When it comes to branding, you could have the most prolific, trending, consistent content online but if you’re not reaching your target audience, it’s a waste of time, money and brainpower. Last week we talked about establishing your online presence by consistently posting fresh content, being vigilant with your social networking accounts, promoting social sharing of your content by others, and engaging with the community in your industry. Once you’ve established your presence and settled into your strategy, it’s time to work toward becoming a trusted industry resource.
Who Are Trusted Industry Resources?
Put simply, they are brands and individuals whose opinions and recommendations we not only believe in but actively seek out. They are at the top of their fields, with experience, history of engagement and proven success in their industries. Many of them are giants: brands whose names eventually become verbs or nouns—I’ll Google it; Can you Windex the mirror?; Pass me a Kleenex; I lost my ChapStick. Some are not well known to the public but rabidly respected in their small niches: the auto site Jalopnik; CRM software site DestinationCRM; the geeky-cool tech aggregator SlashDot. Others are individuals who have established their expertise in their respective industries: Pete Cashmore, Danny Sullivan, Arianna Huffington, Steven D. Levitt.
A piece on the economy written by Steven D. Levitt will invariably be more trusted, more easily found, and more quickly shared than a similar piece by Economist Average Joe, regardless of Economist Average Joe’s veracity. Of course, we all can’t publish groundbreaking, best-selling books that spread like wildfire, but Pete Cashmore started Mashable from his bedroom at age 19, and I don’t think there’s another site I visit more.
Qualities Of A Trusted Resource
What does it take for an individual or brand to rise above the noise?
Proven knowledge of the subject matter – You’re doing what you do because you are passionate about it and intimately familiar with it. Remember this, and infuse your content with the passion you feel.
An ability to communicate effectively – There’s a certain finesse one must find when extrapolating on any subject: Reach the layperson without boring the expert to death, and engage the expert without making the layperson’s eyes cross with confusion. Again, Levitt is a great example. I took economics classes in college and I wasn’t completely bored, but seven years later, I read Freakonomics in one sitting, fascinated. Framing complex ideas in an accessible way can make almost anything digestible, interesting and informative. Which, in turn, makes the content creator a trusted resource.
Consistency – As we’ve mentioned, consistency in everything you do is of the utmost importance. Content creation, blog posting, social engagement, product release, email blast—every last detail matters.
Social Engagement – Always extend your social reach. Don’t just share your own content; actively engage with others in your industry as well as your customers/site visitors. Join Twitter chats, answer Facebook questions, start discussions that have a lasting impact. The more active you are on social networks, the further your reach will extend.
Excellent customer (or reader, or subscriber) service – This one is especially pertinent if you’re selling a product, but even as a blogger it’s important to give your base what they came looking for. Have as close to a real time reaction as possible to any questions, complaints, or suggestions, and you will earn trust from your base like nothing else. If you promise a post reviewing Widget Z, you must deliver. And if you can’t deliver…
Honesty & transparency – Be honest. Be transparent. Respond to blog comments in a timely way with aplomb and let your base see a personal side. If you couldn’t get to that Widget Z review because of an issue with your server, share that with your readers. (“Crisis averted! We are now back online and ready to rock!”) Essentially – don’t be afraid to admit you’re human.
What suggestions can you add to these? Are there any tips and tricks you’ve discovered while building your brand? Share with us!