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4 Ways to Master the Art of Digital Branding

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 4/03/2016 Young Entrepreneur Council

2016-03-03-1457037840-4764932-HankOstholthoff.png © Provided by The Huffington Post 2016-03-03-1457037840-4764932-HankOstholthoff.png By Hank Ostholthoff A great marketer is a both a muse and a producer, and focuses on entertaining and inspiring internal and external audiences.  Understanding how today's technologies come together to design remarkable content experiences, analyze traffic sources, and build relationships that yield opportunities for growth are all precursors to becoming a top marketing muse. This is what great digital brands do, and the old-school tactics of the past decade are now being overshadowed by the strategic understanding of digital branding. First, let's define the term: Digital branding is a business' identity, visibility and credibility among advocates who discover, relate to, and interact with the business online. What does this really mean? Digital branding is about creating and establishing your brand's story and presence in the digital realm. It's a complete strategy for brand creation unlike utilizing a variety of online tactics, like posting daily tweets that showcase seemingly random content, or spending time on a promotional or whitepaper email blast with less than .0001 percent engagement. Ask yourself, "Is this entertaining?" It's time for us to work harder as marketers, to be smarter and more creative, and to start entertaining our audience. Yes, even the business market needs to be creative, entertain, and resonate first, then educate, build relationships and engage advocates. Build Your Story: From "Why" to ROI A successful digital brand begins with a story -- its internal "rallying cry" that answers why your business exists and why consumers should care. Popularized by Simon Sinek's works, the "why" is at the heart of your brand's inspiration. Customers don't get excited about a business; they get excited by the story behind the business, and learning what makes your brand different from others. It's critical to have a brand story that resonates emotionally, drives credibility and visibility for your business, and creates advocates who believe in your values. Your "why" needs to answer why your brand exists and what your company values are. Once you identify your "why," your marketing efforts and strategies can start to be woven in. This is the point where a company starts to come together. Be Creative: Rethinking Marketing and Media Content As marketing continues to go digital, marketing and media will intersect to the point where, we won't be able to recognize the difference. Digital branding pushes the boundaries of what we know to be marketing, and it's time we rethink what it means to be classified as marketing and media. Your content needs to be engaging and add value to your customer. What better way than to create your brand's own media hub that produces high-quality content your consumers want to digest? As marketing and media continue to intersect, in-house media hubs can produce the relevant narratives, and won't feel like commercials or banner advertisements. Instead, they'll feel relevant and genuine. Channel: Data-Driven Content Distribution Part of digital branding is utilizing the data available to truly understand your customers and their needs. That means knowing where your target market lives on social media, understanding your customer's online journey, and measuring their digital behavior. You need to know where to interact, how to stand out and attract customers in a sea of noise, and what channels businesses and consumers are currently engaging in. Then you can build the Purple Cow .
This isn't to suggest your content needs to be purely data-driven; great content combines both data and creativity. Data reveals how to reach your audience, while creativity makes your content approachable and valuable. Data shows when and where brands should post content to reach their target market, while a creativity team effectively communicates the brand message to the viewer. Your digital content needs to be garnering as many impressions as possible.
Optimize: Relationships Are The New Leads

Digital branding encourages us to rethink everything we know about marketing, including lead generation. As you establish your brand identity online, consider alternate methods to building mutually beneficial relationships for your business. We live in an era where we can track all of our marketing efforts using the new digital key performance indicators (KPIs) of today:

  • Visibility: Where does your brand rank on the Google search page? Your visibility to others drives purchasing decisions, and the higher your page ranks, the more likely customers will find your brand.
  • Engagement: It's not enough to just have a high-ranking page on Google. You want to monitor how much consumers engage with your content. Measure how many times customers interact with your site, keep track of bloggers who mention you on their site, and time how long people stay on each page of your website.
  • Relationships: This is the most important metric, in my view. Relationships build your professional ecosystem and are an organic way to share your brand with others. Nurturing human connections in a digital world is crucial. 
  • Opportunities: As you build your brand, you'll notice opportunities open up that will drive your business forward. See if you can identify what channels or sources yield the highest deal flow where you can monetize your relationship. 
  • Sales: At the end of the day, your marketing efforts need to convert to sales. Monitoring your sales revenue is a great indicator to determine if your brand needs to pivot or come up with new strategies. It's an important metric to keep in mind, but don't let money cloud your vision for your brand overall.
Welcome to the era of entertainment and digital branding.Hank Ostholthoff is the CEO and managing partner of Mabbly, a Chicago-based digital agency that focuses on content marketing and search engine optimization.

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