POW 2: Branding Yourself Online – What Not to Wear

Think of the act of branding like shopping. Yeah, got your attention didn’t I?! When shopping for clothes you have in mind what they are for. An outfit is a specific combination of pants, shoes, tops, and accessories that are suited for the occasion. Suit and tie = work, sweat pants and tee = work out, jeans and a polo = casual. Think of a brand as an outfit and the clothes are just a specific combination of logos, words, type fonts, and colors.

Much like dressing yourself, the act of branding is essentially creating an identity for yourself and your work online. It is often overlooked, most likely because most people don’t realize this is the first impression everyone on the internet will have of you. So what do you wear? In this article I’ve quickly outlined what it takes to be dressed for internet success.

1. Bottoms up

Whether it’s skirts, shorts, or jeans your pants establish the foundation for your entire outfit. It’s the one thing that everything else is built on and when building your brand it is the one thing you stand for. Think, what is at the core of your work, what do you stand for? You should be able to distill it to one thing, for example:

  • Volvo = Safety
  • Corona Beer = Relax
  • Stephen King = Thrillers

For writers this question might be as simple as “What genre do I write in?” or “Where and when do my books take place?” Will it have the torn designer jeans of a contemporary young adult suspense? Or the elaborate lace dress of a Victorian historical romance?

Need some ideas? Take a look at Elite Daily – The Voice of Generation Y’s article: “What do you stand for?”

2. “Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world” – Marilyn Monroe

On the internet everyone is trying to get attention, there are literally thousands of other people doing things similar to you. How will you stand out from the crowd? What are you going to do to get the attention of readers, agents, publishers? You gotta get yourself the right shoes:

Dorothy’s ruby slippers = Be the best: In a world where everyone wants to wear red pumps, the glittery magical ones always reign supreme! Be the best and become the expert in what you write. The journey is difficult, but if you can do the research, have the heart, and can find the courage you will rise to the top (or at least get you back to Kansas).

Cinderella’s glass slipper = Be different: How did Prince Charming find the woman of his dreams amidst the sea of all the other eligible maidens in the kingdom? That glass slipper left him wanting more. Embrace being different, it will get you noticed and your audience will want more. Just make sure to be ready to graciously deal with all of the evil trolling stepsisters of the internet.

Michael Jordan’s Air Jordans = Be better: Just as Michael Jordan strove to become a better basketball player, Nike strove to make a better basketball shoe. Every year since 1985 they have release a limited run of Jordans, each time they are a little better: lighter, stiffer, more technologically advanced then all other shoes on the market. In order to stand out in the crowded internet stadium you need to work harder and innovate to be slightly better than everyone else. (Movies with these shoes: Space Jam and Like Mike – so now this analogy fits the others :))

When you are trying on your shoes, make sure they are congruent with the rest of your outfit. You do not want to become the internet equivalent of a tourist who wears sandals with black socks.

Looking for ways to stand out online? Take a look at this small cartoon presentation with 5 rock-solid tips on making your brand & biz stand out online:

3. Tops that rock

If clothes make the man, then the shirt must say the most. So what is your shirt saying? Is it silk shirt halfway unbuttoned to show off your hairy chest and gold chains or is your message more of a crisp white dress shirt with skinny black tie? Just like any well-branded product or service or product, you know what you’re getting when you see it. So make sure to check your top choice against the following three rules of marketing:

Clarity: Be clear in who you are and are not. Do not sugar-coat your message or qualifications. There is beauty in saying something simple and clearly.

Consistency: Make sure your message is the same across everything you do online. Remind your audience who you are and what you stand for. You walk the walk as well as talk the talk.

Constancy: If you do not regularly show up no one else will either. Schedule a regular time to post, comment, or tweet your message and stick to it. Stay fresh in their minds.

Peter Sterlacci’s expertly explains the above concepts with pictures of his website, business cards, and social media accounts in his blog post: “The 3 C’s of Personal Branding: Clear, Consistent & Constant”.

4. “My motto is to go wild on the accessories – the belts, the hair clips, the jewelry” – Heidi Klum

Your brand will be same outfit you where everywhere online. So how do you keep it fresh? You accessorize! Adding a watch, scarf, or jewelry can enhance any outfit. But what accessories do you choose? You need to find out what is interesting to your audience and give it to them. Knowing your audience is the key to the long term success of your brand. Again before you fully commit to that neon green fanny pack, make sure it goes with the rest of rest of your outfit – you and your audience might need to instead compromise on a nice leather messenger bag.

Knowing your target audience is sexy! Just remember you cannot be everything to everyone… The video below describes how to determine your target audience, find that niche, and bring passion to your message\brand:

5. What lies beneath – It’s not always in what you wear

Hygiene = Wash regularly and keep your message clean. Don’t become a troll.

Internet Troll or Trolling: A person who hides behind the mask of the Internet and goes around disrupting communities, blogs, or any online discussion by posting negative, inflammatory, off-topic comments with the intention of provoking readers into an emotional response for their own amusement.

How not to become a troll online:

  1. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
  2. Do not comment just to get a reaction.
  3. Do not sarcastically praise or flatter someone in order to bring them into your emotional games.
  4. Be a real person online. Do not hide behind fake names or others identities.
  5. When you share your opinion online, do it constructively. Do not tear other people down.

Are you being trolled? Here are some tips on how to deal with trolls.

Personality = Your personality like your brand should fit well, hang right, and be kept clean.

It should not be armor you use to protect yourself from others. You need to and want to genuinely connect with your audience. How do you project your personality through your brand?

Brand Personality: A set of human characteristics associated with the name of a product, service or company. Or, quite literally, brand personalities are “brand adjectives.” For example, Marlboro is associated as a “masculine” brand, while Virginia Slims is seen as “feminine.” IBM is seen as “older,” while Apple is perceived as “younger.”

As a writer, hopefully, you already have a personality! If you don’t, I’m not sure I can help you. However, you may want to check out this video on determining your brand personality or review this link on questions to ask yourself to determine your brand personality.

This post was written by Boy Genius: husband, webmaster, and amateur arsonist.