If you're trying to wrap your head around social media branding , try thinking of flowers.
If you do traditional branding, you buy plastic flowers. You pay some money, you put them in a vase, and you forget about them.
It's easy, but they never smell or make people happy the way real flowers do.
If you do social media branding, you grow your own flowers, organically. You have to plant the seeds, make the soil rich, pull weeds out from under adolescent shoots -- then hope the rain falls and the locusts stay away.
It's a lot of work, and you don't have complete control of the outcome, but the result is rich.
In the traditional world, marketers and small business owners could create ads and buy media to define their brand any way they wanted.
Today, it's not what you say about yourself that matters, but what others say about you. Dominos put millions into advertising this year , but it was the stories that came from their employees that did the most to define their brand.
Chest thumping doesn't work on social media. You have to do the hard work -- the cultivation -- that gives other people reasons to talk about your brand on social media for you.
So how do you do that? What sort of steps can you take to encourage other people to talk about your brand online?
At HubSpot, we focus on four ways of encouraging discussion of the HubSpot brand online:
(1) Build an Awesome Product. It doesn't matter if you're on Twitter. It doesn't matter if you're on any social media platform. If you create an awesome product, people will talk about it and build your brand for you. You can't pay for comments like this one . They're authentic, and the only way to cultivate them is by creating an authentically great product.
(2) Create a Transparent, Web-Savvy Company. Share information across your company and encourage your employees to use social media. If you do this, and you hire great employees, they will help define your company's brand for you every day.
(3) Create Content -- Lots of It. There are two big reasons content helps cultivate your company's brand. First, it helps define your brand. If your website has two pages of brochure-ware explaining what you do, your brand will seem thin. If you have 400 blog entries , your brand will have far more depth. Second, content helps spread your brand across the web. Two pages won't spread very far across the web; 400 will.
(4) Engage With Social Media. Most traditional advertisers approach social media like an advertising channel -- they broadcast. That doesn't work today. You have to engage -- to discuss, comment and build relationships. When you do this, you will build and spread your brand.
What do you think? How are you building your brand online? Please speak up in the comments below.
Join me for a free marketing webinar, How to Use Social Media to Manage Your Company Brand Online, this Thursday at 1pm, EDT. Sign up for free now .