The Value Of Online, Off - Topic Communities
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So we’ve all read a million articles about social media marketing, but can you build a brand online? Better yet, should you build a brand online, and why is branding more important than marketing?

Marketing is great, but if no one likes what you have to offer, then your marketing efforts are worthless! Building an identity for a product, service, or content, and instilling a recurring image in prospects will pay off in multiple ways. To show this more clearly, here’s an example of building the brand online, rather than just promoting it.

A gaming company wanted to spread the word about their brand, and realized that their customer base was always online. While your prospects may not be there at present, they are there for some reason, so the following Case Study still applies.

Our gaming company started its own community on Google +. If most prospects are online anyway, keywords that they use will attract these consumers that want to keep up with new products, gossip, graphics, etc. Don’t think that your prospects aren’t like gamers. Look at the success of the social site Instagram. People like looking at pictures and information of what they like. By starting an online community, it is your choice what to add to it, but you know that you will attract those that enjoy the subject (Which should be your Unique Sales Proposal), and you can find out more about them from their own profiles and posting history. Facebook and Linked In also offer the same opportunity, but – of course – they come to the industry with different viewpoints: Either fun, or professional.

Your own brand, your online communities are, and should be named differently, but your plan should be to make both names recognizable to those that will become members of that community. You do not want to link the two names, but you do want to place the idea that the moderator of these communities may be a brand name, but it is also a fan of the product, or service, and its power. Even if your brand name isn't well known, yet, you want to place these ideas into the experience of your prospects. This Calgary Family Law practice does this through all of it's platforms.

You are going to share information with your communities, but not sell your brand. To become trustworthy, the last thing anyone wants is to be sold to. There is nothing wrong with accepting some of your competition into the community, in fact you can learn from them, if they do. You are there to listen to your communities, what they feel, and what they want.

Your graphics are very important, here. They should attract and be recognizable to your community. Our Gaming company chose one of the old ‘Pac-Man’ characters for its community graphic: it is old fashioned and welcoming, easily recognizable to fans, and others, and still shouts: “Game!” Just a glimpse of that graphic will definitely appeal to those prospective community members that our company wanted to interest. By associating an instantly recognizable graphic to your product, you are creating an identity that previous purchasers of your Product or Service will be attracted to: Real Estate Agent? How about famous house pictures, or properties found on classic TV or animation from childhood years? This looks ‘harmless’, has nothing to do with selling, and yet is attractive to a certain demographic.

You now have the opportunity to dictate what content is added to your group, and the more ‘fun’ and sharable, the better. This will grow your audience and should allow you to grow interest in your business through your website. As mentioned above, by using the same rules, you can grow interest in you and your business through other social sites, but they will all require a different approach, while retaining the same community feel. Now, you can start rewarding those that interact with you more often through fun competitions, and giveaways, etc. However, bear the following in mind.

For this to work it is your ability to focus heavily on the quality of the content you create, paying close attention to your users wants and needs. Content is everything, and your image follows next! It’s not just the quality of content that matters, but the way you present that content to others that is of a great significance to succeeding online.


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