Does your blog have a brand?
If you start blogging as a hobby then branding is almost certainly not something you’ve thought about a good deal – but having a strong blog ‘brand’ can help you:
- To increase the number of loyal readers visiting your blog
- To make your blog more attractive to advertisers and sponsors
- To help your blog to ‘stand out’ from blogs covering a similar topic
- Build your audience across multiple platforms and networks
This is because a strong brand really helps readers to identify YOU and YOUR BLOG in the sea of millions of websites and blogs competing for their attention.
Branding might make you think of marketing but it’s not (necessarily) about making money. It’s about presenting an attractive, consistent image of your blog and your work across all the places it appears.
Nor is branding about being inflexible – if you have a strong brand, it’s actually easier to add new features to your blog, because your readers will know your brand, and whatever follows that brand will feel familiar to them.
That said, a good brand can be great if you do want to make money from blogging – because brands will be able to get a good idea of what your blog is about, who might read it, and whether their products will be a good match to your site.
So how can you go about building your blog’s brand?
Here are our five top tips – do feel free to share your own in the comments section, we love to hear your thoughts.
1. Brand Yourself Online
The first step in creating a ‘brand’ is to ensure that your profiles on different social networks look the same. Make it easy for people to spot YOU, wherever you happen to be.
So if you have an avatar on your blog’s about page, use the same avatar on Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram and Google+ (or whichever networks you find useful – there’s no law saying you have to use them all!).
Present your name in the same way across all platforms, too – it can get confusing if your real name is Sarah Smith, but you’re using your married name on Twitter, a nickname on Facebook and another name still on your blog. One of the simplest ways to brand yourself in this way is to choose one way of presenting your name, and one way of describing your blog – then use those details across all networks.
Similarly, think about your visual identity and style. If you use warm pastels on your blog and a vintage feel, use similar backgrounds and header images across Facebook and Twitter. Try and think about a colour palette that represents YOU, and apply it consistently.
Even the graphic elements on your page can be a part of your brand – look at how LittleStuff uses the same overlaid price labels on all her product photos, for example. And Emily from A Mummy Too has the same Polaroid-style border on all her photos. All these little touches, if consistently applied, help give your site a strong identity and people will start to recognise things as “yours” even without seeing the blog address.
If you’re self-conscious, then it can be tempting to use a graphic to represent your online self but think carefully about this – for starters, if you want your image next to your posts in Google search results (something that’s proven to increase click-throughs to your site) then you’ll need to use a photo of your face. Feeling shy or want to be anonymous? Consider getting a friend to take a photo with an artfully positioned hat, or of just the top half of your face. Get creative!
2. Don’t forget your real world brand
By this, I don’t mean wearing a sandwich board in the playground when you pick up the kids. Although, to be fair, I’d consider it if it would get me more traffic…
Anyway, lots of bloggers have business cards. If you have these for events and conferences, match them to your blog colour palette. Add your blog header as an image on the back of the card. Don’t forget to include ALL the vital info on your card, including what you do. If you can come up with a handy strapline or slogan to describe your blog (perhaps you already use one in your blog header) then consider adding this to your business cards. Don’t be tempted to exaggerate, and consider the ‘tone’ of your cards – if your blog is colourful and light-hearted then uber-serious, professional black and white cards won’t match your brand.
Do remember that branding is as much about what you DO as what you write.
When you attend events, make an effort to be friendly and professional with everyone you meet. People like to do business with people they like, so be someone who seems easy to work with.
Things to avoid? Getting drunk (needs no further explanation). Hogging the host of an event (brands will have spent a lot of money to meet a lot of people, and nobody is fascinating enough that they want to talk to you ALL day) and trying to do a sales pitch at a social event. Consistently slating brands online for not living up to your standards – although it goes without saying that you have every right to expect courtesy and professionalism.
Things that will make you look good – thanking your hosts, being friendly and cheerful, praising the PR agency’s organisation skills to the brand (if appropriate), responding promptly to follow-up emails, having a sense of humour and perspective – especially when things go wrong.
It should go without saying, the quickest way to trash a brand that you’ve painstakingly built up is to get involved in cat fights on the Internet. Do this, and you can have a best brand in the world, but you’ll still always be known as, “That blogger who…”
3. focus on something you’re passionate about
There are a lot of blogs out there. Many of them are foodie blogs. A blog with a good brand is often one that stands out – not by being outrageous, but simply because the blogger has spent some time experimenting and thinking, and they clearly understand what their blog is about. What could you be an expert in? What makes your cooking unique? Can you share expertise or knowledge in a specific area? Are you an expert in cooking regional cuisine? Do you have a passion for fresh food? Are you a whizz on a budget?
Find the thing that’s different about you and write that. We’re not saying you have to focus exclusively on one sort of food – or even, just food. Far from it. But by having your own, personal take on the world, expressing it and sharing it in a personal way, you can often make the very common seem very personal to you. Don’t be afraid to try things out and experiment until you find YOUR voice and YOUR style. Those things will be very important to building a brand.
4. Be consistent
A huge part of building a brand is simply keeping at it. Lots of blogs start and stop different features, linky projects, video projects and so on – and there’s nothing wrong with that (there’s really only one rule in blogging – do what you love, love what you do) but if you do want to build a brand, then it’s a good idea to stick with things and persevere if you genuinely believe it’s a good idea. Lots of chopping and changing makes it very hard to create a strong identity.
Some days nobody will comment on your post. It happens to everyone. But it’s important to keep going, keep updating, keep writing, keep honing your blog and your voice. The more you practice, the more defined your style will become.
5. But don’t be afraid to change
One of the scary things about building up a strong identity is that it can feel a bit like a straight-jacket – if everyone knows you for doing ONE thing, then it’s much harder to do something else. Remember, it’s ultimately your blog and your space, and no matter what you do, your voice will be a consistent thread across your ventures. Don’t be afraid to start a new blog. Start a new linky. Switch from writing about babies to writing about interiors, if that’s what floats your boat. Because even the very best brands in the world have to evolve and change – just like we do, as writers.
What are your top tips for building a strong online identity? Do you think it matters?