We live in a digital age driven by content, clicks, and conversions, and when building a presence online, it’s easy to get caught up in numbers. How many followers do you have? How many likes do your posts get? Is there a formula to going viral? But believe it or not, a strong online community isn’t measured in numbers.
It’s the result of marketing to your target audience in real time; getting their attention and fostering a relationship that will translate beyond that initial like, share, or follow. And with noisy, filtered timelines, how do you stand out on social media in the era of hashtags and clickbait?
Storytelling — creating thoughtful messaging that generates a real relationship between a person or brand and their target audience.
Recently, I shared a personal story on Instagram about how much I used to love playing the piano and how music has the ability to uplift my mood when I’m feeling down. I shared a hidden talent of mine and asked my community to share something about them that no one knew. The post opened up a great conversation, received a lot of engagement, and love. I was able to tell a story that connected my followers to something that was special to me and honored their stories of something that mattered to them. We created a genuine connection.
Here are my five tips on authentic brand-building through digital media:
1. Pinpoint your message
Don’t just talk—say something. Make sure your social media platforms say something beyond, “follow me,” or “buy my product.” When preparing a post or image, think about how it will resonate, how will it truly engage your target audience? What do you want them to feel when they see the post or go on your social media accounts? Having a clear and authentic message will help you stand out online.
Model and Body Activist, Ashley Graham is a great example. Whether you are a follower of Ashley or not, on some level you’ve heard her message “beauty beyond size.” Her message of celebrating beauty in all shapes is at the core of her brand and connects to women, who previously felt invisible. Ashley’s authenticity is a visible part of the stories she shares. She stands out on media platforms, to not just her fans, but to people globally. She is leading a conversation that is changing perceptions of beauty.
2. Curate an experience
The user-experience should align with your brand values–what you want your life and brand to represent.
To zero in on those values, I use an exercise called “the five I Ams.” Ask yourself how you want people to feel when they visit your digital platforms, and then craft your online presence around those ideals.
For example, “I am compassionate,” “I am a lover of fashion,” “I am family-oriented,” “I am philanthropic,” “I am ambitious”— everything I share with my social community reflects back on these anchoring characteristics, and as a result, our interactions are authentic based on mutually aligned values.
What are five defining characteristics of your life or your brand?
3. Engage with your audience
In social media, engagement is what really matters. Ask questions that prompt conversations, check in and respond to comments- even to say thank you, show gratitude, participate in trending activities or tags, and establish relationships with social influencers to reach new audiences. Let people know that your business isn’t cold and faceless—it’s socially plugged-in and run by a real person. Remember, you are building a community.
“Speak to your audience in their language about what’s in their heart.” – Jonathan Lister, LinkedIn
4. Know your platforms
It is not enough just to post frequently—you have to post thoughtfully. Every social media platform is tailored for a different user. For instance, Instagram is highly visual; you want to post captivating images, playful moments, and videos that demonstrate the values of your brand visually. When posting on Twitter, on the other hand, you want to share more newsworthy items.
5. Put a face to your brand
Facelessness and anonymity doesn’t cut it anymore. We’re talking about an age where everyone knows who Mark Zuckerberg is, whether they use Facebook or not. People like to know who’s behind the companies and causes they support, so it’s crucial to be a walking embodiment of your brand. Whether you are a business owner or not, speak up on the issues you care about, and be a vocal and physical presence in the communities you aim to serve. People want to see and hear from a brand that shares their values. And when you have their attention, you’ll organically cut through the white noise.
It’s not about posting every hour, it’s about posting with a purpose. Let people in—let them see what you stand for, what causes you believe in, and what changes you wish to make in the world. Keep your audience at the heart of all that you do, and I assure you, the numbers will follow organically.
Have any thoughts on what it takes to build a reliable brand on social media? Tweet me @NatashaNKPR to let me know!