The 10 Obstacles To Brand Building On The Social Web And How To Avoid Them

Whether for business or personal, building a brand on the social web can be a great way to spread the word about your product or service, as well as engaging consumers in order to garner useful feedback. But I hear a lot from newcomers that they have trouble reaching the tipping point. Here are the to obstacles I’ve encountered and witnessed others encountering, with some suggestions for helping you get over that hump.

1. Not Having a Good Product

When you’re building a brand online, you’re representing your product. If the product is good, it will sell itself to a certain extent. Having a good product will help you flourish in online brand building on the social web, because other social media users will be more likely to talk about your product and help you spread the word. Not having a good product will often result in a lower success rate when it comes to leveraging the social web for brand-building.

This is something we stress often. Unless you have a good product, you simply won’t get very far in online brand building. One central concept for online brand building is taking advantage of the social web. This is where a lot of influential social media users can disseminate information about your product in a way that will get your name out to more people than you would have been able to do on your own.

This goes for bloggers, web-lebrity status Twitter users, diggers, and early adopters in general. When it comes to building a brand on the social web, a great deal of your marketing comes down to word-of-mouth. From one user to another, the user-generated content being circulated around your product can make a big difference in getting the word out about your brand.

2. Despair and Laziness

Signing up for a new service can be fun or discouraging. A new site means you have to familiarize yourself with the product and figure out the best way to engage other users already on the site. This feeling of despair can spread beyond merely signing up for social media sites, if immediate results aren’t what you expected. Instead of being discouraged, remember to stay motivated and not give up.

When familiarizing yourself with a new site or service, check out the About page, as well as the FAQs. If there’s a forum for users to discuss features and other site issues, check that out as well. These pages can all be great resources for getting started on a new site. Checking out other forums or blogs can be great resources for learning the ins and outs of a new site. Blogs such as AllFacebook and SocialTimes often review sites and products as well as new features, so you can stay abreast of site updates and learn the best ways to utilize a new site for your own purposes.

If you don’t see immediate results, just remember to keep the faith. Getting into the swing of any new project can take some getting used to. The more active you are within a social media site, the more your activity will pay off. Keep reading for more ideas on some specifics surrounding important site activity.

3. Knowing Your Audience

For all the work you’re doing on the social web, targeting the right crowd is an important aspect of being efficient with your time, money and effort. Instead of merely being active in the social web, know who your audience is so you’re not wasting your time. Focusing on the wrong crowd, or not targeting at all could lead to you sending out a lot of information to people that might not care. This hit-or-miss approach doesn’t work with any type of advertising, and finding the right audience on the social web is easy enough so that you won’t spend too much time head-scratching.

Twitter is one of the easiest social media sites for finding like-minded individuals. Do a simple Twitter search and you’ll find the people that are talking about your product, similar products, or areas of interest that could related back to your product. These are the people you need to engage. If you build enough of a rapport, you can even push that conversation to other areas of the social web, such as Facebook.

For more private networks such as Facebook, you can search for users by checking out the Fan Pages and Public Profiles of similar products. However, advertising is another good way to reach out to others on Facebook. Make sure that you’re advertising in an effective manner on these networks, as users are savvy and targeting needs to be heavily aligned with your end goals. See here for some pointers on advertising with Facebook.

4. Engagement

Engaging other social media users is extremely important for building your brand–if no one knows about you, you’re not going to get very far.

Sites like Facebook are great for engaging other users, because of the way in which information can be spread through one’s network. That means you’ll have to first build your network. Start with friends, family and acquaintances that you already know. Work your way out from there. LinkedIn is a good way to expand your network, as you can readily meet friends of friends. Twitter is yet another good place for finding people in which to engage in conversation, because of its open forum and search features that allow you to find those users that hav similar topics of interest that can relate back to your brand.

Be sure to remain genuine in your engagement. Keep conversation relevant and don’t participate in spammy behavior. If you’re on a site like Twitter, mix personal information in with the branding information your pushing out through your update stream. On Facebook, merely commenting on a friend’s photo album or shared link will introduce more opportunities for you to engage that user in a conversation that can eventually relate back to your brand. Fan Pages and Public Profiles on Facebook are great for engagement because they’re designed for brands that would like to further engage Facebook users. See here for more details on getting the most out of your Facebook presence.

5. Maintenance

Once you’ve gotten into the swing of things, it’s time to keep things moving. You need to manage your web presence in order to keep up with the flow you’ve initiated when first setting yourself and your brand up for social media purposes.

This maintenance is important because it adds the continuity needed to further engage your users, friends and potential clients. Out of sight means out of mind. So even if you’re not constantly talking about you and your brand, you’ll quickly forgotten.

Balancing the line between creating a constant stream of content and being an annoying “spammer” can be tricky, but it’s quite necessary. Once you’ve spent some time on the respective social media sites you’re utilizing for building your brand, you’ll get a feel for how your content comes across on each network. Facebook for instance has a lot of content coming through your newsfeed, which shows nearly all your activity from photo tagging and writing on someone else’s wall. Make sure your privacy settings are modified for your own purposes–if you’d like to focus your news feed on your brand more than your personal site activity, change your settings accordingly.

To dig a bit deeper into maintaining your brand online, read the next two items in our top 10 list.

6. Time Management

What will really help you maintain your social media presence is managing your time. As long as you’re not spending all your time building your brand, you won’t feel so discouraged and frustrated with the work and amount of time you’re putting into this.

Set definite amounts of time for various aspects of your social media maintenance. This will keep you concise and focused on the different functions you need to complete for building your brand online, and keep you from feeling overwhelmed when you glance at your to-do list each morning.

For instance, set aside 20 minutes every two hours to manage your Twitter account. Believe me, this is plenty of time for even the most popular Twitter user to handle basic maintenance. Create a comfortable process you can become familiar with so that those 20 minutes are utilized to their fullest potential. Personally, I do my regular updates periodically throughout the day, and then I go through my Mentions, then onto my direct messages. I can then go through some of the Twitter users I follow and comment on their updates, or do a quick Twitter search to see what people are saying about topics I’m personally interested in.

Also take the time to unplug. Turn your mobile twitter updates off during certain hours (change this under your Twitter settings) and make sure you’re still taking time to enjoy yourself by doing fun and relaxing things.

7. Finding the Right Tools

The right tools will help you tremendously with your social media maintenance, and will help you manage your time much more efficiently. There are certain applications for Facebook like SocialCalendar or Plaxo that help you manage your contacts across Facebook and even other applications such as Outlook. This can help you remain personable with those you interact with on Facebook without you having to invest a great deal of time into researching these individuals.

There is a wealth of tools for Twitter, from Tweetdeck to TweetLater, which can help you handle multiple Twitter accounts (perfect if you want to have a Twitter account for personal use and another for business use) or if you wan to continuously send updates through Twitter without actually having to be on Twitter. Create custom tweets and schedule them to go out while you’re in meetings or traveling.

8. Keeping up with Your Blog

Keeping up with your blog is pretty central to building your brand on the social media web. Think of your blog as your web home page, where all the other information about yourself radiates out from. As your web-based personal calling card, your blog can act as the hub for all your social media activity.

You can also redirect a great deal of traffic from your blog. Include links to the profiles you keep on other sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, FriendFeed and Digg. Make these links prominent enough for a site visitor to find when they come across your blog. Also include links to your RSS feeds, which can include your blog feed as well as your Twitter feed. These feeds will allow people to remotely access your content, while still luring them to return to your blog.

Make sure that you’ve also included some sort of contact information on your blog. If this is an email address, include this on your blog. If you prefer to keep your email address private, encourage site visitors to get in touch with you by other means, such as sending a private message on one of the other social media sites you use.

If you choose to have people contact you through social media networks, be sure to check those networks frequently for messages from others. This ties back in with the engagement necessary to build your brand online.One major thing to remember in keeping up with your blog is to ensure that all your information is updated and correct.

9. Tracking Successes and Mistakes

An important aspect in continuing to build your brand online is learning from your mistakes and knowing the areas in which you need to improve. Achieve this by tracking your online social media behavior and taking some time out regularly to correlate this behavior with the ongoing changes you’re making to your social media strategy.

Getting direct feedback from others is one of the easiest ways in which to see where changes in your strategy need to be made. Place a feedback tab on your website and make sure that it’s easy for visitors to find. Respond to queries and leverage different channels of communication for engaging consumers in this manner. Twitter is one such channel, which can act as a passive or active way in which to communicate with others. Simply observing what others are saying about your product can give you a decent amount of feedback, while responding to some tweets can take that conversation around your product to the next level.

Facebook Fan Pages and Public Profiles are good ways in which to engage users for feedback purposes. And Facebook also offers a certain amount of metrics around your Fan Pages so that you can see when people are most likely to visit your site, and how traffic has been for the previous week. Look at the items you’ve posted on these Facebook Pages in order to see what type of content gets the best responses from users, so that this behavior can be replicated in the future.

10. Outsource

When the workload of social media gets to become overwhelming, it wouldn’t hurt to pay someone to do some of the work for you. The redundant acts surrounding social media activity are the easiest aspects to outsource, whether you’ve hired a personal assistant, a virtual assistant or an intern.

Redundant activities can include certain types of tweets (commenting on a news story or responding to Mentions), or moderating a discussion on forums, Twitter or a Facebook Public Profile. Taking these redundancies off your plate can really help you manage your time better and allow you to focus on the actual building of your brand within the social web. Even if you get someone to work just 5-10 hours per week, the work done in that amount of time can go far.