Building a Sense of Identity

    This month's blog post comes from Caleb Smith, a recent Business graduate of Houghton College, who shares his perspective on the world of online marketing by comparing it to his experience as a dormitory Resident Assistant.

    During my time as an undergrad at Houghton College (go Highlanders!) I knew that I wanted to become an RA. There was so much that drew me to the position, the camaraderie and the sense of ownership of an idea, floor theme, and community development. Now, of course, working as an RA at a small liberal arts college in western New York isn’t quite the same as a full-time marketing gig, with dozens of clients and the pressures of bosses and deadlines. But if you’re a small business owner or individual in the process of building a brand, I’d love to share with you some of my experience, and how you can turn that into actionable advice for any marketing campaign.

    Let’s start with that sense of camaraderie. In my building, Roth, each side of each level had its own floor name corresponding to it's floor number and side, east or west; 2nd West, 3rd East, 4th West, and so on. Separated by only a small entryway and a couple of doors, these floors nonetheless had palpably different environments, often with residents and themes to match. The soccer guys lived on a soccer themed floor (shocker), a bunch of gamers created the Overwatch game floor, relaxed, geeky types designed their floor around the Lord of the Rings and Star Wars themes, and all of us helped cultivate an experience unique to the building, such that people around campus often could guess which building you were from simply by the kind of guy you were. There was a sense of pride in being a “Roth guy.” Even though each floor had a different identity, outside the building these differences were respected and appreciated, forging a common, tight unity.

    My takeaway? If you’re working with several different brands under the same name or company, they don’t have to be mutually exclusive, and your social media can reflect that. Consumers can simultaneously take pride in the products they enjoy while understanding the company’s greater message. This takes careful wording and execution in all of your media posts, but can work to link your products, brands and messaging to a single focal point. In other words, you might advertise different lines of products in different ways, but that difference can still unify your general messaging as long as the variances don't cause an overall sense of brand dissonance.

    In my first year, my floor theme was “Cheese.” Seriously, it was that random. It was a risk: some people could potentially just think it was stupid and/or childish and zone out of the whole community thing. However, this gamble paid off big time, for two main reasons. One, although “Cheese” was odd, there was nothing else as remotely outlandish on the whole campus. Many of my residents, used to being different and “out-there” with their last RA, clung to it like glue. Second, it allowed my floor to not take itself so seriously and instead relax around a silly concept that helped break up the seriousness of academia.

    When you're making a marketing decision on social media, ask yourself, “does this play to my audience?” “does it build and or complement the message I’m trying to send?” and “is this really 'me'? Can I sell this? And can I get behind the idea I’m trying to sell, given how difficult it is to try and switch to a new style without warning?” I had to answer all these questions for my floor marketing, and it was a resounding success. Can you say the same for your current social media marketing? It not, what steps do you need to take to get it there?

Ask yourself these questions now, and take time to get the proper help you need to maximize your campaign’s strategy and effectiveness today!

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Caleb Smith
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