The 12 Principles of Brand Strategy

by Eric Tsai

In a situation where you’re selling to multiple personalities, it’s best to first connect everyone on a common ground then articulate clearly what’s in it for each of them.

The goal is to stimulate an engaging conversation that allows us to change perception, diagnose expectations and bring clarity to the dialogue.

That’s the essence of developing a brand strategy – the foundation of your communication that builds authentic relationships between you and your audience.

It is by defining your brand strategy that allows you to utilize marketing, advertising, public relations and social media to consistently and accurately reinforce your character.

Without defining the core strategy, all channels of communication can often become a hit and miss expense.

Here’s 12 brand strategy principles I believe to be the key to achieve business success.

1. Define your brand

It starts with your authenticity, the core purpose, vision, mission, position, values and character.  Focus on what you do best and then communicated your inimitable strengths through consistency.

There are many examples of companies acquiring other brands but only to sell them off later because they don’t fit within the brand and its architecture.

Microsoft acquired Razorfish in 2007 when it bought aQuantive, a digital marketing services company, for about US $6 billion then sold it a few years later for $530 million.

Simply put, Razorfish isn’t a good fit with Microsoft’s brand strategy.

2.  Your brand is your business model

Supports and challenge your business model to maximize the potential within your brand. Think of personal brands like Oprah, Donald Trump, Martha Stewart and Richard Branson.

These individuals practically built their business right on top of their personal brand; everything they offer is an extension of their brand promise.

3. Consistency, consistency, consistency

Consistency in your message is the key to differentiate.

Own your position on every reference point for everything that you do. President Obama focuses on one message only during his campaign, CHANGE. BMW has always been known as the “ultimate driving machine.

4. Start from the Inside out

Everyone in your company can tell you what they see, think and feel about your brand.  That’s the story you should bring to the customers as well, drive impact beyond just the walls of marketing.

That’s example how Zappos empowers employees to strengthen consumer perception on its brand.

5. Connect on the emotional level.

A brand is not a name, logo, website, ad campaigns or PR; those are only the tools not the brand.  A brand is a desirable idea manifested in products, services, people, places and experiences.

Starbucks created a third space experience that’s desirable and exclusive so people would want to stay and pay for the overpriced coffee.

Sell people something that satisfies not only their physical needs but their emotional needs and their need to identify themselves to your brand.

6. Empower brand champions

Award those that love your brand to help drive the message, facility activities so they can be part of the process.

If your brand advocate doesn’t tell you what you should or should not be doing, it’s time to evaluate your brand promise.

Go and talk to someone that works at the Apple retail store or an iPhone owner and you’ll see just how passionate they are about Apple.  It’s a lifestyle and a culture.

7. Stay relevant and flexible

A well managed brand is always making adjustments.  Branding is a process, not a race, not an event so expect to constantly tweak your message and refresh your image.

Successful brands don’t cling to the old ways just because they worked in the past; instead, they try to re-invent themselves by being flexible which frees them to be more savvy and creative.

Here is an example: when the economy tanked this year automaker Hyundai came out with an assurance program that lets you return your car if you lose your job with no further financial obligation and no damage to your credit.

The results?

As of end of February, only two buyers have taken advantage of this program but it has boosted their sales by 14% year-over-year in Q1, only one of the two companies increased revenue while companies such as Honda experienced a drop of more than 30%.

Follow by that campaign in July, as gas prices expected to push higher during peak summer travel months, Hyundai came out with another program that guarantees a year’s worth of gas at $1.49 per gallon on most models.

8. Align tactics with strategy

Convey the brand message on the most appropriate media platform with specific campaign objectives.

Because consumers are bombarded by commercial messages everyday, they’re also actively blocking out the great majority of them.

Invest your branding efforts on the right platform that communicates to the right channels.

Television may be expensive but it has a broader reach, wider demographics and can produce instant impact.  On the other hand, social media may seem cheap but it takes time, resources and may not give you the desire outcome.

9. Measure the effectiveness

Focus on the ROI (return on investment) is the key to measure the effectiveness of your strategies.

Often times it is how well your organization can be inspired to execute the strategies. It could also be reflected in brand valuation or how your customers react to your product and price adjustments.

Ultimately it should resonate with sales and that means profitability.  But don’t just focus increasing sales when you could be getting a profit boost by reducing overheads and expenses as well.

Give yourself options to test different marketing tactics, make sure they fit your brand authenticity and aligns with your strategy.

10. Cultivate your community

Community is a powerful and effective platform on which to engage customers and create loyalty towards the brand.

In an active community, members feel a need to connect with each other in the context of the brand’s consumption.

We all want to be an insider of something, it excites us to tell people which community we’re part of and what knowledge we posses.

In many ways it’s our ego that prides us to be part of a sports team or a professional group.

Guess what car would members of the Porsche club consider first when it’s time to purchase their next vehicle?

Brand communities allow companies to collaborate with customers in all phases of value creation via crowdsourcing such as product design, pricing strategy, availability, and even how to sell.

11. Keep your enemies closer

Even if you have the most innovative, highly desirable product, you can expect new competitors with a superior value proposition to enter your market down the road.

The market is always big enough for new players to improve what you deliver better, faster, cheaper. Call it hypercompetition or innovation economics, competition could be good for you believe it or not.

It challenges you brand to elevate the strategy and deliver more value.

Just look at how the Big Three (automobile manufacturers General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler) got crushed in the past decade by competitions from Germany and Japanese.

Not only do their competitors make a better product, they’re more efficient doing it and command a higher brand loyalty.

In 2008, Toyota overtook GM while Honda passed Chrysler in US sales.

12. Practice brand strategy thinking

IDEO’s CEO Tim Brown calls design thinking “a process for creating new choices.

Essentially it means to not just settle for the choices currently available but to think outside the box without being limited.

This concept actually applies to your brand strategy creation process that I called brand strategy thinking.

It’s always easier to execute tactics than coming up with a strategy because it implies the possibility of failure.

It’s much faster to emulate what worked for your competitor than to come up with something original and creative.

But the truth is, that’s not you and it violates the first principle of brand strategy.  Brand strategy thinking is about creating the right experience that involve all the stakeholders to foster a better strategy.

Leverage the ecosystem that includes your employees, partners and customers to help you articulate your brand strategy so they sync together.

The take away: Having a brand strategy will bring clarity and meaning to your brand so you can focus on making, creating, and selling things that people actually care about.

If you could do that, your brand would be unique and memorable on its way to become an esteemed brand.

Are there any you disagree with?

Let me know if I’m missing anything.

3 Keys to Improve Your Brand in Social Marketing

by Eric Tsai

Many businesses continue to operate under the assumption that a website, a basic product offering or great brochure will bring profits and revenue to their bottom line. Those days are over.  Brands are now crossing over into the hybrid marketing era that incorporates some form of social media.

You already know the importance of product, price, placement and promotion, but none of that matters without people. People is what build relationship and creates opportunities.  And that’s exactly what social media has added: the fifth “P” of marketing.

Whether your brand provides information products, consumer goods or services, one thing still remains the same: the most effective marketing is still word-of-mouth (WOM).

WOM generates buzz and it gets passed along over and over and over again in a highly influential way. It’s how friends tell friends about the things that excite them or what business owners tell other business owners on what works for their business.

According to the latest Nielsen Global Consumer Survey: 90% of consumers said they trust recommendations from people they know, while 70% trusted consumer opinions posted online.
trust_in_advertising

It’s indicative that all forms of advertising retains certain level of pervasiveness to them. In the case of WOM, it contributes to instant social proof and is particularly effective in social media.

Consider social media the new viral marketing tactic and will typically involve the following steps in launching a campaign:

An effective message: How you position your brand and the message you’re trying to get across.  Knowing your audience (the influencers, decision makers) is the key to build a winning message.  It’s all about getting the right message to the right people while being authentically efficient.  Communication is the heart of your customer acquisition and engagement strategies, the key is fostering a high quality relationship that aims to build long-term value: the foundation of a trusted connection.

A targeted channel: Although many brands are still utilizing traditional media outlets, ideally you want to target the most cost-effective channel that’s appropriate for your brand.  Social network advertising channel is rapidly becoming the favor platform for brands because online advertising is cheaper compared to other mediums such as TV and print and is far more targeted.  With that said, face-to-face interaction is still the top channel for people engagement.  Nothing will ever replace the old fashioned hand shake, a lunch or even that discovery phone call.

A viral network: Social media has created a new instantaneous viral network, Facebook has more than 250 million users and Twitter has 20 million growing more than 1000% year over year.  There are other social networks you can tap in such as LinkedIn or even the blogsphere.  The point is your customers are already on those networks connected and connecting with other like-minded individuals, sharing and commenting in groups with detail profiles and pictures.  Consider social network that’s a directory with the domino effect.

Now that you’ve got your killer message and a channel to distribute it, how do you get the viral network to be, well, viral?

The answer is simple: you need to be trusted.

Relationships And Conversations

In order to be trusted, you need to build influence on your audiences’ terms and be truly authentic in sharing and informing.  I’ve discussed being authentic before so I won’t get into the detail again, but recently I’ve found that there are some low level engagement that are both ineffective and deceiving.

In a recent article “Who cares about your news”, Valeria Maltoni clearly illustrated the problem with inadequate engagement and I encourage you to read her post.  In fact, I too received similar email from Gary Vaynerchuk’s publicist on July 9:

Hey, this is xxx from xxx. I’m working with Gary Vaynerchuk to help promote his new book: Crush It: Why Now Is the Time To Cash In on Your Passion.  Because the book deals heavily with social media strategy and branding, which is obviously something this blog talks about as well, we thought it might be something you’d be interested in checking out…

Ironically on the same day I received another email from a personal branding expert which I will not disclose here asking me to boost his rating on Amazon:

…my book, xxx, is being sabotaged on Amazon.com. Basically, 5 people are giving it bad ratings, just to be negative and then at the end of each review where it says “Was this review helpful to you?”, they (and their friends) are selecting “yes,” which pushes up those negative ratings to the top and hurts the brand of the book.

As a favor to me, could you please go to Amazon link here and press “no” under the bad reviews and “yes” under the good reviews…

Honestly, I wasn’t offended but rather disappointed with the meaningless connection attempts by both media “celebrities.” Not only do they have a large following, they’re also role models to many. It’s obvious that both emails wanted me to do something but why would I care about someone that doesn’t care about me?  Have they read my blog or know what their readers are about? Is it all about selling books?

You simply have to apply those questions to your audience to start thinking about the meaning in your engagement.  Often time it will lead to questioning the value of your product and the impact of your offering.

People can be impressed easily but that doesn’t mean they’ll act on it to buy your product or do what you’ve asked.  You’re audience can be your best word-of-mouth marketing campaign but that comes from within the quality of the engagement.

As a marketer myself I understand the “selling” tactics but it only works best if you bring value to the connection and develop a consistent long-term relationship with your audience.

Why waste the time to reach out if you aren’t ready to have a meaningful conversation?

Owning The Social Distribution Network

Social media is about having a presence then connecting and sharing meaningful information with your audience for the long haul.  I’ve covered the pillar strategies in “7 Keys to Creating Social Media Strategy for Your Brand” as a high-level overview, so now let’s look the desired outcome of branding in social media.

social_marketing_network

Conceptually, you are the center of the network universe and social media is the tool that enables you to build a community around a product or service in forging your brand’s marketing distribution channel. Once you’ve earn the trust, it spreads like WOM marketing expanding to all directions reaching your potential prospects.

Whether you have a brilliant product or the perfect message, developing your channel takes time and precision while owning it takes relentless focus on your audience’s ongoing needs.

The downside to the network is that it can work against you destroying your reputation just as fast. This means knowing your brand strategy in social marketing will be extremely important to maintain the sphere of trust.

Here are 3 keys to improve your brand while marketing in social media:

1) Move the “free” line
If you want to be part of the decision making process, you need to be considered as a key opinion leader or resource. Supply your audience with free resources such as reports, statistics and guides that can help elevate your perceived expertise.  With the amount of information on the internet today, your audience can find almost anything but if you can quantify the information that leads to a path of knowledge enrichment, you will certainly earn a few brownie points to be considered as the prime candidate. Google does this very well with their how-to videos extending their brand with social learning.

Your customer will compare before they a purchase anyway so why not give them a reason to start liking you because you’ve willing to share the wealth. If the free information you provide is valuable, you’re already a step ahead of your competition not to mention that you’re turning them into your “A” customers by providing all the necessary training and education.

2) Crowdsource for improvements
While the success of your brand’s often comes down to the effectiveness of your message, it pays to ask questions.  Companies like Starbucks, Best Buy and Pizza Hut are all using customer feedback to improve product innovation and service experience. Starbucks even let’s their customers suggest on new product ideas. Social marketing shouldn’t just be about the outbound messages; it’s an ongoing dialogue to better serve your audience.

The customers that give you feedback are often your most loyal customers so why not reward them by fulfilling a few of their suggestions.  Keep in mind that providing what they want should not be the main source of innovation, rather it’s a good starting point.

3) Embrace brand transparency
People appreciate honesty and integrity so all you have to do is stay consistent and admit when you’re wrong.  If you try to twist the truth, you’ll not last long and people won’t forget manipulations and deceptions.

This can be seen by how Major League Baseball players are forgiven about steroid use if they admit their wrongdoing rather than lie about it. The players that got caught were all given a chance to show their remorse, the ones that lied never get to play the game again because they simply can not be trusted.

In addition, when you show progress or improvement as a brand, your customer will empathize with you for the openness and sincerity. Similar to the examples I gave above on the two media celebrities, if they actually took time to get to know me, I may very well assist them with their requests, but now it’s back to square one again.

How are you improving your brand in social media?  What kind of success did you have with your social marketing efforts?  I’d like to know your thoughts.

The Emerging Trend of Hybrid Marketing Model

by Eric Tsai

A day after my last post on how traditional media is deteriorating, Microsoft’s CEO, Steve Ballmer speaking at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival, argued that traditional media will not bounce back, all content consumed will be digital, we can debate if that may be in one, two, five or ten years.

In some respect the context of Ballmer’s statement is indicative of the fact that advertising revenues continue to shift to where the interaction is taking place – online.

There is definitely a shift in consumer behavior as the online experience, through social media, becomes more acceptable, accessible and affordable.

Keep in mind that social media in nature has low barrier to entry with the lack of gatekeeping process.

This is a double edge sword providing that content can be generated rapidly but the quality is dramatically reduced.

The message of social media is totally radical, pervasive, and decentralized while the content of social media focuses on the concept of crowdsourcing defined via Wikipedia as “the trend of leveraging the mass collaboration enabled by Web 2.0 technologies to achieve business goals.”

That’s what’s carrying out the new social media revolution because it’s basically an extension of our sense of voice with instant speed for community-based design.

During Jeff Pulver’s 140 Characters Conference, Chris Weingarten of Rolling Stone made a great point: Crowdsourcing kills art because crowds have terrible taste! If you let people decide then nothing truly adventurous ever gets out.

I couldn’t put it better myself.

People stop asking why information gets delivered and the quality of them.

Typically authorities have a quality assurance process in sequence and in concatenation to produce high quality, relevant content.

What we must do on the receiving side is to continue to question the legitimacy and integrity of the source.

Social media allows us to connect horizontally across each other with relative ease, but just as Jeremiah Owyang recently pointed out that human don’t scale which questions the authenticity of top social media bloggers and news blogs.

This is very true in a sense that because we don’t scale, we’re only able to consume limited amount of information combine with short attention span, it’s a race to absorb as much as possible in a short period of time.

This propelled the publishers to publish rapidly; furthermore the increasing competition has put a sense of urgency pressure to compete for the same audience.

Ultimately the brand that can scale and remains relatively authentic perception-wise will be the ones to profit the most.

Hypercomptition To Hybrid Marketing

Hybrid Marketing

There is no sustained competitive advantage anymore according to Richard D’Aveni, professor of business strategy at the Amos Tuck School at Dartmouth College. He argues that advantage is continually created, eroded, destroyed and recreated through strategic maneuvering.

I found this particularly interesting because that’s what’s going on with the traditional media landscape.

Traditional media rules and orders can’t be applied perfectly under the new regime of communication (social media) and thus formations of authorities are under attack from these new forms of expression.

Simply put, it’s not a technological argument but the outcome from social and cultural conditions.

Think how content is produced, reproduced, distributed and consumed – more people are adjusting to the “new way of doing things” abandoning the old ones which leads to the permanent shift in behavior.

However, marketer should not disregard traditional media altogether, but combine traditional media with social media to form an integrated strategy or the “hybrid marketing” model.

In the hybrid marketing model, it’s about drawing a business model that works within the ecosystem of your brand.

The key is to have a fluid approach in creating a meaningful dialog with your market. Instead of focusing on what marketing tactics to use strategize on aligning your brand strategy with your business goals and view social media as one of the arsenal to choose from.

I believe this is a more practical approach and allows for integrated efforts for companies with branding 1.0 infrastructure to transition into branding 1.5 strategies because there is no point in applying branding 2.0 strategies if the infrastructure is not ready for it.

The idea is that the marketing strategy will streamline with the resources creating the desire outcomes that are measurable. Brands must consider the costs associate with deployment, control, and management to sustain such strategy.

There is a place for the shrinking traditional media. It will continue to evolve based on how we act and react to technology.

However, it won’t be technology that drives the outcome of the new media, but the cultural value of intellectual property and how it gets produced and consumed.

What’s your marketing strategy?

Perhaps you’re already utilizing hybrid marketing in your business model, share your thoughts here.

7 Keys to Creating Social Media Strategy for Your Brand

by Eric Tsai

In the past few weeks I’ve experienced a decent amount of spam from social networking sites ranging from people marketing their books, selling “make money online” information, to promoting their personal brand.

It’s indicative of the fact that individuals and businesses are viewing the space seriously as it takes on the mainstream spotlight.

There are many ways to utilize social media to boost your brand.  The key is to have a strategy around building your social proof.

Let The Truth Be Told

People naturally look for social proof in any given situation.

Social proof is a weapon of influence by which we replicate what we see others do.  We tend to make assumptions in our head when we’re unable to determine the appropriate action to take.
So we turn to surrounding authorities that we assume possess more knowledge about the situation than us.

For example, if you see a bunch of people lining up outside of a restaurant you tend to think the food is good or better yet, it MUSTbe good.

Social proof is especially powerful in social media because of the available information from Twitter followers to LinkedIn connections.  People get influenced real-time on their PCs or their mobile devices.

This creates little barrier to entry for people to be perceived as preeminent experts.  Combine that with the limitless reach of social network; people will often evaluate others based on how “connected” they are.

The truth is – social media is a platform for engagement and building communities.

It has evolved to be part of a marketer’s arsenal and it’s on the path to be the next coming of email spam.

If you don’t want to be perceived as a spammer or someone just looking to gain free social proof, you need a solid strategy for your brand.

Aligning Your Brand And Business Strategy

There are lots of high profile people and companies using social media today but not all of them are getting the result they want.

Many brands are doing a fairly good job utilizing the right social media strategy while others clearly have no clue.

Here are 7 keys to create your social media strategy:

1. Define your outcome

This is perhaps the most important aspect of your social media strategy.

What are you trying to achieve?

What is your ideal outcome? Sales?

Lead generation? Promotions? Branding? Buzz?

Corporate brands generally use social media as part of their larger strategic initiatives for reputation management, product launches, and customer engagement tools.

Those methods apply to personal branding as well because social media is a cost-effective marketing and PR vehicle in comparison to the traditional media marketing.

2. Focus on your audience’s needs

If you want to sell a product such as a book across social media, you must focus on your audience’s pain point, solve their problems, and add value to them little by little.

Provide free advice that’s of high value, NOT something anyone can just copy and paste from a source like a blog.

For example, instead of relaying mainstream news, focus on syndicating news gear towards a specific niche area so you become the go-to source for it.

Better yet, compile the content and provide your own insight so you act as a filter for your audience.

3. Implement measurable ROI

This is actually difficult to do because social media is still a relatively new medium and remains largely unproven.

The best solution is to gauge the time spent versus the result you are able to measure such as inbound traffic, clickthroughs, impressions, comments, fans, followers, subscribers, and ask how prospects find you.

Track your data and chart them over time to find relevant cause and effects.

You may be surprise to find what people are saying about your brand or how effective your marketing triggers are after reviewing your statistics.

4. Actively participate in discussion groups

If you have something valuable to offer, people should know.

Join discussions and participate in forums will bring you opportunities to brand yourself and create awareness in the form of constructive promotion.

Further more by providing your audience with insights, educational content, or value support systems will help you gain social proof.

Knowledge transfer in social media is very powerful especially given as freebies.  As a result it creates reciprocation from the recipient who will want to return the favor in the form of purchasing your product or endorsing your brand.

5. Get in front of the right people

High profile people are great leverage to give you that boost of traffic especially key opinion leaders in your niche area.

Get in touch with them and do something for them first.

Contribute to their cause and the reciprocation factor will work on them as well.  Instead of asking for endorsements, participate in their discussion groups, leave comments on their blog, send them useful information, and interact with their channel are all ways to gain visibility.

Build the right relationship will also drive The Long-Tail affect in which your brand impression will be distributed amongst high profile people’s fans in significant numbers.

6. Blend online and offline social networking

This is one of the overlooked areas for social networking.

Offline networking can add more fuel to the fire especially when people aren’t able to hide behind their user name, emails or avatars.

There is nothing quite like a face-to-face conversation to get a nice dialogue started.

Not only can you hear the voice of the other person but the body language, eye contact, and physical interaction in the same space makes you more “real” and believable.

Although it can be time consuming, offline networking is more powerful than 140 words in a tweet or a two liner comment in Facebook.

It also encourages word-of-mouth marketing which is by far the most effective marketing tool today.

I highly recommend you to attend conferences, go to tradeshows, take a training course, or get with other social networkers locally.  Start a MeetUp group or a monthly seminar.

7. Nurture relationships, build momentum

When implanting social media strategies, you may wan to run tests to get feedback from your network.

You should stay true to yourself but also know what worked and what doesn’t.

Ideally you want to keep doing what works and find new ways to strengthen your relationship with your audience.

Start your own discussion group, do an online survey, create joint ventures, exchange opportunities, and continue to provide free information are all ways to foster your social media relationships.

Nothing will happen when nothing is provided and you must be patient before you get results.

Whether you’re already on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or is blogging on a regular basis, my best advice is to just let go and keep on giving!

Has social media already helped your business?

5 Easy Steps to Build a Solid Social Media Profile

by Eric Tsai

Whether it’s your business or your personal brand, people always connect with people on a personal level.  It’s all about engaging in a dynamic relationship.

Brands are not logos or commercials, they are the perception and emotion of people built on trust and credibility.

A successful brand cultivates extensive user experience and encourages interaction that creates meaningful dialogues.

In order to foster strong relationships you must be trusted.  And to earn trust, you need to allow others to become aware of you.

This concept also applies to the art of social networking, particularly with the shift from face-to-face communication to more online communication.

There are literally thousands of social media websites on the internet with hundreds more popping up every week.

The strategy is to focus on the ones that suit your niche.

Setup a blog

I recommend setting up a blog if you don’t already have a website.

Even if you have a website such as your company or product website, incorporating a blog will enhance your online presence because blogs are typically search engine friendly, and they allow for rapid content indexing on the internet.

You can easily sign up for a free account on Blogger, WordPress, or TypePad and start blogging away on whatever topic you want. It’s not required that you have a blog but it provides another source to learn about you or your company on a personal level.

The latest phenomenon is the development of ‘micro-blogging” – a form of blogging that allows users to send brief updates either to be viewed by anyone or by a restricted group which can be chosen by the user.

This feature is available in Facebook and LinkedIn as status updates and by far the most popular one now is Twitter.

Sign up social networking accounts

For professional and business related social profile, the ideal website to use is LinkedIn.  LinkedIn is a professional community that shares your credentials in a resume format.

It has an unique format for users to browse and connect with a person’s and all of his/her contacts.

You can aggregate your blog content right on your personal profile page too so whenever you post new entries, it will update automatically.

And for connecting with family and friends, Facebook would be the choice because it focuses on displaying photos and allows for more personal dialogues and interactions.

Both LinkedIn and Facebook has a “groups” function that lets you create, join and interaction in sub-communities of your choice.

You can create a group for your company so all your employees can join, or if your hobby is photography you can join a photography group.

This feature encourages networking and brings liked-minded people with simliar interest together.

Follow the 5 steps below to learn how to build your social media profile:

1. Register your account

This requires a username, email, and password.  It’s important to use the same username and email across all social media websites so people can search for you if they’re already connected with you in another websites.

For business profile, use your company name, for personal profile go with your real name.

You can use an alias if you like but keep in mind you need consistency and recognition.

Registration process should take no more than a few minutes.

2. Input the right information

Privacy is a priority in social media so typically there will be settings to manage your privacy such as opt in to receive updates, newsletters, or allow/disallow certain information about you to be exposed in the community.  If you’re not sure, test it out and play around with the settings until your satisfaction.

3. Add your immediate friends and colleagues

Once you’ve setup an account, take a few moments to search for your family, friends and colleagues and add them to your network.

People gravitate towards popular names and like to know that you’re not the only friend they have, it’s a simple perception of social proof.

4. Search for people you like and study their profile

– After adding everyone you know that exists in the social network, it’s time to search for new connections.

This is a tricky task because just like email spam, there are lots of spammers on social network sending unsolicited messages.

If you are a fan of someone or want to get to know them, the best way is to build up your profile so they can review then decide if they want to connect with you; or you can get introduced through one of their existing connection.

Either way, you need to study their profile and have valid reasons to be part of their network.

This applies to groups as well, and most social network groups require the group administrator to approve your request to join.

5.Participate, contribute and share

– After you connect with someone you can receive updates on that person via the status update feature.

This allows you to participate in their conversation, add comments, or share your updates with them.

The key is to build and maintain common ground by bringing value to the conversation.

Interacting with your friends with comments like “good job” or “I like it” is fine but not in the professional communities where preeminence and expertise are realized.

You must demonstrate your value in those professional forums to optimize your social profile.

The Unspoken Rules Of Social Media

42-17678818The following rules are self-explanatory and will take you a long way.

Do’s:

  • Do speak your mind and contribute
  • Do bring value to the network
  • Do share and learn from others
  • Do keep in touch

Don’ts:

  • Don’t just focus on yourself
  • Don’t be afraid to ask
  • Don’t abuse social networking relationships
  • Don’t use social media to spam

Many businesses use social media as a part of their marketing strategy while others enjoy the experience for personal reasons.

Focus on your desire outcome and try to have fun too.  There are plenty of opportunities to build your rolodex by embracing this new tool.

Have you started your social media journey?  Connect with me to discuss more.

Twitter: www.twitter.com/designdamage
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/erictsai

Social Media 101: Choosing the Right Tools

by Eric Tsai

I went over the high-level overview on social media in the article “What is Social Media and Why Should I use it,” now let’s look at some of the popular social media tools and how they work.

The approach in building a social media profile is the same for businesses and individuals.

In both cases, the desire outcome is to create new opportunities and connect with other relevant profiles to create a valuable network.

When I say opportunities, it doesn’t always have to do with making money, it can simply be finding a new people with the same interest as you or potential joint venture partnerships.

Types of Social Media

Before you dive into all the social media websites, you need to understand the different types of social media and their functions.

Once you have a basic understanding, it’ll be easier to realize its networking power.

I won’t address every social media platform but in general there are three major categories you can build your social media profile in:

Communication

Blogs and micro-blogging: This is usually web content updated regularly and can be written text, videos and graphics.

It usually provides commentary or news on a specific topic that allows people to interact with the content provider.

Example: Blogger, WordPress, Twitter, LiveJournal, TypePad, Posterous, Tumblr

Social networking: An online community focuses on connecting and exploring people who share similar interests and/or activities.

It has specific means to connect people with each other such as classmates, colleagues, interest groups, events, or find people randomly from their profile of interests.

Example: Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Ning, Hi5, Meetup

Multimedia

Photo, video and audio sharing: Multimedia sharing is made popular but Flickr and YouTube which provide a unique platform for people to distribute multimedia content across the internet.

Users can easily comment and rate on videos watched, images viewed, or music heard.

Example: YouTube, Flickr, Photobucket, Picasa, Ustream.tv, Justin.tv, Skype, Last.fm, Pandora, Tubemogul

Collaboration

Wikis: A wiki is a website that allows for easy creation and editing of linked content.

Similar to the concept of an encyclopedia, wikis have a wealth of specific information and are often used to create collaborative websites to provide intranet and knowledgebase systems.

Example: Wikipedia, PBwiki, wetpaint, Wikileaks

Social bookmarking / social news: These are tools for Internet users to store, organize, search, and manage bookmarks of web pages on the Internet in the form of tagging, the process by which many users add name tags in the form of keywords to shared content.

People can rate, comment, and share bookmarks easily with others with similar interest.

Think of it as a “popularity contest” for links on the internet ranking them based on how many times it has been bookmarked and its rating.

The same applies to social news, websites let users submit and vote on news stories or links to determine its ranking and popularity.

Example: Delicious, StumbleUpon, Google Reader, Digg, Reddit

Typically multimedia and collaboration tools are utilized as an enhancement to the communication tools.  People share videos, podcasts, photos and bookmarks they like to further personalize their brand to others.

The Power Of The Network

I’ve created some visuals below to better illustrate the effects of social networking.

dsgdmg-social-network-chart01

Imagine each “level” is its own community where everyone knew each other.

In this case, level-1 community has two people willing to promote your brand.

They could be your family, friends, business partners, vendors or affiliates.

Notice that not everyone in level-2 participated in sharing your information to the next level.

At level 6, that may be someone very interested in your product, services or your personal brand.

dsgdmg-social-network-chart02

As long as a community has people connected to people in another community, it’s just as easy for that level-6 person to reach you.

The possibility to connect is endless.  All the networking happens on the internet making the connection painlessly fast.

Are you convinced yet?

Ready to do some networking?

Keep reading designdamage — next we’ll get into the step by step setup and how to build your profiles.

What is Social Media and Why Should I use it

by Eric Tsai

How can social networking help my business?  Is it a complete waste of my time or can it really do something for me?  Those are the same questions I asked only a few months ago.

Instead of following the hype, I signed up for some of the most popular social media tools and have since become a believer.

socialnetwork02Bottom line: I wish I had started using it earlier!

If you’re using social media tools such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter you should already know the value they bring to the table.  If you’re still struggling to understand and how to best utilize them, keep reading.

What is Social Media?

In plain simple words, social media is a platform allowing people to interact and share information with each other online.  It encourages dialogues (many to many) instead of monologues (one to many) by facilitating the discovery, participation and sharing of content.

You can become your own broadcasting station distributing information in the form of audio, video or written content.  Instead of just going to a website and read a piece of content, you can now comment on it, redistribute it, or share it with other people.

Why Should I Use Social Media?

Social media allows people to connect online to form relationships for personal and business reasons.  It’s often refer to as social networking.  Business can engage their customers faster and individuals can reach other individuals easier.

Why Businesses use social media

  • Business Branding – Businesses are using social media to build trust and gain creditability for their brand via interactions with their customers.  It’s a new tool for people to learn about the company and social media profile is the new “brochure” to find in-depth information about what the company is all about.
  • Networking – Social media creates new business opportunities and leverages word-of-mouth marketing to build a communication channel that can help generate sales leads.  Social media enables businesses to connect to millions of people they otherwise wouldn’t have.  It’s a new way to distribute information between businesses and people.
  • Customer Feedback – Companies are responding to customer questions directly via social media which can improve customer satisfactions and customer retention.  Most social media sites have search function, so companies can search and see what people are saying about their products and services.  It creates awareness and helps to improve the overall experience with the brand which can lead to direct sales.

Why individuals use social media

  • Personal Branding – Similar to a business you can leverage interaction between you and other individuals to strengthen your personal brand.  In addition, you can influence them by becoming their fan, keeping them informed on what’s going on, or endorsing them through commentaries. Many individuals today are web celebrities because they constantly publish their expertise on a specific topic and became known for it and people perceived them as experts. Even mainstream high profile individuals are using social media to build a solid online fan base to take their personal brand further.
  • Personal Networking – You can use social media to network with others to find opportunities for jobs,  joint venture projects, market your personal brand, as well as get the latest news on the topics of your interest.  It’s a fantastic way to start conversations, learn from notable peers by participating, and get free advice.  It’s also easy to reach someone and find answers or resources you need.

So now you understand why businesses and individuals use social media, next I will show you how to use them to benefit your business or personal brand.