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Six Ways to Make Your Brand Shine in a Small Business Blog

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Ask a dozen marketers what “branding” means and you’ll get a dozen answers. Why? Because it’s a word with many meanings, depending on who’s doing the defining. This blog alone shows 30 unique definitions, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

What we do know is that branding is that it is the yin-yang of your business: You tell the world how you want to define your services or products, what differentiates you, and why people should trust and buy from you. Ultimately though, your brand ends up in the hands (and minds) of customers and prospects—they will be the ones collecting experiences and driving business to or away from you. Some even argue that companies have lost control of their brands altogether, unintentionally passing the baton to consumers, thanks to the power of social media. That’s why it’s even more important to exploit the brand equity you do have with the vast web connections, from your web site to social media presence to search, and anywhere else your business lives.

In the end, your blog can be one of your biggest brand assets, or do nothing to add value and attract business. Here are some top tactics to work it to your advantage:

#1 Mirror, Mirror On The Web

Starting from the outside in, your blog should walk the walk as a natural extension of  your company name, logo, color scheme, and all other tangible elements that make up your brand identity. The best way to stop that natural flow in its tracks is to publish a blog that lacks brand identity. A company blog should be a seamless transition from anywhere you’ve marked your (brand) territory: a real-world meeting where your business card was passed, a visit to your store, an eBook you wrote, or a transaction on your site. Make sure to give your blog a name—not just a “blog” section on your web site—one that reinforces who you are and what you do (My business name is LiveWire Communications and my blog name is Marketing Sparks. Get it?). And don’t forget about a tagline so readers know what your blog is about (Mine is “Insight about Advertising, Marketing, and Branding.”).

#2 No Blog-ots 

Of course your blog should not only walk like your business, it needs to talk the talk too. Speak in your brand voice at all times: Is it funny? Conversational? Whimsical? Even if you’re a number-crunching accountant, you can still let your personality come through (unless you’re crabby). The tone, style, and words that you use act as a conductor for your brand. Be true and authentic, whether you’re a storefront or a one-person shop. No one would question speaker and self-proclaimed “Unstuck-er” Erika Napoletano about this: Whether or not you like her cussin’, in-your-face style, her brand is illuminated in every word of her blog, even the four-letter ones. That also goes for your “About” page too. This is a great opportunity to showcase and reinforce your brand story.

#3 Stand Out From the Competition

It’s pretty easy to be a “Me Too” when it comes to blog topics for various industries. You can go outside the lines, but only so far. Your blog is a prime opportunity to bring out the uniqueness of your brand, no matter what the post is about. Marc Sheridan turned River Pools blog into what it calls itself  “…the most educational swimming pool blog in the country” through his efforts to educate and inform readers on the pool industry (which he turned into a successful content marketing/speaking career as The Sales Lion). Conversely, another tactic is to deliver contrasting point of views from industry bloggers. For instance, if all graphic designers are writing about the hottest trends in typography, write about the suckiest fonts instead—you’ll stand out for your knowledge in a different way.

#4 Dole Out Your Branding in Quick Hits

Another way to continue brand extension in your blog (and amp up your content promotion while you’re at it) is to leverage a thought-provoking quote, stat, or visual from a post and blast out to your social networks at various intervals. It will make a brand statement and also serves as a call- back to the blog while you’re at it. And don’t forget to make thoughtful, impactful comments on related blogs, this can be another great opportunity to put your branding stake in the ground.

#5 Hitch Your Wagon to a Like-Minded Star

Reinforcing your brand in your blog can be also be achieved by bringing someone else into the writing mix. Think interviews, quotes, or a guest posters. And I’m not talking about using a generic quote from Abraham Lincoln here; more like showing your affinity with a thought leader, industry luminary, or cheeky scofflaw who will draw attention. This will speak volumes about who you are (not to mention getting your blog some back links).

#6 Look Inside Yourself

Still stumped on how to bring out the essence of your brand? Conduct a brand audit to get more clarity. That may seem fancy pants if you’re a consultant or small business, but it can also lead to valuable insights. Do a free quickie one with a consultationdownload a tool, or ask yourself a few pointed questions. Doing these exercises can help reveal the true essence of your brand and point to any disconnects communicating to your audiences. If you’re strapped for time, try Wordle to visually capture brand descriptors and get a snapshot of who you are. After all this soul-searching, you may find that your brand is not reflecting what your small business is about, and it might be time to rebrand—but we’ll save that subject for a future post.

What tactics do you use in your blog to bring out your brand?

How Klout Helps Me Build My Brand

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The hullabaloo about Klout has been deafening in recent weeks. Some people are staying. Some people are going. Some people are ranting that no one cares if you’re staying or going. The debate over the value of Klout is raging.

I tend to think that people are looking at this tool the wrong way.

Klout’s intended purpose is to measure influence. Through a wacked out, complicated algorithm that changes constantly, you’re judged and a number is spit out to you. Unfortunately, numbers don’t have much meeting unless there’s context – and I personally feel like if we spent more time examining the context, Klout could be really super useful to bloggers (and anyone using social media). I get an incredible amount of value from Klout, even if I don’t think there’s much value in the numbers themselves.

So, without further ado, here’s how I personally use Klout to build my brand:

  • Making my lists and checking them twice.

Klout’s relatively new “lists” feature is amazing for bloggers. Twitter lists can be used to build blog traffic, but Klout lists are a little different. You don’t actually interact much on Klout itself, other than giving one another +K on different topics. But Klout lists can be used to quickly find any social media information you want about someone, which is fantastic if want to contact people about a specific topic. Create a list and use it to find people no matter where or how you want to connect.

You can also use their lists to find new people. For example, I’m on a list called “writers,” so if I wanted to find another freelance writer to help me out with some blog posts, this would be a great place to look. More importantly, however, Klout allows you to see lists others have created where you’ve been added as a member. It’s a really great way to monitor what people think about you. If you’re building a brand, this information is extremely valuable.

  • Topics help you find who you truly influence.

The topics that Klout assigns to you don’t always make sense. For example, I’m apparently influential about luggage. Erm. Okay then.

But what is helpful is to see where people have given you +Ks to indicate that they think you’re influential about a specific topic. I’ve received +Ks in blogging, BlogWorld, zombies, and writing. Let’s say that I want to release a new ebook about freelance writing. The people who gave me +Ks about writing are a fantastic place to start when I’m looking for affiliates.

Again, you’re also monitoring what people think about you. If I had a bunch of +Ks in luggage and none in BlogWorld, I would begin to suspect that my social media message was muddled. Maybe I should rethink the things I tweet so that it is apparent that I would for BlogWorld. In other words, if you haven’t received any +Ks in topics that you want to be influential about, that’s not Klout’s fault. People are perceiving you a specific way. Brand is all about how people perceive you, so take a look at what you’re doing that is confusing your followers and friends.

Want to connect with others in your field? Klout allows you to see who they’ve ranked as top influences about a topic, as well as who has received the most +Ks about a topic, so it’s helpful for making new connections as well.

  • Your style can be revealing.

A lot of people argue that the “style” Klout applies to you is a load of bs, but I think we might need to be a little more honest with ourselves, because in my experience, these styles have been correct. We tend to get defensive when the truth varies from how we perceive ourselves, but on Klout, it isn’t about what you want to be or even what you try to be. It’s about what you are.

That’s not to say that your Klout style is 100% right 100% of the time. But the good thing is that no matter where you fall on the Klout scale, it’s a good thing. There are no bad styles. You can, however, learn and improve to be a more well-rounded social media user. Look at your brand goals in social media and how you are perceived according to Klout. What can you do to better align the two? Ask yourself why Klout has you under a certain heading. Think critically about your social media usage. We all have room to improve.

Klout is certainly not without it’s problems. I’ve contemplated leaving, but I think there are just too many helpful ways to use this tool to convince me to delete my profile. Today’s fad is to “not care” about your number, but just because you’re a member of Klout doesn’t mean that you’re somehow obsessed with your Klout score. There are a lot of other faces to this tool, so don’t be blinded by the numbers.

5 Tips For Using Your Blog as Branding Tool

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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.

How a Podcast Can Grow Your Brand

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If you are a blogger it’s a well known fact that you can no longer operate in the vacuum of your web site. You have to expand beyond your blog. The most common ways people do that are via social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook.  While those are necessary and great outlets, they’re saturated. Everybody has a Facebook fan page and everybody is on Twitter. It’s not going to help you differentiate yourself very much.

I stumbled upon podcasting by accident when I decided to start a weekly series called “Interviews With Up and Coming Bloggers.” That evolved into a site of its own and I became known as the guy who interviews people. Starting a podcast has allowed me to connect with 100’s of bloggers that I might never otherwise have talked to, and extend my brand beyond my blog. Once you start a podcast you’ll be leveraging iTunes as a distribution channel and reach an audience that might never have heard of you. While there are millions of people producing written content for their blogs, there are far fewer who are regularly creating audio content.

A Podcast Gets People Talking About You:

There’s something about allowing people to hear voice that creates a stronger connection. I’ve had countless people tell me “I listen to you on the way to work everyday.” That means that somebody is connecting with you, your voice, and your brand every single day.  If you’re creating something of value they’ll naturally go out and start telling other people about it.

Choosing a Subject

Figuring out what your podcast will be about is not the easiest thing in the world. But it in many ways it comes back to the same way you chose your blog topic. Find something you are passionate about and that other people would be interested in. Cliff Ravenscraft turned a podcast about the TV show Lost into a movement and eventually created additional podcasts which have turned into significant income streams. If you try to create content around something you have absolutely no genuine interest in, it will definitely fail.

One of the things that seems to stop people from exploring multimedia content is that it’s something they’ve never done before. It’s also putting yourself out there for the whole world to hear and see. What you forget is that before you started blogging it was something you had never done. Eventually you stopped being afraid to push publish. Multimedia content and podcasting work the same way. Chances are your content won’t be spectacular when you start, but it’s something you’ll improve with time.

The New Media Trust Manifesto

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Is this what your employee acts like online? How does that look for your brand?

In the new media world, everything is constantly changing. Sometimes, I feel that in the few hours it takes to write a post, my idea is already out of date. I have strong opinions, but I am never surprised when my opinions change. It’s not a matter of being unable to stand for something; it’s a matter of working in a wonderful, surprising, exciting industry that moves at a crazy pace and makes me all giddy to learn new things.

I say all of this because I want to talk to you about what I’m calling The New Media Trust Manifesto. Manifestos are usually long, grand statements of personal beliefs, often taking years to write and edit, but today this is not the case. I’m calling it a manifesto not because of it’s length, but because it is something that I so strongly believe that I think it will hold true not just tomorrow or next month or even next year. I think that if I live to be 500 years old, this will still be true. This isn’t a claim I make lightly, given my feelings that the new media world is constantly evolving and you have to evolve with it to survive.

The New Media Trust Manifesto is actually pretty simple and can be summarized in a single sentence: Hire the new media professionals you trust, not the ones who are the best for the job on paper.

I’ve written for several blogs over the years (not including the blogs I’ve run or am running myself). Some, like here at the BlogWorld blog, come attached with tons of freedom to choose my own topics and state my own opinions. Other clients give me a step by step list of what they want covered, when they want it covered, and how they want it covered. In every single case, without exception, the results are directly proportionate to the freedom I’ve given.

You might be thinking about hiring a new media professional to run your company’s Twitter account or become one of your bloggers or create ebooks for you. While the thought of giving complete control to someone else might make you shudder a little, having that trust is super important. It’s 100% better to hire someone you trust than someone who looks good on paper.

On paper, I’m not always the best candidate for every job. I’m relatively young and already have a lot on my plate. While I do think I’m a good writer, I’m also a horrible self-editor; proofreading is definitely not my forte and I don’t always catch even typo. I’m not an SEO expert. I’m not a social media expert.

Yet I can promise you this: I will always do the best job I can and I will go out of your way to represent your company well.

This isn’t about hiring me. I’m just using myself as an example. When you’re hiring a new media worker, that’s what you want – someone you can trust to represent your brand, even if they aren’t perfect. Joe Blogger who is an SEO expert and has a million Twitter followers might seem like the perfect candidate for the job, but ask yourself this: do you have to worry about him embarrassing your company? Does his personality fit your brand?

Story time: recently, one of my friends voiced an opinion about a company on Twitter. He didn’t say the company was bad or anything; he simply stated that he wasn’t personally a fan of their products, even though he thinks that others should check them out. In my opinion, that’s actually a good tweet – no product will be right for everyone, but you should be proud if someone who doesn’t like what you produce still thinks it’s high-quality enough to recommend to others who might have different tastes.

Unfortunately, their brand representative didn’t see it that way. He unfollowed my friend, but not only that – he publically announced on Twitter through his personal account AND the company account that he was unfollowing him. I was stunned when I saw that tweet. How utterly embarrassing for the company to have an employee that would overreact like that on Twitter.

Similarly, every year at conferences, there are a lot of people who misrepresent their employers by going out and partying hard. We talked about this on #BWEchat a few weeks ago, actually. If you want to have a few drinks, that’s fine. If you work for yourself and want to get wasted, go for it – you’re representing your own brand and you have the right to do that. But if someone is sponsoring you to be there and you’re dancing on the bar? How embarrassing for that company. Unless you’re representing a liquor company maybe!

And the fact of the matter is this: often times, I think “shame on *company name* for hiring that person” not “shame on that person.”

As a business who is hiring a new media professional, you have lots of tools available to help you determine whether or not you can trust a new employee as a brand representative. Check out their Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ profile. Look at the pictures they’ve posted online. Read their personal blog.

If you do some research on me, for example, you’ll find that I’m not by any means timid about voicing my opinions. You’ll also notice that I curse on personal sites/accounts but not when I’m writing for clients, that my hair has pink streaks, and I don’t own a business suit. If you were considering hiring me, these are all factors to take into consideration. For some companies, these things will be positive and for others they will be negative. That’s okay. All I’m saying is that it’s about more than asking for a sample of my writing to see if I’m a competent blogger.

I’d even take this a step farther and say that new media trust needs to extend to every single person you hire, whether they’re managing your Facebook page or doing tasks unrelated to social media. Everyone has the ability to have personal social media accounts, and most do; don’t act surprised if they mention your company. People talk about their jobs online all the time, and while I don’t think it is fair for you to require employees to only say positive things about you when they’re using their personal accounts, there’s a difference between voicing a negative opinion and embarrassing the company.

A good rule of thumb is this: pretend that you had a major company secret that you were announcing next week. Do you trust every single employee you’ve hired to know that secret today?

Another question to ask yourself: Do you trust your employees enough to send them to dinner with a potential investor?

The New Media Trust Manifesto is about hiring people who are an extension of you. Companies that don’t run the risk of hiring people who have the potential of being PR nightmares. Skills can be taught. Tact and maturity are things you either have or you do not.

Canned Responses: A New Media Case Study for Brands

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I’ve heard it said that no response is the worst response a business can have when it comes to brand negativity. I’m not 100% sure that’s true. It depends on your industry of course, but personally, I’m finding it more and more offensive to read a canned response. Certainly, you want to let people know that you’re listening, but if your responses are plastic, you might be better off not responding at all.

To illustrate what I mean, I’d like to present a bit of a case study based on some experiences I’ve been having lately. Right now, I’m actively apartment hunting, moving from my rural area of Pennsylvania to the Washington, D.C. metro, and since it’s a four-hour drive, I’ve been doing a lot of online browsing. That way, when I’m in town, I have a much shorter list of places to see in person.

As you may know, if you’ve ever apartment hunted, when it comes to managed complexes or towers, the pictures aren’t always a good indication of what you’ll get in real life. In fact, many places have a few “show” units set up permanently with higher-quality appliances, flooring, etc. than is found in the rest of their units. They use these show units for photographs on their websites and to show prospective renters on their tours. So, to get a clearer picture, I’ve also been perusing review websites, such as ApartmentRatings.com, where people who have actually lived in these complexes can rate their experiences and write reviews. Of course, you have to take what you see with a grain of salt since 1) people who have had an extremely negative experience are always more vocal and 2) nothing stops apartment complexes from going online and posting fake reviews to boost their scores. Those are issues to talk about another day, however.

The fact of the matter is that most of the bad reviews go unanswered. There’s space on ApartmentRatings.com to leave a response, but I’d guess that over 90% either have no response or responses from other tenants asking questions or saying, “Me too!” It’s uncommon for a property manager to respond.

I haven’t found myself getting mad at this. My gut reaction isn’t, “Wow. Not only did this tenant have a major problem, but they don’t care at all! What a horrible place this must be.”

No, my reactive is to shrug and assume that they have no idea what is being said about them…or at most, they see the poor reviews but don’t have staff members dedicated to responding. If there’s no response, I don’t really find it offensive.

But I’ve been seeing a lot of canned responses – responses that are clearly copied and pasted and are unhelpful at best. The management is acknowledging the problem, but they are making matters worse.

To illustrated, this is one of the responses I saw. It was posted to a 1/5 star rating entitled “We still call it Amityville” that talked about a mix-up with the move-in date, unresponsive maintenance staff, and other problems. Here’s a screenshot of the ensuing conversation (if you can call it that):

In my browsing, I saw that same response, word for word, on a number of other posts. “Anonymous” is absolutely right – no response would have been better. This kind of canned response actually offends me as someone looking at potential apartments. I can just imagine how offended it would be to the actual review writer.

First of all, the name is clinically corporate. No one is talking to you – the response comes from “CommunityManagementTeam.” Not “Jane, Community Manager” or “Joe, Customer Relations” or anything like that. A nameless, faceless corporation. Not exactly the kind of image any property management company should want.

Second, the review starts off in a very “me, me, me” type of way. Of course your company doesn’t want bad reviews. This isn’t about you. If you get a bad review, the very first thing you should say is “I’m sorry.” End of story. Even if the customer is wrong, they still had a negative experience, and you should feel sorry in the role your company played in that.

Third, let’s talk about the actual “apology.” Word for word, they say: “We’re sorry you feel that your experience was less than satisfactory.” Not, “We’re sorry you have a less than satisfactory experience.” No, this company has the balls to say, “We’re sorry you feel the way you do” as though the customer is wrong. It’s like if you call someone a mean name and then your apology is, “I’m sorry your feelings were hurt” – i.e., you aren’t sorry for saying it, you’re sorry that the person is so sensitive or found out you said it. This property management company shouldn’t feel sorry that the tenant is upset about these problems. They should be sorry that the problems happened at all.

Lastly, they closed the response with a generic phone number and email. The contact information is nice, but dealing with a corporate office isn’t going to help this tenant because he/she specifically said in her review that there were communication problems with the staff again and again. You can bet your last dollar that if the tenant actually contacted the company using that information, he/she wouldn’t have reached anyone who knew anything about this review or her experiences.

Overall, what I read from this response is, “We see your complaints and we don’t care enough to give you an actual response. We’re just trying to make it look like we care.” And the writer called them out on it…to no response. It’s been several weeks, and the property management company hasn’t come back to say, “You know what? You’re right. Sorry for the form response, let me help you.” They’ve gone silent, and that’s a problem.

The point I’d like to make here is that the notion that no response is the worst response isn’t always true if you’re dealing with brand negativity in a new media setting. If you honestly don’t have the manpower to truly manage your social media presence, it’s better not to have one at all, in my opinion. I would rather assume that your company isn’t there than read a quickly copied and pasted form letter that makes matters worse.

Overheard on #Blogchat: Always Branding (@V1ktor)

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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.

That’s Hot: Building a Blogger Brand

Author:

Did you know that Paris Hilton has won awards for coining the phrase “that’s hot”? Seriously. While your knee jerk reaction might be to wonder what is wrong with humanity, the truth of the matter is that this tabloid queen is consciously doing something that we all should be doing as bloggers: building a brand.

It isn’t an accident that Paris portrays a certain sexy ditziness wherever she goes. It’s actually a really smart business move. She’s selling books, purses, jewelry, jeans, CDs, and more on “that’s hot.” Ok, it’s more than just a phrase – but that’s part of the package. You may not like her, but you certainly know who she is and what she’s all about.

What about your target market – do they know who you are? Do they know what you are about? It’s more than just your blog topic and facts about you. You’re a mom who blogs about cooking? That’s awesome. What makes you different from every other kitchen-loving mother? If you’re a tech blogger with a love for Star Trek, what makes you different from every other nerd* out there?

No matter how useful your site may be, I won’t visit it regularly to read the information. I’ll visit it regularly to read the information coming from you. That’s so important that I used bold and italics, so you know I mean serious business. You need to have a personal brand, or you’re just another face in the crowd.

Some bloggers do this personal branding thing really well. You know that they’re all about the moment you start reading their sites. Not everyone will like them, but that’s ok. After all, most of people who don’t like you aren’t going to buy your products or otherwise financially support your site anyway.

Branding makes you stand out. People come back to your site because they remember you. They subscribe to your ten billion lists. They retweet your post links even before they’ve read the post. They comment. They feel like they know you, which can be a little creepy if you ever meet at a conference, but hey, some awkward hugs are not too much for a faithful reader (as long as they don’t start baking pies for you made with their hair).

Creating a blogger brand doesn’t mean you lie. In fact, that’s pretty counterproductive. Readers can sniff out bull pretty quickly, and once you’ve been outed as a turd, you will always be a turd. You don’t want to create some character that isn’t the real you – you just want to highlight your more awesome attributes, playing them up a bit to create your own brand.

Yes, there are multiple sides to every person. I’m sure Johnny B. Truant has days when his Internet doesn’t feel so awesome, I’m sure Darren Rowse has days when he’s sick of blogging, and I’m sure Chocolate Covered Katie has days when she just wants to order take-out. Heck, I’m sure even Perez Hilton has days when he’s humble and kind to people. Ok, maybe that last one is a stretch, but most people have more than one characteristic that makes up their personality. This is a business, though, and these guys/gals have hats to wear when they interact with others online. It’s why they’re memorable.

What makes you memorable? Tune into that, and you’ll be much more likely to build a following and actually make money with your blog. Sometimes, being a little like Paris Hilton isn’t a bad thing.

*I say “nerd” affectionately, as someone who spends way too much time playing video games.

Image Credit: Peter Schäfermeier

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