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Take Control of Your Brand

Your brand is your story to the world. The brand is what evokes emotion when people hear and see a name. Really, it’s all that we, as business owners and entrepreneurs, have.

A brand is to a business what words are to a human. But our words, in a digital age, have reach like never before. To put it in perspective: The classic résumé has no value in today’s world. Whether you’re branding yourself or a business, what you put out on the Internet and to the world in general is going to be your brand. Every comment in a blog, every Facebook message, is your legacy and your brand.

As I left my office yesterday, somebody left a comment on my Facebook page that said, “If you think Gary reads this, I have a bridge to sell you.” I responded. That’s powerful, and it exemplifi es how important it is to be part of your own world and to pay attention. The funny part is that being a good brand today is really all about listening (and it always has been).

Social media is an old term. I call it “business.” Social media tools, including Facebook and Twitter, are an extension of classic business. Would you, as an entrepreneur, go to a Mets game and not be willing to talk about business? Why not use Facebook in the same way? If you choose not to take advantage of online branding, your business will become old and stale. You’ll be the person arguing that horses are just fine, so why buy a car?

There are signs indicating whether your brand is in bad need of developing. The telltale sign is if people have a tough time explaining what you do. I think one great exercise for today’s entrepreneur is to contact 50 casual friends or acquaintances and ask them to define your brand or business. You’ll quickly know if your branding message is zoned in or not. If you get many different responses, that’s not good. What you want to see is that people give correct and similar responses.

The first step is to believe in the power of online branding. Spending hours every day on social networking sites, responding to potential customers and other followers, is not wasting time—it’s conducting business. If you’re not on search.Twitter.com every single day and searching your brand and name as subjects that are relevant to your business, you’re making a big mistake. Searching and online communicating is the biggest real job going. And nobody realizes it. The chief listener is going to become a very important job title.

Here’s an example: Somebody tweets that pizza from a specific chain is no good. Here’s your chance to respond with a simple, “What’s wrong?” So starts the conversation and brand-building.

The small-business person or entrepreneur needs to stop watching YouTube videos and standing behind a register for hours a day. These people need to open a computer to start searching, communicating and brand-building. Even if you think locally, you can put in your ZIP code and get chatter within 10 miles of your location.

There are a lot of small-business owners who cry that they’re getting beaten by Amazon.com or Wal-Mart, yet, they’re on the phone for 90 minutes a day, sending jokes to friends or going out for long lunches, instead of hustling. It’s my fundamental belief that hustling and hard work are underrated. The fact that we have tools today that allow our hard work to extend beyond what was previously impossible is an amazing opportunity.

Gary Vaynerchuk is a personal branding expert and speaker, leveraging social media tools to build his family’s local retail wine business into a national industry leader and promote his video blog, Wine Library TV. He is the author of the newly released Crush It!: Why Now Is the Time to Cash In on Your Passion.

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