The truth is, if you want to be competitive in today’s world, you have to have a digital presence. You need to market your products online, you need to engage with your customers on social media, and you need to invest in content marketing. It’s a non-negotiable.
In fact, failure to do so can mean you get left behind, as your customers move on, engage with your competitors on their Instagram feeds, and watch video ads for other brands on YouTube.
But don’t be fooled. This isn’t the only way to get left in the dust. With new technology emerging every year and trends coming and going on an almost weekly basis, you’re just as likely to fall behind if you do little to no work to maintain and grow your digital brand, once you’ve built it.
So how do you avoid falling into either one of these categories? Simple. You manage your digital brand, properly.
What is Digital Brand Management?
Digital brand management is the work you do to ensure your desired brand identity is maintained across all your digital channels. It’s the process of aligning all of your campaigns, digital spaces, and content to create a cohesive brand in the digital sphere.
Obviously, this type of brand management isn’t possible for one person (or even a small group of people) to handle on their own, though. To be effective, the responsibility has to be shared across the organization, and your brand assets and guidelines have to be centralized in a single digital space, so that collaboration on digital assets is possible.
Why is Digital Brand Management Important?
Since digital marketing is such a competitive landscape, you need to do more than just get your ads to pop up on people’s screens, if you want to be noticed. You need to form actual relationships with your customers and provide a cohesive brand experience for them to enjoy.
That’s where digital brand management comes in. It takes run-of-the-mill marketing campaigns and turns them into rich digital marketing experiences. It ensures that every digital touchpoint represents your brand, flawlessly. And more importantly, it helps you connect with customers and form lasting relationships with them.
Arguably, the best way to see the impact of digital brand management is to highlight some ways it can actually help brands in real-life, though. So, here are just 3 to get you thinking:
1. You Can Get Your Brand to Stand Out
It’s hard to capture your customers’ attention, when there are so many companies competing for it. Somehow, you have to make your brand stand out in a good way.
But believe it or not, all that takes is consistency in your digital branding. By embracing the personality and values that make your brand different and showing off your unique style in every digital space, you can make your brand appear strikingly different from your competition.
As a result, your customers will be drawn to you – as they come to recognize your brand identity, resonate with your core messages, and connect with your unique style.
2. You Can Build Stronger Relationships With Your Customers
Being present online gives you more opportunities to get your ads, promotions, and products in front of your audience. It also provides you with opportunities to engage with customers. You can answer their questions, get feedback, involve them in initiatives, and sometimes just have human conversations with them.
But quantity doesn't mean quality. To make all of this interaction and marketing meaningful, you need to really connect with your customers. And that's where managing your digital brand properly comes in. It turns standard conversations between marketers and customers on social media into branded ones – where your marketers fully embody your brand in their tone, language, and mannerisms. It transforms the generic customer support emails that everyone hates getting into compassionate “on-brand” responses that people appreciate. And it changes the promotional ads people are apt to ignore into branded plugs for your solution that actually speak to your customers' pain points.
In essence, it makes every campaign and interaction less salesy and more authentic – which is exactly what your customers want to see. And by making your customers feel cared about, you make them more interested in building lasting relationships with your brand.
3. You Can Create a Consistent Brand Experience
Your digital touchpoints should always reflect the values and identity of your brand. That means, the things you stand for should be obvious in the content you post and in the interactions you have with your audience.
For example, if your values involve being forward-thinking and innovative, you should showcase ways that your teams are innovating. You should blaze trails, so to speak, in your marketing. And you should find ways to incorporate new trends and tools into the work you do.
Whatever your mission and values are, you should make a conscious effort to have work you do be as closely tied to them, as possible.
Taking this approach not only builds rapport with the general public, but it also enables you to give your brand a clear and consistent personality that your customers can recognize and embrace.
How Do You Create (& Manage) a Digital Brand?
While there are quite a few benefits to good brand management, you can’t take advantage of any of them, if you don’t know how to do it properly. So, here’s our 6 step guide to help you build and maintain your digital brand effectively.
1. Create Your Core Messages
While there's a good chance you've already written up your mission, vision, elevator pitch, and values, it's still worth mentioning that getting your brand messaging squared away is the first step to creating and maintaining a digital brand.
In fact, developing your brand messaging should happen before you even start thinking about what you want your digital brand to look and sound like. The reason being: your core messages underpin all of the other brand work you do.
They tell you what your voice should sound like. They tell you what colors best portray your values. They help you decide what your marketing campaigns should look like and how they should run. They even help you make key decisions, like whether or not you should capitalize on a new trend or engage in specific community events.
Then, once you have your core messages in place, you can constantly check in to make sure every digital campaign and interaction with customers accurately represents your mission, supports your values, and moves you closer to your vision.
2. Develop Your Brand Guidelines
Once you know what your brand stands for, you can start thinking about how to portray it through visuals and content. You can begin mapping out your brand voice, selecting primary and secondary color palettes, and just generally creating guidelines for showing up online.
This is a critical step in the process, as brand guidelines make it possible for everyone managing the brand – employees, contractors, partners and brand ambassadors – to work effectively and keep everything aligned properly.
Using brand guidelines, employees located in different offices or time zones can create “on-brand” assets, independently. They can also come together into cross-functional teams to co-create assets or tackle large, multi step projects.
The reason they can do this is they have all the information they need at their fingertips – including how the brand voice should sound, how designs should look, and how images and videos should be used. Nothing essential is gatekept or difficult to find.
3. Develop a Digital Library of Brand Assets
All that being said, it doesn’t do your employees any good to know how to represent your brand, if they can’t execute on it. So naturally, the next step is to put together a digital library of brand assets that your employees can access and use, regularly, to create digital assets.
This includes everything from high resolution images and logos to icons and UI patterns. Basically, any asset that your employees might need while creating digital assets should be included. The more robust the library, the better.
Just think: this will give your employees the ability to pull branded elements from a single location, meaning they’ll spend less time emailing you and more time working on their respective projects. It’ll also make it a lot easier for you to find what you’re looking for, when you dig into a project of your own.
4. Decide Where Your Brand Will Be Present Online
Now, you can start thinking about where your brand will be present online. This is important, because it will not only play a role in the perception your audience has of your brand, but it will also impact your ability to reach your customers altogether.
The fact is, just because a platform is popular, doesn’t mean it’s the best place to engage with your customers. In some cases, they may not respond well to marketing on that channel. In other cases, they may not even be present there.
And since building a digital brand presence in the wrong places is a waste of resources, you want to make sure you’re thoughtful and strategic about your choices. Here are some questions you can ask to get it right:
- Where do my customers congregate online, naturally?
- Do they gather there to relax or to work? Does my brand and my products fit with those goals or is there a bit of a mismatch?
- What types of content do they like to consume? Can I provide it?
By connecting with your audience in the right spaces, you’ll be able to build a better relationship with them.
5. Collaborate on Digital Assets
Just because you’re building a digital brand, doesn’t mean it should be completely different from your physical one. Your digital brand should function as an extension of your physical brand, and vice versa.
That means, when your customers land on your website, they should immediately recognize your color scheme, images, and logo from your brick-and-mortar locations. If they come across your digital ads, they should look similar to those you print in magazines or hang on billboards. And when they engage with you on Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn, they should have the same positive interactions that they normally have (or should have) with your frontline sales employees.
Obviously, this isn’t something that can happen in a vacuum, though. To get this kind of cohesion in both physical and digital spaces, you have to get your employees talking and working together. They have to collaborate on assets and share finished products with other teams and departments. They need to know exactly what’s happening across the brand, so they can seamlessly weave their work into it.
So what does that entail for you? You have to facilitate this type of collaboration. You need to connect your employees, by creating communication channels between them, setting up collaboration spaces where they can work as a unit, and sharing relevant brand news regularly.
6. Assess Assets & Audit Your Digital Brand
As you probably expected, this isn’t a one-off activity. You can’t just launch your digital brand and then kick back and do nothing, forever after. You need to regularly check in to make sure your brand stays consistent, as new initiatives take off, new campaigns roll out, and employees come and go.
Luckily, all this takes is some regular brand health checks and ongoing project management. And with a solid framework in place for creating and maintaining your digital brand, this actually takes a lot less work than you might think.
Surviving in the digital world is challenging. But, by managing your digital brand properly, you’ll be able to connect with customers anytime your IP addresses cross, and build lasting relationships with them.