Building a brand online is both an art and a science.
On the one hand, what makes a “brand” is such a subjective question. Some brands are built entirely on look, feel, design, positioning and hype (luxury brands come to mind here). Other brands don’t have any of these things, are borderline “unprofessional” (by many people’s standards), and yet attract tens of millions of viewers, or build an incredibly loyal customer base purely from the quality and usefulness of their product or service.
Add the forever-changing variable of “The Internet” into the equation, and building a brand online is definitely not a straight path. What works for one brand, won’t work for the next. And in order to remain relevant over the long term, you have to constantly be looking for ways to evolve.
All that said, here are 5 digital marketing strategies just about any brand can use to increase exposure, attract customers, and build a loyal fan base.
1. Don’t get married to any one platform.
The Internet is constantly changing.
Remember what “social media” consisted of 10 years ago? Facebook was just starting to gain real traction. Myspace was still considered popular. No one knew the purpose of Twitter. It wasn’t cool to “vlog” on YouTube yet. And the term “influencer” didn’t even exist.
One of the hardest parts about building a brand online is accepting the fact that what works today, won’t necessarily work tomorrow. And worse, you might spend years investing in building your presence on a social platform, only for that platform to one day become irrelevant (or die altogether).
This is what makes “digital marketing” such a science. It’s a never-ending process of testing, pivoting, and never allowing yourself to become too reliant on any one platform, website, or method.
So, don’t allow yourself to get too attached to a certain tactic in the first place. The moment it stops working, throw caution to the wind and look for a new solution.
2. Be prepared to use today’s growth hacks to your advantage.
One of the most difficult truths for people to accept about the Internet is that there are very few formal “rules.”
When it comes to building a brand online, you have to understand that you are competing with some serious digital marketers who will do whatever it takes in order to succeed. Twitter bots. Instagram engagement groups. Salesy YouTube “vlog-style” ads. Gimmicky Facebook ads. Clickbait headlines. Buying email lists. The list goes on and on.
While it’s your choice where you want to draw the line, it’s important that anyone looking to build a brand online educates themselves on how the Internet actually works (not how you think it works, or how you wish it would work). And part of that education process means knowing all the different ways gain exposure, sell products, acquire email addresses, build funnels, buy traffic, etc.
Once you know all these different brand building methods exist, it helps put things in perspective. When you see a new brand in your space appear out of nowhere, and instantly have hundreds of thousands of followers on social media, don’t get discouraged. Chances are, they’re hacking the game, just like everyone else.
3. Invest heavily in the 1–2 methods that drive the most results for your brand.
So many companies get caught in the vicious cycle of “trying to be everywhere at once.”
This is a poor strategy.
In a lot of cases, it’s not really necessary for you to have a social presence on every single platform, or for you to invest money into certain tactics that don’t work very well for your type of business. For example, let’s say you’re a product company, and you know for every $35 you spend on advertising, you make $35 + $10 profit. Great, then Facebook ads and mastering that method would be in your best interest — instead of spending hours and hours trying to grow your Twitter following.
Unless you’re a Fortune 500 company with a massive advertising budget, it’s actually far more effective to invest in a small handful of initiatives that have been proven to work for your business. So, stop trying to be on Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and LinkedIn all at the same time. Nobody is sitting at home, checking to make sure you’re on every platform possible. Instead, double-down on the ones you know are worth the investment for your target audience, and ditch the rest.
4. If you can’t measure it, don’t do it.
One of the greatest advantages the Internet has provided businesses is the ability to measure things in terms of data.
Similar to the above, one of the biggest mistakes companies make when it comes to their own marketing initiatives is they pour money into efforts that have no real “measure for success.” For example, why do you want 100,000 followers on Instagram? Is it because achieving that goal will help position your company as an authority in the space? Is it for brand positioning? Is it because you believe 5% of those followers will convert into monthly paying customers?
Setting arbitrary goals without firmly defining how those goals are going to move your brand to the next level is a waste of time, money, and resources. So, before you start holding weekly meetings to recap social media performance, you should question whether those initiatives are truly going to move the needle for your business in the first place.
5. Consistency is more important than anything else.
The Internet moves fast.
At any single moment, there is such an unfathomable amount of content for people to pay attention to, that brands have to remember the one thing that’s going to make a difference over the long term.
And that’s consistency.
See, when brands build their entire marketing strategies around big marketing pushes, well-timed PR campaigns, or “going viral,” they don’t realize that they’re playing a short-sighted game. Sure, that might work well for a period of time, but then what? All that money you spent getting everyone’s attention for a few weeks now has no real lasting value. You didn’t invest it into anything — you spent it.
But brands need to remember that every single person that spends time online pays attention to something very particular, which is how long you’ve been doing whatever it is you’re doing. For example: if you see an intriguing photo on Instagram’s explore page, but that profile has only posted three photos total, what is your immediate assumption?
You, as the user, assume that page isn’t credible.
You assume that page is a “spam” page.
You assume that page won’t be there tomorrow.
However, if you come across a photo, a video, or an article by a brand that has been creating great content for years, then your reaction is the total opposite. You assume that brand is extremely credible. You assume they’re a leader in their space, since they’ve been at it for so long. You inherently think higher of them, simply because they’ve been consistent (because it’s not easy to do).
So, when you’re creating your marketing budget, don’t just ask what initiatives you can execute — ask what initiatives you can execute consistently.