Recently, my blog partner did a post urging any small business owners holding out on creating a web site to take the plunge (read that story here). He assured anyone feeling intimated that every “first try” typically lacks polish and suggested going to the Wayback Machine (a digital archive of the World Wide Web) if in need of evidence. I thought that sounded like a super fun experiment. So in the name of confidence building, let’s look at some big companies and their humble on-line beginnings. . . .
Certainly not without charm (because who doesn’t love minifigures?!), but I’m guessing the individuals in charge of this design can’t look back now without cringing.
I love a web site with a cartoon mascot that introduces himself before presenting the content of his page. Homer from Home Depot. Priceless.
Where pink, purple, and red and a dash of stars meet function.
I rememberd Google always being just a logo and a search box, so I was amused to see this early weightier version.
More cartoons. I’m lovin’ it.
This one may be my favorite. And I’m not going to lie, I wish I had the Shockwave plug-in.
UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE
Look at all them clouds!
Not too shabby, right? I even kinda remember this design. I knew I needed to keep looking. . . .
Here’s the gold! This relic wasn’t available on the Wayback Machine. Their earliest functional crawl of Amazon was 1999, and I had a feeling that an older, humbler version existed somewhere. Thank you, versionmuseum.com. (In amazon’s defense, this design was among the oldest within this collection with a July 1995 release date.)
Welcome to “the Facebook.”
In conclusion, I restate: everyone has to start somewhere.
I hope one day your business grows so big that someone like me searches its origins to see the beginning of your journey.
Whether you are in the early stages of marketing, promoting, and advertising a new business or are about to reintroduce yourself to the world (a necessity that could be created by a variety of circumstances ranging from a great new product or service to a need to come back in a somewhat altered form from a national pandemic), a typical group of activities are usually considered:
Advertising via online and/or print publications
Press releases announcing your presence and/or highlighting a change
Direct mail/e-mail to existing and/or prospective customers
Social media postings to highlight important details and communicate news
To reach out to the largest possible audience in a coordinated way with a consistent message and visual component, basic branding practices are key. As you embark upon your campaign, we suggest you read the following blog entries . . . and keep checking back as we post new material on topics such as: building your own ads; properly preparing artwork for various print and online media outlets; understanding the role and use of paid search and ad words as an advertising tool; etc.
When read together, the articles shown below provide a branding tutorial relevant to marketing campaigns. (By the way, we are always interested in hearing from you and will carefully consider special requests to cover specific topics; either use the form at the bottom of this page to deliver your message or send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
BEFORE YOU BEGIN YOUR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING EFFORTS, take the time to create/review a style guide that puts into writing the most basic rules that must be observed to properly build the visual elements of your new campaign.
Note: Helpful downloadable tools/templates are included.
Your marketing/advertising campaign is almost certainly going to involve a variety of multi-media components – many of which are already included on our sample Branding Activity Calendar that could also be used to coordinate the various elements you’ve incorporated into your promotional campaign. (The template we’ve provided allows you to add the specific activities associated with your effort.)
Why does branding matter when your current focus is to launch your new sales campaign? Why get distracted by the time, effort, and resources needed to make sure your advertising and marketing efforts reflect your chosen branding? This article (as well as the one below) answers that question!
These pieces discuss the content and crafting of your direct mail message (including the document to be mailed/emailed) as well as the mechanics of obtaining your list and building your database of recipients.
The following articles cover various aspects of building a social media presence – from creating profiles on platforms such as Facebook and Pinterest to strategies used to identify appropriate content. As an added bonus, we provide tools helpful in promoting your social media accounts, including templates. (Last but not least, we address tools for requesting customer reviews so you won’t forget the importance of that aspect of social media.)
Branding involves far more than just creating a few recognizable visual elements. Customer Service is always at the heart of your brand. Taking a close look at this time helps identify those branding qualities that will resonate with your audience and are, therefore, worth promoting. Then, be sure to take all of the necessary steps to ensure that your customer service systems are properly tuned to support the front end of your sales efforts. Once you are successful, remember the value of repeat customers by immediately thanking them for their business.
When looking to promote your social media presence, you want to include logos for each outlet, but you don’t want to be on the receiving end of legal issues with Facebook or Instagram. So we’ve done the legwork for you and compiled the logos each social media outlet wants you to use along with the rules for each. If you had a legal department, their ‘approved’ rubber stamp would be inked up and ready!
Use the Pinterest badge (above) and not the wordmark.
Always include a call to action and your Pinterest URL with the logo.
The logo height should be proportionate to the call to action text.
We hope this guide simplifies the use of social media logos for you. However, please keep in mind that this collection does not replace the full guidelines provided by each social media outlet, and those should be reviewed in full as well.
If you have any questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you! Post in the comments section below.
Your first step to your business’s social media presence on facebook is quick and easy. In the five steps below, you’ll see how to create a page for your business.
1. Log in to your personal account on facebook. Go to Create > Page.
Select Business or Brand when asked to choose a category.
2. You’ll then be prompted to input an address, or you can click “Don’t show my address. Only show that this business is in the City, State region.”
3. Next, you’ll need to add a profile photo. You’ll want to use one that can be squared, the corners rounded/cropped, and at least 170 x 170 pixels in size (which is pretty small). We would ideally like to use our logo, but it’s not one that would work well in facebook’s profile frame:
If uploaded as is (as I did above), portions would be cropped. If I added white space to the top and bottom so the sides wouldn’t be cropped, the logo would be very hard to see when displayed at 170 x 170 pixels and smaller. As a result, I went with an icon version of our logo, created for purposes such as these. White space has been added all around to accommodate the round frame.
If your logo doesn’t work for your profile picture or you’d prefer to use a photo of yourself or some other image representative of your business, just be sure to regularly include your logo in your posts (preferably as an overlay on pictures related to the post).
4. Next up is your cover photo, which displays at 820 pixels wide x 312 pixels tall on computers and 640 pixels wide x 360 pixels tall on smartphones. The minimum size is 400 pixels wide x 150 pixels tall. Since the dimensions of your cover photo will vary somewhat in different environments, a simple landscape photo is your surest best – as opposed to including your logo or other text. (If you do go the route of including your logo or other text, be sure to include lots of white space, so the text does not get cropped regardless of the environment.)
A Quick Note About Graphics Software: If you’re not quite sure how to go about creating a cover photo that includes text or how to add white space to your logo, you may want to check out Inkscape (https://inkscape.org/), which is a free graphics editor that also makes a number of tutorials available: https://inkscape.org/learn/tutorials/.
For our facebook cover, I just used the main image included on our home page for continuity purposes.
You can “drag to reposition” if desired.
5. Finally, you’ll be asked whether you want to “invite friends to like your page,” which is recommended since pages with 10 or more likes get more engagement. If you want to wait until you’ve been regularly posting for some time before inviting a lot of people, you can start off with a small group of your close family and friends until you get better established.
And you are done! You have a facebook page for your business. Unfortunately, that was the easy part. The challenge is creating a regular posting schedule and sticking to that plan. How often . . . ? A number of sources cite one facebook post per day as optimal. If you can commit to that, great. If you feel like twice a day is better for you, just pay attention to your engagement. If those posts aren’t getting sufficient attention, facebook may decrease your visibility and put your posts into a “spamming” category. If you’re like us, once a week is a much more reasonable goal. Do what works for you and your business, experimenting a little to find your optimal posting schedule.
Good luck! Stay tuned for more posts about facebook. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a reply below.
To shamelessly borrow Nike’s slogan, forward movement is the best route for small businessowners looking to broaden their marketing and branding efforts into social media. If you’re a large company with a department or firm devoted to your marketing and branding, you likely have a person or staff of people responsible for social media, and they can analyze demographics, develop goals, create a content inventory, and schedule posts. If that’s a feasible undertaking for your business, this web site probably isn’t for you. Our target is the small businessowner, who is looking to embrace social media while simultaneously doing most everything else . . . which could include staffing, management, finances, strategic planning, daily operations, sales, and customer service as well as marketing and branding. Dedicating a huge amount of time and financial investment to social media simply isn’t feasible and is frankly unnecessary in order to be successful.
JUST DO WHAT?
So how do you move forward into this new corporate endeavor? Focus on what you know. For example, if you don’t have a personal
twitter account and aren’t really sure what or why one would tweet, that’s
probably not the best place for you to start.
We’ve recently decided now is the time to start promoting
our blog content on social media. Personally,
I currently frequent Facebook and Pinterest.
Bob, the other voice of Brand Building for Small Business, frequents
Facebook. (Frequent is actually probably
an overstatement, but he occasionally visits Facebook.) Since we have real experience with these platforms,
we have a pretty good idea of who else is using them without any research. However, a quick glance at the following
chart, and we can solidify our understanding of the demographics of the most
popular social media platforms.
Facebook and Pinterest’s demographics sufficiently align
with our target audience. We also know
from experience that our content would be an appropriate fit. . . .
“CONTENT IS KING”
What can you, on behalf of your business, contribute to
social media (with the expectation that a meaningful contribution yields
dividends for your business)?
At the risk of sounding repetitive . . . focus on what you
know. You are likely an expert in your field.
You may have managed to generate an income selling your products or
services. You possibly generate revenue
that supports a small staff of people. Or
maybe you just started out and are hopeful about the profits to come. Regardless, you likely have a wealth of
You also no doubt have a personality. I’m sure you’ve got a pretty great one at
that. You may be clever, witty, cultured,
or sarcastic. You may be optimistic,
dark, curious, or creative. You have a
voice. Hopefully, that voice is
reflected in your brand, and you can express yourself and your brand on social
media, resonating authenticity with your audience.
A FEW GREAT EXAMPLES . . .
The popular brand of toaster pastries Pop-Tarts has a
Twitter account bursting with personality. . . .
Pop-Tarts’ parent company, Kellogg’s, has a more conservative brand and voice. They have approximately 98,000 Twitter followers while Pop-Tarts has 205,000. With a 280 character limit (up from 140 a couple years ago), a little bit of creativity goes a long way.
A provider of furniture and home goods, Wayfair utilizes the
visual nature of their business on a platform optimal for visuals. Wayfair has approximately 1.3 million
followers on Instagram, and they most often post pictures of their products
with simple captions that engage, entertain, or educate. Many posts will lead you to the link in their
bio, which ultimately leads you to shop the pictured items on their web site.
Digital media website Mashable uses Pinterest as an outlet
to reinforce brand awareness and drive traffic to their web site. They have 58 boards, ranging in topic from
“3D Printing Creations” to “WTF” . . .
Mashable has 10 million+ monthly viewers on Pinterest.
A JOURNEY WITHOUT A MAP
Let’s say you glean some inspiration from these social media giants, and you create accounts for your business on the platforms you frequent; you begin regularly posting content – at least once per week – that is optimal for that platform (based on your personal experience), your products or services, and your unique brand; you promote your social media presence as part of your brand on all advertisements, correspondence, etc.; and little by little customers AND potential customers start following you. Fantastic! What now?
According to Comm100, some commons social media goals are to:
Connect with Customers
Increase Brand Awareness
Drive Traffic to Your Website (directly from
social media and indirectly by enhanced search engine results)
Generate Sales and Leads
Boost Brand Engagement
Increase In-Person Sales
Build a Community
Improve Customer Service
While one or two items on this list may be more important to you than others, all of the goals are worthwhile in some respect. See what develops for you as time goes on. You may find that your most useful outcome of social media is invaluable market intel that comes from the comments on your product posts that you originally hoped would generate sales. Or perhaps people start leaving reviews for you on Facebook, which become an important tool in converting leads into sales. Maybe you find that you get complaints via social media that provide an opportunity for you to offer outstanding customer service in a very public way. Navigating without a roadmap means you need to pay attention to your journey. Try to find an opportunity in the issues that arise. Be open to suggestions. Think of creative ways that you can utilize and expand upon the positives you encounter. Grow and evolve. And be patient. Good luck!
Reviews have become an important part of our lives. We look at them when choosing a restaurant, selecting a contractor, watching a movie, or even buying a new pair of jeans. As a result, having an abundance of glowing customer reviews can have a big impact upon your business. However, you know that already, which is why you’re here. So, let’s get started. . . .
I do believe the most effective way to convince a happy customer to go the extra mile for your business is to personally take the time to ask for a review. However, a personal request isn’t always feasible. For those occasions, a sign placed in a prominent area (possibly next to your register) that makes the request visually can be a good idea. I’ll show you the steps to create such sign in Microsoft Word.
1. Open Word, create a new blank document, and insert a rectangle. (When your cursor turns into a plus sign, you’re able to draw your rectangle.)
By default, mine was blue. Right click on the rectangle and select More Layout Options.
Set the properties to . . .
Size: 10” in Height and 8” in Width
Text Wrapping: Behind Text
Horizontal – Absolute Position of .25” ‘to the right of’: Page
Vertical – Absolute Position of .5” ‘to the right of’: Page
Right click on the rectangle again and select Format Shape. Set the Fill to No Fill, and set the Line to a Solid Line, Black Color, and .5 pt Width, choosing the Dash Type selection shown below.
2. Click inside the rectangle and type “Review Us”. Change the font to one that works as your heading and increase the size as needed to appropriately fill the space. Set the Alignment to Centered. I went with the font Georgia in all caps at size 60 and added a space between each letter.
3. Press enter to advance to the next line and then insert a star. Once your cursor is a plus sign, draw the star about a half inch or so in size.
Right click your star and select More Layout Options: within the Text Wrapping tab, select In Line With Text from the Wrapping Style section; within the Size tab, make the star .7” in Width and Height; press OK.
Right click on the star once again and select Format Shape: set the Fill to No Fill; for the Line, select Solid Line, Black color, and 1.5 pt Width.
Right click on the star one last time and select copy. Add a space and paste your star. Repeat three more times.
4. Press enter and add your company name. I used the same formatting as the “Review Us” heading but decreased the size to 36.
5. Press enter and include your review request. I went with: “Your feedback is extremely important to us. Take a few minutes to share your thoughts and help us spread the good word.” I kept the font the same and just changed the font size to 24.
6. Next, decide which review platforms you would like to feature. I decided to use TripAdvisor, Facebook, and Google. Then, go to Google Images (https://www.google.com/imghp) and search for the logo of one of the companies. I searched “tripadvisor logo”.
Save your selection to your desktop. (I chose the 4th logo of the top row. ) Press enter to add a line space to your Word Document and insert the logo.
As you can see, the logo is quite big. Since I plan to include three logos, I decreased the size a bit.
Repeat the process for each logo you would like to include, adding a line space between each one. If you extend onto a new page, don’t worry.
7. The last step in Word is simply a final tweaking so that everything looks nice and professional on the page. I increased the line spacing after the company name, the paragraph, and in between the logos, and decreased the size of each of the logos.