The Dos and Don’ts of Branding Your Blog
For a more recent post on the same topic, go read my 2017 NeONBRAND blog post about branding.
Before you start branding your blog, there are a few things you should know.
Using your blog as a business branding tool is a smart move.
Blogging is the heart of a sound media strategy – your blog becomes the hub of your community, the reason your audience keeps coming back.
Every time someone visits your blog, that’s an opportunity for them to build a relationship with your brand.
So don’t waste it.
Branding Your Blog – What To Do and What Not To Do
Just like a cattle brand, a business’s branding allows it to communicate certain kinds of information at a glance.
If you do it right, members of your audience will begin to associate certain ideals, products, and communities with your name and logo.
Branding your blog isn’t as hard as something like quantum physics…
At least, it isn’t hard in the same way as quantum physics.
It’s simple enough to brand your blog correctly, but it’s easy to make mistakes, too.
Names, Logos, and Graphics
Do: Choose a name that makes sense, and research that name to make sure there are no copyright infringements, trademark issues, or potential conflicts.
Don’t: Spend more than 5 days picking a name, vacillate between options, or waste time on public opinion polls and useless research.
Here’s the deal:
Sure, your name is important, but it isn’t that important.
Your brand name doesn’t mean anything to anyone yet. It’s up to you to give that name some kind of meaning, and you’ll do that through your blog and media outlets.
Aside from any potential legal issues, your brand name isn’t likely to have that tremendous of an impact.
I know, there are a lot of people who might disagree with this.
Hey, it’s a free internet.
They’re allowed to be wrong.
Whether you’re planning on using your name, a pseudonym, or a completely separate brand name, a couple of Google searches and a consultation with an attorney are probably enough.
So many potential business owners waste time and effort on decisions like this, and it’s not because they’re important.
It’s because these are the little, easy, fun decisions.
Agonizing for months over your business name is exactly the same as a new salesperson who needs to order product, take sales training, and start learning people skills – but the first thing they do is order custom business cards.
Sometimes, it’s a form of procrastination.
When you’re avoiding that big step, you make trivialities into crises because it’s a handy excuse for why you haven’t gotten farther.
Sometimes, it’s a lack of priorities.
You haven’t defined what’s important, so you do what’s visible.
And, sometimes it’s a lack of confidence.
Perhaps you’re afraid of failure.
Or perhaps you’re afraid of success.
When you keep changing your mind or can’t seem to make a decision at all, that’s an indicator that it’s time to do a little soul searching to figure out the problem.
And once you’ve got your name sorted out…
Do: Create a simple logo if and when it makes sense for your business.
Don’t: Take on the task of designing and creating a logo yourself if you have no design experience.
Here’s the deal:
The same time-wasting rules that we discussed in the above section also apply to logos.
If you want to have a logo, fine.
If you don’t want to have a logo, fine.
Logos are another one of the fun, little decisions that almost-entrepreneurs frequently blow out of proportion.
As a startup, your logo should be one of the last things you do (if you do it at all) and should never subtract capital from vital business functions.
By capital, I’m not just talking about money, either.
You money, your time, and your attention are all part of your initial capital when starting a new venture – make sure you’re not wasting any of them on trivialities.
Your logo means absolutely nothing by itself.
Imagine you were learning Japanese for the first time.
The symbols in the Japanese alphabet would be so foreign to you that they held no meaning until you were taught the sounds and definitions they stand for.
Logos are the same.
Your blog is there to convey the meaning behind the logo.
And you can get the point across without having a logo at all.
If and when you decide that it’s time to create a symbol that stands for your brand, talk to a professional designer and get it done.
You’ve got more important things to do than fiddling with graphics.
On that note:
Do: Take pictures, use stock photos, and make or purchase graphics that are consistent with your branding.
Don’t: Cut corners by using things like sub-par photos and stock images that don’t make sense.
Here’s the deal:
A brand is consistent. We’ll talk more about brand integrity later in this post.
That consistency is more than just the words you use – it’s the way your actions and decisions match your words.
This might be easier to explain with an example:
Let’s say you have a product that helps people take professional quality pictures with their cell phones.
Brand consistency in this case would mean that your website should be populated with high quality pictures taken with cell phones.
Here’s another scenario:
Imagine that 1 of your brand statements was something like “we don’t take shortcuts, and we’ll always go the extra mile and spend the extra dollar to make your experience perfect.”
But your blog used only free stock photos, even when they don’t quite match the text.
That would be a case of a lack of brand consistency.
The images you use are one of the often overlooked parts of branding your blog.
You don’t need to spend hours every day hunting for worthwhile graphics, but keep your brand standards in mind.
Monetization and Marketing
Do: Make money from your blog.
Don’t: Choose a monetization strategy that conflicts with your brand standards.
Here’s the deal:
There are lots of ways to make an income from your blog.
Obviously, some are better than others.
Smart bloggers who are serious about building a successful blog-based business choose multiple streams of income.
But if you’re a smart blogger who’s intelligently branding your blog, you’ll take that brand into consideration while you’re writing your business plan.
It’s up to you whether you should use a service like Google Adsense, which displays ads based on visitor’s browsing habits and might advertise something that conflicts with your goals and standards.
You should also be conscious of outbound links, affiliates, and any other 3rd party with which you associate.
We’re all judged by the company we keep. Business are no exception.
Do: Use social media to market and promote your blog and business.
Don’t: Use a publicly accessible, personal page to market your blog and socialize with your friends.
Here’s the deal:
Social media is a fantastic tool for reaching a broad audience.
It’s also one of the easiest ways to destroy all of your branding efforts and alienate large portions of your audience in 30 seconds or less.
Everything you do online affects your brand.
Draw a clear line of demarcation between your personal social media profiles and your branded business pages, and don’t mix the 2.
Better yet, stop using social media as a person and go 100% branded.
A brand must be simple enough that it can be described in a few sentences, or else it’s too complicated and won’t spread.
A human personality is never that simple.
If you insist on using social media for personal entertainment, make your personal profiles private so that strangers and customers can’t find you.
1 careless tweet, political meme, or offhanded comment can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue.
Think of that the next time you’re tempted to share a funny cat video on Facebook.
Is that Minions meme really worth $50k?
The Blogging Bit
Do: Use the kind of language and slang your audience uses .
Don’t: Write only in “blogging vernacular” because blogs are supposed to be casual and conversational.
Here’s the deal:
Blogs are powerful.
They show the humanity behind a brand, and they create a community where before there were only customers.
Good blogs are driven by their readers.
Of course you should be real. Go ahead and be yourself.
But maybe only be the parts of yourself that make sense to the people who are reading your blog.
Here’s what I’m trying to say:
If your readers are scholars, use scholarly vocabulary and excellent grammar.
If your readers are beginners at whatever you’re blogging about, make sure you explain all of your acronyms and technical terms every time you use them.
When you’re writing for young readers, it’s okay to use the current slang, but if your readers are Baby Boomers, they don’t know what “fire” and “fam” mean.
Yes, blogs are conversational.
Just remember who you’re conversing with.
Do: Talk about yourself when it’s relevant and adds something to the conversation.
Don’t: Talk only about yourself or share personal details that only you care about.
Here’s the deal:
Unless you’re a mega celebrity, nobody cares what you had for lunch today or whether or not you bought new underwear in the last 6 months.
In fact, even if you are a mega celebrity, people still probably don’t care.
Think about this:
You guys don’t care that my favorite color is hot pink, I love tropical fish and aquatic animals, my fingers are kind of crooked, and I crave hot tea every time I hear a British accent.
None of you are particularly interested in the fact that I’m learning Portuguese or that I collect church fundraiser cookbooks.
Those parts of my life don’t belong on this blog.
Except maybe right now to make this point.
Those things have nothing to do with my brand.
You’re not reading this blog post to learn about my quirks or likes and dislikes.
You’re reading this blog to learn something that you can use to make money for yourself.
And we have this in common:
Nobody goes to a blog for the benefit of the person who wrote that blog post.
That means that you’re not here for my sake, and nobody is going to your blog because they want you to make money and have great readership numbers.
Share just enough information about yourself that your readers know you’re real, and that’s it.
Do: Choose topics that are useful, interesting, and appropriate.
Don’t: Choose topics based only on your own interests, or try to force information on your readers.
Here’s the deal:
The overall theme of your blog should be clear enough that a person can read 2 or 3 posts and sum up in a sentence what your blog is about.
Once you’ve gotten the overall theme figured out, choose post topics that:
- Make sense within that overall topic
- Your readers want to read
- You know enough to write about
Sometimes, you might need to get creative with your post topics, especially if your blog is primarily a marketing tool.
Let’s imagine you’re an author of science fiction books.
You know a few things about your blog readers, because you write books for them.
They like science fiction, which means they enjoy reading, adventure, and probably technology.
Short story blogs are rarely popular (because they’re rarely good) so you don’t want to write science fiction short stories. What can you do?
Perhaps you could write book reviews of other SciFi stories.
Or you might talk about actual scientific advances that might bring humans closer to space travel.
If you’re struggling with a topic, figure out what your audience, your brand, and your product (service, thing that you’re going to use to make money, etc) have in common.
For further explanation of the image above, see this post that explains how to brand your blog when your topic is yourself.
Do: Use humor in your blog posts.
Don’t: Use self-deprecating humor or anything that’s inappropriate for your audience.
Here’s the deal:
Everyone likes humor, but not everyone likes all types of humor.
Lots of people have told me that they find this blog funny – which means, of course, that they have excellent taste – but I have a hunch that many of those people would find some of my personal humor a bit crude.
And, by “a bit crude,” I mean “positively grotesque.”
If you don’t have a sense of humor…well, develop one. Humor is a skill.
Take an improv comedy class to hone your wit (it will also make you better at talking to people and networking!) or read this very non-humorous webpage that explains how humor works.
Self-deprecating humor might be your norm, and it might be in style for your audience.
Still avoid self-deprecation.
No matter how humorous you make it, negative comments about yourself are still negative comments about yourself, and they can make your brand look needy and pathetic.
It’s probably best to avoid humor at someone else’s expense, too.
Branding Your Blog – Final Thoughts
Your brand might broadcast any of these vital statistics:
- Core beliefs
- Community to which you and your followers belong
- Expectations, both of yourself and your followers
It might help to write a mission statement, provided your mission statement actually states your mission.
Please don’t do that corporate buzzword “mission statement” thing where you write something that sounds good but means nothing.
If you’re going to write a mission statement, it should be something you can act on every day.
Good branding is a function of consistency.
Consistency proves your brand’s integrity, because your words and your actions align.
Every interaction with your audience is branded, from your banner ads to your small-talk with a tollbooth operator in your company vehicle.
Make sure that your actions – ALL of them – make sense within the brand framework you’ve built, and your brand will be unstoppable.
A great brand is based on a great promise.
Your brand answers this question:
Who are you, and what do you do?
So your homework today is to answer that question!
Why did you get into business in the first place? What are you doing for your readers? What do you stand for?
In other words…what is your brand?