7 Brand-Building Tips From One Of The Tech Industry's Loudest Voices

Getting your great idea or product into the public eye isn’t easy. Thanks to self-publishing, the world has become noisier and consumers (and journalists) are all too trigger happy when it comes to hitting delete.

But brand power – or lack thereof – can be the difference between a small, suburban cake business and a global chain.

Here are some tips from Robert Scoble, a journalism school drop-out who is now one of the best known and best connected personalities in the technology industry:

1. Know who you are and what your story is.

If I was trying to build a brand for a company, I always ask: “What’s the story. Who are you, what are you.” I was just at Shoes of Prey; they have a really clear story. It’s custom and innovative shoes.

A lot of entrepreneurs don’t have that crispness of what is the story at the core of it. If you’re Instagram, you help people share photos. If you’re Seagate, you make hard drives.

2. Go where your target market is.

Generally I want to have one place where I can bring, text, photography and video content together and wrap it together. For me, I’ve shifted from my blog to Google+ because I want my brand to be about social media and being on the cutting edge.

For most businesses, it would probably be something that looks like a blog. [But] for some people, just having a Facebook page might work, or if you’re a bar, you want to be found on Foursquare and Yelp and Google Local.

So you need to know how to get found by people looking for a bar versus people looking for a hard drive.

3. Become a subject matter expert and don’t be afraid to give competitors a plug.

I used to work in a camera store in San Jose. I learned very quickly that if I became an authority on the marketplace, then people believed me and bought more from me.

If you were about to leave, I would say, “here, let me tell you about all the other stores in the marketplace.” By doing that, I found that more people would come back because they would go to the other stores – everybody does – and they would say, “oh, he knew his marketplace and he treated me as a friend rather than just selling”.

If you look at the pitch deck that most companies have when they pitch to investors or the press, one of the key things is who’s the competition and how do you fit in. You’d better have a good sense of that otherwise people don’t trust you.

Use your competitor to build you up as an authority on what you’re doing.

4. Make the right friends.

You’ll see [Salesforce boss Marc Benioff] on stage and wonder, “why did he go over and shake the hand of the CTO of Coca-Cola?” That’s brand affinity. A little bit of Coca-Cola’s brand rubbed off on Salesforce, and a little bit of Salesforce’s brand rubbed off on Coca-Cola.

When you’re a start-up and you’re trying to build a new thing, your number one goal is to be believed. You have to use the full palette of tools to make investors believe in you – if my co-founder was a famous person I would put that in my pitch deck or if you had a great customer, like a Coca-Cola or Nordstrom, yeah put that in your pitch deck.

That’s social proof points that helps convince the investor or another customer or an employee to come on board.

5. Consider calling in a PR professional.

Some people are really good at understanding the strength of story-telling, and understanding the strength of brand-building at an innate level, or they’ve worked for someone who’s understood this – Marc Benioff told me he learned these skills by working for Steve Jobs.

But yes, sometimes [professional PR advice] helps.

Nolan Bushnell, the guy who started Atari, told me PR was his best investment. It helped him build several businesses and he said he wouldn’t consider now starting a business without a PR expert, because he understood that he couldn’t build that story alone.

6. Hustle.

If you understand how Twitter works, you can @ reply to somebody in their feed and it’s really hard for them not to respond. If you say “@Scobleizer This is the next big thing in the fashion industry” and you put a link there, it’s really hard for me not to click that link and try it out, or at least consider it – certainly if somebody I trust then comes in and replies.

Even if it’s just 5% of the time that I’d click on a link, that means 5% of people got clicked on randomly. Once in awhile it’s a cool iPhone app or a cool website and I start using it and talking about it and boom, you’ve won the lottery.

A lot of this is hustling. Even on the way here, two entrepreneurs wouldn’t say no, and said, “hey, I’ll meet you at the airport.” That’s putting yourself in play, making something happen.

I like that; it gets bothersome sometimes but I appreciate that somebody’s made the effort to make something happen for themselves.

The good companies have the hustle and have a great product.

7. Reward people who have been good to you.

With Shoes of Prey, I retweeted something about them and they got in the Wall Street Journal the next day. They remembered that and they rewarded me with a little tour around their factory.

[Social media consultant] Gary Vaynerchuk says he replies to everybody. I try to take the time to reply and say thank you and be nice to people. I think that gets you a long way in business.

One reason I love FlipBoard is they continue to be nice even without needing me – let’s face it, they’ve been on Opera, they’ve met the president – and to me, that goes a long way so when they announce a new product or a new feature, I’ll always consider it.

Reciprocity is probably the word of the day there: when you do something nice for people over and over, they tend to remember it and if you ask them for help they then pay it back. [Former Apple marketer] Guy Kawasaki taught me that.

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