but . . .

Online branding is very easy to do, but takes discipline, persistence, and more time than many people think.

What is online branding?

Awareness of something – that something could be you as an “expert” and an expert does not always mean some self-proclaimed smarter-than-you person. Not at all and that often makes the word branding seem bad. A comedian, a virtual world event planner, or a freelance journalist may want to increase their online “reach” and bring awareness to their community of their services.

That something could also be a product. Dell computers does a great job with their online presence, especially with Twitter. They offer deals and coupons, and have won the trust of you, the consumer.

We are all consumers. We consume products and services and also knowledge. Some knowledge is just for fun, some is to make decisions on new software purchases, some is deciding what land to buy in Second Life.

Without sharing your “message”, how will anyone find you? The Internet is great for serving up information on nearly anything. That means there is a lot of chatter out there, but it also means there is a lot of good “stuff” too.

Much chatter is easy to detect, just look at all the Twitter messages on joining Trump networks or making big bucks with your twitter account. While there seem to be legit Trump networks for some nutritional supplements, I have yet to see how you make money with just your tweets. I think the people that are making that money are the ones getting paid $12.95 to show you how to get 1,000 new followers a day. People are looking for the easy buck – no doubt.

Branding online is easy, but it takes real sustained effort. That’s why Ener has so many followers on Twitter and had so many friends in Facebook. Ener never paid for or used any type of automated service but actually just participates in “the conversation”. Sounds easy doesn’t it?

Well it is, but again, it takes time. About 30 minutes a day and for the last year; Ener has done this everyday. This blog [iliveisl] is an example of that. Ener insured that at least one blog post would be done per day for a year. There has been help from a few other authors who are listed in the right sidebar including the number of posts they contributed. But no day was missed and that year promise of daily posts is up in a week. Pretty good job Ener!

As Ener indicated in a past post, effective branding takes a certain strategy (btw, thanks for announcing my blog move, which I have yet to do!). None of it is difficult, it’s just setting up accounts in several places and connecting what you can together. For example, this blog automatically sends out a tweet to the iliveisl Twitter stream. That tweet can also update a Facebook wall post (I did warn the beaner about making a friend page versus a fan page, but fan pages don’t offer that really personal feel, so I understand). This blog also automatically updates Ener’s LinkedIn page. These all occur without doing more than publishing a post.

Another good account to get is a Flickr or Photobucket account. We use Flickr but either would have the same effect. Yahoo owns Flickr and your Flickr images help you in the Yahoo search algorithm which, in turn, affects the Google algorithm.  It is a good practice to include a Flickr pic or two in each blog post.

If you do video, use YouTube since it is owned by Google. We messed with video a little and I do video using virtual worlds but we mainly use Blip.tv. While Blip helps SEO, and thus your online branding, YouTube is slightly more effective and content could live in many video sharing sites at the same time. We use Blip because it allows for larger videos and runs them at 30 frames per second.

So far we have talked about blogging, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube. And all of those accounts should, ideally, use the same name. iliveisl is great for this because it is not a common term.

You also should setup both Yahoo and Google email accounts and fill out the profile information. That profile information also ups your SEO for your branding.

Gravatar is critical if you comment on other blogs so that you can display a consistent online avatar associated with your online name.

Once all of these things are connected you have done a big part of setting yourself up to create greater awareness of your “message”. You’ll notice that this blog displays the iliveisl tweets and flickr pics in the sidebar. Again, the more your material is out there, the more it aids in your branding. Setting a Creative Commons license on your images also helps because it allows others – mainly bloggers – to use your images in their posts.

Effective tagging is also important and Ener and I share many of the same tags since we often promote the same thing. We both simply have a Notepad text file on our desktops with a list of terms and links used in tagging. Don’t go too crazy on tags and limit the number you use.

The central part of this strategy is in the blog. That forms the heart of this type of inbound marketing. In light of recent changes of services like Ning, Facebook, and Second Life, it may be wise to consider hosting your own blog on your own domain. While websites are somewhat antiquated in today’s online world – they still have their place and part of that can be in hosting your blog. While Google’s Blogger does say you own your own content in their terms of service, so did Linden Lab in the past. But a TOS can change and Linden Lab’s did last month. Now your content is yours only via license from them. Google reserves the right to change the Blogger TOS and could do the same. Hosting your content on your own domain makes sense but is not absolutely necessary.

I admit to going a bit overboard when setting up all the accounts for the foundation of iliveisl but knew that Ener would ultimately settle on those efforts producing the most return. We even have a CafePress store, Blogger account, Urban Dictionary entry, and several others that I don’t remember at the moment.

Blogging, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr, and YouTube are the heavy hitters and if done right, one leverages the other and increases your impact.

The big key is persistence and honesty. Don’t just sell yourself. No one cares if you think you are the best. Offer content that interests your community and may be of some use to them. Ener blogs from the heart and let’s it all hang out. No sales are trying to be made, no big morals are being pushed, just the ramblings of an avatar journeying through virtual worlds.

If you have been thinking about doing more online, maybe try this. Blogging everyday is the accepted frequency for inbound marketing (twice daily is a rough and broad rule of thumb from groups like Hubspot). However, if this seems daunting to you, make sure you have a clear goal in mind (if it’s just rambling like Ener does, that’s fine too), and try just once a week to start. It takes a little while to get into the “blogging state of mind” like Ener is in, but only in doing it consistently will that change and you start to develop a larger online presence.

Measure your presence with Google alerts, tracking back on blog referrals and ping backs, using analytics, Yahoo and Google search results, and general benchmarking as offered free by HubSpot.

There are many more little tips, but you will find them on the way and tweak your methodology to use those tools and social networks that are most effective for you.  Good luck!

Y not? =)

note: this post originally appeared on the iliveisl blog and this blog is now self-hosted at blog.subquark.com

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