Insights: How to build a successful digital brand

Building a digital brand

In 2020, an estimated 3.6 billion people were using social media, and that number is only projected to increase exponentially in the next five years. As social media platforms establish interconnectivity among those billions of users, ordinary people have the ability to transform themselves into influencers, small business owners, food bloggers, and more. Tapping into Instagram’s bountiful potential for doing just that, I have created a digital brand of my own that has already amassed nearly 250 followers within its first month of creation. Under the username nonnas_cuisine_, I take on the role of a fiery Northern New Jersey Italian grandmother, incorporating classic Italian American slang into every post that I upload to the page. At first, I only uploaded recipes and food reviews, but after witnessing a growing interest in my homemade pasta sauce, I started selling jars and have already made over $150 in profit in the process.

His homemade pasta sauce is as delicious as a fiery Northern New Jersey Italian grandmother

When creating your own digital brand, there are key elements that need to be integrated at all times. Without cohesion and consistency, it will lose trust and loyalty among the masses. If you are interested in building a digital brand of your own, walk through my following tips for guaranteed success:

Establish a Voice, and Stick with It

When creating a digital brand of your own, the first and most important step to take is establishing a unique, authentic voice that is cohesively present in all of your content. For example, if I began speaking in a British accent on my Nonna’s Cuisine page, my audience would be both confused and less likely to engage with my content because of my brand’s unexpected behavior. To optimize viewership among your target audience, your messaging needs to follow a consistent voice and tone so that your audience knows what to expect from your brand. Without this cohesiveness, your brand becomes lost in translation to your consumers, thus minimizing your content’s receptivity tenfold. 

Select a Target Audience

When developing strategic communication, the receiver of that messaging is the focal point for determining whether or not it was both effective and convincing. To generate exposure, your target audience must be receptive to your voice, word choice, overall product and marketing strategy; thus, it is imperative to focus on a niche group of people that will respond most enthusiastically to your brand’s content. You don’t want to waste the time or money invested in uploading posts for people that will pay no attention to them, and so selecting the audience is the perfect fit in order for your content’s metrics to be optimal. In the instance that a target audience resonates with your branded content, they will provide you, the creator, with a number of digital interactions including likes, comments and shares, all of which hold the potential for gaining new followers.  

Talk With Your Audience, Not At It

Traditional advertising models followed a formula of brands consistently marketing at consumers via media channels like television, radio and print, solely communicating what they wanted those consumers to know about their products. In the past 20 years, these advertising models have proven to become ineffective due to the power of social media platforms. Consumers are now content creators of their own, and they know now more than ever what they need. Therefore, today’s consumers seek brands that communicate with them to better understand those needs, as opposed to the tradition of brands shoving unwanted information in their faces. When developing communication for your digital brand, pay attention to your target audience’s needs and listen to what they are saying. Through this listening, you will know exactly what you need to communicate as a brand to your target audience.

Prioritize Earned Media

The best way to grow a following for your digital brand is through the accumulation of earned media. When I say earned media, I mean getting word-of-mouth exposure for your brand. If people are talking about your brand, you are receiving free advertising that directly supports its growth and exposure. As sponsored advertising on social media platforms tend to get expensive, generating free, earned media should be the ultimate goal for propelling your digital brand towards greater recognition among your target audience. By focusing on your product’s quality and establishing a cohesive brand image, you are more likely to get people interested enough to talk about your brand with others. It only takes one person to spark a snowball effect of endless conversations about you, so continuously polish your business until you see positive results.

By following this helpful guide, you should be able to successfully construct a digital brand of your own. As a digital advertising major at Syracuse University with a love for food, I established an authentic brand persona targeted at a large community of student peers that I have developed connections with throughout my college years. By making use of the supportive network which Syracuse provided to me, my idea was able to come to life. When uploading content to my nonnas_cuisine_ page, I am always interacting with my audience to gauge their preferences, dislikes and more importantly, their general mentality as consumers. By doing so, I have over 100 people currently talking about my brand, granting me the earned media I need to develop Nonna’s Cuisine into a successful prospective small business.

Story by Christopher Appello ’21, Blackstone Global Fellow, advertising major, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications; artwork and photo supplied