In a recent Twitter chat, the conversation turned to branding, and it soon became clear that there was a lot of confusion over what branding meant. Did it mean working with brands? Did it mean bringing out your own products? Did it mean burning yourself with a hot stick?
Actually, branding is pretty simple and every blog should have one, even a hobbyist. In fact, you probably have one without even realising it, although it's worth developing it. Your brand is what makes your blog unique. What makes your blog recognisable?
Why is a brand important for a blog? Many reasons, actually. It helps readers identify what your blog is about, and decide whether to follow. It enables PR companies to assess whether you're right for them. It ensures you're consistent and can help you develop ideas. It also makes you instantly recognisable, which is handy if any plagiarism occurs. Ultimately, it makes your blog stand out.
1. Understand what you want your brand to be
Think about some key words, say three, to describe the way you want yourself and your blog portrayed. This might be innovative, stylish, contemporary or cute, bubbly, happy. Then think about how you can incorporate this. Take the final three words as an example: When I read those three words, I envision a colourful layout with a cheerful voice and lots of light-hearted lifestyle posts. I wouldn't imagine a monochrome design with in-depth analysis of the latest fashion trends.
2. Writing and content
Now that you've decided on your keywords, think about how you can incorporate these into your content and your writing. I always say you should write as you speak, but that may not work for your brand. If your brand involves serious discussion, you'll want to use a more academic tone. For me, however, I want to appear friendly and approachable, so I use lots of cheery slang and exclamation marks.
Your brand can also help steer you in the way of content. Even within the same niche, there are many different angles. Imagine you're a hat blogger (I don't know- It's 2:55am and it's the first thing that came to mind!): Are you going to write fun posts about hat mishaps over the years or showcase your own experimental hat designs? These are two very different angles and would depend entirely on your brand.
The key word with photography is consistency. For me, one of the best people to look to for branding in photography is Becky of Milk Bubble Tea. Each of her photos has that airy whitewashed finish. I can instantly identify one of Becky's photos as they are so consistent. To make this work for you, try to edit photos in a similar way each time. This doesn't have to mean exactly the same but stick to one mood: Are you going for light and cheery, or dark and moody?
I've deliberately put design towards the end, as I think it's what most people think of when you mention branding. Yes, it's important, but branding is more than just a logo. How does your blog layout reflect your brand? Potential readers should be able to tell your brand immediately, just from your design. Try to stick to a colour palette of no more than 4 shades and don't overlook the fonts.
Again, consistency is key here. Keep your blog, social media channels and business cards in the same vein. Use the same logo, the same colours, the same icon. All of these things tie your brand together and make it solid.
5. Social media
Don't overlook social media! How do your social media channels reflect your brand? I have no niche in my blog, which is probably quite apparent from looking at my Twitter profile. It's a hotchpotch of everything, really but, if we go back to our fictional hat blogger, they may want to tweet details of millinery workshops and advice for styling a bowler hat. With me, I use the same voice on my blog and Twitter, because, well, it's my voice. Do your Instagram photos reflect your brand, or are you posting photos of any old thing? Are the videos on YouTube in keeping with the content on your blog? It's a really good idea to have something different on each channel, as I mentioned before, but if you have strong branding, you should be able to branch out while still remaining true to that brand.
Hopefully this has cleared up what branding is, and given you something to think about in terms of developing your blog. If there's one key message it's this: What impression do you want your readers to have as they leave your blog? That there is your brand. Harness it.