Written by Ugonna Iheme
At the start of this millennium, less than one percent of Nigerians were internet users. By 2020, about half (over 100 million people) had internet connectivity, and a third of that used social media.
Unsurprisingly, online branding – which uses the internet as a medium for positioning your business – has exploded in popularity and prevalence in Nigeria.
For many businesses today, having an online presence is synonymous with being in existence. It is more likely than not that your target market is online, so it only makes sense that your business should be found there as well. This is a golden rule of success: follow your market.
Placing your brand where your audience is, is just one of many reasons why having an online brand can be beneficial. Since, you can’t be everywhere at the same time, your online brand activates your ‘omnipresence’ feature. Your brand can be anywhere in the world while you’re buying plantain chips in Lagos traffic.
You know how first impressions count, right? Your online brand can also be curated to put your best foot forward. With your online brand, you decide what those first impressions are. It can be flattering and impactful, not like the first impression you give when you pop into Ebeano (a Nigerian supermarket) with faded clothing and mismatched slippers and inevitably bump into a potential employer or client.
A good online brand allows you to showcase your best work at all times. Potential clients have easy and swift access to your deliverables, whether they are physical products like clothing or skill-based products like photography and events planning.
Depending on the nature of your business, your online presence can also be relatively cheap, having low maintenance costs. With all the social and business media platforms out there, you can put out new content from the comfort of your home. You can put those motivational speeches up on LinkedIn from your couch instead of putting on an uncomfortable suit and driving for 2 hours to stand behind a podium for 5 minutes.
As with everything in life, there are some things to be careful of when you’re embarking on building your brand online.
First Rule: Be careful what you post online because the internet never forgets. Many brands have learned this the hard way. One careless or disingenuous post and your brand can be badly judged. For instance, if you’re in the business of posting funny, borderline “risqué” commentary, write it up on notes first and then put it aside. Read it again once you’ve had lunch and are no longer hungry i.e., in a completely different mental frame. Then you can ask a friend to give it a glance over to make sure your points and intentions have come across vividly. It doesn’t hurt to get a second pair of eyes to look at your posts before sending them out.
Know your platforms: LinkedIn might just not be the best place for daily updates on your baby, unless you have a business that involves babies (or it is an inspirational post about babies). Do your research on the best places to boost your visibility and the kind of content that is appropriate for that platform.
Instagram might be the best platform for more visual content. Images or videos that pop might be better for getting your message across than long winded captions. Contrastingly, the people on LinkedIn might be more the sort to read your informational or educational posts. Don’t take that to Twitter; stick to short, quippy and impactful posts.
Consistency is key to building a lasting online brand. When you keep showing up to work, you grow your knowledge and get better at doing what you do. Secondly, people will know that they can always find you ‘there’, so they will start searching for you.
Consistency is also indispensable if you will be authentic to who you are in real life. It goes without saying that you know who you are, but who would people think you were if they looked at your online posts?
There is no doubt about it, your online profile influences how people see you, even in real life. This is why, meeting people you’ve checked out online can be confusing if their real-life persona is inconsistent with the one, they presented online. People want to know you are the same, whether it is in person or online. Therefore, your online brand is almost, if not, as important as your physical brand and both need to align.
Finally, monitor your performance. If you want to grow, it makes sense to know what is working and what isn’t. This will help you decide what needs to change. Most platforms have tools for monitoring reach and engagement. Make sure you take advantage of these and don’t leave your progress to chance.
Make social media work for you and you can build a brand that transcends geographical limitations and time zones.