Brand Identity on Social Media: the Helpful Expert

Your brand needs an identity on social media, and it’s not BUY MY STUFF. That’s a nice concept, but it won’t work.

Let’s investigate the concept of brand identity on social media marketing, and brainstorm a few options.

Let’s investigate!



Brand identity is the “personality” of your brand, whether online or off.  Just like there are introverts and extroverts, honest people and dishonest people, fun-lovers and those who love accounting (sorry accountants), number people and picture people, people who’ll help you move and people who’ll help you move bodies… brands have identities. Think about it. Apple: cool, useful, easy-to-use electronics. Nike! Just do it, and just do it in a politically correct way while you’re doing it! Tesla: look cool AND save the environment while showing off how cool you are saving the environment in a technically advanced way. Walmart: cheap, that is every day low prices but no customer service vs. Nordstrom, everyday non-low prices but amazing customer service. You brand has an identity and it should try to stick to that like a long-term personality. It’s not what you sell; it’s how you sell it, it’s your personality and attributes. (That’s an important part).


Brands have identity on social media. Wendy’s, for example, is what I would call a “snarky” brand online. It’s willing to poke fun, be “edgy,” and act is if it’s a real person, who REALLY likes their hamburgers, and thinks that they are way better than the other guys AND who’s snarky / edgy enough to poke fun at them. Will it work? Yes, until it goes “too far.” Roseanne Barr is a similar “edgy” brand example, that didn’t work out so far. So there are some dangers in being too “edgy” in your brand identity. Then there are just plain boring brands online – brands that take ZERO risks and bore you to death.  Bank of America is a brand that comes to mind. Nothing special, nothing unusual, just a bank doing its job. Not bad but just boring. Compare that to super smart people like TED Talks, whose brand identity is super smart, counter-intuitive fun stuff. Like a fun nerd brand, that’s what TED Talks’ brand identity is. Finally, take a brand like REI.  This brand is what I call the “helpful expert” brand identity, and it’s the most common and most useful identity for most brands online. You can be be snarky like Wendys, boring like Bank of America, counter-intuitively smart like TED Talks – those are great, but for most of us a “helpful expert” that’s also cheerful / fun / positive is probably the best online brand identity to cultivate.


If you want to be a helpful expert, then you need to dig into both of those terms.  Let’s take “expert.” This means you know something – well. Like REI knows how to camp, how to have fun outdoors, how to put together a tent… It’s an EXPERT in the outdoors and prospects / customers / superfans look to it for that expertise and how it “shares” content (its own content, the content of others, UGC content, and interactive content) that helps non-experts become more like experts. Then there’s the “helpful” part. This means that it’s not just BUY BUY BUY MY STUFF… it’s helpful, like the salesperson who isn’t pushy… who knows hiking boots and tents and gear and works with you to learn what might help you in a real way. REI is a great example of an online brand identity that combines “helpful” and “expert.” Plus you might add in FUN. It’s fun. It’s pleasant. It’s positive.

So, at the end of this exercise, for your own online brand identity –

  1. What kind of brand identity makes sense for your company? What are the brand attributes or emotional signals that you want to convey? Think here not of the utility of your products or services, but about your brand personality.
  2. Whatever brand identity you choose, what type of content makes the most sense? If you’re a snarky brand like Wendys, then sharing edgy memes and making fun of competitors makes sense. If you’re a cool, luxury, ecoconscious brand like Tesla, then sharing pro-environmental content that “virtue signals” how awesome it is to be a rich, technologically savvy environmentalist, is the content you should choose. If, you’re like most of us, and you’re a “helpful (fun) expert,” then what kind of content can you create or curate that will help you be both HELPFUL and an EXPERT?

Finally, don’t be boring. That’s what most brands are online and boring just doesn’t work. People skip it, snooze it, and forget about it. Sorry, Bank of America.



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About Jason McDonald

Jason McDonald is a top-rated San Francisco SEO Consultant. His consulting services include search engine optimization consulting, social media marketing consulting, and Google AdWords consulting. Jason's motto as a consultant is that he doesn't do SEO 'for you' but rather he does SEO 'with you.' That goes as well for his social media marketing consultant activities and Google AdWords consultant services. Besides serving clients in the San Francisco Bay Area, Jason consults with clients in Silicon Valley (San Jose), Oakland and other cities throughout the Bay Area. Beyond the Bay Area, Jason is available as an SEO consultant, Social Media Consultant, and as an expert witness in litigation involving social media marketing, search engine optimization and pay-per-click advertising.