Branding on the Social Web

October 16, 2009 | Branding

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Tim Hayden of GamePlan Experience talks about the integration of live, online and mobile worlds

Tim Hayden of GamePlan Experience talks about the integration of live, online and mobile experiences.

I spent Tuesday at The Big Conference here in Portland, Maine. The main theme was using social media, social networking, social web—or whatever you want to call it—to build your business.

As a graphic designer, I work to build brand identities and branding systems: The visual identification of a company and its brand. And this topic was mostly absent from the day’s lectures. But in fact, branding and social media are very entwined.

Fewer places to build brand identity

In the channels of social media, many of the typical “look and feel” touch points cannot be used. Your friends and followers may be receiving your updates as text messages, or within the pre-branded space of something like Facebook.

In fact, the branding space of Twitter is the reverse of traditional brand identity. If your follower logs onto twitter.com to get their updates, they are reading your messages in their own personally branded environment. The only time they see your branded environment may be that initial time when they choose to follow you. Instead of reading your messages cloaked in your brand, they are reading them veiled in their own brand’s look and feel.

On the one hand, that could mean that branding is less important in this context. However, it also means that the touch points you do have must truly embrace your unique and compelling identity. Take those small opportunities and really use them.

For example, on Twitter, customize your avatar and background image. If you are using Twitter for business, don’t change your avatar frequently (remember consistency is important to branding). Tweet in a tone that makes sense for you as a representative of your brand, and take care in the content of those posts.

How social networking builds your brand

One marketing mantra is: know me, like me, trust me. While traditional brand identity can help this through the repeated showing of your corporate “face.” Social web works from the opposite side by allowing people to get to know you through a multitude of small, personal interactions (even if they are unbranded).

At the conference, David Alston of Radian 6 said:

“Remove the mask of branding, and be human. It’s harder to crap on a person than on a logo.”

Branding can be compared to your reputation. And reputation is not something we can control completely. It is built by a series of small actions on our part (social media), and by the image we present (brand identity), and then filtered through the interpretations of those around us.

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