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Revenge of the Nerds: Why Baiting Your Readers is a Bad Idea


Not Alyssa Bereznak. Obviously.

I’m not ashamed to say that I’m a bit of a nerd, and right now the nerds online are all flustered over a recent Gizmodo post where blogger Alyssa Bereznak wrote some pretty offensive things about a recent online dating experience. The basis of the story is this: she went out with a guy who she deemed to be way too nerdy for her and proceeded to write an entire post making fun of the guy, even though he didn’t really do anything wrong. The “moral” of her story was that you should research a person using Google before you go out together.

Gizmodo is a popular tech gadget blog, so as you can guess, most of their readers are a lot like Alyssa’s date. The vast majority of comments on the post and the comments I’ve seen on Twitter, Facebook, etc. are negative, and many are extremely negative. There are a lot of things I personally find offensive about her post, but what I (and many others) keep coming back to is this: Why is a post dumping on nerds be allowed on a major tech blog, where most of the readers fall into the nerd category?

Some have speculated that Alyssa’s post was purposely offensive to her readers in order to drive traffic. Maybe that is the case; I don’t know. If that’s what happened, who made that choice? Alyssa? Gizmodo? Again, I don’t know.

What I do know is that baiting your readers in this manner is a bad idea.

Sometimes linkbait works, and sometimes it doesn’t – but if you’re being purposely negative, you’re playing with fire. I fully believe that you should write posts that express your opinion, even if your readers aren’t going to agree. If that makes sense for your blog, do it. But it’s a fine line to walk, because if you’re expressing an opinion simply because you want to drive traffic, that choice is going to come back to bite you. Here’s why:

  • For some people, this will be the first time they hear of you or your blog.

Who hasn’t heard of Gizmodo? It’s a huge blog, right? Well, yes…but there are definitely people who have never heard of it. Maybe this is the first you’re hearing of it – and let me ask you, what is your impression of Gizmodo? Even if you’ve heard of Gizmodo before, this might be the first time you’re hearing of Alyssa. What is your impression of her? The point is, the first experience a new reader has with you is their only experience with you. Make sure it’s a good one – or at least one that represents you well.

  • Some of your regular readers won’t be back.

If you’re being completely honest on your blog and people don’t like you and what you have to say, that’s one thing. Let them go. It’s better to have 100 readers who really “get” you than 1000 readers who feel “meh” about you. However, if you’re writing bait posts, some of your regular readers are going to stop reading your site. You don’t always have to agree with members of your community, but at least respect them enough not to stomp in their faces by making fun of them. The nerds who Alyssa offended and who may very well have been some of Gizmodo’s biggest supporters might not be back – and that’s some pretty hefty revenge for any blog.

  • Traffic spikes are just that – spikes.

Let’s say you have a post that is super helpful and goes viral. You’re going to see a huge traffic spike, which is awesome. When things calm down again, some of those people are going to stick around to read more, and even though it might be a small percentage, that’s how you build a traffic kingdom, block by block. But what if you write a post that goes viral for a negative reason, like the Gizmodo post? When things calm down, what’s the likelihood that anyone will stick around to read more? So not only do you run the risk of losing regular readers, but you also won’t gain new ones for more than a day or two. Spikes are only spikes, not sustainable.

  • It’s ethically questionable.

There’s no law that says you can only write what you 100% believe. Frankly, though, the ethics behind doing something like that are questionable about best. It’s a personal choice, I guess, but I would have a hard time sleeping at night if my name was attached to a bunch of stuff I didn’t actually believe.

Overall, I think the Gizmodo post was a really bad idea. I’m not just saying that because I was personally offended by what she wrote. I’m saying that I think it simply didn’t make sense to be posted on a site where nerds are your fanbase. Was the post purposely meant to bait readers? I don’t know. Maybe. And if so, I think it was an even worse idea. There are a lot of really positive ways to get traffic that take the same amount of effort and have much better long-term results.

Have you read the Gizmodo post? Has it changed your impression of Gizmodo or the writer? Do you think there are any benefits to baiting readers with an offensive post?

Charlie Sheen Mania: The Problems with YOU as a Brand


While Charlie Sheen mania is certainly winding down a bit, it is by no means over…and this is the first major celebrity meltdown, at least that I can remember, that has deep roots in new media. Sheen is embracing Twitter, Facebook, Ustream, and other ways of connecting with supporters. Love him or hate him, the buzz he’s getting is impressive.

For the record, I’m on Team Sheen, but that’s an argument for another day, and one that, frankly, is getting a bit old (even I’m sick of hearing about it). What I want to talk about today is what we can learn about the Sheen blow-up in terms of personal branding.

Knee-Jerk Word Association

When someone says Charlie Sheen, what are the first words that come to mind? Winning? Tiger Blood? Crazy? Keep going – what are some knee-jerk reactions you have to his name? Outspoken. Angry. Humorous. Attention-Seeking. Eccentric. At least, those are some of the words that first come to mind when I hear his name.

I don’t think that any of those things are necessarily bad…at least for Sheen. It’s who he is – his brand.

So my first question is this: What words do you want people to associate with you?

And now, a follow up question: What words to people actually associate with you?

I did a little test for myself, using Twitter – and I recommend that you do the same. I want people to think things like “entertaining” and “smart” and (most of all) “passionate” when they hear my name. I tweeted to my followers: “What is one word that best describes me?”

Here are the responses I got:

@mmhemani: Morning energy!! 🙂

@cassie_wallace: creator!

@MustangSal27: From reading your tweets i’d say, Intelligent.

@jadecraven: Awesome. 🙂

@JamesSmizek: Quirky

@maverika: upbeat

Overall, I think I’m doing pretty well -that’s in line with what I had hoped people would think of me. Do the test yourself – you might be pleasantly (or not-so-pleasantly) surprised by the results. Also, it should be noted, that these are three followers on Twitter that I don’t know very well – I only know them through tweets/blogging, not in real life. So, their impressions really do reflect my online brand.

Long-Term Branding

The problem comes with the fact that once someone starts to associate a certain word or emotion with you, that’s probably what they’ll think forever. First impressions are important, but can be changed. However, the impression someone forms over time doesn’t change very easily. Charlie Sheen will always be crazy in our minds, even if ten years from now he settles down and is a total family man who doesn’t want the limelight. Chris Brown will always be associated with domestic violence. OJ Simpson will always be associated with murder. Michael Vick will always be associated with dog fighting.

It isn’t just negative impressions that stick in our minds either. While negative impressions can override good associations we’ve held previously, this isn’t just about wanting to clear your name, so to speak. Sometimes, you just change, your life just takes a new turn.

For example, when I was in high school, I was the brainy kid who never had a boyfriend, wore jeans/sweatpants and a t-shirt to school every day, and attended my church’s youth group regularly. Things have changed. I still love learning, but I care about my appearance (and actually quite like the world of fashion), enjoy going out on dates, and am more of a free-thinker when it comes to religion. It’s hard for someone who knew me in high school to recognize these changes. They still associate me with the same words they associated me with ten years ago.

Let’s say that your brand today is edgy, rock-and-roll, middle finger. What if ten years from now, you’re passionate about parenting and want a more “wholesome” brand?

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t brand yourself now – just be aware of how you may change in the future. It’s okay to not 100% know who you are and to change who you are in the future. Part of the human experience is growing and evolving. If YOU are the brand, though, just be aware of the challenges ahead.

Branding Yourself vs. Branding Your Blog

You of course don’t have to brand yourself as heavily as you brand your blog. Most bloggers don’t blog anonymously, so there will be some name association there, but there’s a difference between Social Media Examiner and The Bloggess. Social Media Examiner is a branded blog, while The Bloggess is a personal brand explosion (in a good way – when I grow up, I want to be Jenny). If you’re a blogger, I think doing either is a valid branding choice. BlogWorld is a branded blog. There is no one person that is the voice of this blog. My own blog, After Graduation, is more personality-based in terms of branding. So, as a blogger, I can see both sides. There are definitely advantages to both.

Branding Yourself:

  • People more easily connect with a personality than a blog.
  • When you meet people in person, you can just be you, not a blog representative.
  • You have the ability to take your brand to new projects, even if they are unrelated to your original blog topic.

Branding Your Blog:

  • You can sell your blog if you want.
  • It’s easier to change your image if you want to do so in the future.
  • You can hire others to work on your blog.

Embrace Branding

No matter what you’re branding, you or your blog, embrace it. If Charlie Sheen mania has taught us nothing else, it’s that if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing 100%. If things change in the future? Sure, it will be a challenge, but that’s all part of your story. Bad boy turned daddy? Religious homebody turned rock star? Drug user turned police officer? Don’t run for it – just make it part of your brand!

Picture via Angela George, Wikicommons.

You’re Branding Yourself As An Expert – Get Used To It


… by Britt Reints

I’m not certain whether or not there is any such thing as a “social media expert”, but I do know that branding yourself as an expert is an important step towards success within your niche. People listen to experts, subscribe to their blogs, join in their conversations, share their material, purchase their products and invite them to speak at industry events. Unfortunately, many niche bloggers fail to position themselves properly because they struggle with seeing themselves as an expert on anything.

Perhaps you think it’s rude or arrogant to act like an expert. Maybe you don’t feel you are qualified for the title because you don’t know everything. Or maybe you’re afraid of how others will react to you if you dare to put yourself out there as someone who knows what they’re talking about.

Whatever your reason for resisting the expert label, it’s time to get over it.

Step One – Realize You Are An Expert

You’re blogging in your niche because you feel like you have something worth saying, something that hasn’t already been said that you think needs to be heard. Chances are, that’s because you’re an expert. An expert doesn’t have to know everything, you only have to have a special skill or knowledge in some particular field. Isn’t that why you chose your niche in the first place?

Positioning yourself as an authority means acknowledging that you pay more attention to a specific topic than the average person. As a result of that interest and the time you’ve invested, you know more about that specific topic than the average reader.

People with a casual interest in a subject read niche blogs. People with a special skill or knowledge in a subject decide to write niche blogs.

If you really can’t convince yourself that you have some level of expertise about your subject matter, it may be time to choose a new subject matter – or start doing your homework.

Step 2 – Accept That Some People Will Be Annoyed, But Most Won’t

The sad truth is that there are some people in this world who absolutely love to see others fail. The more spectacular the failure, the more enjoyment these people get from it. It’s sad and it’s pathetic, but it has nothing to do with you. Those people will always be rooting for someone to fail at something, no matter how you branded yourself. The only way to avoid these people completely is to make yourself invisible in the world, and that is no way to live.

The good news is, these people are rare.

Most people have their hands full making the most of their own lives. Most people aren’t that much different than you. They to listen to people who can add value to their busy lives, people who can help them in some way. They are attracted to people who exude confidence and seem to know what they’re talking about. They don’t expect anyone to know everything or be perfect all the time. They appreciate humanity, honesty, and good intentions.

Step 3 – Show, Don’t Tell

Once you’ve come to terms with the fact that you are an expert and no one is going to hate you for it, the final step is to act like an expert. Doing this with humility will attract rather than repel an audience.

The key is to act like an expert in your niche rather than talk about what an expert you are.

  • Give specific examples of your work instead of listing labels and titles on your about page and in your bios.
  • Associate with people outside of your niche, answering questions about your subject when they come up organically.
  • Participate in discussions within your niche, making an effort to learn from and share what others have to say.
  • Practice what you teach – be a living example of your message.
  • Show your weaknesses when necessary – imperfection can add depth and credibility.

As with most endeavors, the key to niche blogging success is to learn to get out of our own way. That means getting over your fear of branding yourself as an expert so that your audience can begin to take you seriously.

Britt Reints is a professional blogger specializing in SEO content that doesn’t suck to read and travel blogging. On her personal blog, she writes about happiness and personal development. She is also the expert of world domination known as @missbritt on Twitter.

A Lesson In Branding and Buzz: Darth Vader Versus Groupon


The Super Bowl is more about branding than football these days. Not that I’m complaining – I laughed about the little Darth Vader kid just like the rest of you. I’m more of a Puppy Bowl girl than an NFL fan.

After the game is over, football fans go to sleep off the pizza/wing/beer binge and marketers start talking about the commercials. In fact, people everywhere are still talking about the commercials a few days later. The conversation seems to boil down to two points:

  1. Let’s talk about the funniest commercials, especially the little Darth Vader kid.
  2. Groupon’s commercials were horrendous.

Heck, I’m talking about those two points too. What was memorable? Who hurt their brand most?

But another question I think we need to ask is this: What will the end result be?

The entire point of a commercial is to raise awareness for your brand, hopefully in the positive light, so that you sell more. Funny commercials are usually memorable, so the Super Bowl is filled with them, but those aren’t the only kinds of commercials that can raise awareness for your brand. One campaign that sticks in my mind, for example, is Droid. (I didn’t see any Droid commercials during the Super Bowl, I just mean in general). They had a whole slew of weird alien/robot commercials last year that weren’t funny in the least, but they were certainly memorable. So commercials don’t have to be funny to be good.

Why, then, is there a push to make Super Bowl commercials funny? Because afterward, there are always ten billion people writing about and talking about which ones were funniest. You want your commercial to be part of those conversations so that it lives beyond its air time.

Except I wonder if that really matters. I’m starting to believe marketers need to think about branding and buzz a little differently.

Earlier today, I read an interesting post from Lawton Chiles called The Ugly Truth Behind the Darth Vader Superbowl Commercial (hat tip to @elijahryoung for tweeting the link). In this post, Lawton writes,

See how millions of folks are searching for the Darth Vader kid Superbowl commercial? Pretty nifty right? Seems like a lot of people are searching for that SPECIFIC video.

So, they watch the video, laugh, and then, move on. The fact is, I could not even remember what car company they were advertising. I’m sure 95% of the other folks looking for the commercial were in the same boat as me. I’m sure you were too, right?

What a great point. Does the Darth Vader commercial make you want to go out and buy that specific car? In actuality, no one is searching for that make and model of Volkswagen at all – and what did that commercial do to tell us about the car? It has a push-button start? Lots of cars have that these days. What in that commercial positively changed how I think of the Volkswagen brand? What in that commercial convinced me that I should buy this car over other cars I might be considering? At the end of the day, no one buys a car because the company had a funny commercial.

And as far as awareness goes? I’m more aware of that little kid, but I’m not really talking about Volkswagen. Like Lawton said, most people don’t even remember what car company was showcased in the commercial.

Not that brands shouldn’t have funny commercials. They can sometimes work. Doritos, for example, had some funny commercials that I think worked well to promote their brand. But we saw the same problem last year with Old Spice. While the Old Spice guy was hilarious and got a lot of buzz, sales for their Red Zone products – what he was actually promoting – actually fell.

I also saw an interesting tweet that I thought needed to be part of this conversation.

BobbyRettew: No offense…but those out there fussing bout Groupon Ad last night…they achieve their goal: Awareness. You are talking about #Groupon

Groupon offended me more than once during the Super Bowl, but Bobby is right – people are not only talking about the commercials, like with the Darth Vader kid, but they are actually talking about Groupon. Tons of brand awareness for that company. Even my mom, who is not an Internet person in the least, called me to ask what Groupon is exactly (she knew it had something to do with deals, and my mom can’t resist a coupon) and if she should sign up.

Of course, the flip side to this is that a lot of people are really upset with the Groupon ads, so they didn’t exactly raise brand awareness in a positive light. I think it will be interesting to see stats from the week after the Super Bowl for this company, but I predict that even with all the negativity and people boycotting, they’ll still have a spike in new users. Over time, those commercials might have a more damaging effect on their brand. Only time will tell I guess.

So the main question here, I think, is this: Who did a better job with branding and creating buzz? Volkswagen, a company with a commercial that has gone viral and is one of the highest-rated of the Super Bowl, but that created little brand or product awareness? Or Groupon, a company that pissed off a lot of people, but created tons of brand and product awareness?

Overheard on #Blogchat: Always Branding (@V1ktor)


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)


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.

5 Golden Rules: Branding


This post is part of 12 Days of Blogging 2010: 5 Golden Rules. Make sure you check out the rest of the series for more awesome advice from bloggers around the world!

If you’re a business, you can use a blog to help build your brand. If you’re a blogger, what you post on your blog and social media helps shape your brand. There’s no two ways about it – branding is important. Good branding can help you become a respected expert in your niche. Poor branding can be a PR disaster…or worse – you may never get any sticky traffic, no matter what you do in terms of promotion.

I’m not a branding expert, but I know people who are – or at least, who understand the best branding techniques far better than I do! Here are five of them (and if you’ve written about branding, please post your link in the comments section below!):

1. When YOU Are The Brand by Chris Brogan

Companies like Coca-cola or Tide or Sony have teams of people working on their brand. As bloggers, not only do we not have that luxury (in most cases), but we also have another unique challenge – we’re branding ourselves, not a product. Chris Brogan, one of the smartest guys around in terms of branding, talks about the topic of being a brand in this post. Writes Chris:

The trick of being in a personal brand is that there’s a big difference between being known, being known for something, and also being able to turn that into business.

I’ve got a recognizable personal brand. It took years to build it. From that, it took years to figure out how best to make business from it. Because just being known doesn’t transform instantly into business.

Many of you may already be readers of Chris’ blog, but if you aren’t, check it out and find him on Twitter @chrisbrogan.

2. Killer Branding in 6 Steps by Mars Dorian at The World Needs You

The World Needs You is one of the awesome blogs that has only recently come onto my radar, causing me to kick myself for not knowing about it sooner. I’m always skeptical of posts with “killer” in the title, because usually they aren’t actually very killer at all. But like with every post he writes, Mars pretty much nails it with this one. It’s good enough to induce some fist-pumping action at points. I’m not every from New Jersey.* From the post:

If you want you to spread your digital influence, you need to become a killer-ass personal brand. It’s e-s-s-e-n-t-i-a-l.

Otherwise, why should people listen to you ? Why should they come to your online platform ? What makes you different ? TONS of stuff. You only have to learn some magic to crystallize it.

Check out The World Needs You for more from Mars and follow him on Twitter @marsdorian.

3. 10 Simple Steps to ‘Thought Leader’ Status in your Niche! by Chris Ducker at Virtual Business Lifestyle

Chris Ducker single-handedly added ten years to my life at BlogWorld; I can’t remember the last time I laughed that hard. I met him by chance the last day I was in Vegas, and was glad I did, as I hadn’t previously known about his blog, Virtual Business Lifestyle. Now I’m a regular reader. In this post, he talks about becoming a thought leader, which is something that’s only possible with successful branding. From the post:

Nowadays, the internet enables people with experience in a certain industry sector to position themselves as a thought leader a hell of a lot quicker than it has traditionally taken. Sometimes in a matter of just a few weeks, or months! so, with the new year approaching and several people out there wanting to start businesses for themselves based on their experience and entrepreneurial thirst, I’d like to kick off this list of 10 so-simple-you’ll-kick-yourself-for-not-coming-up-with-them-yourself tips, with five ‘harsh reality’ points of interest to consider when positioning yourself as a thought leader without your own chosen niche.

For Chris’ ten tips, head to Virtual Business Lifestyle, and don’t forget to follow him on Twitter @chriscducker.

4. The Secret to Self Promotion: Radiance and the Facts, Jack by Danielle LaPorte at White Hot Truth

While promotion is not the same as branding, the two are closely related. In this post by the ever-awesome Danielle LaPorte, you’ll get some secrets to self-promotion…even if it’s something you hate to do (like me). From the post:

Do I sell my self? Damn straight I do. Everyday, all day. I’m doing it right now. I’ll do it on Twitter, CBC TV, Facebook, this week’s speaking gig for the Travel & Media Association of Canada, and when the waiter asks me what I do for a living. But I’m no longer TRYING TO CONVINCE YOU TO BELIEVE AND BUY. Rather, (and this has been one of my most gnarly, redeeming spiritual journeys) I radiate and state the facts. That’s it. And it’s a helluva lot more efficient than sales.

Check out White Hot Truth and Danielle’s Fire Starter Sessions for more awesome advice, and follow her on Twitter @daniellelaporte.

5. Your Personal Brand is Always with You by Lara Solomon at Social Rabbit

In this post, Social Rabbit gives us a reminder that we all need from time to time – you are always representing your personal brand. This is true both online and offline. Food for thought. From Lara’s post:

It comes back to your personal brand (Gary Vaynerchuk talks a lot about this in Crush It!) and what you want people to take away from meeting/talking/interacting with you. As Erik Qualman says in Socialnomics what happens in Vegas stays on Youtube!

Everyone has heard how people very quickly assess others and form an opinion of them, well now with the aid of social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn this is even easier and they don’t even need to meet you!! So how can you make sure that you are dressed properly and don’t have your underpants ontop of your trouseurs – superman style?

You can read more at the Social Rabbit blog and follow this media-savvy bunny on Twitter @laroo.

Your turn – give me your best post (from your blog or a blog you read) about branding!

*For those of you who don’t get the fist-pumping/Jersey reference, male orange-tinted Jersey dancers are commonly seen fist-pumping on the dance floor when they get overly excited. It’s kind of like a car crash in that you know it’s wrong, but you can’t look away.

This post is part of the 12 Days of Blogging Series. The 5 Golden Rules are:

You can also check out all of the posts in this series here: 12 Days of Blogging 2010

Does Your Blog have a Face?


“I don’t eat anything with a face.”

I still remember the first time I heard someone say that. See, growing up, my parents owned a butcher shop, and all the men in my family (plus some of the women) enjoyed hunting. Before I get a bunch of enraged emails from PETA members, let me stress that the shop was a small-time operation where ethical treatment of the animals was a concern, and we actually ate and, in many cases, used the hides from the animals that we hunted. Growing up in that environment, I wasn’t even aware, as a child, that some people might find eating meat unethical or stomach-turning.

Today, it definitely makes sense to me why some people choose to “not eat anything with a face,” and I’m actually pretty conscious about the foods I eat myself. But you’re not here to read about my thoughts on vegetarianism, are you? You’re hear for blog tips. So, I’ll ask you this:

Does your blog have a face?

I promise this conversation will come back to food, but first let me explain what I mean by “face.”

Quick, without thinking – Who’s the face of Disney. I’m sure that 99% of you immediately thought of Mickey Mouse, with maybe a few of your “outside the box” people answering with another Disney character or Walt himself. But really, Micky Mouse is their face, the brand of this company. Who’s the face of Frosted Flakes? Tony the Tiger. Who’s the face of Nintendo? Mario. Who’s the face of Old Spice? The Old Spice guy, of course.

It’s not just about fictional characters representing a brand, though. Let’s move into the “real world” so to speak. Who’s the face of Apple? Steve Jobs. Who’s the face of Microsoft? Bill Gates. Or, let’s look at it on a smaller blog level. Who’s the face of Problogger? Pioneer Woman? After Graduation?

Ok, that last one was shameless plug for my own blog, but you get the point. Even if you don’t read these blogs currently, you can quickly go to these pages and get a handle on who represents that business. I say “business” because that’s what a blog is if you want to make money from it – and if you don’t, well, these tips don’t really apply to you, so it doesn’t matter!

One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is not having a “face” to represent their blog. If you want some privacy, for whatever reason, that’s fine – use a cartoon or caricature. The Robot’s Pajamas is an example of a site that does this well.

What you shouldn’t do is just use a logo or some kind of other design to represent your site. Sure, there are some people who do it, even some successful people (Men with Pens comes to mind), but by far, this puts you at a disadvantage when connecting to readers. Think about it. On a social network, how do you feel about someone who uses a picture of their face versus someone who uses a logo? What about gravatars – how does your feeling about a comment attached to an avatar that actually shows the person versus an avatar that’s just a design (or no avatar at all).

It’s easier to visualize someone as human when you have a real face, or at least a funny cartoon character face, to attach to the name. You remember them more easily and are more likely to reply to them. When it comes to monetizing, having a “face” also makes your readers more likely to buy something from you. After all, it’s easier to trust a face than it is to trust a logo. It doesn’t matter if you’re a super model or not.

So, if you haven’t already, go update your profiles, gravatars, and about me pages to include a picture of your face. You’re the representative for your business, so the more real and approachable you are, the better.

After all, the competition is less likely to eat anything with a face.

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