When it comes to branding online, independent retailers get the heebie jeebies. They have the traditional pieces down: put their name on the store sign, publish an ad with that same name on it, run radio ads with the name attached. Yet, with social media, branding 101 sometimes goes out the window. At a recent Social Media Club of Kansas City breakfast, Eric Melin, Senior Social Media Community Manager at Callahan Creek talked through the topic of melding personal and professional brands online. His overall point urged social users to be their real selves online, but in the midst of that, he gave a great lesson on social branding 101 applicable to independent grocery retailers.
To start, whether you know it or not, your store already has a brand online, just like, Melin noted, everyone. People search every day on Google and social media platforms for information about people they meet and places they support. The results of those searches can be mentions in the articles, or rouge social media accounts created by patrons, or simply a customer talking about their experience. One of Melin’s tips is to logout of all Google accounts and Google yourself or your store. Are you happy with what you find? Either way, without any owned presence online, the brand isn’t under your control. Melin urged audience members to tell their own story instead of letting the web do it for them. Plus, said Melin, when you show your online followers that you understand branding online, it also shows you understand modern communication practices. This is true for someone trying to find a job in social media as well as retailers trying to connect with socially savvy consumers.
Next, the reasons he gave for cultivating a personal brand overlap with the reasons to create a strong brand online:
When creating this strong brand, either personally or professionally, Melin says to try and get your name or business’s name as a unique url everywhere. If you can’t do that, maybe someone has taken yours, create a unique name that those searching for you can connect to your brand. Sometimes, this takes some planning since you may be grabbing different usernames on different platforms at different times. But, Melin noted, don’t spread yourself too thin. Just because a platform exists, doesn’t mean you have to be on it. Not matter what, he says, build a hub on a website and keep it updated. It’s where people go first to find you.
Melin cautioned those thinking about the development of their personal brand not to think of it like a resume with just job stuff. He stressed that interesting facets of your personality also needed to be included. That’s true for companies as well. Sure, it’s important to give consumers information, but that doesn’t mean pounding people over the head with price and item posts all the time. It can mean showing some personality of who works in the store or behind the scenes.
Be genuine and be yourself, advised Melin. Personally, you’ll connect with others who have the same interests. As a organization, you’ll attract people who appreciate the type of services you offer or your business philosophy.
If you need help defining the brand, Melin suggested a thought exercise of figuring out your values, highlighting strengths and goals, and finding your why. Good for both online and offline branding communication, this really comes into play when trying to describe yourself or store to people online as the “About” information is essential in all avenues. When then presenting that definition to followers or consumers, be wary of getting caught in the trap of referring to yourself as a “jack of all trades” said Melin. As a personal attribute, being a “jack of all trades” likely means you are a master of none; as a store, it can mean you’re trying to be all things to all people, which means you don’t have any specialities to draw customers to your store. In conjunction with this, one of Melin’s tips is to do research on others in the space and see what’s working well for them. You don’t necessarily want to copy what they’re doing, but instead take a cue from their successes that you can apply to your own branding tactics.
While Melin’s overall goal included trying to get the audience to think differently about building a personal brand online, in many ways it acts as a template for online branding in general. Following the steps and thought processes he lays out is a good practice for retailers both new and established.