Week 9: Develop Your Online Presence – Branding


So here we are at Session 9. Up to now, the topics we’ve covered include: starting a blog, beginning to tweet, and posting on various different platforms.

Before the rise of the internet, the route to learning and mastery was simpler, and more direct. Typically, we’d study a topic in school or college until we’d mastered it, then take an exam to prove our mastery to the rest of the world. Now, however, things are different.

These days learning and executing anything, including how to develop your online presence, has three distinct stages:

1. Start

2. Improve

3. Monetize.

The first stage, Start, is fairly quick to execute. You open accounts to begin your blog, tweets, and posts on Facebook and other platforms that host users relevant to your work and goals.

The second stage, Improve, can take longer, and it’s at this point that it’s worth stopping to consider your brand. (The third stage, Monetize, is a large, separate topic requiring a separate course.)

In today’s digital world, every individual who creates a presence online is a brand, whether they’re aware of it or not. Your brand can be your most powerful asset.

A Little Bit About Branding

In Old English, in the late tenth century, the noun ‘brond’ first appeared in the epic heroic poem ‘Beowolf’ and it meant ‘destruction by fire’. By the 17th century, branding had become a popular means of establishing ownership via a hot-iron that imprinted initials or names on livestock and other items such as caskets of wine and market goods.

The rise of branding can be traced to industrialization in the 19th century. Industrialization meant that production of goods moved from local communities to centralized factories where they were packaged generically, and factory owners discovered they had trouble selling their products because customers weren’t familiar with the factory-packed goods and consequently didn’t trust them. They discovered that branding a product created familiarity, which created trust. Soon, companies adopted logos, jingles and mascots that, later on, were heard on radio and seen on TV every time their product was featured. By the 1940′s, manufacturers learned that customers were developing relationships with their brands in the social, psychological and anthropological senses.

Just as products have brand recognition, so do people. Think of Martha Stewart, Oprah, and Paula Dean. Their brands – which are basically about them as individuals – are consistent across their social media platforms, books and TV shows. Their brands are all about their energy, who they are, and what their work is about.

Oprah, for example, is all about gratitude and female empowerment. Every tweet, every magazine article, every website post, every book and TV show can be seen through this lens. And, whether Oprah’s brand is your cup of tea or not, it’s instructive to identify how consistent she is with this branding. One of her hashtags on Twitter (a way of creating a grouping of themed tweets) is #thankyougame. It’s also interesting to note, in this article on cult branding, how her high-lighting of others’ altruistic activities reflect and enhance her own brand.

So, this week’s checklist is to answer the following questions and thus identify your own core brand:

1. Who are you? What is your energy? Are you wise and warm, or perhaps quick-witted and edgy?
2. What do people remember about you after they’ve met you?
3. What is unique about you? (Note: This may be a result of the way you blend certain talents or skills and deliver those skills with your own particular flair.)
4. How do you want to be known?
5. What topics are you an expert in? Make a list.
6. Ask 3 friends or family members for a description of you and who they think you are. Incorporate their responses as you see fit.
7. Write a paragraph, incorporating this information, on ‘My Digital Brand’.
8. From that paragraph, craft a single sentence or catchphrase that encapsulates your brand.
9. Go back and review your brand as it exists online. Does your Facebook page need tweaking? How about the others? Make a nice cup of tea and have fun tweaking as necessary!

Let me know if you have any questions! Tessa