As an entrepreneur, if you want to stand out online, you need to earn the attention of your audience. And in a world that moves at a lightning pace, you have seconds in which to do it.

In "Fascinate," author Sally Hogshead says there are 9 critical seconds. During this time, you must persuade and captivate your audience to take action. Scary thought, right?

Not only do you need to create a lasting impression, but also encourage your audience to take action. All this in less time than the National Center for Biotechnology found that it takes a goldfish to lose attention. While that might seem unimaginable, the power of social media has made capturing attention in a short amount of time possible.

Ready to create an unforgettable moment in the mind of your audience? Take these three steps.

1. Share Your Story

Stories are a gateway, allowing us to build more meaningful online relationships. Think about the last superficial conversation you had on social media. I bet it was a short quip with no real thought behind it.

Sharing your story allows you to go deeper. It creates what I call a "coffee table moment." It's a point of interest that connects and binds you to your audience. To flesh out your story, begin by answering a few questions.

  • What are the top 3 problems you solve?
  • What 2-3 details about your company make it unique?
  • What 3 words would anyone use to describe your company?

Now, let's work those into your short story. Here's how the formula works: 3 problems + unique details + top 3 words will become your story. Here's an example of what mine looks like using the formula above.

"Every company fears digital disruption. Why not be the disrupter? We show organizations how to use comprehensive online marketing to attract more customers, increase revenue, and position for growth. We're a creative group, offering an innovative and holistic approach that merges each aspect of your business so you can earn back time, take control, and grow a successful business."

See how that all comes together? Take 15 minutes to write yours down.

2. Blaze Your Own Branded Trail

Every company has built brand perception, that includes you as an entrepreneur. And whether you like it not, people are making decisions based on the brand you've shared on social media.

If you haven't taken the time to nail down your brand identity, now is the time. Remember, you have 9 seconds to build trust and win that moment. This means that a cookie cutter brand isn't going to work. You need to blaze your own trail and leave an indelible mark. How can you do this?

  • Be unique - No one likes a copycat and you shouldn't strive to be one.
  • Avoid jargon - Your audience doesn't live in your world. Don't speak to them as if they do. Use their everyday language.
  • Stay relevant - Share content that's appropriate for your industry or niche.
  • Remain versatile - Create a brand that stands strong in a variety of places, settings, and environments.

Let's look at one of the most established brands around as an example. Coca-Cola creates intrigue through their voice, content, and product. They couldn't do this if they weren't consistent in their branding. Since 1899 when Joseph Whitehead and Benjamin Thomas negotiated the rights to bottle Coca-Cola until today, the brand has remained virtually unchanged.

The famous contoured bottle and their mission, to bring joy to their loyal drinkers, is seen on shelves and echoed across social media. As you define your own branded trail, consider your evolution. Create a brand that will remain relevant to your audience today, tomorrow, and indefinitely.

3. Find Your "One Thing" and Shout it From the Rooftops

I recently watched one of my favorite movies from the 1990's. In it, Billy Crystal is facing a midlife crisis and sets out on a road trip. But not any road trip, an old-fashioned cattle drive.

As he searches for the meaning of life, Jack Palance sheds light on what it takes to live a less than lackluster life. His secret? It's just one thing. As he explains, finding your one thing makes everything else fall into place. The same holds true for you on social media. Grab hold of the one thing that drives you, inspires you, and gets you out of bed in the morning. Because here's what happens when you do: passionately sharing your value means you're no longer a commodity. Give your audience a reason to take notice, connect, and choose your brand over the next.

To do this, take 5 minutes and review your last 10 social media interactions. Were they thoughtful, helpful, and encouraging to your audience? Did you inspire them to take action, make their lives better, help them solve a problem? Looking at your content through the lens of your audience is an important weekly review.

As you go through your own branding process, you'll find that remaining focused on your one thing will maintain brand consistency and encourage growth. Instead of veering off your purpose, you'll blaze your own trail, create customer loyalty, and establish a powerful brand.