Blogger or Brand?: Extending Your Online Identity

Some of us have purely personal sites where we discuss the day-to-day, while others are trying to create an online…

Some of us have purely personal sites where we discuss the day-to-day, while others are trying to create an online presence around our blogs or use them as a springboard for other projects. If you’re in the latter camp, you’re not just a blogger: you’re a brand.

You may never be Coca-Cola or Apple, but you can still be a brand (and use branding to grow your blog). Today, we’ll start to look at branding your blog — what it is, why you’d want to do it, and the key elements for getting started. Time to become a household name!

What is a brand?

Brand (n): a particular product or a characteristic that serves to identify a particular product

stamp-143192_640Well, that’s not very exciting. Technically, yes, that’s what a brand is — a product or its logo. But a brand is also much more that that. In terms of a blog, your brand is:

  • Your site’s personality.
  • Your name, tagline, color scheme, and design (including your logo).
  • A promise you make to readers about what they’ll find on your site.
  • The way you represent yourself and your blog in other spaces online, like Facebook or Twitter.
  • The thing that differentiates your blog from the seventy zillion other blogs on the internet.

A strong brand is much more than simply a logo, it creates a guarantee. When one of your readers sees something associated with your brand — whether a post on your site, a guest post elsewhere, a tweet, or an email — they’re primed and know what to expect, be that a laugh, a great DIY project, a recipe, parenting advice, or whatever else you crazy kids are blogging about these days. It’s unique to you, and it’s distinctive. It creates an emotional connection with readers, and that connection is what keeps them coming back

If you’ve ever emailed a friend and said something like, “Carrying the Gun‘s latest post made me really sad,” or “You should really follow Weebles (or Blog I Love X),” you’ve interacted with a blogger’s brand. You could have called them “Don” or “Julie,” but you didn’t — their blog is their identifier. They actively reinforce that around the web, and every time they do, it solidifies their brand and your trust in them.

Why would you want to be one? (And by the way, you sort of are already.)

So why be a brand? After all, it seems like work. And “branding” sounds suspiciously consumerist — you’re just a blogger.

First off, you’re already a brand whether you like it or not (and whether you’re trying to be or not). As soon as you chose a theme, picked a blog name, and started publishing publicly, you became one. You announced to the world, “This is the place on the internet where you come to find XYZ.” You might not choose to actively promote your brand, but you have one nonetheless.

Second, there are plenty of good reasons to cultivate a brand, like:

  • You don’t blog under your real name and/or are establishing a persona for your site.
  • You want to turn the site into a business, or use it as a portfolio.
  • You plan on extending the site across the internet — e.g., creating a page for it on Facebook.
  • You blog about a specific topic, and want to establish your blog as a go-to source.

In each of these cases, it behooves you to create a distinct personality and consistent experience for your readers to reinforce why your blog is worth reading/that your site is the place to go for manga reviews/the reasons you’d be a great personal trainer/whatever. Not only does it reinforce your greatness for your readers, it helps them become ambassadors for your blog — they can easily and quickly recommend you, secure that your brand promise (read: awesomeness) will be clear to new readers and bringing you one step closer to viral mayhem and internet dominance.

Branding 101

If you’ve already started your blog, then you’ve created a brand. It may be a proto-brand, but it’s there. You can reinforce it, or re-shape it by being mindful of a few key elements:

A name to remember

The most obvious piece is your blog’s name and tagline; your name is the main way readers will refer to your blog. We’ve offered and will continue to publish bloggers’ advice on picking a blog name (here, here, and here) — a great place to start if you’re still mulling the perfect title.

If you haven’t chosen a name yet, or are not sure yours is quite right, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • Do I like the name? Would I click over to a blog with this name?
  • Does it reflect my blog’s personality?
  • Does it offer a hint as to what my blog offers?

Along with your title, you can add a tagline. They’re usually a bit longer than titles, giving you space to give readers more context and personality. The Daily Post tells you that you’ll find content every day, and our tagline, The Art and Craft of Blogging, lets you know that we focus on tools for better writing, photography, and design for bloggers.

Visual basics: logos, badges, and widgets, oh my!

WordPress.com has dozens of great looking themes, so your out-of-the-box site will be pretty spiffy. There’s also lots you can do — much of it at no additional cost — to customize your site and add your branding.

Not sure how? No worries! We’ve got resources to not only walk you through the step-by-step of adding a header or some image widgets, but to help you figure out what look works for you. If you’re not a graphic designer, use some great photos that represent your site for your header, and create a few image widgets. There are also tons of sites that will help you generate a logo, or where designers will compete for the privilege of creating one for you. Voila! Instant personalization.

If you do have a logo, consider creating a badge for others to display on their sites, like Momma Be Thy Name‘s done. Not only does it engage readers and reinforce your brand, it draws new readers to your blog.

The rest of the internet

If you’re serious about branding your blog, you’ll want to extend your brand identity across the internet. You might want to establish a Facebook page for your site, join Twitter and make your blog’s name your username, or create a group on Google+ for your fans. In each, case, you’ll want to make sure you use an image that represents your blog — a logo, if you have one, the image you use in your header, or your Gravatar, if it’s not your logo — so readers can instantly identify the content as originating with you (same if you participate in online discussion forums, listservs, or others groups).

You might also want to create an email address for your site, either using your custom domain or a free yourgreatblogname@gmail address. Now, you can sign up for social networks using that address, use it as a publicly available way to contact you, and have something to use when emailing others about your blog (and of course, make sure you add a signature with a link to your blog to your regular email).

In future posts, we’ll take more in-depth looks at taglines, badges, creating a visual identity, and using tools Facebook and Twitter. For now, tell us: do you consider yourself a brand? What do you do to reinforce your brand?

Michelle W. | The Daily Post

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