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Overheard on #Blogchat: Always Branding (@V1ktor)

Author:

Do you participate in #blogchat? Every week, this weekly discussion on Twitter focuses on a specific topic and bloggers everywhere are invited to join in. Because I often have more to say than what will fit in 140 characters, every Sunday night (or Monday morning), I post about some of the most interesting #blogchat tweets. Join the conversation by commenting below.

(Still confused? Read more about #blogchat here.)

This week’s theme: Branding and Choosing Post Topics

Working for BlogWorld Expo has been eye-opening for me in many ways, but one thing that really surprised me was the experience of meeting people in real life after getting to know them online. Some people were extremely similar. Others were…well…different in real life. During #blogchat, @V1ktor made a really great point about how this relates to branding.

V1ktor: Everything you are and do, is your brand. Way u talk, way u write, way u reply to tweets. Offline & Online.

Branding is more than a logo, more than your tone of voice, more than your font choice or color scheme. As @V1ktor notes, branding is everything you do. Unfortunately, some people seem to forget this when they attending real-life events, or even when they leave comments at places other than their own blogs.

If you are branded as this clean-cut, approachable mommy blogger, but you get schloshed at happy hour and jump in the pool at a BlogWorld party, how does that look to your readers? I personally think it makes you look like a liar – like you aren’t who you say you are. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t drink or otherwise have fun. I’m just saying that make sure it makes sense with your brand.

Likewise, just because you aren’t on your blog or even a blog within your niche, don’t assume that your readers aren’t keeping an eye on you. I like to think of my readers as Santa Claus. They know when I’ve been bad or good so be good for goodness sake. If you’re branded as this rational, polite religious advice columnist, but moonlight as someone who rants, often cursing or belittling others, on pop culture blogs, you’re destroying your clean reputation with every comment. Be mindful of how you’ll be perceived, whether you are on your own blog or not.

No one said this would be easy. We might not be celebrities, but we are in the public eye, just as celebrities are. If you don’t like that? Don’t be a blogger.

Overheard on #Blogchat: Branding (@sheilas)

Author:

Do you participate in #blogchat? Every week, this weekly discussion on Twitter focuses on a specific topic and bloggers everywhere are invited to join in. Because I often have more to say than what will fit in 140 characters, every Sunday night (or Monday morning), I post about some of the most interesting #blogchat tweets. Join the conversation by commenting below.

(Still confused? Read more about #blogchat here.)

This week’s theme: Branding and Choosing Post Topics

I didn’t make it to #blogchat this week (still recovering from the flu), but I checked out the transcript and it was as thought-provoking and educational as ever. The topic tonight was branding and choosing post topics, so there was a lot to talk about. I found the tweets about branding especially interesting. This was one of the tweets that caught my eye:

sheilas: re: blog branding. Don’t get too carried away. Can you describe what you blog about in 1-2 sentences? You’re fine.

Branding is extremely important for your blog, but I think @sheilas is right – we can get too carried away. I know some bloggers who think of little else – everything to do is about brand-building.

In my mind, it begs the question, “If you have to put so much thought and time into branding, are you being genuine and honest with your readers?”

You can, of course, create whatever kind of personal brand you want, but it is always best when your brand is just an elaborated, exaggerated, clear version of who you already are. If you’re a hometown, traditional girl, branding yourself as an edgy blogging rock star will be a stretch, for example. In other words, don’t dye your hair black for your blog if you love your flowing blond locks in every other part of your life.

If you’re new to blogging, don’t worry if it takes a little time for your brand to develop. It’s okay (good even) to have a clear picture of the brand you want to build, but stay flexible as you grow into your blogging shoes. Even if you are an experienced blogger, don’t be afraid to allow your brand to constantly evolve. You don’t want to confuse your audience by changing every few months, but blogging is not stagnant, so your brand doesn’t have to be stagnant either. Even major consumer brands (think companies like Coca-Cola or Nintendo) are evolving to keep up with growing company vision and consumer need.

So, what @sheilas is saying makes a lot of sense – branding needs to be important, but don’t get bogged down in thinking about it too much. At the end of the day, this is as much of an organic process as it is a process you can plan, so focus on being yourself and creating great content. Great branding will follow.

Overheard on #Blogchat: Your Picture (@AngelaMaiers)

Author:

Do you participate in #blogchat? Every week, this weekly discussion on Twitter focuses on a specific topic and bloggers everywhere are invited to join in. Because I often have more to say than what will fit in 140 characters, every Sunday night (or Monday morning), I post about some of the most interesting #blogchat tweets. Join the conversation by commenting below.

(Still confused? Read more about #blogchat here.)

This week’s theme: driving the RIGHT traffic to your blog in 2011 vs just getting MORE traffic

One of the themes of the night was talking about how to get readers to stay on your site, to become fans and even customers or subscribers rather than leaving your site after their visit. It doesn’t matter if you bring in traffic from social media recommendations, social bookmarking, SEO, or another source – if they read your post but never come back, their visit to your site essentially means nothing.

Tweeters at #blogchat offered tons of advice on how to convert more first-time readers into regular readers, and one that I find especially important is this:

@AngelaMaiers: Your readers need to see your face- they need to know WHO u r before they care WHAT u have to say

Earlier this month, Nikki posted about the importance of having a good About Me page, and I truly believe that Angela that hit the nail on the head with one of the most important points – including a picture.

The chance that I’ll read your blog regularly – even if you write awesome content – is significantly lower if you don’t have a picture of you on your blog somewhere. If you honestly aren’t comfortable, even a caricature or cartoon of some kind works – but if your face is a logo, I have a really hard time thinking of you as a real person, connecting with anything you say.

I think that this all raises an even more important point: while education is important on a blog, if you don’t have personality while you are educating me, I’m not likely to become a regular reader. There are so many boring blogs out there. I think, sometimes, that we’ve lost the reason blogs came into existence in the first place – to allow the blogger an outlet, a place to show their personality. Even some of the experts out there, some people who I really respect and who are regular speaker at BlogWorld and other blogging events…I go to their blogs when I want to know something, but I don’t read regularly. They bore me, and there’s so many bloggers out there that I can probably find someone to teach me the same thing but with a little personality.

Personality is everything – and I think we’ve lost track of that at times. So give me your picture! Tell me about you! Give me super valuable information, but mention your kids and tell me where you’re going on vacation and share an embarrassing story. Every blog should be a personal blog – because otherwise, you just run a boring website that’s updated regularly.

Thanks, Angela, for your great #blogchat comments!

Overheard on #Blogchat: Challenges (@coreyfreeman)

Author:

Do you participate in #blogchat? Every week, this weekly discussion on Twitter focuses on a specific topic and bloggers everywhere are invited to join in. Because I often have more to say than what will fit in 140 characters, every Sunday night (or Monday morning), I post about some of the most interesting #blogchat tweets. Join the conversation by commenting below.

(Still confused? Read more about #blogchat here.)

This week’s theme: creating a vision/strategy/plan to guide your blogging efforts in 2011

My friends are probably sick of hearing me say it – don’t set new year’s resolutions. Set goals. In my mind, resolutions are big “wishes” that you hope to achieve, but with no real plan. Goals, on the other hand, can be achieved if you’re willing to take action. During #blogchat, this week, one tweeter said something that made me look at the whole resolutions vs. goals argument in a hole new light:

coreyfreeman: Are people still setting “goals”? I call them challenges. That way I can keep doing them until I win!

I love this attitude! So many of us set these lofty goals and even with taking steps to achieve them, we don’t finish by our self-imposed deadlines. So what? I’m not saying that you have to be complacent, that reaching toward your goals doesn’t matter. But, as Corey suggests, if we look at them as challenges that we have to get through, they take on a whole new look.

You have to find a way to resolve a challenge. It might take longer than you hoped. It might not happen easily, and your strategy might change along the way. But while goals fall to the wayside when not achieved, challenges do not disappear. The best of the best will deal with them head-on, slaying virtual dragon after virtual dragon until the princess (or prince!) is saved.

What challenges are on your plate for 2011?

Overheard on #Blogchat: Domain Ownership (@bworthey)

Author:

Do you participate in #blogchat? Every week, this weekly discussion on Twitter focuses on a specific topic and bloggers everywhere are invited to join in. Because I often have more to say than what will fit in 140 characters, every Sunday night (or Monday morning), I post about some of the most interesting #blogchat tweets. Join the conversation by commenting below.

(Still confused? Read more about #blogchat here.)

This week’s theme: Open Mic! (It was also a day later this week, due to the holidays)

A question I’ve been asked often from new bloggers is this: do I need to purchase my own domain name? This week, one of the #blogchat tweeters wondered the same thing:

bworthey: So do you think one can “make it” with just the freebie blogs or does one need their own domain, etc.?

I’ll ask you one question, which sums up my feelings on this topic before discussing it more. Of all the blogs you read and enjoy, of all the blogs out there make six figures for their owners, of all the blogs you admire – how many of them have a free domain name?

I’ll let you think for a moment.

Personally, I can only think of one that is super successful – Seth Godin’s blog, which is on Typepad. Maybe soe of you can name a few others, but in all honesty, 99.999999%* of successful blogs have their own domain names.

Of course, that also depends on your definition of successful.

Not everyone needs a domain name. I recommend a WordPress.com, Blogger.com, etc. domain name to people who are brand new to blogging, since it gives you an absolutely free way to see if you’re going to stick with it. You can grow an audience on a freebie blog. You can even make some money. It’s a great way to test the waters.

But on the flip side, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • It’s hard to get the respect of other bloggers if you use a free site.

It’s not like other bloggers are trying to be snobby. It just says that you aren’t really serious about blogging as a profession as much as your own domain does. The cost is next to nothing – seriously, I’ve seen hosting deals for like, $3 per month, and domain names cost less than $10 per year. It’s hard for me to believe that you’re serious about earning money with your blog if you can’t invest $45 into a business…for the entire year. That’s $3.75 a month.

  • You get lumped in with “diary bloggers.”

There’s nothing wrong with using your blog as a personal diary. That’s how I got bitten by the blogging bug in the first place, after all, and I know some people who still really enjoy journaling online. That said, if you want to take a more serious approach, it’s hard to be successful with a blog that’s just you talking about your life. Unless your life is crazy for some reason, it doesn’t really work because people don’t find it entertaining unless they know you. But I digress. Diary bloggers, as I’ve taken to calling this group of people, generally use free sites, since they aren’t concerned with building their blog – they just want a place to vent. Whenever I see a free site URL, I immediately think that it is likely this kind of blog. Sometimes I’m surprised with a well-designed, interesting, informative professional blog, but that’s not the first thing that comes to mind. So, you’re starting from behind.

  • Your URL is harder to remember.

It’s just bad branding to have a free-site domain name. People will forget to add that little bit to the end and be confused when looking for your site. Sure, the hope is that they’ll subscribe to your RSS redd or bookmark your homepage or something, but that doesn’t typically happen on someone’s first visit. With your own domain name, the URL is more memorable.

  • You’re bound by TOS.

TOS – the dreaded Terms of Service. Whatever free service you use has something that you have to agree to when you sign up. They can really limit what you do, from the themes you can use to the ability to put ads on your site to the type of content you post. Lack of freedom stinks, especially as you grow. And yes, they can and will shut you down if you don’t obey the rules. I’ve seen it happen.

  • You can’t control downtime.

Every blog has downtime. Every blog. If you own the domain name and pay for hosting, you’re more in control of when that happens. Sometime hosting gets spotty (especially with a $3 plan), but you can do upgrades and such when you traffic numbers are low, and you can also put up a message to let your visitors know when you’ll be back. Early this month, Tumblr went down for several hours – and by several, I mean like 18. In a row. And what if they didn’t come back? Or what if some of your posts were gone when they did? You’re using a free service, so it’s not like you can demand your money back or something.

  • Your own domain name is better for SEO.

I’m not a pro at search engine optimization, but I do know that if I’m searching for my name, AllisonBoyer.com will win over AllisonBoyer.worpress.com. Sure, you can work on building links and using keywords to boost your search engine rating with a freebie blog, but think to yourself – when you search on google, how often does the result you click on happen to be one of these blogs. It’s rare, right? I know it is for me, anyway.

  • You own domain name is more attractive for advertisers, buyers, and partners.

You just don’t seem as legitimate with a free site. Advertisers are less likely to approach you and even less likely to say yes  if you approach them. I think twice before buying a product from a blog that’s hosted on a free site. Other bloggers are less likely to want to JV with you. People are less likely to want guest posts from you or to do guest posts for you.

Bottom line: Can you be successful if your site is on a free host? Sure. But is it likely? I’ll leave you to answer that for yourself.

*That’s an official stat. That I made up.

Overheard on #Blogchat: Comments and Niche (@idiot_girl)

Author:

Do you participate in #blogchat? Every week, this weekly discussion on Twitter focuses on a specific topic and bloggers everywhere are invited to join in. Because I often have more to say than what will fit in 140 characters, every Sunday night (or Monday morning), I post about some of the most interesting #blogchat tweets. Join the conversation by commenting below.

(Still confused? Read more about #blogchat here.)

This week’s theme: Blog Comments

A few months ago, I spoke with someone who was extremely discouraged about the number of comments left on his blog. For every post he wrote, he would get thousands of unique views, but only one or two comments. I asked him what he blogged about. His answer? Weekly round-ups of real estate news.

Well, there is your answer. No one was coming to his blog for the conversation. They were simply coming to read news they may have missed.

During #blogchat, one tweeter expressed this concept well:

idiot_girl: I think some bloggers should also realize that not all blog types invite comments.

Take a look at your niche. Are they a vocal group, inherently? Does your niche lend well to discussion? Are your readers comfortable with leaving comments on blogs? The answer isn’t always yes.

And that’s ok.

Most groups of people are vocal somewhere. It’s just a matter of finding them. That can be online or offline. For example, my friend with the real estate blog may not be starting conversations on his blog, but his target market is made of people who go to tons of conventions, expos, and other types of events every year. Another example – I know someone whose target market is made up of tweens and teens. They aren’t super comfortable with blog comments, but they definitely are vocal on Facebook. If you want the feedback, find where your community hangs out…and bring your blog to them.

But at the same time, you don’t need comments to be successful. I know someone who makes five figures every month from a shopping-based blog network where he’s lucky to get 5 comments per post. He has a different focus from a blogger who is talking about parenting, though. It’s all about understanding your niche. Sometimes, the lack of comments is no reason to worry!

Thanks to idiot_girl for a tweet during #blogchat that was definitely not idiotic!

Overheard on #Blogchat: Customer Need (@BeckyMcCray)

Author:

Do you participate in #blogchat? Every week, this weekly discussion on Twitter focuses on a specific topic and bloggers everywhere are invited to join in. Because I often have more to say than what will fit in 140 characters, every Sunday night (or Monday morning), I post about some of the most interesting #blogchat tweets. Join the conversation by commenting below.

(Still confused? Read more about #blogchat here.)

This week’s theme: how small businesses can use blogs with co-host @BeckyMcCray

Though tonight’s co-host, the fabulous Beck McCray (who I met at BlogWorld for a hot minute), had a bunch of awesome tips for bloggers, one in particular that I wanted to highlight is this:

@BeckyMcCray: Huge key for small biz blogs: Focus on what customers want to know, not what you want to tell them about your business.

This is so important, and not just for small business blogs. It’s important for all of us as bloggers to ask ourselves, “What does the reader want?”

Blogs can be a great promotional tool, but where I see so many go wrong is in being too much about the writer and not enough about the reader. Being a bit self-indulgent is fine, but if you have twenty posts in a row about events your company has held, chances are that your reader is going to start to get a bit board. We get it. Your business is awesome and likes to support causes and organizations in the community. We don’t need yet another post about your Relay for Life team or the Girl Scout troop camping trip you’re sponsoring.

Instead, what problems can you fix for your readers (who are your customers – or at least have that potential to be your customers)? If you run a hair salon, could you teach me ten tips for de-frizzing my hair? If you run a bakery could you teach me a new recipe I can use at home? If you run a retail store, could you teach me which television best fits my family’s needs?

Remember, this isn’t just for the small business. Go a step further and actually ask your readers what they want. Maybe they don’t need tips on de-frizzing hair. Maybe they’re more interested in prom updo trends for next season. You can poll your readers, respond to comments you receive, or even add an “ask a question” function on your blog. Just because you like to write about a certain topic doesn’t mean that’s what your readers want to read from you.

At least…not every day. It is still your blog, so it makes sense to write when you feel passionate about a topic. If your blog is a business of its own or you’re using a blog to help promote your business, though, remember that your readers/customers need to have a little possession in your blog’s content. Otherwise, they’ll never truly be a part of your community.

Overheard on #Blogchat: Mentors (@bobbyrettew)

Author:

Do you participate in #blogchat? Every week, this weekly discussion on Twitter focuses on a specific topic and bloggers everywhere are invited to join in. Because I often have more to say than what will fit in 140 characters, every Sunday night (or Monday morning), I post about some of the most interesting #blogchat tweets. Join the conversation by commenting below.

(Still confused? Read more about #blogchat here.)

This week’s theme: Open Mic! (any topic goes)

Something that’s been extremely important to me in my blogging career is getting to know other bloggers. I’ve met some of the smartest people in the world through blogging and social media. So, this tweet during #blogchat really hit home for me, because it’s one of my favorite methods of education:

@bobbyrettew: The one thing that helps me with my blog is find a blogging mentor! One that challenges your writing and delivery!

Let me tell you story: When I first started blogging, I wrote a post that made me really proud. I posted it, the first entry on a shiny new blog, and then excitedly told everyone I knew to go read it. And they did. I guess. They said they did. But after an entire day, I didn’t have a single comment on the post. I thought I had done everything right. Where were my readers? My fans? My gobs of money?

After another day or two, I spoke up, asking one of the other people writing on the same blog network what I was doing wrong. He gave me some interesting advice: “You wrote something you love, and it was wonderful. But next time, try writing something for your readers.” I did, and I had more success. Education from a mentor like him was more valuable than any writing course I ever took or blogging book I’ve ever read.

Of course, I can tell you a million other stories of people giving me awesome advice to help me improve blogging. The point of this story is not that I got awesome advice, but my initial inability to see any problem at all with my own blog. Having mentors is awesome because they give you a brand new perspective.

It’s important to remember that mentors aren’t just experts or long-time bloggers in your niche. Those people can certainly make great mentors, but you can also learn a lot from even those who hae just recently started blogging – or even readers who don’t blog at all. That’s part of the reason I love #blogchat – even though I’ve been a blogger for several years now, I learn a lot from the new bloggers who come to the chat every week. Fresh perspectives are always good!

I think some of the “big bloggers” get that wrong sometime. They have a lot of valuable advice to give people, but when is the last time they asked a question or took something away from a conversation with a new blogger? Maybe that’s our fault, too – even if you’re new, don’t be afraid to speak up. You may not feel comfortable giving advice, but you can speak about your experiences, brainstorm new ideas, or talk about what you want as a reader.

In the blogging world, we should all have AND be mentors. My challenge to you is this: every time you have a conversation about blogging with other bloggers or social media experts, give one piece of advice and take away one piece of advice. In the end, it makes the entire community stronger!

Overheard on #Blogchat: Being Unique (@YesVictory)

Author:

Do you participate in #blogchat? Every week, this weekly discussion on Twitter focuses on a specific topic and bloggers everywhere are invited to join in. Because I often have more to say than what will fit in 140 characters, every Sunday night (or Monday morning), I post about some of the most interesting #blogchat tweets. Join the conversation by commenting below.

(Still confused? Read more about #blogchat here.)

This week’s theme: Open Mic! (any topic goes)

Because #blogchat was “open mic” tonight, it was a bit like organized chaos, with a number of different conversations happening throughout the evening. One of the tweets that stood out to me was about the content of your blog:

@YesVictory: Be unique. There are too many copy cats in the world already

I don’t think there’s a single person out there who raises their hand and says, “Yes! I would like you to be a boring copy of a blog I already read! Sign me up for your mailing list while you’re at it!”

So why is it such a problem?

We all want to be successful, so it makes sense to learn from those who already are successful. And when we do learn from the already-successful bloggers, what do they tell us? Generally, tips and techniques that have worked for them. Write titles this way like I do. Structure your posts this way like I do. Design your blog this way like I do…

Here’s the challenge I have for you, though: Describe your blog to me in one to two sentences. Good. Now, could that short description be used to describe any other blog out there? If so, you’re doing it wrong.

But in an overcrowded niche, how is that possible without getting so specific that your blog doesn’t have potential for a huge audience? One word: YOU.

People come to your blog to see you. If your topic has been done before, that’s okay. You have opinions that another blogger doesn’t have. You have stories about your life to tell, and these aren’t stories that any other bloggers have. It doesn’t matter if you use every single technique that another blogger uses. That isn’t what makes you a copy cat. What makes you a copy cat is the fear to be yourself – the idea that you have to be someone else to succeed.

Go back to the exercise I suggested earlier – describing your blog on a sentence or two. Now add yourself to the equation, if you haven’t already. That’s what makes you unique. That’s how you work into a niche, elbowing your way through the crowds to find your readers. It takes work and dedication. If you want to make money, it takes a good business plan and market research. But mostly, it takes you. You-nique. You don’t need to copy someone else if you aren’t afraid to be yourself.

Overheard on #Blogchat: Your Tribe (@KarlaAntelli)

Author:

Do you participate in #blogchat? Every week, this weekly discussion on Twitter focuses on a specific topic and bloggers everywhere are invited to join in. Because I often have more to say than what will fit in 140 characters, every Sunday night (or Monday morning), I post about some of the most interesting #blogchat tweets. Join the conversation by commenting below.

(Still confused? Read more about #blogchat here.)

This week’s theme: creating a strategy for your blog

Because this week’s theme was pretty broad, we talked about a myriad of strategy-related topics during #blogchat, but one came up again and again throughout the night – as a new blogger, how does one gain readers and build a community? For that question, I love the following advice:

@KarlaAntelli: take care of your “apostles”, send them an email, ask about them write on their wall or tweet or just generally pay attention

Unless you’re already well-known in your niche for some reason, when you start blogging, you’re not going to have many readers. You’ll get some traffic from search engines, and you’ll also be able to build your subscriber numbers through social media, guest posts, social bookmarking, etc., but the fact remains that it takes awhile to get some traction.

The first sign that you’re getting somewhere is often that you’ll have a fan or two who is always there for you. They retweet nearly all your links. They comment on all of your posts. They want to write guest posts for you, despite your lack of huge traffic numbers. These are your apostles. Show them some love!

This is a place where I’ve fallen flat in the past, and that’s a mistake I’m trying not to make here at BlogWorld or – more importantly – at my own blog, After Graduation. On one of my past blogs, I had this one fan who was there every single day without fail. She commented over and over again on posts I wrote. Personally…well…it wasn’t that I didn’t like her, but I didn’t care for her blog. Because I wasn’t a fan of her site, I didn’t make an effort to interact with her on mine. She stuck around for a good long while, to her credit, but eventually, she disappeared.

I don’t blame her at all.

You don’t need to read your readers’ blogs. It pays to check them out, because you might find a blog that you love, but most readers aren’t actively trying to become a part of your community because they want you to read their blog posts. Sure, they would love that, but if you don’t, they’ll still be on your blog. They’re there because they like you already, whether you’re a reader of theirs or not. They like learning from you. They like interacting with you. They like telling others about you.

They’re your tribe.

Reward your tribe – your “apostles” – by showing an interest in what they have to say as part of your community. No one’s forcing you to interact with them outside your community if you don’t want to, but if you ignore them in your space, you’re not saying, “I don’t like your blog.” You’re saying, “I don’t care that you read mine.” And that’s a feeling no one wants. Eventually, people will leave.

It’s like inviting everyone to your home for a party and then ignoring half of your guests because you don’t want to go to their party. Giving your tribe some love is not saying that you want to have a sleepover at their house. It’s just saying, “Thank you for being here at mine.”

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