Here goes nothing.
I was going to edit the title of this post since it was just the default text that WordPress included, but then I thought, “Hey, if it ain’t broke.” So here it is. My first blog post. Well, not my first blog post EVER (this ain’t my first rodeo folks), but this is the first blog post of my first official website where I act professional and show you what I can do. And let me tell you, it’s very daunting.
If you’ve never set up an official presence for something on the internet, it probably seems simple to you. Pick a name, and get going! Right? Wrong. Establishing your online brand is a lot of work and requires a lot of planning. And like a lot of things, it’s most appealing in the end if it looks effortless. But there are several important elements to consider. This is something I do professionally for others but, as they say in the movies, “this time… it’s personal.”
The last few days have been filled with logos and business cards and sign-up and log in and create account. Doing this off-the-cuff can result in a disastrous, disorganized online presence so it’s important to plan. I can’t stress that enough.
Here’s a quick guide to getting started with your company or brand.
Step 1: Pick a name and check availability across platforms
The most successful online brands are easy to find, and nothing makes you easier to find than having the same user/account name across the vast expanse of this here world wide web. (I know nobody says world wide web anymore, except my Dad this morning, which made me want to use it somehow today).
First and foremost should be your domain name. If at all possible, get yourself a .COM. It is the most recognizable and trusted type of domain and generally perceived as the most “official” website you can have. Use a service like GoDaddy.com to check if the name you want is available. I used WordPress because the domain was included in an annual package that included professional email and other useful functions. These packages are a little pricier, but at GoDaddy you can get a domain name for dirt cheap and redirect it to any blog or website you’ve created on the net. (Also an outdated internet term). Blogger is the Google-owned blogging service and it’s great for beginners. I’ve had nothing but great experiences with it. Super user-friendly, click and drag style interface, and FREE. You can’t go wrong.
So once you’ve secured your domain, get that name (or a slight variation of that name) as your username across all social media platforms. If you did your homework then you won’t get to Twitter and realize, too late, that the name you want is taken. Check out Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook before you commit to anything. The best case scenario is having consistency between all these accounts. Because you know what’s cool? Telling clients they can find you online @quirkcomms. It comes off as sloppy and amateur to say you’re on Twitter as @quirkcomms and Instagram as @quirkycommsgal and oh yeah if you want to find me on facebook it’s @quirkcommsinottawa. As in life, sometimes the best advice is KISS. Keep It Simple Stupid! (You’re not stupid. I’m sorry. Don’t hate me.)
Bottom line? Research your name. Choose wisely. Be consistent!
Step 2: Identify your shtick, your brand, and your audience
In a world where anyone (and almost everyone) has a website, a product, or a company to promote, you have to stand out. I’m not saying to put on a cape and crown and brand yourself as The Sofa King (“your behind will be royally pleased on my couches, half off today only!”) because that kind of shtick is corny and sadly overdone.
What I mean by identifying your shtick is to figure out what about you is different from the herd. Maybe you’re a caterer. So don’t just be “Debbie’s Catering.” The human brain likes rhymes, alliterations, identifiable patterns. What makes Debbie’s business different? Is it vegetarian food? Go with something like Green Cuisine, Debbie’s Veggies. That’s just off the top of my head and it’s my best material, but you know what I mean. Pick something memorable that’s both fun and tells the public what they’re getting.
As for your brand, I mean that in a visual sense. You don’t have to be a graphic designer to have your brand look and feel professional. DesignMantic is a great resource for creating a logo and business cards. Just type in your business name (which you took great care in choosing, right??) and select the type of company, and you’ll be offered a ton of logo choices that you can customize and download at a reasonable price.
When selecting your logo, think about first impressions. Is the imagery at least semi-related to your company? Is it giving off the right “vibe?” Think about how it might appeal to different age groups, try to imagine it on a t-shirt, maybe as a decal on the side of your vehicle, on a business card, on your website, and for the love of God – and this is going to sound weird – try to view it with a dirty mind. This morning I almost selected an image of two blue quotation marks as my logo. The moment I consulted with a friend, he said “they’re blue balls.” Close call. You don’t want to spend all the time, energy, and money on branding, only to embarrass yourself and have your company end up on a list like this.
PRO TIP: Make an account at DesignMantic and leave the design you want in your cart overnight without checking out. A $10 off coupon will appear in your inbox by morning as incentive to complete your purchase.
Knowing who your audience is will shape the way you write, the people you follow and interact with on social media, and the places you advertise. If you’re a lawyer you’re probably going to write/blog/tweet differently than a cupcake company. Your logo and website’s look and feel will differ depending on the needs of your audience and clients. For some people, professionalism and formality is just the ticket, and for others a more personal, informal touch is in order. Know who you’re trying to reach and mold your style around that. More on different audiences and approaches later.
Step 3: Create content and communicate consistently
Your website should be your main hub and the first point of contact for clients, customers, potential members, whoever it is you’re trying to attract. Sadly, as a culture we’ve lost some of our attention span, so keep the information tight and concise. Your “about” section should be no more than a paragraph. Don’t go into your entire history as a company. Make a portfolio or projects section so people can see your past work. Keeping information contained in specific sections makes things easy to navigate. Studies have shown that if people can’t get to the info they want in less than two clicks, they’re likely to just give up.
Don’t underestimate the power of social media. This is an amazing tool to get the word out about your company or product. And in 2016, you’re not credible if you can’t be found on these types of platforms. This is the reality business face nowadays.
On your website, write blog articles about your industry, whatever that may be. Talk about trends, issues, your personal feelings, create a journal that expresses the personal side. Are you a contractor? Write about an interesting day you had on a job site. The content possibilities are endless. Try to get a blog post up at least once a week. That blog post can then be shared on your Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. But don’t fret the extra work. A blog or consistently updated website can be a great extra revenue stream if you’re using ads. Not to mention, people love a product or company they can relate to personally. Everyone likes to feel like a part of something and they want to lend their support to more than just a corporation.
Tweet several times a day. Social media is a whole different beast than a website. People send an email through your website and don’t usually expect an immediate response, but with social media, the expectation is for much faster, real-time contact. Be available to answer a question from a follower within minutes if you can.
I’ll post more best practices and strategies for your social media accounts at another time, but the basic advice I can give if you’re just starting out is to USE THEM. Actually use them. Don’t follow a thousand random people and expect followers in return. Interact with people, reply to tweets you like, share posts that you enjoyed and add your own comments. The best results come from being consistent and genuine.
All of this is a totally basic outline, but it’s important to have these three steps in mind when starting out the process of establishing yourself online. This is the foundation you need to get started on the right foot. If done right, you’ve set yourself up for success. There are facets to digital media that can be a huge pain (or even impossible) to rectify if not done properly from the get-go. So do it right, and most importantly – have fun. Even in the digital world, it shows.