I’ve been fascinated by watching Gen Z grow up and learn to use the internet in a much different way than I did. As a millennial, in my teen years, I spent countless hours chatting on AIM, and watching Napster take days to download a Smash Mouth song over our dial-up internet. I remember my first Hotmail email address (which my dad set up for me) and Facebook when it required a .edu email to register.
What I’m getting at is that the internet changed a lot, and it changed quickly, forcing Gen Z’ers to understand at an early age what the rest of us barely thought about: personal branding via social media.
My teen AIM username died with the platform last year, but let’s be honest, no one is going to think “Natalie Saar” when they read “Missyk134.” But there wasn’t the same pressure back then to brand yourself, or even just to make sure you got your name as your username before anyone else did.
Not only does this cause personal and business users to think outside the box when it comes to their name, it also requires them to think about the content they’re putting out. Each social media platform has a different offering, which is why they can all (somewhat) coexist with each other.
Twitter offers quick takes and the ability to interact with people, many of whom are strangers, in real time. It’s demographics skew younger.
Facebook offers news and sharing largely between friends and family. Its demographics skew older.
Instagram offers the chance to express yourself through photos and captions, and in a way combines the best of Facebook and Twitter.
LinkedIn offers a professional environment to connect in. You typically won’t find people arguing about politics there, because it’s very clearly a networking tool, and you’ll find that users hold each other to that.
Snapchat and Tumblr each have their own styles of helping people engage with each other as well, though they’re harder for markters to hack for various reasons.
So, how do you decide the way you want to brand all of these free advertising tools you have at your fingertips? Here are some tips to get you started:
Keep Some Aspects the Same
While each social media channel can have its on “personality” there are a few things you should keep the same. Your profile photo, cover photo, and overall vibe. Especially if you’re planning on very different messaging on your channels, you’ll want to keep the logo or profile picture and the overall look and feel as well. This way you build subtle brand awareness and people know that your channels lead back to you.
You’ll also want to try your best to make sure the name is the same. This may go without saying, but that can be a tall order, and will only get harder as more and more people become social online. Get creative and try a few variations, but when possible, keep the names the same.
Make Good Use of Your Bio
This is your chance in a couple of sentences to let people know what you’re about, but bios look different across the channels. LinkedIn may require a professional title stating what you do for a living, whereas Twitter and Facebook allow you to be a bit more expressive. Remember that you only have one chance to get people to engage with you and your brand, so take some time to really think about that message you’re trying to convey.
Create a Strategy
Especially for the more visual platforms like YouTube and Instagram, you need to have a strategy and a sort of style guide. Will you be posting high-contrast photos or maybe only black and white? Look around at what your competition is doing and try to build upon that while standing out at the same time.
Part of this strategy should also be how often you’ll be posting, so you can come up with a social media calendar and have your assets ready to go. Here are the suggested amount of daily posts you should commit to for peak engagement:
- Facebook – 2 times per day
- Twitter – 5 times per day
- LinkedIn – 1 time per day
- Google+ – 2 times per day
- Pinterest – 5 times per day
- Instagram – 1.5 times per day
If that feels like it’s too much, consider which platforms will be most beneficial for your business and focus on building those audiences.
Your strategy should also include what you want your voice to sound like. Sarcastic, straightforward, second person, etc. This is especially helpful if you have multiple people creating content for your brand so that they can easily stay consistent.
You have everything in place to start building engagement and an audience. Now, look at what your competitors are doing on their channels and figure out how your voice can stand out in that crowd. There’s one group of people on Twitter who I think does a phenomenal job of this: reporters. Obviously their voice is their brand, but they do a great job of interacting with all kinds of fans, even following them back on social media. For example, the Lakers’ Spanish language announcer follows me on Twitter and Instagram from back in my reporting days, and even though I’ve never met him in person, he interacts with my posts, and I do the same with his.
At the end of the day, social media is your opportunity to build a community around your brand. You get to write the narrative about what your community looks like by being the one to reach out.
If you need help with this, concept (you’d be surprised how many brands really struggle with this), there are endless white papers out there explaining very simple ways to help create a branding strategy. If you’d like a more personalized recommendation, feel free to email me and I’m happy to give you some insights.