For a few years, back when social media and content marketing were brand new ideas for companies to grapple with, "branding" was all the rage. Advertisers weren't yet sure how to track conversions from social media promotions or in depth blog content, so all of the effort on these projects were chalked up to "branding" or "awareness" campaigns.
This still goes on, but with the abilities to better track purchases and conversions from online marketing campaigns, the emphasis on branding has fallen a bit out of fashion. As bloggers, though, your brand should still be at the forefront of your mind. Rather than selling products or services (with a few exceptions), we largely are selling our brand itself.
Think about it: you get paid for the space on your site by advertisers. They believe in your influence and the trust your readers have in your opinions. So, your brand is everything; that said, it's a constant exercise in making deliberate choices in order to communicate consistent values that add up to a brand image.
How to you actually go about branding, though? I like to draw a comparison to searching for a new job; here's what I mean:
You Image Matters A Lot
When you go on a job interview, what's the #1 thing you think about? Your outfit, right? It seems silly, but everyone's first piece of advice is something along the line of pay attention to your physical appearance. That can mean so many things, too, depending on the job you're hoping to get.
Say you're interviewing for the job of a kindergarten teacher. Your outfit might be colorful, conservative and fun. You might tie your hair into a trendy braid. Compare that to going for an interview at a hedge fund. In that case, you might have a sleek, all-black ensemble. Your hair, in this case, might be pulled back into a tasteful chiffon. Your physical appearance not only fits the role you're seeking, but it also likely fits your personality--if you, in your core, are more of a "kindergarten teacher" type, then the "hedge fund" job and outfit could make you feel incredibly uncomfortable.
Think about your brand in the same way. Who is your audience and what are you trying to communicate? Are your readers millennial, foodie types or busy moms? How does the look of your blog align itself with this audience? Millennials might respond better to muted colors, moody photos, and a headshot that shows you in action rather than smiling right into the camera. Busy moms might instead like playful colors, brighter photos, and a headshot that welcomes them into your kitchen with a wide grin.
How Will You Edit Your Resume?
If you're applying for a job, everyone knows that you don't include every single accomplishment on a pages-long resume. Instead, you edit your skills and experience in order to align yourself with the role at hand. You not only think about similar jobs you've had that will communicate expertise, but you also rephrase specific points in order to match the tone of the job listing and match specific words that the recruiter has included in their description.
Your writing should follow these rules too. Again, think about your audience (both readers and potential advertisers) and match the tone of the audience that you want to attract. In most cases, this will come naturally--and it's best if it should. How many times have you read how do you do, fellow kids-style content that panders to a "marketable" audience? It's cringeworthy.
Write in a way that feels natural; that's the place from where your brand will originate. Once you've landed on your audience and your tone, let that inform your social media posting as well. Maybe you should incorporate some more emojis or words like "easy and quick" if that's what your audience loves.
Keep Your Relationships On-Brand
Finally, as you build relationships and promote products on your site, in the best case scenario, you only align yourself with people and products that make sense for your site. Again, think about professional life: say you're a startup that specializes in delivering organic snacks to young, busy professionals. And say you're planning a live event. You're going to try and hold that event in Brooklyn; your musical guests might be indie-pop favorites rather than huge superstars; you'll advertise that event on social media rather than in traditional media outlets; etc.
When it comes to your blog, think about potential partnerships in the same way. Your readers will feel alienated if you promote a big CPG food brand on your "home grown"-style blog. Similarly, build a network of other bloggers with whom you can share ideas or promote on your site. Feel free to go outside your network for friendships, but exercise caution when promoting these friends on your site if they're not quite aligned with your values and mission.
Have your own ideas about branding your blog? We'd love to hear them! Leave your ideas in the comments.