Online branding is a way for your business to make an impression on your audience and distinguish your company from the competition. Here we’ll look at how you can build a strong online brand.
Some of the largest companies in the world became household names because of their strong branding. Examples include Apple, Nike, and Starbucks.
When you think of these brands, you can likely picture their logos — Apple with a bite mark, Nike with the swoosh, and Starbucks with the twin-tailed siren.
Of course, building a brand goes beyond creating a logo or a catchy slogan. It’s about creating memorable experiences and making a promise to your customers.
Whether you’re starting a business or running a startup, branding is something you’ll want to consider from the start. It’s how you can promote recognition and connect with your audience.
But with other businesses also trying to make a name for themselves, building a strong brand online is far from easy.
In this article, we’ll look at the best practices to follow for online branding. We’ll also provide examples to give you some inspiration.
Let’s get started.
What is online branding?
Online branding is the practice of shaping your brand across digital channels. It allows you to build brand awareness, increase recognition, and establish trust with your audience.
It’s never been easier to start a business online, making it that much harder to stand out. You can’t create a business online and expect customers to come in droves.
Whether you’re selling products online, providing coaching services, or creating another kind of business, you need to position your brand in front of your audience.
That starts with online branding.
A strong online brand tells customers what they can expect, whether interacting with your brand through your website or channels like Facebook. Most importantly, a strong brand can also influence purchasing decisions and increase brand loyalty.
Now let’s dive into best practices to follow as you create your brand online.
1. Create brand guidelines
The first step to building a brand online is to establish brand guidelines — a set of rules and standards that define how you communicate your brand.
Brand guidelines include the following:
- Brand logos
- Color palettes
- Written style
Let’s take a closer look.
A well-designed logo can reinforce your brand identity and create a strong first impression. But the last thing you want is to use a brand logo for one channel and a different one for another.
Make sure to include details of your brand logo, including its size, shape, and color.
Here’s an example of the guidelines that Spotify has for its logo:
Color is another important aspect of a company’s branding. Just like your company logo, you must use the same color palettes on all your marketing materials.
When creating your brand guidelines, make sure to include the primary and secondary colors that reflect your brand. These will serve as the basis for any printed branding materials, like brochures and flyers.
No matter which colors are part of your color palette, make sure to include its HEX code — a type of code that represents color in the RGB (red, green, blue) format.
Written or content style is how your brand communicates using words. It includes things like voice and tone. Think about the tone and voice that you want your brand to reflect and make that clear in your brand guidelines. You might also consider including examples.
Here’s an example of how Help Scout explains its voice and tone.
Help Scout defines its tone as friendly and direct, which helps its teams maintain the same tone when creating any kind of written content.
2. Make a great first impression
First impressions are key to building a strong brand online. 75% of consumers judge a company’s credibility based on its website design.
Your website is often the first point of contact that your audience has with your brand. Fail to make an impression right away, and your visitors will likely bounce.
Here are some things you can do to make a great first impression:
- Invest in a professional design
- Make ample use of white space
- Create a clear navigation structure
- Improve your site speed
- Create a mobile-friendly site
- Use legible fonts
Online users are quick to judge a brand based on how its website looks. Get these aspects right to reinforce your brand and connect with visitors.
Here’s an example of a well-designed homepage from Notion.
The layout features a clean and simple design. It also uses plenty of white space, which makes the website feel less crowded.
3. Claim your social media handles
With an estimated 4.2 billion users on social media, a presence on platforms like Facebook and Instagram is simply a must when building an online brand.
Even if your business is still in its early stages, it’s a smart idea to claim your social media handles. Ideally, these should be the same name as your brand.
Here are some social media channels to start with:
Once you’ve selected the channels you want, it’s important to engage with your audience. Use a social media management tool like Crowdfire to manage your social media accounts from one place.
Engage with your audience by encouraging them to share branded content on your website or on their profiles. This is a great way to create user-generated content or UGC — content that’s created and published by users.
UGC can help lend more authenticity and credibility to your brand. As an example, Trello ran a short campaign with the hashtag #WhereITrello, inviting customers to post a picture of their workspace.
Engaging with your audience and encouraging UGC can both go a long way towards building your online brand.
4. Maintain brand consistency
75% of consumers expect companies to provide a consistent experience no matter what channels they use to engage with a brand.
As an example, imagine that you discover a new brand on Facebook. Its posts are lighthearted and uplifting, but it’s a different story when you visit its site. The visuals and tone don’t match your expectations at all.
These kinds of inconsistent experiences can be jarring. It doesn’t help improve brand recognition either.
As you start building your brand, it’s important to maintain brand consistency across all channels. This means using the same images, colors, and tone on each platform. Consumers should feel like they’re engaging with a single entity.
Kinsta, a WordPress hosting provider, maintains the same look and feel across different channels.
Here’s what its website looks like:
And its Facebook page:
And its Twitter:
Kinsta uses the same images and colors across each platform. Whether visitors are engaging with the brand on its website, Facebook, or Twitter, they can instantly recognize it.
Maintaining brand consistency goes beyond the colors and images you use. You should also aim to use the same voice and tone across each platform.
If you’re a SaaS business, you might stick with a more professional voice. If you’re a startup, you might go for a more friendly tone.
Maintaining consistent branding across all your channels can be difficult. Consider investing in resources like MasterClass, which offers excellent courses on branding by entrepreneurs like Diane von Furstenberg and Sara Blakely.
5. Invest in your content marketing
You have a website for your business and social media channels. But you need to create engaging content to reinforce your brand.
Content marketing is a great tool to increase brand awareness. It allows you to share the values and identity that your brand holds with your customers. Through content marketing, you can communicate the qualities that make your brand unique.
Think about your audience. What kind of questions are they asking? What do they want to know more about? Use these as a starting point to brainstorm content that you can publish to your blog and social media channels.
Here’s an example from a blog post on Nerd Fitness:
Nerd Fitness uses the same humorous tone in all its blog posts. Similarly, remember to maintain the same voice and tone with your content.
Your brand is your company’s most valuable asset — it gives your brand identity and makes a memorable impression on customers.
Here’s a quick recap of what we’ve covered:
- Create brand guidelines
- Make a great first impression
- Claim your social media handles
- Maintain brand consistency
- Invest in your content marketing
Building a brand online doesn’t happen overnight, but implementing the best practices as laid out here can help you improve brand recognition and set your business apart.
Have any questions about online branding? Feel free to ask them in the comments below.