An official website of the United States government

How to Build Your Brand and Craft a Social Media Strategy
August 26, 2019


In his 1964 book Understanding the Media: The Extensions of Man, communication and media pioneer Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase “the medium is the message.”

By this, McLuhan meant that the medium, or channel, used to communicate is more important than the content when considering a message’s impact.

McLuhan framed his missive well before the inception of social media, but his words still ring true today. Now is the age when each communications platform carries its own nuance and intended purpose. Think community-building on Facebook, lead generation on LinkedIn, visual attraction through Instagram and real-time updates on Twitter.

In other words, where and how often you post your message can be just as important as the message itself — a concept more and more relevant in today’s digital age.

Building Your Brand

Emerging entrepreneurs in sub-Saharan Africa are passionate about their organizations and related service to their communities. It’s essential to get the right message out to staff, volunteers, media, benefactors and potential in-kind partners. But what’s that message to be? How can our messages be designed to assure the best business return?

If you’re intent on optimizing your success, brand development is essential as the foundation of your communication plan. What is the essence of your organization? What is its mission, and how do you convey its passion to stakeholders? If the organization were a person, what would be the key attributes of that individual?

When building your brand, always consider your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) and Call to Action (CTA). What differentiates your brand, and what are you asking people to do?

A clear, consistent brand message builds trust. And from trust comes perceived value.

The purpose of brand definition is to ensure that you present a consistent, positive messaging through social media communication. Once the brand is defined, you will be able to share those attributes and promote your work with a unified voice.

Tailoring Your Message to the Medium

Once you have defined your brand, you can build a protocol for each medium and decide how the brand message is best exemplified in that space. For example, Twitter is text-based and requires some descriptive narrative. On Instagram, in contrast, let your compelling images tell the story.

Social media continues to develop rapidly. If McLuhan were alive today, he might be surprised to learn about the speed of social media communication, its rapid shift in structure and its effect on society.

To stay abreast of the latest updates, read frequently through Google searches from top business magazines such as Forbes, Fast Company, and Inc. Set up free Google News alerts for search terms such as “social media Forbes” and have the latest updates fed to your email. For starters, I’d recommend this Forbes article on the top habits of social media leaders.

The process of business communication is not easy, but it’s never been more accessible than through the wide range of options available in social media. Build compelling, engaging messages within those mediums and share your passion with the world around you.

The views and opinions expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the YALI Network or the U.S. government.

Thomas S. Mueller is a professor of advertising in the Communication Department at Appalachian State University. He is a lead instructor in the department’s internet-mediated online degree program.

Mueller facilitates seminars on marketing and communication for Mandela Washington Fellows who participate in Appalachian State’s Institute. He has developed several tips on building your personal brand on the social media platform Instagram, with potential to become an “influencer” who generates money from business partners.

You can view Mueller’s 2019 Mandela Washington Fellows presentation on brand development and social media marketing on YouTube.