Want to build a brand? Give a tweet

Want to build a brand? Give a tweet

CHAMPAIGN – Frank Gruber wants you and your business to be known quantities, and the 31-year-old online fanatic says using social media is the best way to do that.

Having a Facebook site, posting blogs and tweeting on Twitter can all help build your "business or personal brand," Gruber told about 85 people at a "Start-Up Cafe" lecture Thursday in the University of Illinois Research Park.

"Everything's going social because it's our nature," said Gruber, who works in product development and strategy for AOL Social Products. "We're interactive people."

Oprah Winfrey makes use of podcasts, webcasts, Facebook and Skype to build her brand, he said.

And Gary Vaynerchuk, whose family operates a wine business, has extended his brand by making videos for the Web about wine. Now he's widely recognized as an expert on the subject.

"He took wine and brought it to the Web in a way no one else did," Gruber said.

Gruber recommended that audience member Tony Olaivar do the same thing for his energy-audit business, GreenLightLimited.

"If you start a blog or a Tumblr (blogging-platform) page where you talk about green energy, you can become an expert in that space," he told Olaivar.

It doesn't require anything fancy, Gruber said. Just hold up a Flip camera, and share information about what you know and love. Educate people about what you do.

But remember it's not a one-way street. Your audience needs to respond.

"Create a group, ask for comments. Be the leader for those conversations, but make sure you ask for participation," he said.

Whatever you put out should be more than a marketing pitch, Gruber said. Personalize it by giving details and photos of your team. Ask questions. Show videos – not just the finished product, but bloopers, too. Have a sense of humor, and don't be afraid to show your true self.

Within limits.

"You have to be careful because there are crazy people out there," said Gruber, who claims he has posted 10,000 photos on the Web, made 2,000 blog posts and produced 6,000 Twitter updates.

When you put out that much information, you worry about stalkers, the Arlington, Va., resident confessed. "You don't tell them you're in a dark alley, you have lots of money on you and you're intoxicated."

Gruber also emphasized the importance of updating your blog and Twitter accounts.

"You've got to do it nonstop, or it's not going to work," he said.

And if your business doesn't have the time or staff to update three different Facebook sites, just use one. Don't overextend yourself, he said.

In addition to his full-time work at AOL, Gruber also coordinates "TECH cocktail," a program that brings together entrepreneurs and high-tech professionals in metropolitan areas.

So far, he and business partner Eric Olson, 26, have put together 13 TECH cocktail events in Chicago; Washington, D.C.; Boulder, Colo.; Ann Arbor, Mich.; and Champaign-Urbana.

The most recent one – slated for Thursday evening at Houlihan's in Champaign – was the third such local event.

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