So you have this sweet expensive theme for your new blog and you’re ready to take on the world through social media and really blow it up. Congratulations, you just joined a blogosphere of 152 million other bloggers. Yeah, you have now officially been demoted from human to needle in a haystack. But wait, people make money doing this right? I mean, I really love traveling and stuff, so this means I’ll at least be getting some perks here right?
WRONG! You. Are. A. Nobody. That is until you have something to show for yourself. Allow me to digress. You have this sweet expensive theme for your new blog and you’re ready to take on the world. Stop there. Don’t make another move until you have a vague idea of what your brand is going to be about. No “brand” is not German for “Taco Tuesday”, “brand” is English for a successful blogger.
How to Build a Brand
What is Branding?
Branding is a method of building a relationship with your audience, or for you newbies, lack thereof. This means making memorable and emotional connections, and building loyalty. Most of us are just big dumb animals. We like repetition, and reliability. We like to connect with brands that speak to our heartstrings. The ultimate goal is to build a strong enough relationship with your audience that they begin to identify with you. Look at Star Trek, have you ever seen a “Trekkie”? This does not happen overnight. This takes time and strategic planning. Corporate America pays millions of dollars to psychologists to understand audience climate. So how do we do this from our laptop?
You can start by making a list of related terms that go with your brand. Example, I am The Fairytale Traveler. Brand terms that I use are Fairytale Sleeps – for my hotel reviews Cool History and Legends – posts related to extra cool historic places and places related to legends. Mermaid Beaches – Remote, secluded, natural and unspoiled coastlines, where you may find a mermaid or two. This not only makes it easier to organize a collection of data and media on the ground, but it makes story development much easier as well. Plus, it gives you an interesting angle for approaching partners. Interesting angles have leverage. Everyone needs leverage.
I also use themed hashtags like #mermaidbeaches, #fairytalesleeps, #CoolHistory. Though these are not traffic building hashtags, they define my brand. When used repeatedly for a long enough time they can be used for much more like contests, Instagram picture parties, and twitter chats to name a few.
Create a Cool Club
Something that has a lot of power is creating a “cool club”. I was starting cool clubs as far back as first grade. Granted, it was the “Unicorn Rainbow Club” but I’ll be damned if everyone didn’t want to be in it. I had the whole block trying to cram into my Little Tykes cottage to color and make mud pies. I did not invent this wheel. The Lord of the Rings franchise is one of the most successful brands in pop culture with a cult following of millions. They built a “cool club” called “The One Ring” and every LOTR fan scrambled to be a part of it. Rising musicians do it all the time, building street teams in cities, fueling their audience fire with special promotions and meet and greets.
As a blogger, you can create social media events, access to special products, and offer opportunities to be a part of your brand. Example, The Fairytale Traveler has a series called “Storytellers”. This is an area of my blog where my readers get to share their special stories about the places they are from or have been to. These are not just travel stories, they are legends, haunted tales, and local folklore from around the world. I have seen a huge success with this and it has been to date one of the biggest traffic generators yet.
The Key is to link back to your main brand focus. Let them know they are part of an exclusive club, offer them a special “to-do” by introducing them to your audience via social media and on your site. Keep it routine, keep it organized, keep it easy.
Here’s my 4 step process:
1. Announce their entry on your site telling what they will be sharing and a short bio (if you’re a savvy blogger this will auto publicize to your social media outlets. Praise them for joining your cool club, they are elated to be a part of something bigger than themselves.
2. Create a graphic calling the attention of others to join the cool club. Make it seem exclusive. No one wants to be a part of something anybody and everybody can be a part of.
3. Go public with whatever it is I’m doing with them. For “Storytellers” it’s the story. I share their story on my site and social media outlets and thank them publicly.
4. Build their loyalty and relationship by doing this in intervals (pick a day of the week or month), so your audience gets used to seeing it and knows what to expect.
Give Stuff Away
Big brands do this all the time. My audience loves when I give things away. I don’t give away travel stuff but I do spend time searching for sweet gifts. Some of my favorite in brand picks are; vintage fairytale books, popular movie quotes on jewelry, signed magazines, movie tickets to movies that are not out yet (ones related to my brand of course), and fairytale art. I do plan to partner with a travel brand in the future, however, to give away a special trip to a needy family.
Volunteer Your Time
Paying it forward is far more important than branding, and should be done regardless, but brands that pay it forward get noticed. You can organize a coastal cleanup, a family fun day at your child’s school, or something with a charity. This shows your commitment to others and will make you warm and fuzzy too. Branding is not an overnight process. You need to understand what your goals are first, design a plan to reach people, and implement that plan with commitment and routine. This will build you loyal followers, and your loyal followers will grow your audience faster than you ever could alone.
There’s no question, branding is a long-term commitment that requires unwavering discipline and confidence in the idea your brand stands for. The brands which are true to their ideas and are successful in building that emotional connection are the brands who enjoy the cult-like followers we as marketers all try to achieve.” -Luke Summerfield, Contributor, Entrepreneur.com
Once things start really flowing and you have yourself a brand, you’re going to want to get out there on social media. But Blogger brand social media is not your every day ‘waiting in the Dr. office’ social media, it’s social media on steroids. And to be truthful, it’s exhausting. Let’s just assume you actually have a social media growth and engagement strategy in place. Now you have to execute it. That means you have to be glued to multiple platforms for hours a day. I’m talking sacrificing personal hygiene type of hours. Well, guess what, the real world called and they want you back. So get automated! You can automate your Instagram likes to speed things up just like you can schedule pins and tweets. There’s a wealth of information on Google about it. Start researching!
Good Luck on your ventures and remember to keep it real!