You know what you’ve got to do to get your brand out there—you’ve got your website up and running, your social media accounts made, and some fancy new business cards for you to distribute at networking events.
But you’re not quite sure where to take things from here. How do you make sure that all these brand awareness “techniques” are actually helping your business grow?
Before you jump into searching the internet about all the fancy brand strategies out there, it’s important to take a step back—identify your short-term goals, long-term goals, and benchmarks. (It also wouldn’t hurt to check out what steps your competitors are taking to get some buzz for their brands.)
In this post, we’ll look at:
- What exactly is brand awareness?
- 8 ways to measure brand awareness
- The difference between brand equity and brand affinity
- How to create a brand awareness strategy in 5 steps
So, what is “brand awareness”?
Brand awareness is a broad term used to describe how well-known or easily identifiable a brand is.
By its definition, it sounds like there should be some kind of quantitative or specific measurement scale for you to get an accurate view of your brand. And that’s true!
The thing is, the metrics used to measure brand awareness are all relative. What do we mean by that? Well for one, brand awareness benchmarks are measurements that you use to compare your future results to. (We’ll get into the specifics in the next section.) These benchmarks may be new markets you want to expose your brand to or an exact number of new visitors to your website you’re trying to achieve.
Pro-tip: When it comes to brand awareness, there’s no definitive “right” or “wrong” way to get your name out there. Which means there’s no definitive result that you absolutely must hit.
How do you measure brand awareness? 8 ways to do it
There are a few different ways to measure brand awareness and lots of tools to add to your marketing stack if you willing to invest some coin. Let’s start with the most analog way (which would be the best starting point if you’re running a small business).
1. Call and email tracking
The quickest and easiest way to tell if your brand awareness is growing? Check how many inbound phone calls and emails you’re getting. If you notice that your business is getting more and more phone calls or emails (or both) asking questions about your products or services, that’s a good sign that people are noticing your brand.
You don’t have to do this manually either—there are tools that track the number of calls you’re getting and even things like call wait times and call length. These can be very helpful if you’re a business that relies a lot on the phone and email:
The next step then is to ask these people where they heard about you from.
If you want to get into the nitty gritty and really dig into numbers, you’ll have to head online.
These days, most brands and businesses have a website that acts as the “home base” for their online presence. The good news: there are a ton of different tools out there that you can use to monitor traffic, your visitors’ behaviors, and engagement with your website. The same goes for social media accounts (learn more about social media best practices) as well as other online platforms.
While offline brand awareness efforts can still be relevant (think billboards and newspaper ads), they’re typically harder to track. There are ways, however, to connect offline efforts back to online platforms, which will then allow you to track everything in the same way, but we’ll get into that later.
2. Direct traffic
Direct traffic is basically the amount of traffic, or people, who come to your site specifically through directly typing your unique web link into their browser. No clicking links on Google or Tweets—it has to be direct, hence the name.
Anyone who comes to your website via direct traffic indicates that they’re a person who has remembered the name and URL of your business, which is a great indicator of brand awareness. (It probably also means your brand has good “brand recall” since people don’t need any help remembering your name.)
While viewing direct traffic data, you should also be thinking about what campaigns or events you’ve been involved with recently. If you see a spike or increase in traffic, ask yourself why that is—and then think of things you can do to maintain that level of traffic.
Tools to measure direct traffic: Google Analytics
One of the most common ways to measure direct traffic is with tools like Google Analytics. Google Analytics is a great platform that gives you metrics about your website and web traffic. You’ll be able to see not only how many people come to your website via direct traffic, but also how long these visitors stayed on your site, where they clicked, and more:
3. External links
External links are links to your website that exist on other websites. If your website is being linked to from another source, say, Forbes or Inc., that means there’s another company or person out there who knows about you and is helping to get your name out there.
Not only is this a great indicator of brand awareness, but it can also help with SEO (search engine optimization). According to Moz, pages that rank highly in search engines tend to have more external links. Why? Because if other businesses and people out there are going out of their way to reference you, that’s a good sign that there’s something noteworthy about your brand—or at the very least, it shows your site is a reliable and useful one (which is good if you post lots of educational content).
Tools to measure external links: Moz, SEMRush
Moz and SEMRush are probably the two most popular tools that help you measure and track external links. In addition to finding where your external links are coming from and how many there are, they can also help you better understand the type of audience that’s aware of your brand:
4. Blog shares
If you have a blog associated with your brand, you can use it to measure brand awareness. There are a few ways: the first would be by measuring traffic, which would be measured similarly to how direct traffic is measured with tools like Google Analytics.
You can also add “Share” links or buttons to each of your blog articles and see how often they’re used by your readers to share your content on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and so on. This will give you insight into if people are seeing your content, brand, and product across different social media platforms and which ones you’re most popular on.
After looking at the quantitative results from your blog articles, you can begin to analyze them more qualitatively. By seeing which articles get shared most, you’ll be able to see what topics are most popular, which will help you tailor your content better for your audience to further your brand awareness.
Tools to measure blog shares: BuzzSumo
This one is pretty easy. If your blog is relatively small and you don’t post that frequently, you might be able to track these shares manually in a spreadsheet without needing another tool at all. But if you’re looking for something a little more sophisticated, BuzzSumo is a good option. Just add a link to your blog in your BuzzSumo search bar, and it’ll show your posts. (You can even rank them by how many social shares they got!)
5. Social engagement
Just like interacting with people in person, the impression you make with people online is important for making sure people know about your brand. (More benefits of using social media marketing here.) And it makes sense: when you engage with a brand online—like that hilarious new Instagram account you’re following or a great Super Bowl ad—you’re probably more likely to bring that brand up again with your friends, family, and colleagues.
Oh, and another thing: on certain platforms, the more engagement you’re getting on your social media profile through likes, comments, or shares, the more likely it is that the platform’s algorithms will show your content to a wider audience. This is true of Facebook, and since Facebook owns Instagram… well, you do the math. (And nope, nobody knows exactly what these algorithms are and how they work. We’ve looked.)
Tools to measure social engagement: BuzzSumo, Sprout Social
Again, BuzzSumo is a good tool here, as is Sprout Social. As a bonus, not only do they measure social engagement for you, they also let you do other neat things like schedule posts ahead of time and reply to messages directly within the platform:
6. Search volume
How often are people trying to learn more about your brand? You can find out by measuring the volume of keywords used in search engines that contain your brand’s name.
If people are searching and trying to learn more about your brand or product, you’ll know that they’ve become aware of your business and are trying to learn more.
From there, you’ll be able to decide what next steps to take when it comes to search engine optimization (aka making your website rank higher in Google when people search for you) and making changes to your website to make it easier for people to learn about your brand and product, which is especially important if you have a more technical product that you might need to educate your prospects and customers about.
Tools to measure search volume: Google Analytics, Ahrefs
With tools like Google Analytics and Ahrefs, you can learn more about how your online presence is represented in search engines and get ideas for ways to give it a boost.
A very common survey question that everyone has seen at some point is “How did you learn about us?” This question, while basic, can tell you a lot about brand awareness. Why?
Because by identifying how people found out about your brand, you can decide if you should pursue other ways to promote your business or if you should just focus on building on the steps that you’ve already been taking.
For example, maybe you’ve learned through your survey data that not very many people came to you because they saw your newspaper ads; most people are actually finding out about you through word-of-mouth on social media. You can use that data to decide if you should stop focusing on offline advertisements altogether—or if you should try to put in more effort to reach potential customers offline.
No matter which option you choose, you’ll know that you’re making a decision that’s based on real data rather than just hunches or guesses based on assumptions.
Tools to measure survey data: SurveyMonkey
SurveyMonkey is one of the most popular survey tools out there, used by everyone from schools to businesses, and for good reason too—it’s easy to use and relatively cheap:
8. Earned media
Earned media is just a fancy way of describing when your brand gets attention through public announcements or content. Think news articles or mentions of your brand in an interview on a talk show.
This can be a bit tricky to measure and track since earned media can take place both on and offline. (Though most of what happens offline these days gets recorded online too.)
Tools to measure earned media: Hootsuite, Awario, Google Alerts
With tools like Hootsuite and Awario, you can track mentions, share of voice, and other earned media metrics to see how much your brand is being talked about and shared publicly. If you want a free option, there’s Google Alerts too.
On brand equity vs brand affinity…
Two other terms that are good to know when thinking about brand awareness are brand equity and brand affinity. They may sound similar, they’re distinct concepts that’ll help you during your analysis if you want to be more creative with your brand awareness strategies.
Think of a product. Are you thinking of the product itself, or are you thinking about the brand? Brand equity describes the value that’s added to a product when a brand is associated with it.
If you were thinking of a brand, like Q-tips, over a product, like a cotton swab, then that brand has pretty good equity—it may even be valuable because some people would rather buy Q-tips over any old cotton swab.
Brand equity describes an overall perception of value that a brand adds to a product, even if that product is pretty much identical to the same product under a different brand’s name.
Brand affinity is about the loyalty of a customer to a brand. It has more to do with someone’s individual customer experience rather than a general perception.
Brand affinity can be shaped by things like a customer’s past experiences, customer reviews, or what they’ve been told about the brand from other people they trust.
Creating a brand awareness strategy in 5 steps
Now that you’ve learned about what brand awareness is, how you can track it, and what tools to use, it’s time to put it all together.
Let’s look at how to create a brand awareness strategy.
Here are a few questions you’ll need to answer as you’re developing the strategy:
- Who am I?
Don’t worry, this isn’t a deep, philosophical question. It’s simply a question that you should ask yourself in order to identify how you want your brand to be portrayed to the public. What kind of personality does your brand have? Should you use fun, casual language, or are you more edgy and assertive?By accounting for “who” your brand is first, you can make sure you’re communicating it consistently across all your platforms so that other people can identify your brand in an instant. (Even if your brand name isn’t mentioned!)
- Who’s my audience, and what do I want to measure?
Once you identify who your product or service is meant for, you can identify who exactly you want to become aware of your product. From here, you can learn more about who your audience is and the best way to reach out to them or get their attention.With all of the brand awareness methods you’ve learned about above, you should be able to tell if the audience you’re targeting is becoming aware of your brand or not. Or you may even learn something new and realize that a completely different kind of audience is really into your brand. This way, you can start to find out more useful information about the audience, such as “Do they actually buy my products?” And “Are they my best customers?”
- Which social media platforms are best for me?
There are a lot of social media platforms available—but that doesn’t mean you need to be on all of them.Some platforms will work for you, and some won’t. For example, a hair salon business would probably be popular on Instagram, but not LinkedIn. Test out different areas and use those handy social engagement tools above to decide if a certain platform is right for you.
- Are there other companies I can partner with?
Working together with other companies can help you both increase your brand awareness and learn something new about different markets. Effective teamwork can really help you achieve more with less effort here. See who else is out there—there should be businesses that are complementary to yours without being competitors, for example, like a gym partnering with a smoothie shop. Then, set up a call to begin your new partnership!Pro-tip: Partnerships are also a great way to generate more external links to your website and boost your rankings in search engines.
- What are my short- and long-term goals?
Of course, you know you want your brand to be successful and grow, but that might be an overly broad way of thinking about it—it’s important to think about how you can achieve that incrementally, step by step, too.Look at the data you’ve collected on brand awareness and think about the benchmarks you want to set. Then, think about how you’re going to make them happen in terms of smaller specific projects and goals. For example, your overall goal is to get more people talking about your brand or to have a high customer retention rate. You might make your short-term goals to get more followers on Twitter and Instagram; then, get more likes and comments; then, get people clicking to purchase straight from Instagram, and so on.
How will you start growing your brand awareness?
Growing your brand can have its challenges, but it’s doable, even if you have a small team (and a small budget).
With the right tools in place, specific goals, and a little creativity, you can build a brand presence both online and offline that rivals some of the oldest companies out there. That’s the magic of having a brand awareness strategy.
Just remember to constantly monitor how you’re doing and be ready to make adjustments whenever you learn something new!