Should a blogger be present in all social media channels? Would that make him or her a more desirable partner for cooperation? The answer is more complex and requires us to answer a question: what’s the difference between building brand of a blog and building brand of a blogger?
Building Brand For Bloggers With Three Graphs
We should begin with a notion that a blog’s brand and a blogger’s brand are two different beings. A single blogger can write many blogs. On the other side, it’s hard to look at a blog without considering a person behind it. So there is a line, though it’s blurred. If you want to understand it, you need to understand three graphs.
Social graph is a map of your social relations — with you at the center of it, there are people around with whom you have a mutual (two-way) relationship. This means you know the person, and the person also knows you. Your mother, sister or a friend are points on this graph. And what flows between the points? Information and influence.
The value of information that flows through social graph is determined not by its content, but rather by the quality of connection between the nodes. What it means is when you write I had scrambled eggs for breakfast on your Facebook wall, this information has no objective value. But for your mother (with whom you have a strong connection) it’s not only valuable, it’s also important. So if you manage to create a bond with your readers (by talking to them, sharing some of your personal details via social media), you become an interesting person no matter what you write. It’s fairly common when it comes to lifestyle or personal blogs. This is why we have all these “behind the scenes” channels such as Instagram stories or Facebook walls. People want a connection that’s deeper than what you write in your articles. And whether you like it or not, you have to plan some of this “behind the scenes” posts — even if your goal is to build a professional brand.
Problem is, you can’t build on a social graph alone. There’s a glass ceiling on social graph relationships. You are not able to build two-way relations with all your readers. So if you want your blog to grow, you need to accept asymmetric relationships (I know who Steven Spielberg is, but he does not know me). And they obey a different set of laws.
The interest graph is a map of your asymmetric relations. You are still at the center, but around are people for whom you are the source of useful information. So, you write about something that other people find interesting. They don’t want to bond with you as a person, they treat you as an information source. A blogger’s role in this configuration is to say enough about himself (or herself) for the readers to attribute authority and credibility to you. This is where Quora, LinkedIn or Facebook Groups offering professional help come in handy. But if you want to build your brand by helping others, you need to prepare a couple of things.
How do you build such a brand? You have to answer three basic questions:
- How can you help? And whom? What am I going to write about, and what am I going to keep quiet about? Because, when constructing a good brand, the answer to a question what you are not doing is equally as important as answering the question what you actually do. I may know a lot about comic book characters, but you won’t find a word on them here. Because my specialty is marketing and building brands — this is the reason people come here.
- What is the source of your strength? Why should I read about fashion, cooking or interior design on your blog and not on somebody else’s? If you have some special knowledge or skills, you should say it loud and clear. I got a Marketing’s Man of the Year award so I probably know a thing or two about marketing.
- What emotions am I to expect from you? The things you have to say can probably be said in a thousand ways. Especially that it’s not some kind of divine truth: chances are you either share your opinion or some knowledge that can be found somewhere else. It’s like with a recipe for apple pie: it’s either your own (which does not make it better) or it’s some variation on some other recipe. But if you are to teach me to bake a pie, what am I to expect? Culture and wit (as with Nigella Lawson) or rudeness and nerves (as with Gordon Ramsay)? Each style has its pros and cons, but the fact remains: style matters. Emotions matter. Define yours.
Blogs and bloggers who have answered the above questions shine brightly among the ones who just write about everything. The order takes precedence over the chaos, especially when it comes to contacting the advertisers. But for the advertisers to find you, you need to find some readers first. And this is the matter of the third graph.
Show me who’s publishing you and I will tell you who you are. The blog market is crowded and you should not count on your luck when it comes to getting readers. Where should you get them from? Short answer: OPC (Other People’s Communities).
The content graph is the map of places that have published your work. It’s pretty similar to collecting backlinks for SEO/SEM purposes but there’s one big difference. The value of these places stems from the reputation (in other words: a brand) of the source. “Paul Skah, HBR contributor” sounds better than “Paul Skah, BuzzFeed contributor” (if my goal is to brand myself as a professional business advisor, that is).
Every industry has its own set of places you can use to build your authority. Some of them require you to have some level of authority already so you need to build your way up. But it’s totally worth it.
Lilach Bullock compiled a great list of over 400 blogs that accept guest posts. Make sure you’ve combed through that list, it’s a great starting point for building your own content graph. And then build your own list, convert it into task list, and… get to work. Good luck!