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Brand Management in a Digital Age: 10 Tools to Build Your Brand

By Edward Cates

What if you could only have 10 marketing tools to build your brand, business and/or empire? Which should you choose? I’ve outlined my favorites as foundational brand building solutions. These tools are a place to start. A number of these tools at face value aren’t breaking news but using these tools to enhance Search Engine Optimization and connectivity is.

With the right strategy you can execute a successful campaign to build awareness or drive traffic leading to a conversion or sale. Use these 10 tools well, and 70-80% of your digital marketing and brand building heavy lifting will be on measurable and effective platforms. We expect the mix of these tools to change over time as trends and solutions evolve, and we’ll provide updates when they do.
  1. Gmail (Free) - Google’s Gmail is a great first place to start if you need an email address for your organization. Beyond the power of the Gmail solution is your ability to access a powerful suite of tools offered by Google, including Chat, advertising, analytics, Google Docs, YouTube, Google+ and more. If you don’t have a custom URL or Domain yet, Gmail is a perfectly acceptable email extension for your company’s email. Plus, Gmail is so prevalent that most mobile devices like Apple and Android products are preconfigured for Gmail as the primary email address upon setup.
  2. Website Domain/Web Hosting ($30-$100 annually) - You must have a hosting solution for your website, eCommerce store or personal blog. Bluehost.com is one example of an economical domain and hosting provider. Purchasing a website domain reserves the name of your website (i.e., www.newwebsite.com). I recommend a 2-3 year domain purchase, which will help your domain have higher integrity in search engine results.
  3. PayPal (Free) - Whether you are looking to receive payment online or pay people, PayPal is one of the most versatile and accepted solutions in the world. Visit www.paypal.com and sign up for this free service that lets you receive direct payments from other PayPal users. PayPal is highly respected and offers quick and easy payment solutions that are easily integrated into multiple platforms like eCommerce shopping carts and eBay.
  4. Facebook (Free) - In 2012, having a brand strategy means more than just having a Facebook account and fan page – you also need a plan to execute the experience for fans and visitors. It’s important to understand not only what you are trying to share, but how you will manage and encourage engagement from your fans. Every time you post, every member is notified of the activity, so don’t waste time with content that has no purpose. Plan, execute and engage in conversations. Brands are built and destroyed through effective use of Facebook for business.
  5. Google Analytics (Free) - When it comes to measuring websites, site traffic and visitor behaviors, Google Analytics is the most powerful free website analytic solution available. All you need to get started with this free tool is a Gmail account. Visit Google analytics to get started. This powerful dashboard of tools generates tracking and embed codes that track site activity within personal, business or ecommerce websites, giving you a definitive understanding of how many visits you have per day and where they come from – and when you know what site sources refer the most traffic, you can make changes to your website to facilitate and promote these links. There are tons of Google and YouTube tutorials on using Google Analytics.
  6. WordPress (Free) - WordPress is developed by a community of open source code developers, and it is the single most powerful turnkey website design and development tool available for free. Through this platform the user can create pages and posts of content organized in an extremely user friendly Content Management System (CMS). Beyond the ease of use is the savvy community of developers creating widgets and add-ons delivering extended functionality and content and design enrichment. WordPress is built for SEO and the posts that come from the platform are easily consumed by search engine spiders for Google and Bing. You might be surprised how many Fortune 500 corporations are running their main website on a customized WordPress platform. Within hours you can have a blog setup with custom themes and (combined with hosting) have your reserved domain running a first class site in very little time. WordPress is a must have because of simplicity of use and its compatibility with creating SEO-enhanced content.
  7. LinkedIn (Free) - LinkedIn dominates the professional networking space. It’s heavily indexed by search engines like Google and Bing, so you’ll find that your LinkedIn profile will quickly emerge as one of the highest ranking search results for your name (Facebook Profile does the same). Your LinkedIn profile serves as your online resume for the world to see, so make sure it reflects your experience accurately. LinkedIn is the hub where you manage your profile, establish connections, join professional and interest groups and more. Businesses and companies can build their own pages on LinkedIn to gain followers and share updates with an audience that will opt in to follow their content. With connectivity extended beyond the website to mobile apps for iOS and Android devices, your LinkedIn experience is always with you and an effective way to build your professional brand.
  8. Direct Email/MailChimp (Free with Premium Options) - Part of building your brand is about connections with your audience, and another way to do that is through direct email. While the debate over the effectiveness of direct email campaigns continues to rage, I still highly recommend developing a direct email list. There are a number of solutions out there including the popular Constant Contact, but I prefer MailChimp because of the easy user interface, suite of templates and themes, connectivity to Google Analytics, Facebook and Twitter and a host of reports that breaks down your success. The user interface is extremely easy to use with compatible apps for iOS and Android. Your website should have a “subscribe ask” at the top of the page. Creating email campaigns is easy and MailChimp walks you through every step of the way. Prepare your campaign, send it and watch your statistics roll in real time through a prosumer reporting suite that lets you know open rates, bounces, unsubscribes, click throughs and more. Whether you choose MailChimp or another solution, make sure it houses your critical email database of customers and clients.
  9. Twitter (Free) - With over 500 million users and over 500 million tweets a day Twitter has become a powerful short-form messaging tool with global reach. Businesses interested in gaining and engaging an audience can easily raise visibility by using Twitter. Charlene Kingston’s article “Using Twitter for Business and Marketing” is a great place to start for people new to Twitter. She summarizes a simple and informative approach to launching your brand on Twitter in 10 easy steps. Keeping content delivery on message for your business is critical. Consider blending your content messaging with 80% content and stories from other experts or sources and 20% self-promotion and marketing. This will build your brand’s authority on your chosen area of expertise. Messaging in 140 characters or less with purpose can be challenging. However, it is an undeniable way to connect and build a following and create audience development.
  10. HootSuite (Free) - Managing all of your brand touch points can be centrally done through a social media dashboard solution called HootSuite. HootSuite allows you to access and manage all of your social media accounts including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, WordPress, Foursquare and more. As you compose messaging, you can simply type the message, select the social media channels you want to send it out to, and publish immediately and simultaneously. Your brand and messages will appear consistently in multiple platforms, all published from one place. More advanced features allow you to schedule updates and posts. This feature can allow you to appear continually engaged in social media while you are growing your business in other ways. It’s important to integrate new content into syndicated social media feeds or you will lose people quick due to redundancy. HootSuite is free for up to 5 social media accounts managed, and offers HootSuite Pro for those with more accounts.
Using these tools consistently and increasing your mastery of the tools will allow you to build your brand with minimal expenses and maximum return.

Edward Cates is CEO & Managing Partner of Nuance Marketing, an Atlanta-based digital marketing, media and strategy agency and certified MBE. As a journalist and writer covering business, entertainment and technology, his articles have been published in Savoy Magazine, Emerge, Hispanic Network, MBE Magazine, MBNUSA, Atlanta Business Journal, Black EOE Journal and Pride Magazine.

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