Authentic Branding and New Media Transparency

THE END OF SECRECY

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I borrow the phrase “The End of Secrecy” from visionary and speaker Tim Sander’s recent blog post, where he reminds us “You can’t hide anymore in the new digital world we live in…this is great news for good people. Secrecy is the ally to evil. Think about the future of business in a transparent world: No bad act gets hidden, no good act goes unnoticed. What does this mean? Same things I’ve been saying since 2002—nice, smart people succeed.”

Nice, smart people succeed. It is certainly a utopian vision. But with an internet so appealing to the masses and the inherent transparency of social media networks, such a vision of a more open and honest internet is a win-win for many passionate small businesses.

ignore-smWhy? Because consumers are smarter than ever. And they’re just plain tired of hard sells and traditional advertising. In short, the digital natives are restless.

But just what is “transparency” and
why is it important?

Transparency in business today means exposing your intentions. It means providing real value first, and it means developing an authentic personal or small-business brand. And today, an internet-oriented “brand” must convey WHO YOU ARE, not what you do.

A couple of weeks ago, we met Steven, our aspiring food critic. Steven isn’t sure where he’ll sell his restaurant reviews and lifestyle commentaries: online, in print, maybe both. What he does know is that in order to succeed as a food critic, he needs an online presence. He needs to take himself and “get branded.”

My recent post, “Brand Myself? Are You Kidding?” takes a hard look at the importance of self-branding in an internet savvy world. In this context, branding isn’t so much an effort to sell as it is an effort to share. For entrepreneurs like Steven, it’s a process of becoming the business he sees himself becoming.

But how do I go about branding myself?

becky_holmes_wondering_lgeSmall-business branding is a birthing process, and it’s never easy to know who you are before you’ve become it! Yet this is exactly what one must do in order to build an entrepreneurial business online. Here are some tips on branding yourself and your business successfully:

Be authentic. Express yourself in a brand that shows us who you are—your values, your voice, and your vision. If you’re uncertain about these, ask a brand image consultant (like us) to help you develop who you are into who you’re now becoming.

Provide value up front. This means giving something of real value to your visitors. When someone arrives at your blog, be sure to reward them for finding you. Share with them your personal experiences (lots of value there!), links to interesting places, and other helpful resources.

Avoid the hard sell. With small business websites, it’s obvious when someone is being obvious. Decades of print and mass media advertising have conditioned us to avoid the hard sell. Remember your readers can walk away with the click of a mouse. Don’t make it easy for them by pitching yourself on your home page.

Think like a surfer. When creating your content, think about how you surf the internet. Do you enjoy seeing cluttered homepages? When shopping for a product or service, do you find too much content overwhelming? Use your own online experience as a reference point.

Stay tuned for updates on Steven’s brand-building adventure, as well as ideas for new business bloggers.

Messina Marketing Group

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Thoughts on a Revolution: What are We Really Saying?

This video, though admittedly a bit “in your face,” is loaded with statistical information about the social media frontier. It’s certainly a lot of food for thought. Sometimes the numbers fly by so fast you may have to go back, as I did, to fully digest them. But what do these numbers mean? After watching the video, I ask you to consider the following questions:

• What do we gain by spending more and more time interacting online? What do we lose?
• Have you had any unique social media experiences that have changed your view of a person or organization?
• What social media behavior do you consider unnecessary? inappropriate? commendable?

whisper

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Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. To everyone eager to learn more about Steven’s self-marketing adventure, stay tuned. We’ll be visiting with Steven, our aspiring food critic, later this week.

Messina Marketing Group

Brand Myself? Are You Kidding?

It’s 2009 and it’s time to wake up to the new media revolution. With more people spending more time online than ever, it’s time to get our heads out of the “I don’t get it” sand and smell the social network coffee. Here are the stats:

• Social networks and blogs are now the 4th most popular online activity ahead
of personal email

• Member communities are visited by 67% of the global online population

• Time spent on member communities is growing at 3 times the overall
internet rate, accounting for almost 10% of all internet time

~PDF, Nielsen Online, March 2009

Teens on Computer

When I talk to people IRL (in real life), I get a range of reactions to social media. Most have an impressive way of masking their ambivalence, nodding their heads in understanding while wishing I’d return to earth from my cyberspace soapbox. Others openly admit they have no clue about Twitter and don’t understand why anyone would use it.

Some people however, like my friend Steven, understand that now is the time to brand themselves online. Steven works for a high-end retailer but craves something more for himself and his career. His goal: to be an online food critic.

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While working full-time, Steven also takes culinary classes. Next year he hopes to close in on his B.A. in Writing & Journalism. Steven knows that by starting a blog now, he becomes an online participant in the food critic world. A blog for Steven will serve as a business card, store front, and reputation-builder, all rolled up into one. An online presence will establish him as a professional long before his final vision is realized. And this is the whole point for people with dreams on the back burner: Get online. Get yourself positioned. And do it now.

D. Armano

D. Armano

In the coming months we will follow Steven on his self-branding journey. What will his blog look like? What kind of content will he post? How will Steven’s personal brand evolve?

For a deeper look into self-branding and its significance on the web, see this 20-minute presentation by social media thinker, David Armano: Brand U.0, VIDEO

Thank you for subscribing to Writing Killer Content. I am especially grateful for all the positive feedback to The Social Media Journey, posted 8/11/09. Let’s continue to explore more of the new media frontier in the coming weeks and months.

Messina Marketing Group

Tweetup Tour 2009 Hits Chicago

The social media frenzy found its way into the Hyatt Regency Chicago this Tuesday, with over 200 Twitterers chatting away in real space. The event marked the second stop on the Mashable-sponsored, six-city #Hyatt4Good Tweetup Tour. Created as a series of informal meet and greets, the Tour is attracting more and more “followers” as it leaps from New York to Chicago, and now on to Denver, L.A., D.C., and Boston.

Six-city tour visits NYC, Chicago, Denver, San Diego, D.C., and Boston

NYC, Chicago, Denver, San Diego, D.C., Boston.

Contrary to initial suspicions, comments are carrying on in excess of 140 characters. In Chicago, the social media community was well represented by a consortium of tech and media mavericks, designers, entrepreneurs, PR and marketing professionals, and others invested in ideas surrounding social media. Attendees gathered in groups of twos and threes, their excitable banter fittingly matching the exuberance so often found on social networks like Twitter and Facebook. Conversations ranged from social media news to business development, to the latest in smartphone applications. What remained consistent, however, was the level of deep interaction so common among Twitterers. After all, it is just this type of open participation that continuously injects the “social” into social media. Several guests showed up with no prior knowledge of the tour, encouraged by friends unable to attend—yet eager to invite others to get out and mingle.

Twitterers convene at Hyatt Regency Chicago, 8/4/09

"Tweeting" in real space—Chicago, 8/4/09.

The event also celebrated the launch of Sevans Strategy, a Chicago-based PR and new media consultancy. Sarah Evans, the company’s president, presented a short video highlighting the profound changes occurring in the world of social media. To conclude the evening, some raffle prizes were announced, followed by Mashable COO, Adam Hirsch, inviting everyone to toast their nearest neighbor—a social media gesture of open exchange if there ever was one.

It’s fair to say the social media movement has entered its adolescence, with events like the Twitterup Tour attracting hundreds into small ballrooms across the country. Next year, it may be thousands. Yet unlike adolescent periods marked by an awkward and self-imposed identity crisis, the social media movement today holds its head high, confident in its own self-awareness, more “social” now than ever before.

Messina Marketing Group