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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?

If you liked this, you might enjoy these related posts:

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  1. ” If you’re in the latter camp, you’re not just a blogger: you’re a brand.”
    -Wow! I just like this ‘camp’. I think this is the second general blogging….isn’t this!

  2. Posts like this are helpful to amateurs like me. I’ve been hesitantly testing the “branding” waters. With no graphic design talent and without the means to support a logo competition, I went with a photo I took myself for use on my header and FB page. That’s a baby step; I have miles to go! Thanks for the useful advice.

    1. I highly recommend a program called Summitsoft Logo Design Studio Pro. I don’t have a lot of artistic experience myself, but the software will let anyone put together a decent logo with all the preloaded templates and options. I actually use it as a poor man’s Photoshop to create memes and other graphic elements for my blog, as well, and it’s only $30, so it won’t break the bank. Add in thousands of free fonts you can download and utilize and you’ve got unlimited options to come up with a nice visual brand for your blog.

  3. I have a question about changing your brands name. For instance on Twitter I’m known as “JrFreelancer” and seems to be getting attention. But on WordPress it’s “Joseph Rathjen – Freelance Writing.” I’m wondering how that effects my SEO status.

    1. Joseph, I have a similar problem the name I wanted was sort of already taken ( taken but not being used) so went with org at the end, which is good I guess as it has more of a social justice ring to it than .com, and since I all about social justice that’s good. When it came to twitter, geofoodie was taken so had to go with GeoFoodieOrg. I deal with this by using the same gravitar/logo for both. Not sure it is working fully.

  4. This is very cool. I’ve spent a long time finding a cool blog brand for my own blog. It is very hard when you don’t know what kind of person you are yet or what kind of blog you want.

    1. True — but there’s also no reason to start with a fleshed-out brand off the bat. Take a little time to explore and figure out what you want to do, *then* spin that into your brand.

      1. Indeed. I am still at the early stages of this particular blog but I have blogged before. Well, my blog is a poetry, short story, art, book review, and daily life sort of blog. I am still wondering if “News” is the right word for it. Thanks for replying, btw.

  5. Thanks for the shout-out, lady! It’s an honor! (Although I noticed that carryingthegun’s link on my name). But if anyone deserves a shoutout for branding a blog, of course, it’s the one and only Le Clown. He has the midas touch when it comes to branding and blogs.

    1. Weebs,
      Thanks for the shout out, and glad you appreciate my work.
      Not to flatter you back, as Le Clown would never do such a thing, but your Fat Shaming awareness week on The Outlier Collective hit the ball out of the park.
      Le Clown

  6. I’ve picked my brand and identity online, I picked it because I’m always trying to find the positive side of situations. I am always being told that people like the things I find interesting, and I figured it was time to just share it with the world. I’m starting small, considering my coverage area “Local” to a 3 hour drive from where I live, and will expand with time. I’ve got the Facebook page, and am seriously considering add-on promotional materials. I’ve got a logo, but haven’t yet started using it because I want to “be around” a bit longer when I really ramp up my online presence. I liked this article, it reinforces some of my good ideas, and steers me from some of the pitfalls.

  7. This was very helpful to me. I’m trying so hard to create a brand that I can be proud of and an launch into something bigger. After reading this I feel like I actually am on the right track. Going to keep trying to put Common Sense Football on the map!
    commonsensefootball.com to anyone interested in it.

  8. Yay, the concept of branding is in the air! The ForThePromptless prompt was branding, and I just finished my post, too. Woot!

    I completely agree that branding isn’t related to commercialism. It’s the human element to anything that has had the human element removed. Because we aren’t sitting in front of everyone talking face-to-face, and words (and often times miles separate us) a brand helps communicate our humanity.

    Great post with great advice!

  9. I came to understand this concept after being on WordPress a few weeks. Creating a brand is still very much a learning process for me, but I have extended my reach in several directions. I still hedge on whether I have the best name for my blog. It is the same I chose on my first day and 282 blog posts later I just haven’t come across a better idea. I know at this point I run the risk of confusing followers if I change, so i do not devote a lot of thought to changing it.

  10. I Enjoyed the post. In my travels as a caregiver I have met people and communicated with them in a very personal way. In so many cases words and comments that they would share with me have stayed with me in my heart and the memory is connected to their name as well. I never really considered a person’s name to be a brand but after reflecting on it I suppose this is true in many different aspects of life.
    With respect, hope, joy and love, Carmela

    1. You can change the title of your blog whenever you’d like! The URL will remain the same, but the title and tagline can be anything — head to Settings –> General in your dashboard to make the change.

  11. Great blog – made me really think about my strap line – thank you! For me the most important thing about branding is your target reader and what would be appealing to them – albeit yor main target reader may be someone like you

  12. This is awesome tip! More like revealing to me what am already doing. Nice one! This tips has re-enforced my desire to push with my brand “Financial and Business Intelligence”. My desire has always been to add value to lives and this platform has created a good opportunity for me, thanks guys, you rock!!!

  13. Thank you for posting this! Very helpful. I have been blogging for under a year and am ready to take my blog to the next level. I’ve already done a lot of the things you have listed. Blog, twitter, facebook, youtube, all under the same name using the same banner. I am now working on a logo. Thanks for the great tips.

  14. I’ve just been blogging for a little over a month now and although I’ve never considered it, after reading this, I guess I do consider myself a brand. I don’t blog on one specific topic but I guess I want readers to associate my blog with honest, good writing on all aspects of social culture. I don’t think i have enough of a following to have a facebook or google page but hopefully in the future, as more people start to read and share, I can take this brand all over the internet

  15. Yes I consider myself a brand, my site is my portfolio but looks like I still have a lot of work to do before I reach Ansel-Adams-household-name status. Thanks for all the tips.

  16. Perfect timing on this piece! I just commissioned a professional logo/avatar/masthead from a friend who teaches graphic design. I needed something for Blogher13 business cards! My question: is it better to just change the blog design and FB page design and Twitter photo as soon as possible, or should I roll it out after announcing the change? I’ve seen bloggers do it both ways.

    1. Just my 2 cents, but unless you’re going to be changing the user experience (like what/where people have to click to find the stuff they’re used to) and preparing the users for a change, don’t make a fuss prior to the roll-out. If something goes not-quite-right, you don’t need the pressure of watching eyes.

      After it’s all set up, you can do a “glory be the new look” type of thing. :)

    2. Either works, although I’ve tended to just make the updates, and then post, “check out the awesome new look!” with some link love to anyone who helped me out.

  17. This was very helpful and glad to see I’m headed in the right direction – I think – hmm. ;) I’m always working on consistency…
    Thank you for this, as well as others…

  18. Very great post. I was thinking about my blog and its “image” wondering how to make it look more brand-worthy. Gotta have something to make it standout among the rest. My name and tag line are good just need a little graphic design tweaking, but with your hints and tidbits I’m off for a little home improvement … thanks.

  19. I’ve designed websites in the past (10+years ago), but I’m now volunteering for our local heritage group – creating the branding, logo, doing the writing and all their print media…whew… also managing that branding throughout our other social media platforms. All new to me in some respects…so these posts are helpful. This is a non-profit, grass roots thing so every little bit of exposure helps us.

  20. Branding my blog was one of the first things I did, even before I started. It makes it more fun that way and give my writing more direction. Most of all my readers like it. A win-win for everyone.

    Good post. Hope a lot of bloggers read it and give some branding concepts a try.

  21. such good advice! in the end, we all have to honestly sell ourselves and ask, would you read your posts if you didnt write them? later my wordpressers ;)

  22. If the work that we do and our advocacies become our brand, I may be on the right track. There are techie things I have to grapple with and I would appreciate feedback about my site. Is it consistent? Am I using the right tools and symbols to express my brand?

  23. So it’s an either/or propostion, on-line presence versus, what, extending our identity? Gee, I thought life was a little more complex than that, at least various shades of gray. Sorry, just had a demanding but very enjoyable life sans computer. I turn to it now for…..distraction?

  24. Sometimes one finds that what you thought you would focus on, when setting up the blog is not entirely what you end up blogging about. I thought I would blog just about food justice, but I have ended up extending this to social justice in everyday life–which includes good justice but other things too. I don’t want to change the brand though as it is now linked to all sorts of other things. I would caution new bloggers to think about what you want to write about very carefully when picking a name you want to become a brand.

  25. Great post, thanks for the info.

    I am sure there is a really simple answer to this but does anyone know how you can create an email address that is linked to your blog – e.g patrick@mentormullarkey.com instead of patrick@gmail.com? I can see this article touched upon it but I was a little unsure of what the next steps to take to do this would be.

    Apologies if it is a stupid question – and many thanks in advance for the help if you have any idea of what to do! : )

    Patrick

  26. !00% Branding. If I weren’t trying to stand out in an already crowded sea of photographers, I wouldn’t even have a blog. People seem to like my pictures, but let’s face it, nobody wants to hear what I have to say about my everyday life, it’s just not that exciting :-D

  27. this post seem to sum up, how I set up my blog http://solaner.wordpress.com
    All of the content is of my own and focused on the main subject: shoing interesting places and sharing experiences while taking photos. I always understood “solaner” as being my brand.

  28. I just used Logoyes.com to create a logo for a business that I am launching in the next week or so. For $0.99 I was able to create a better logo than I could on Vistaprint. It’s not perfect, but logoyes is much more flexible than Vistaprint. You can order business cards, banners and other items from them also.
    I think I’ll try creating a logo for my blog next!
    Great post!

  29. I’m currently trying to get my blog noticed and I’ve been doing a lot of social networking stuff… I honestly have no idea what I’m doing and some days I get really discouraged. This post was helpful, though…thank you!

  30. Thank you THANK YOU for this post. Perfect timing. I just started my blog a month ago and am still tweaking things here and there, and eventually thinking of creating a brand for myself in the future. Right now I’m trying to focus on quality rather than quantity so I can build an audience and my readers know what to expect. I eventually want to start a food business geared towards people who have autoimmune diseases and multiple food allergies like I do. I’m still in the drawing board stages, it’s gonna be a long road but I’m excited! Wish me luck :)

  31. Good read, funnily enough I have just started a re-branding exercise. One of the things I did was swop my tag line with my blog name, it just seemed to make more sense, I created a new watermark for all of my photographs and used the same watermark as the header image for my blog. Next step is to migrate this branding onto FB and Google+