This is a guest post from Steven Snell. Steven writes about social media marketing at Traffikd.
As the number of blogs online continues to grow rapidly every day, the need for effective branding is also constantly increasing. Branding allows you to stand out from others in your niche and show your readers what you’re all about and why they should pay attention to you. There are any number of different methods that you can take for branding yourself and your blog, and social media is one of them.
Why is Social Media Marketing and Excellent Opportunity for Branding?
Social media marketing doesn’t require any financial investment, something that most bloggers are concerned about. Of course, there are plenty of consultants and marketers that are willing to do much of the work for you if you’re willing to pay, and if you have the money it may be worth considering. However, anyone can be effective with social media, it just takes some time and effort. When you consider the impact that social media can have for a blog, it’s incredible that you can create those kinds of results without spending any money.
The impact that social media can have on your blog and how you are branded is just about endless. Some very successful blogs have been built primarily on posts that have taken off with social media. It’s not the shortcut that many bloggers think it is, but there is plenty of potential if you’re willing to use it effectively.
Each of the major social media sites has an incredibly large audience on its own. Small sites may not have the same impact individually, but the social media audience as a whole makes up a large, and growing population of internet users. Niche sites are even contributing to creating a more diverse audience of social media users. Any blogger could find a way to benefit by reaching this audience.
Success Can Be Achieved Quickly
Branding yourself through social media will not happen by getting one post to the front page of Digg, but it can happen relatively quickly, especially when compared to other more traditional marketing methods. Even new blogs can achieve a strong level of branding through social media in just a few short months.
With social media marketing there are plenty of other good things happening while you’re branding your blog, including lots of new visitors, building links, gaining subscribers, and developing content that will draw search engine traffic for years to come.
Why is Branding Important for Bloggers?
Well, in the first paragraph I mentioned that branding is critical for blogging success, so let’s take a look at some of the specifics.
Too Much Competition
Although other bloggers in your niche are not really competition, if they’re getting all the attention from readers and you’re getting none, they basically are competition until you can start to make some progress. Simply put, there are too many blogs in most niches these days to get noticed and retain loyal readers without branding your blog. Those who are able to stand out from the pack in one way or another will excel, and those that don’t give any thought to branding will be held back.
The Personal Nature of Blogging
Because blogging is so personal, effective branding can help readers to connect to you and understand where you’re coming from and what you’re trying to do through the blog. When readers are able to develop a strong connection to you, you’re on your way to success.
Blogs that are branded effectively will be much more likely to retain loyal readers indefinitely. Readers are not going to give up on you because of a few sub-par posts if the know what to expect from you in the future.
Long-term, loyal readers give you a certain level of security as a blogger. When you have an established audience you don’t have to worry about your blog experiencing big ups and downs. Well-branded blogs are seen by readers as being valuable for a specific reason, and that helps to make you a bit more secure as long as you can hold that reputation.
Action Steps for Using Social Media to Brand Your Blog
1. Know How You Want to Be Seen by Readers
The critical first step of branding is to know how you want to be branded. What do you want to be known for? Without having a clear goal you will just be using social media to pad your stats with very little long-term relevance. It’s possible that your branding will change with time, but for now you need to decide how you want to be seen.
2. Develop Posts with this in Mind
Now that you know how you want others to see you and your blog, you can work backwards and develop posts that will put you closer to making it happen. Write on topics that will build your brand, and use a style and an approach that will work with your goals. Of course, since you’re trying to use social media for the branding, you’ll also need to consider the social media audience when you’re developing content (not every post, but some). Ideally, you’ll come up with some ideas for posts that social media users will like that will also help to establish your image.
3. Focus on Specific, Well-Targeted Social Media Sites
In order to have the best results with social media you should be focusing on a few specific sites, rather than spending a small amount of time trying to use a hundred different sites. A few months ago I wrote a post here at ProBlogger about targeting the right social media sites. You can refer to that post if you’re unsure of how to find the right sites for you.
Focusing on just a few specific social media sites doesn’t mean that you’ll only be able to have success with those sites, actually it can work the opposite way. By spreading yourself to thin and taking an unplanned approach you’ll have a low chance of success with any social media site. By focusing on getting to know the audience of a specific site and creating content accordingly, you’ll have a good chance for success, and the traffic from that social media site can result in even more votes at other social media sites.
4. Be an Active User of Social Media
It’s hard to effectively optimize and market your blog through social media if you rarely use it yourself. By staying active you’ll learn all about your target audience and how you can create content that they’ll appreciate. You don’t need to be active at a large number of sites, just those that you are targeting.
5. Network with Others in Your Niche
By being active at your targeted social media sites, you can build strong connections to other social media users and bloggers that may benefit you in terms of getting your content noticed. Getting to know others in your niche (for mutual gain, not just for your own) is one of the best things you can do to help your chances with social media. People tend to vote for others that they like, not just for content that they like.
6. Prioritize Branding Over Traffic
Social media marketing can be difficult because the numbers and the potential for traffic can lead you to make decisions that aren’t in the best interest for your long-term blogging growth. Many times you may have an idea for a post or a method of marketing that can generate some impressive numbers, but it may not be a good fit with your overall branding goals. If you’re concerned with branding your blog through social media, drawing the most visitors shouldn’t always be the priority.
7. Repeat Topics and Cover Them In-Depth
When you’re trying to develop your brand and position yourself as a leader or an expert on a certain subject, you need to be willing to go beyond the scope that any other bloggers are covering that particular subject. I’m not suggesting that you duplicate content or post the same thoughts repeatedly using different words, but make sure that you are covering every aspect of the subject as thoroughly as you can.
A good example of this is Courtney Tuttle. Court’s goal with his blog is to be the top source of internet marketing content. Several months ago he published a post on what he calls keyword sniping that drew loads of interest from readers. Since them he has covered the subject extensively through a series of posts where he completely walked readers through his process. He didn’t unnecessarily repeat the same thoughts, but he covered on aspect of internet marketing in-depth and it has had significant impacts on the branding of his blog.
8. Focus on Building Links
Referrals from other bloggers are extremely valuable for branding, and of course this usually comes in the way of a link. When other bloggers link to you, mention one of your posts, or recommend you to their readers, they are endorsing you and the work that you’re doing on your blog. Ultimately, the opinions of readers and other bloggers will determine how well you are branded. Social media has been used for link building for several years, and that’s because it can be very effective.
9. Pay Attention to What Others are Saying About You
Because the opinions of others are so influential to your branding success, knowing what is being said about you can be very important. Last year Darren wrote a post about why you need to have a vanity folder in your RSS reader to keep an eye on your reputation. The vanity folder isn’t just to make yourself feel good, it’s also to spot situations where others may be writing something that could be potentially damaging to your brand. Staying on top of the issue will keep you in tune with what is going on around you and it will give you a chance to put out fires that may arise from time-to-time.
10. Build Your Profiles
The majority of this post has addressed social media by referring to social news and bookmarking sites like Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon and Delicious. However, social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn can be extremely valuable as well. There are also niche specific sites like Virb where you can connect with others that may have similar interests. These sites won’t send you a huge amount of traffic like Digg would, but they can be useful for gaining some exposure outside of your blog and creating the image that you’re after.
What’s Your Experience?
Have you consider branding in your approach to blogging and social media? How do you approach the subject and what have you found to work well?