6 THE ONLINE BRAND – Working the Crowd


The first thing to consider about having a presence online is, quite simply, what you want people to think when they first meet you. By ‘you‘ we might mean your product, your firm, or your cause, rather than you personally. The essence of that first impression is important as it is continued through repeated social online interaction. That essence is something you need to determine before showing your face at the party or getting your foot in the door.

Part of presenting your online brand is considering the medium and the tools you will use.

This is really critical because not all businesses should use all tools.

This chapter will show you what goes into distilling that essence into something that works for you as well as your customers. But how do you get the best out of the web?

Think about how you intend to promote your brand on the web and also how the ‘personality of your brand (whether your brand represents a product or your own persona) works well in the social media world. It‘s no coincidence that the medium most often used to demonstrate the fun or quality of a new video game is video. Only through movement and monitoring actual game play can customers get a sense of what‘s in it for them when they purchase the new first-person shooter. If you are a better public speaker than writer, you may well consider having audio podcasts or video as your online medium of choice, because it will show your ideas and yourself in the best light. Likewise, if you are more a person of words than pictures, choosing a medium that relies more heavily on deftness with text (Twitter, blogging, Internet Relay Chat, etc.) may be the place to begin. The expense to the business has to be weighed against what the business wants to get done. Small businesses won‘t necessarily have the money to spare for big fancy video or sound production equipment.

As part of this discussion we will also look into what can go wrong when using the online tools. We will look at issues such as identity theft, reputation damage, profile-jacking, and harassment. While these may not deter you from an online presence, it’s best to consider what can go wrong and to try to protect against these scenarios from the beginning. We will also consider what can be done when clones of you start to appear across the web. We will look at how you can measure your online brand effectiveness or reputation. Just as a partygoer may need a trusted friend to help her realise there is piece of spinach caught in her teeth, so do businesses and business people need measurable and objective targets to gauge how well they are doing online. We will cover some of the ways to determine if things have gone horribly wrong as well, if your brand or personal identity has been hijacked, or if the customers are not reacting as well to your brand as you’d hoped.

Finally, we will look at how brands can change over time. An online brand may be slower to change than its human makers —but brands can and do change, and figuring how to finesse an existing brand morphing into a new one is a good and potentially profitable exercise.