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The Click Frenzy debacle revealed that online is the place to be. According to ACMA, Australia’s digital economy grew exponentially in 2011/2012 with online shopping, social networking and a near doubling of smartphone ownership driving this boom. There are now 11.36 million Facebook users in Australia, while 49 per cent of us now own a smartphone.

What does this mean for business? It means that the online world provides a new dimension to managing your business, and your brand.

A brand is more than just a word, an image, a logo or a slogan – it’s how a business differentiates itself from all other businesses, especially its competitors. It’s the personality of the business, which can be perceived differently by multiple audiences such as the general public, customers, staff, media and shareholders.

So how do you manage your brand online? It’s about making sure you present your brand clearly through all of your online channels such as your website, blog, email communications, forum, Twitter and other social media platforms. Here’s some food for thought:

First impressions count

What first impression do you want your brand to portray to clients and prospects? … Time’s up! It takes less than 50 milliseconds to form one, according to a study by Carleton University in Ottawa. First impressions give way to a ‘halo effect’, so if for example, your website looks good, that assessment is transferred to its functionality. You only have milliseconds to persuade customers that it’s trustworthy, efficient, and can do what is expected. If you clutter your website with too many visual elements, a mixed tone of voice or no call to action, you risk losing their attention.

Unite and conquer

People and technology are converging over multiple online channels. Therefore, it’s important to streamline and manage your brand consistently online. A good place to start is to review and assess certain aspects of each online medium such as reach, popularity, interactions, level of engagement, effectiveness of messaging, and whether there are any conflicts or confusion. This will help decide where your brand needs to be seen regularly, what messages work and who your influencers are.

Let someone else say it

We all know about the power of influence, and it can travel fast so creating a circle of influence online can have a positive impact on your brand. For example, social media is a very ego-driven channel where both individuals and brands are measured in fans and followers. Success is often attributed to retweets, likes, shares, reach, clicks and various other influence metrics. Build and nurture your ‘brand ambassadors’ and let them spread the good word for your brand.

It’s a two-way street

The great thing about the online space is the way it lets customers provide feedback in real time, and being online means you can interact with those customers instantly. This can be valuable and also detrimental to your brand if you don’t proactively manage this interaction. Converse with them in a timely manner and always be professional and courteous (no matter what was said). Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or on a blog or forum, ensure you partake in discussions, offer a professional opinion on the topic and avoid being too ‘salesy’ – only recommend your product or service when you feel it can solve a problem or encourage the discussion to move forward. Be sure to acknowledge positive comments, and attempt to respond to complaints and issues quickly.

Listen, pay attention

It’s important to keep track of conversations, interactions and positive and negative sentiment online so you can join those discussions, answer queries, dispel myths, etc. There are several tools that can help monitor perceptions and activity around your brand online. Hootsuite, Lexer, TweetReach are just some examples.

The key to successfully managing your brand online is to embrace this channel of communication as it can help your business boost revenue, gain exposure and visibility, and it can increase brand loyalty and brand recognition in a competitive online landscape.

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Angely Grecia

Angely Grecia

Angely Grecia is MYOB's public relations editor. At MYOB she carries out editorial content-creation, media relations and assists the PR team on implementing strategic PR programs.

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