Today I’ll be discussing how to create and maintain a successful brand identity. At it’s base level, your brand identity is how you portray yourself online. This can be split into two key parts – your content and your image. In this post I hope to help people define their brands to the point that their blogs are easily recognisable as their own and stand out from the crowd too. The majority of this article has been posted before on this page. The aim of this article is to combine those elements into a single reference guide and expand upon the points mentioned.
“But Mik, I don’t have a brand. I’m just myself here, exactly like I am offline.” Sorry pal, but that’s a load of bull. Let me put this simply, even if you were online twenty four hours of every day you wouldn’t find enough time to be yourself as you are offline. Typing takes longer than speaking and allows you to think carefully about how you phrase things which, for a lot of people, changes how the things they say are received. Plus there’s just not enough time in the day to do the pursue all the interests you have offline when you’re online. Even the fact that we can’t see what clothes you’re wearing or how your hair looks changes the image we get of you. So you see, you’re not completely yourself online.
“So what am I then, Mr Smarty Pants Furie?” I’m glad you asked that, as it’s kind of the entire point of the post. Online you are the sum of your posts, your photos, your comments and your forum threads. This is the brand you portray to people as yourself while online, and it’s quite important. Employers have been searching for people by their names on social sites for a while now in order to get a feel for the person before they hire them (in some cases before they let them get to the interview stage). You might be the best in your field and the nicest guy around but if all your posts are about how much you drank last night or how you’re so hungover that you’re skipping work today then you can kiss that dream job goodbye. I’ve heard stories of family members looking people up online when they’ve found out that one member of their family has got a new girlfriend. Sure, you’re a sweet girl and really seem to love him and everything, but can you explain why your web page is covered in skulls, pentagrams and photos of death before his family scares him off you? As you can see, our online profile can have several effects on your life offline. More and more we’re starting to be defined by how we portray ourselves online. The same thing affects us online as well.
- Do you really expect to be popular on the forums if you have a swastika as an avatar? Sure, you may be Buddhist and know that it’s the symbol for universal harmony, but to most of the world it’s a Nazi symbol and you’re not saying anything about Dharma. By all means have the symbol as an avatar, but make sure you explain it’s original meaning in your signature else you’ve no-one but yourself to blame when people start giving you abuse.
- Want people to show you respect yet you’ve got a page full of hateful posts insulting anyone based on their colour, religion or sex? That’s just not going to happen, no matter how much you try to justify it.
- Trying to convince people that you’re all about peace and love. You’d better not be getting into constant arguments with people and hurling insults at them then.
There’s so many other things about the way you appear online that can affect the way people view you. If you have the same name on other networks then you’re easily trackable. That’s not a problem for most people but what you do in one place can affect you everywhere.
- You may well be good friends with a lot of girls, but if your Youtube profile shows you’ve been uploading porn then people are going to start thinking differently about you.
- People may feel sorry for you when you get into an argument with someone, but if they follow your profile to other sites and see you constantly in fights with people on the forums they’ll start to think of you as trouble.
- Do you get a lot of people thinking you’re a sexist pig? Can you really blame them if your Flickr albums are full of half naked girls?
The point is that while it’s pretty easy to put forward all the positive things about yourself online, you can just as easily ruin all that by adding negative concepts to your personal brand, whether you aim to or not.
Some people will only post about certain things (technology being a good example of regular brands) and that says just as much about them as those that make highly personal posts. However, there are simple ways to establish your brand and evolve it so that it fits you better and keeps you and others more interested in your page. So lets start by creating your basic brand. To do this you’ll first have to ask yourself a question – why are you blogging? Not as easy as it looks is it? Sure, you can remember how you got involved in the first place, but have a quick look around this or any other site and you’ll soon find loads of people who started blogs and never got past their first post. So what makes you different? Why did you keep posting?
Once you’ve figured out the answer to those questions, ignore them as they wont really be helpful here. But you just learned something interesting about yourself, didn’t you? I thought so – consider it a bonus to this post. Anyway, whatever the reason you stayed blogging, you’re still here as proved by the fact that you’re reading this post.
Discovering The Core Brand
The fact that you’re still here means that you’ve probably made a few posts now. Have a look through them and look for common themes. This is your basic brand – the concept behind your blog. It’s the two or three topics that you regularly post about. The subjects that stand out from the others because you’ve spent more time on those posts or, in some cases, the only thing you’ve posted about. It doesn’t really matter what these topics are, because they’re obviously important enough to you for you to post about.
My own basic brand is a phone blog. I create my blog on my phone and write posts about phones and software for them. Mobile technology is my passion.
Establish The Brand Now that we’ve established what your basic brand is, embrace it. You don’t have to go quite as far as I have, so don’t worry if you’re a bit camera-shy. Just have a good look around the posts you’ve written about your particular subject (or subjects) and group them together by using a common tag (or tags) for them. People who come to your blog may be looking for posts on the particular subjects you’re passionate about, and now they’re easy to find with the tag, but let’s try making them a little more easy to find. Leave this post for a second. No seriously, trust me, you can come back in a minute by pressing the back button. But first, leave this post by following this link to my frontpage. Don’t worry, I’ll wait for you. Tum te tum…
Ah good, you’re back. Did you notice the photo of the phone on my sticky post? If you click on that image you’ll be taken to a list of my posts that are tagged with mobile technology. Clever eh? And simple to do as well. You can put a similar text link on your sidebar or your own sticky post easily enough and it’ll help target your readers towards certain content without having to constantly or exclusively post about it. Do you know of sites relevant to your brand posts? Include their links in posts and, once you’ve used them, collect the links in a section on your sidebar for easy reference. Those links are likely to show up in search engines when people look for something related to your brand, which brings in more targeted readers. Also, the miracle of trackbacks means that those sites themselves may start linking to you if they find your content adds to their message. It’s like taking out an advert in the local newspaper, but free.
On my sticky post I let new readers immediately know the main focus of my blog and have access to those posts.
Evolution Of Your Brand
Right, we’ve found your basic brand and we’ve started advertising it to anyone that’s interested. Now we’re going to evolve that basic brand into a brand identity and this, believe it or not, is the easy part. All you have to do to turn a brand of limited interest to other people into a successful brand identity is to post about different things. No I haven’t gone crazy, and I’m definitely not telling you to stop posting about what interests you. You probably wouldn’t stay here long if you did that. No, what I’m talking about is brand extension. You as a person have so much more to offer the online community than your basic brand. You have specific interests that you may not have posted about in any detail. You read books that we may not have read. You watch movies that we may not have seen. You eat food. You sleep and dream. You go shopping for clothes. All you need to do to turn your brand into a successful brand identity is to tell us about those things occasionally. Yes, the meal you just ate may be mundane for you, but to someone in another country (or even another part of yours) it could be the most exotic thing they’ve seen so why not include a recipe? So what if the movie you watched was really bad? Surely you should warn us about it before we waste our hard earned money to watch it. Yeah, you just spent five hours going round different shops and only came home with a pair of jeans. Tell us about the trip, how crowded the stores were and how rude the sales assistant was.
The effect this will have is to immediately increase the volume of your visitors. More posts on varied subjects will bring in more visitors looking for information on more varied subjects. More visitors will mean that your page will rise higher in search rankings, making you easier to find when people search for any subject you post about. Some of your new visitors will read your other posts or find the link to your “main” brand posts which increases your chance of interesting new people in your own passion. And isn’t finding like-minded people why we’re all really here?
What is mundane to you is guaranteed to be exotic to someone else. On two seperate food posts I’ve had to explain what Yorkshire Pudding (a regular part of my diet) is to people who’ve never heard of it and much of the conversation in the comments was about that.
And there you have it. Simple steps to turn your blog concept into a successful brand identity. Most bloggers follow these steps naturally but there are a few who get so wrapped up in delivering their message that they only post about that and tend to isolate readers by coming across as obsessive or preaching. Try this different approach for a while and you’ll find your visitors increase, you’ll meet new people who share your interests and you’ll get your message out to a much higher amount of people. In the next part of this mini series on brand identity I’ll be covering how to maximise the effect of a post so that all your new readers can each take away something different from it, and later I’ll be talking about the image portion of brand identity.