In establishing your business, your website is your best branding tool, serving as the template for everything you do online. From logos and colors to tone and structure, here’s how to make sure it reflects you.
Here’s a truth about running a small business that can feel frustrating or freeing: most people don’t know who you are. In the public eye, for better or worse, many business owners do not have strong associations attached to their company name.
That means it’s up to you to make a statement of intent and personality—to create some strong associations—and that statement needs to be your website. All the media and marketing materials you produce trace back to it. It sets the standard for everything you do.
So what do you need to do? What matters, and what doesn’t? Let’s go through some tips of the trade and give you a solid jumping-off point for building your brand online.
Related reading: New Year’s Resolutions for the Small Business Owner
Establish Your Fundamental Style Elements
What recurring things do you notice about the website of your favorite business? A certain color scheme? A particular tone of voice? A content structure? You have a lot of options for creating a unique identity, but it’s best to start with the basics.
At a minimum, make sure you have a high-quality logo, a color scheme for your text and backgrounds, and a font (or set of fonts) to suit all your copy. These elements should carry across everything you do online, not just your website (think emails, social media activity, infographics, etc.), so make sure they’re clear and easy to reproduce.
You can also think about effects (drop shadows, thick borders), shapes (right-angles, rounded edges), and layouts (density, spacing, image-to-text ratio).
All that said, don’t make the mistake of trying to customize everything. Even if you had the resources to commit to that kind of approach, you’d quickly incur diminishing returns.
Keep it simple! Just think how iconic Apple’s brand has become, all based upon bold, minimal color, spacing, and outstanding clarity.
Create a Branding Style Guide for Reference and Sharing
Maintaining brand consistency can be hard, particularly if you’re distributing content across multiple channels. That’s why you should create a central document containing all the elements of your brand. This creates a strong reference point. Even a new employee or partner will be able to produce content that matches your style.
You might also want to add a resource section to your website to help keep your brand identity present when people mention you in blog posts, lists, articles, and other such pieces.
Provide a high-resolution version of your logo, wording conventions, and any crediting information you might want people to include, and you’ll have something to easily bolster your promotional efforts. You can take a full look at Twitter’s effort here.
Diversify Your Online Presence
Speaking of Twitter, is it something your potential customers use? If you’re not sure, find out. Many brands rely solely on social media to promote their goods or services. Don’t miss out on golden opportunities by ignoring particular platforms.
There’s Snapchat, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Google’s Business listings, LinkedIn and Glassdoor. Stay ontop of social media as new outlets emerge rapidly.
Your brand should be the same and come across strongly no matter how someone is accessing your content – mobile or desktop. The clearer you make it, the faster people will start to build that valuable level of recognition.
Keeping track of all the major platforms is also vital for fielding any negative mentions you accrue online and finding a way to turning them into positives. After all, there are millions of negative brand mentions on social media every year.
Maintain an Authentic Tone
Businesses will sometimes attempt to build brands – or adapt existing ones – based purely on what they see being successful elsewhere. Their content will be reactive and unoriginal, chasing the latest trends but never really having anything interesting or coherent to say.
People can spot this kind of phoniness and cynicism, even if they’re not always consciously aware of it, so it’s important that you put your own spin on everything you do. A study of 400 people in 2015 found that a whopping 80% of them considered authenticity as the most important factor in how they perceived a brand.
It’s a delicate balance, but you should try to view your company style as a seasoning. Sometimes you’ll need a spoonful, and sometimes you’ll just need a dash.
Pay close attention to the feedback you get from users and you’ll be able to incrementally improve your formula until you have something that really works.
Focus on Quality, Not Quantity
The existence of fast-paced social media channels lures plenty of businesses into feeling that they have to be constantly active. However, establishing branding takes time. Rushing it will have counterproductive effects.
A survey of 900 people in 2015 found that nearly half of them would unfollow a brand for excessive self-promotion, and this kind of fevered approach has only become more common since then.
Get into the habit of practicing moderation with everything you do online. You may have spread your company across numerous different platforms, but that doesn’t mean you ought to be using them every hour of every day.
Be active, and responsive, and update when you deem it worthwhile, but don’t try to force the issue if you don’t feel you have anything to say, and keep your quality level consistently high.
Let Your Passion Shine Through
Your passions, drives, personality, tone, goals, strengths, and even your weaknesses can all be massive positives for your brand if you show them in the right way.
With the line between the professional and the personal having been irrevocably blurred by the immediacy of online communication, people are favoring companies for the same reasons they favor people. Consistency. Spirit. Honesty. Goodness. Humor.
Make these things the cornerstones of your brand, get the balance right, and stay the course, and you’ll have an excellent chance of one day earning the kind of loyalty that any business would love to have.
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Victoria Greene is a writer and brand consultant. She writes at Victoria Ecommerce and also runs her own ecommerce stores. A big fan of community management and data-driven content marketing.