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Kiwanis learns importance of branding and social media

UGA Small Business Development Center Albany Area Director speaks to local civic group

Debbie Finney, Albany Area Director of the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center, told the Dougherty County Kiwanis Club that today’s businesses and organizations need to focus on branding. (Staff Photo: Brad McEwen)

Debbie Finney, Albany Area Director of the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center, told the Dougherty County Kiwanis Club that today’s businesses and organizations need to focus on branding. (Staff Photo: Brad McEwen)

ALBANY — Debbie Finney of the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center (SBDC) says some of the best advice she can provide to businesses and organizations is for them to establish a brand identity and harness the power of social media to market that brand.

Finney, who serves as the Albany area SBDC director, says its important to use Facebook and Twitter to help develop and market that brand.

“Branding is something that is very important to any organization,” said Finney. “Your brand is the personality of your company. That’s what your customers think about you and say about you when they’ve left your company.”

Finney said often it is the creation of a consistent brand and brand message that can dictate the success of any business. According to Finney, many things contribute to creating a brand, including a logo, the appearance of a location and the language used in marketing.

Finney said that if companies successfully create a feeling in the public, then the company has likely established a brand. To illustrate her point, Finney used examples such as McDonald’s, Starbucks, Disney and Volvo during a recent speech for the Dougherty County Kiwanis Club.

Finney used McDonald’s and Starbucks to illustrate the power a recognizable logo has on a company’s brand. Both McDonald’s golden arches and Starbuck’s mermaid are easily identifiable without words.

Disney and Volvo were both used to show how a consistent brand can actually grow to be associated with certain words that evoke feelings. In Disney’s case, the very name is often equated to magic and wonder, while Volvo equates to safety in many people’s minds.

“If we look at corporate logos, everyone in the room would have a different opinion or different idea about what those brands were,” Finney said. “Everyone in the room, through their experience and their knowledge, has some opinion about those logos.”

And it people’s opinions, Finney said, that was the most important aspect of trying to create a brand. Finney said she tells businesses and organizations that she works with that the most important thing those entities can do to impact brand is to consistently create a positive customer experience.

“Everybody today has a brand whether you like it or not because of the experiences we have,” said Finney. “Your brand defines your business and it tells your story. But it also sets the expectations for your customer. We also want to think about what we can do that people have a great experience. If people have a great experience they’ll be back.”

Finny added that people’s opinions matter more than ever in today’s marketplace because things like Facebook and Twitter make it easy to share opinions.

According to Finney, there are moe than 900 million active Facebook users spending an average of 22 hours and 51 minutes on the site per month. In addition to Facebook, Finney stated that the average Twitter user spends 36 minutes a month sending or following tweets.

Finney said with that many people spending so much time using just those two social media outlets, it was becoming more and more important for businesses and organizations to develop a brand and market it correctly. This, Finney said, ties back to a customer’s experience.

“Every experience is different,” Finney said. “But we know when we have a bad experience we’re not going back. And what else are we going to do? We’re going to share that bad experience on lots of different levels, from our friends, on Facebook. It can be viral. It’s hard to send out a message, particularly today when we have so many different types of media to send a message out with.

The Albany Area SBDC is located at 125 Pine Ave. and serves a 27 county area of Southwest Georgia. Finney said the organization does not charge for it’s services and helps businesses of varying sizes in a multitude of areas.