How to build your online brand

betty ming liu Writing how-to's 14 Comments

Maybe you work at selling a company product. Or maybe you work at selling yourself as a hot product. Either way, you need to have an interesting, focused online identity.

“It’s extremely important to have a strong position,” Jinal Shah told my New School class the other night. “You need to create a point of view for your audience.”

Jinal is what’s called a  “digital brand strategist,” one of the trendy jobs growing out of the Internet’s obsession with connecting via social media. Her employer, Electric Artists, is a Noho-based digital agency that helps clients like American Express, Starwood Hotels and the Food Network with building customer loyalty online.

Such a treat to have her visit with 12 of the students from my “Introduction to the New Journalism” class. Ranging in age from ages 22 to 48, they’re pursuing careers in immigrant rights, acting, interior decorating, psychopharmacology, journalism, public relations and more. I got a kick from watching Jinal mesmerize this diverse, non-conformist group with a 75-minute talk on how to succeed in business. To nail the lesson, Jinal also gave the lucky attendees feedback on their individual blogs.

Without acting preachy, she sold us on her personal brand: Future Digital Diva. “I get paid to be myself and just have fun!” she said and went on to charm us. Jinal was 18 when she left India to study journalism at Temple University. While at school, she started a blog about her “teen angst.” After graduation, the dream magazine job didn’t materialize. Instead, her blogging know-how put her on the digital strategist track.

The firm she works for provides what’s known in the jargon as “social media marketing, digital strategy and online public relations.” Very often, it begins with helping clients to create and manage blogs, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts in smart, thoughtful ways.

Jinal Shah, digital media strategist

Here are the highlights from Jinal’s talk. The corporate strategies are easily adaptable to personal use:

  • Beware the 80/20 Rule. Usually, 80% of your customer feedback comes from only 20% of the customers.
  • The first eight to 10 posts are most important. So if someone criticizes you, don’t hit “delete.” That’s too controlling. Instead, add new, positive posts. That will push the “bad” comments further down on the computer screen.
  • Content is king. Develop a daily content calendar so followers know your routine. Eg, Maybe you’ll post about new products on Monday. Tuesday could be for a question that invites conversation (Eg, A shoe store might ask, What’s your must-have shoe for the summer?”)  Instead of customer anger, channel their passions in a positive way.
  • Be interesting. Have an online voice and personality. Your followers need to know that there’s a human on the other side of the computer. If this is a company account, sign off on every post with a person’s name.
  • Branding = targeting the right audience. Use precise, original language to distinguish yourself. If it’s about you as a personal brand, focus on the most interesting aspects of your life.
  • Know your audience. Then, decide how to reach them. Eg, 60-ish customers might prefer contact via a snail mail direct marketing campaign. The under 35 crowd will prefer Facebook, Twitter or even email.
  • Don’t just follow the industry. There’s an online “echo chamber” affect” where everyone ends up tweeting and Facebooking about the same thing. “Get beyond your comfort zone,” Jinal urged.
  • Ask for forgiveness, not permission. Try things out and “if your hand gets slapped, stop,” she said.
  • Social media is just like building relationships in real life. Yeah, sure, most of these so-called connections are minimal. But cultivate the top 100 connections and some of them will become genuine.

As for writing tips:

  • Number lists always work. Eg, 5 things to do in Paris.
  • People love links. Refer them to other sites that offer them info. Link love makes you useful.
  • Do your homework. “I’ve learned to never open my mouth unless it’s an informed opinion,” she said. Otherwise, the critics go after you.
  • Pay a lot of attention to headlines. That’s how Google and other search engines find your posts. Clear is better than clever.
  • Ask! On Facebook, people like open-ended questions.

Jinal mentioned that more and more companies are hiring people on staff to handle social media duties. These jobs have titles like community manager and chief communication official. Worth exploring! To learn more about Jinal Shah, check out her website at Thank you, Jinal!

And to learn more about this class, click here.

Comments 14

  1. Post

    You’re welcome, Jinal! They’re a great group, aren’t they? I learn a lot from them too. And Shirley, thanks for checking in. One of the reasons I’m loving my blog is that it gives the people who speak to my classes a bigger audience.!

  2. Post

    Thanks for visiting, Rebecca! I also just read about yet another new online job: Internet content reviewer. These folks are the porn police and more. It’s their job to sit in front a computer all day and take down the worst of the evil posted by people who are into torture and unspeakable depravity. According to a 7/18/10 New York Times story, there’s an industry group for these workers that was created by Congress. It’s called the Online Safety and Technology Working Group. It is recommending that companies offer therapeutic care to these workers because they spend all day looking at the worst stuff.

  3. Thanks for bringing interesting guest speakers to class, Betty! I learned from Jinal the importance of content strategies and content calendar creation when promoting on social media.

  4. This was one of the most helpful classes this semester. Last year, I started my own blog that features artists of all types (but I do seem to get a lot of rappers). I’ve tried Jinal’s idea of the content calendar. Look for more from me soon. Wavin’ at you, ~~~~~~ Jinal~~~~~~~.

    BTW, Betty happens to be the dopest teacher I have ever had.

  5. Post

    so now, i’m with my new school class for our last session. i’m going to miss them! anyway, we’re trying out the art of commenting. everyone, here are my students. please click on their names and check out their blogs (or whatever else they link to, like twitter).

  6. Betty, thanks so much for inviting Jinal to our class! I took notes but having this online reminder of what she taught is is very helpful.

    Jinal, I was captivated by your presentation and interview, thank you for being so open and honest, it was inspiring! It helped me to realize how important displaying a real personality, not only helps me to be more interesting but allows for people to determine if my causes and interests are something they can align themselves with.

    I’m excited to start using these ideas at my job to help the people in 37 African countries. I work for the African Medical and Research Foundation.

  7. Thanks to your class, Betty, I feel like I’ve made a quantum leap in my understanding of the uses of social networking. Just a few short weeks ago I considered Twitter to be just another annoying toy. Now I do it every day with a purpose. So, thank you.

  8. I learned so much from your lecture, Jinal. Your tips will really help me get started with a social web presence for my new business Decor Without Borders. Decor Without Borders is a global home decor business, that commissions furniture and decorative items for the home and has a social responsibility to development in the communities where the products are made. As I grow my business, I’d love your comments on my weekly post.

  9. I feel truly humbled. Thank you Betty and all of you for giving me a chance to learn from you and share what I know in return. Wish you good luck in your future endeavors.

  10. Pingback: Social media can be useful & fun

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