Steps for Building Better Brand Engagement

In the design and development community branding is a major part of the game we play. Especially if we wish to maintain an effective presence in the massive arena that our playing fields inhabit. Even beyond our own brand building, we can be hired to build a new, re-build or strengthen an existing brand for a client. And one of the most effective ways to do this, is through better brand engagement.

For any brand, the number one concern is connecting your brand with your target audience. Countless meetings and work hours are spent trying to establish these viable and often brand sustaining connections with the demographic that we are trying to tap into. So we have compiled a handful of steps that can point you or your clients in the right direction for better brand engagement.

Step #1 – Develop a Content Strategy

This first step should go without saying. You cannot underestimate the value of a solid, fully thought out content strategy. In fact, most of the steps we cover here, would be somewhat covered in such a strategy. So any time you are sitting down to plan a way to build up your connection with your audience, then you should always be sitting down talking content strategy.

Every brand generates some sort of content that they are attempting to deliver in one way or another to the public. The purpose of which is usually to gain an audience or to reach out to them in some way. So it only makes sense to plan for the dissemination of this content as completely as you do the content itself. What is the point of putting so much thought into the content, if you do not give equal time and energy on getting the content out there and seen?

Implement Said Strategy

It is nothing to be ashamed of, but many of us are much better at preaching than we are at actually practicing. Just the nature of the game and the players. It is much easier to plan than to implement, but this is not one of those cases where we need to allow our inner-slacker to take the day. We need to see this strategy through to the end if we expect any sort of return on our investment.

Step #2 – Mind Your Social Side

It’s about engagement so interact. Often times we see brands venture out into the the social media waters only to make no effort to stay afloat and they immediately sink below their potential. Social media is not an automatic recipe for success in this area. It takes some work. And if you do not have the right people minding your social media activities, it can begin to work against you.

It takes more than having someone manning the helm, you need to have someone who will nurture this engagement with your audience. And with examples piling up all over the web of people dropping the ball, sending personal updates through the business accounts they manage, this is important. You are wanting something of a personal touch so that your audience is able to connect with the brand, but you do not want that line crossed.

Consistent Brand Message Throughout

The harder side of this equation is building the right team to manage this social networking aspect of your brand consistent with your overall brand message and identity. Because as you reach out through numerous avenues in order to engage your target, consistency of message and identity is key. You risk fracturing the view that the public has of the brand by allowing inconsistencies in your social media presence.

Step #3 – Creative Marketing

You need to develop strategies for connecting with your base through your marketing. Again, sounds like a no-brainer, but today’s audience is much more media savvy, and they expect a more personal and catered to approach. Not to mention, that too often these days, the general public tunes out to most advertising. If they are given the chance to skip an advertisement, they generally opt for that route. So you have to find creative new ways to reach them.

If you want today’s audience to respond to your marketing campaigns, then you are going to have to grab their attention in a completely out of the box way. They essentially have to not see you coming. Those campaigns tend to be the ones that get the most response. The more the campaign resembles one they have seen before, the more likely they are to tune out. Believing they have already seen it.

Know the Limits of the Medium

What is important to understand here, are the limits of the medium you are using for your marketing approach. If you are more focusing on a print advertising route for your reach, or more of a web based approach, you need to know what barriers are going to reign in your ideas and creativity. It is all well to come up with an amazing marketing campaign, but if it is unrealistic or unachievable, then it is useless. Know what obstacles in your way are movable, and which are not. Usually budgetary ones are the latter.

Step #4 – Value the Blogosphere

One resource that many brands underestimate and fail to tap, often to their detriment, is the blogosphere. This is not to say that you must have a blog for your own brand, but you must understand and value the blogosphere. So many opportunities to engage with your brand’s target audience exist here in this ever-expanding arm of the web, that you are doing your brand a major disservice by avoiding participation in this playing field.

Whether you have your own blog attached your brand’s site or not, you need to get in there and contribute in some way or another for a solid engagement with your target audience. Comment on other blogs, have guest posts on other blogs, or arrange giveaways or contests to promote your brand through other sites. There are any number of roles that brands can fill in the blogosphere beyond just the role of blogger, and they each have benefits in building that engagement.

Commenting Code of Conduct

Now if you opt for commenting and contributing to the dialogs and experiences being created in the blogosphere, you need to remember the code. This commenting code of conduct shows that you are about the engagement and not just about the brand promotion. Most blogs leave places for you to include your website when you leave a comment, so there is no need to leave your address in the comment text. Also, be personable so your audience can connect with people, and leave your actual name (as a brand representative) not your brand name behind.

Step #5 – Abide By the Law of Averages

Know that no one approach works for every person in the public, let alone in your target demographic. You are going to have to engage your audience on multiple fronts, and play the law of averages. Each front will have its yield, and you cannot try to force more from it or you risk compromising the front altogether. Brands are always walking a fine line when they are out in the more social and visible virtual waters.

That line is the one between promoting your brand (your perceived reason for showing up and potential partial motivator) and engaging with your audience (your actual reason for stopping by which does actually feed into the first). It’s a tricky line for sure, but one that must be walked with care. We have to ignore the instinct to push the averages and start pushing the brand. Otherwise the brand comes off as pushy.

Play the Field with Honor

As you attack these multiple fronts, you have to remember to be honorable in your tactics. Do not attempt to undermine your competition by running their names through the proverbial mud. Keep your brand on the high road, and your engagement with your audience will tend to provide you with better results. Also, they know you are a business and there to promote it, but they are there for engagement, so be sure that you stay focused on them.

That’s a Wrap

That is all we have for this post, but leave us a comment with your thoughts. What steps would you include, or would you have omitted? Leave your two cents in the comment section below. The ball is now in your court.

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The Arbenting Blog was created by Angie Bowen & Rob Bowen to give back to the design community with custom made freebies, design articles, inspiration and more. All of the freebies offered here are available for both commercial & personal use, no attribution required.