When people ask me how much money I make with my blogs, it’s a hard question for me to answer. For me, the payout doesn’t just come from selling ad space or creating ebooks or any of the other typical ways bloggers make money. I also use my blog as a personal branding tool, which has helped me land some pretty sweet freelance writing clients. Blogs are great for branding in other ways as well. You could brand yourself for public speaking gigs, for example. Or you could use a blog to brand a business, not just as a personal branding tool.
“Branding” doesn’t have to lead to goals outside of your blog either. If you brand yourself well, it’s easier to find “your people” – the readers who really connect to you and your ideas. A well-branded blogger typically has more loyal fans who will, in turn, comment, subscribe, make purchases, share content, and more.
Branding is an on-going process. Just a single tweet or careless comment in a post can really hurt your brand, which is a pretty scarey notion. Don’t shy away from branding, though. Whether you like it or not, when people read/listen to/watch the content you put online, they’re forming an impression of you. You can use the following five tips to consciously help guide that opinion rather than simply posting and hoping for the best.
Tip #1: Create a mission statement.
One of the biggest problems I see for bloggers who are trying to monetize or business trying to start blogs to promote their products/services is the lack of a mission or goal. Okay, well, we know you want to make money. Everyone wants to make money. But if someone on the street came up to you and asked you why they should read your blog, you wouldn’t say, “Because I want to make money.” That’s a fast way to get the other person to turn on their heels and walk away laughing.
Sit own and write out a real mission statement. For example, for my newest venture, Blog Zombies, the mission statement is “to teach bloggers how to create better, more passionate content while still making money.” Or for a food blogger, a mission statement might be “to show people how to cook healthier food that is still tasty.” Or if you’re a small business owner with your own hair salon, your mission statement might be, “to help people feel better about themselves with a new haircut.”
Once you have a mission statement, you can refer back to that statement as you’re creating content. Does it promote your mission or add to the sense of community that mission has created? If not, it might not be a good idea for your blog.
Tip #2: Be consistent and live what you preach.
No matter what you want your brand to be, if your readers don’t think of you that way, it’s not your brand. The best way to change people’s perception of you is to be consistent. This doesn’t mean that you have to blog every day – it just means that when you do blog, you do so with the same underlying message (which goes back to the first tip, always supporting your mission statement.
A good example of this is our very own conference director, Deb Ng. I was a fan of Deb’s long before we ever had any interaction through BlogWorld, and her branding is extremely consistent. She doesn’t throw temper tantrums. She does he best not to alienate any one group, even if her opinions are opposing. She’s super helpful and friendly. Deb is a calm, reliable, community-minded blogger – and she has been for as long as I’ve read her blogs. Now that I know her in person? Of course she gets frustrated. Of course she dislikes certain groups of people or even certain individuals. Of course she can curse like a sailor when mad (sorry, Deb, you’re secret is out, hehe). Those things are true of all of us! But online, she’s consistent with the friendly, helpful image she portrays, and I do believe that’s part of the reason she’s so successful. If she vented every single frustration online, people would have a very different view of her.
If you’re a business owner hiring people to write for your blog or run your social media, this tip is especially important. Yes, you can have employees who are “real” and unafraid to show a little personality, but it is important to hire people who are consistent with your brand (or the brand you want).
It comes down to practicing what you preach. We all realize that a person’s brand doesn’t reflect every single aspect of their lives, but if there’s a complete disconnect, it’s going to wear away at your brand over time. I think it was Brian Clark who said, at BlogWorld 2010, that being authentic online is not about being yourself but being the best version of yourself. I’m paraphrasing, but the idea is that the brand you put forth online might not be you completely, but it should still be you. I like to think of a blog as a mirror (hence the picture) – a reflection isn’t exactly the same as real life, but it’s still fairly accurate.
Tip #3: Support your brand with stories.
It’s no grand secret in the blogging world that story-telling is an awesome tool for content creation. People like to feel like they’re getting to know you, and the best way they can do that in many cases is for you to tell stories about your personal life. I’ve seen some bloggers do this in a bit of an odd way, though. You shouldn’t just tell stories for the sake of telling stories (even if you have a really funny/heartwarming/etc story to tell). You should use your story to support your brand.
List out five to ten words that you hope come to mind when people hear your name or your company name. Narrow it down to the top one or two that are most important to you – and think of a story you can use to illustrate how you are that characteristics. For example, maybe you want people to think of you as someone with great determination. You could tell the story of your latest rock-climbing adventure and how you kept going even though you didn’t think you were going to make it.
Now here’s the tricky part – it still has to make sense for your niche. If you write about parenting, a rock-climbing story might not necessarily fit in. This is where I like to use metaphors. How is rock-climbing like parenting? Write a post about that! Or, instead of a metaphor, think about how the topic can make sense for your audience’s needs. Write a tip post on how to get kids started with rock climbing, for example In both cases, you still get that little branding plug in there by showing your determination, but you’ve also created a post that is relevant to your readers.
Tip #4: Go viral.
The term viral means something very specific on the online world, and no matter how good of a job you do, you can’t guarantee something will catch on. But let’s take a minute and think about what the word viral implies – that the content you create spreads like a virus does in the human body.
You might not be able to control whether or not your content goes viral in the traditional sense, but you can “go viral” with your branding. The branding work you do needs to spread like a virus from your blog to all of your “outposts” – Facebook, Twitter, Google+, wherever you are online. Good branding is not just about being consistent with your message. It is also about being consistent with your logo, your picture, the colors you use, and so forth. Wherever people can find you, they should automatically recognize you.
As a side tip? Make it easy to be found. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve visited someone’s blog and they had no information posted as to where to find them on social media sites. If you have a business, your blog should also very clearly link back to your retail site if you have one. Don’t make your readers Google it – because most times, they won’t.
Tip #5: Pay attention to how your blog is designed.
Lastly, if you’re going to use a blog to boost your personal or business brand, take some time to consider how the blog is designed. Aesthetically, there are certain colors and looks that reflect certain personality traits. You want to match. For example, think how weird it would be to meet a girl with a mohawk at a punk show and go to her house only to see that the walls are painted light pink with a wallpaper border featuring cats and frilly lace curtains. It just doesn’t make sense. Think of your blog as your online apartment and decorate it to match your online personality (aka – your brand).
Remember, quality is important too. No matter how else you’re branding yourself, if your blog is hard to navigate and has tons of glitches, people are going to start to associate you with low-quality work even if you have great content. You might be a sarcastic political blogger or a frank, authoritative music blogger or a friendly tech blogger or a funny travel blogger or…well, you get the idea…you might be any of those brands or something completely different; no one wants to give others the impression that what they do is low quality.
So, those are my best five tips for using your blog as a branding tool, whether you’re building a personal brand or branding your business (or both!). Your turn to share you best blog branding tips – leave a comment.