Michelle Hespe speaks to Melissa Maker about growing your brand’s presence through five easy ‘social’ steps that you can take right now.
As a retailer, you know that brand is everything. If you don’t have a great brand story, potential customers won’t stop, listen and look at what you are offering, and the sales won’t happen. It’s that simple.
So how can you be heard and be seen in a saturated market and in a world where people are busier than ever? Melissa Maker—businesswoman, YouTube star, author and creator of cleanmyspace.com—knows many ways to go about strengthening your brand. Right in front of you on social media there are some things that she believes you should be doing right now in order to stay relevant, and to ultimately ensure that your brand is an ongoing success.
Here are Melissa’s top five ways to strengthen your brand through social media:
- Take captivating photos
“The interesting thing is that the tastes of your audience – your target market – is a moving target,” explains Melissa. “They are always shifting depending on trends, news and shifts in culture, and when it comes to producing photos that captivate, you need to understand that climate and reflect it in photography. And when taking photos, one of the most important things that you can do is create consistent photography that reflects your brand. It should be clean, bright and always convey a familiar message.”
Melissa and her team at Clean My Space are currently readjusting their branding strategy and creating a theme that people identify as being in-line with everything her company stands for. They are applying the same types of filters and effects to all images used and ensuring that the use of color is consistent throughout all messages.
“If your thing is to always be funny, you captivate by creating funny photos. If your thing is inspiration, you captivate with inspirational quotes on your images,” she explains. “You need to think about what your target market wants to see, then deliver that in a consistent way. People also want that visceral pull – they want to be made to feel happy, excited, encouraged, and that can come from captivating photos that touch their hearts.”
- Use proper tags and callouts
There’s a major difference when you are using Hashtags (#) and Call-outs (@) for personal reasons and when you are applying them for business.
“On personal Instagram feeds for instance, many people use silly/funny/cute/annoying hashtags just to amuse their friends, but too many hashtags on a business feed is the equivalent of shouting ‘Sale! Sale! Sale!’, spamming a customer or forcing too many things upon someone. It will make them lose interest,” warns Melissa. “And even if you think you are being clever by using a hashtag like: #myshopisawesome, no one is following or searching for that hashtag so it isn’t going to be successful. You will not reach your audience, and that’s the entire point of hashtags. People search for things like #flatware (if that’s your business) and if you do it right, your posts should come up.
“Be selective. Research the trending hashtags and use them. Instead of using 20 watered down hashtags, use five potent ones,” says Melissa. “And take the time to format a great post where the hashtags are hidden. This is called Burying the Hashtag, and there are many YouTube videos on how to do it. Using too many hashtags comes across as obnoxious. So craft your post well and use hashtags in the way they should be used: as identifiers.”
- Create a brand story
Creating your brand’s story requires a true understanding of who comprises your market. Melissa recommends starting by envisioning your audience not as a nebulous group, but as an individual or a couple of individuals.
“You might have Rachel for instance, who is a mother of two who loves to bake and throw dinner parties, and you might also have Samantha, who is 12 and loves baking, and all things related to cupcakes. They are your audience, and you need to understand both of them,” she says. “You need to put a name to the face and learn how to appeal to them, not on a sales level but on a personal level. Then you can craft a story around your products to engage them, with their personalities and interests in mind. You want to appeal to their emotions.”
Melissa learned to do this while creating cleanmyspace.com. “We took a close look at our demo and found out who they were,” she says. “We engaged with them one-on-one, on YouTube and on social media and got a feel for how they liked being spoken to. We learned quickly that they didn’t want Melissa to be staring down her nose at them in fancy clothes—they wanted her there scrubbing the toilet with them. I love to dress up and be fancy in my personal life, but when I am filming for YouTube, I wear nice jeans or yoga pants; just things I would wear around the house. We carefully considered what our various audience components wanted to hear and see, and built the brand story around that.”
- Create and follow hashtags: learn from the pros
Once you have worked on consolidating your brand’s message and gotten to know your demographic, take a look at some great brands that you admire. Some of Melissa’s favorites are TheInspiredHome.com, davidstea.com, swellbottle.com and methodhome.com so she follows them and keeps up with what they are doing and how their audiences are responding.
“Follow some brands and see how they use hashtags and callouts, and also look at how they convey their brand, their story,” Melissa says.
If you start following some brands that you love, you’ll see some of the tricks of the trade in action, and you can see what works and what doesn’t work with their audience.
One thing that always stands out to Melissa when she follows a brand is quality. “You can be quality-driven or price-driven, and with social media, being price-driven doesn’t work so well as it seems too much like sales. Again, appealing to the emotions is how you get through. You need to sell a lifestyle. You need to tell a beautiful story. When I see the products on davidstea.com, I want to sit down with a cup and have beautiful things around me. The company has sold me its story, and I want to be a part of it,” she says.
- Use the ‘Live’ feature to keep people coming back
One of the latest social movements to gather momentum is being “Live” and the best thing is, it’s easy to do. Simply prop up your smartphone and film while you speak and show someone your products, introduce them to your brand. “It’s really fun, and it’s really low-tech so anyone can do it,” says Melissa. “Just make sure you have good lighting and the phone is stable. And have an assistant or a friend moderating the audience’s questions while you speak, as it’s hard to talk and answer questions.”
The great thing about being “Live” is that businesses can organize panels of speakers or Q&A’s with their audience, and the conversation can go back and forth. “But you have to give people a reason to be there for your live appearance,” says Melissa.
“Telling your audience that XYZ Bottle Co. is showing off its new products at headquarters over live stream is no big deal. However, if it was a well-known athlete or a well-known YouTube star going ‘Live’ at the XYZ Bottle Co.’s office talking about how to stay hydrated during fitness, then the audience has many reasons to watch: to see the product of course, but also to watch and learn. What you are aiming to do is keep people interested. It’s all about giving people a reason to watch your brand ‘Live’.”
As they say, there’s no time like the present, so now it’s time to put Melissa Maker’s tips to the test. Take these five easy social steps and while doing so, always remember to tell a story and appeal to people’s emotions; be consistent in everything you do; think about beauty—aesthetics are important. And weave in value for the customer—give them a smile, a discount, a great day or an awesome product. Most importantly, give people a reason to come to you and a reason for them to come back.
For more information on Melissa and Clean My Space, visit http://cleanmyspace.com.
And, be sure to check out Melissa’s new book, Clean My Space: the secret to cleaning better, faster, and loving your home every day (Avery), available on her website and at other retail locations.