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April 4, 2008

Are you Delivering a Blog Brand Experience?

All great brands have one main thing in common – what they promise and what they deliver are aligned. In other words, the experience of the user, reader, or customer is the value-add component. Joseph Pine and James Gilmore first talked about our shift from goods and services to events in The Experience Economy.

Experience implies being affected by what you meet with – it could be a happening, an event, or an adventure. It definitely has to do with perception. These are not terms usually associated with business; they are however the quickest path to making your blog content sticky and keeping people returning to it.

You give something more when you provide an experience – it starts with a core, unifying idea. Maybe you are thinking – wait a moment, I do not have a product, or a service, this is a way to showcase my writing skills, or the way I think. Language too is an experience. Words are not mere semantic twists. Words are funny things – they can change everything.

So go take a look at your blog and think about the plot it conjures:

- Is it clear?
- What’s the difference?
- What’s the point?
- Do yo have a point of view?
- Are you selling a certain something? A lifestyle, a specific idea, for example.
- Do readers know what the story is?

When you are delivering a blog brand experience, people can’t wait to read the next episode. You will know because the quality of your discussion changes dramatically from merely following some advice, to delivering a story worthy of time and attention. Today’s marketers are contending with grabbing these scarce resources. You have the ability to win them over.

Experience takes a mere “it works” to “it leaves an indelible memory” and makes a satisfied reader into a member of a club, a fan. Can you think of a couple of examples of blogs that deliver a full brand experience?

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March 31, 2008

What Gives You The Right To Tell Me?

What gives you the right to tell me how to do something? Why should I trust what you have to say about blogging? About politics? About money? About making money with my blog? About fixing cars? About anything? What gives you the right?

As I prepare for the “Biz School of Blogging” program in May at SOBCon, the terms authority blog and authority blogger keeps popping up in the program discussions. Chris Garrett has even helped create the Authority Blogger blog.

The term, authority blogger, was coined a little over a year ago labeling a blogger and their blog as the “authority” on their blog subject, thus making the blogger an expert in their field. Blog branding is the marketing effort to turn your blog into an authority blog through visual and content connections, establishing proof over time of expertise.

Yet, every day I run across bloggers claiming expertise and spewing nonsense – and no one challenges them.

Should they? Should we?
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March 25, 2008

Blogging is About Writing – and Not

Blogging is about writing. That is a fact. You can video blog, podcast, and do all kinds of fun things with your blog, but it is the writing that makes or breaks a blog. What you say in the blog posts, descriptions of visual and audio elements, and what words you offer search engines for their indexing to help people find your blog.

However, blogging is not just about the writing, albeit it is a large part. Blogging today is about so much more. Are you ready? Do you know all the things you have to know about blogging before you start blogging? Or after?

Whether you are a new blogger or long time blogger, these are the things you are going to have to learn about in order to blog in today’s world.
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March 21, 2008

What Do You Bring to a Blog Conference?

I’m getting ready to speak at three conferences in a row about blogging and WordPress, and something Rachelle Chase said at a conference we spoke at recently keeps popping up in my head. She spoke about techniques for making yourself memorable that she uses when she meets people who can help her with her business and blog.

Rachelle Chase JewelryShe contracted with a local artist to create autographed unique artwork in the form of a necklace and travel mirror. Decorated with text from her books and quotes about her books and blog, she sells them on her blog, but also gives them away to journalists and interview subjects as “reminders” of who she is and what she does. They are unusual and memorable, and say a lot about her, her work, and her blog.
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Transfer Equity from Your Current Brand to the Next

In a recent conversation here at The Blog Herald, Chris Garrett asked a very good question:

What do you do when your well known brand doesn’t match with your business?

He cited Wendy Piersall’s eMom brands as a good example of an online brand that started as a blog and is now expanding into a full media publication for both moms and dads.

Rebranding or repositioning efforts can also be a move to package your site for a sale. Rob May of BusinessPundit.com did just that this past February. While May developed the voice and style of BusinessPundit.com, the site was well positioned to continue to appeal to readers in search of business news and information. The site lives on sans May.

While rebranding efforts online include potentially the redirect of a domain name to a new one or an expansion of the original brand, in addition to your readers, what you would like to transfer is the equity of your current brand into the new one.

Readers and business prospect will be more flexible than search engines in following your brand to a new place. They will do that because they follow you – in other words, your name is associated with the blog’s brand. That is a strength and it can be a weakness if you are working towards selling.

Brand Equity Can be Transferred

Equity means that you built a reservoir of characteristics and experiences that are identified with your brand. When the brand you own is one and the same with your name or person, you may need to work towards disassociating yourself from the brand before you can sell it.

Lorelle VanFossen wrote about the experience Aaron Brazell had when he put his blog for sale. One of the points she made was that the blogger counts. As more and more bloggers will look at selling their online properties and work:

The issue of separating the blogger from the blog will be a huge hindrance, but I think the value of the blogger and the blog may meld in an interesting way as more bloggers consider selling their blogs.

The plan is simple, develop a voice for the brand and begin to tone down the blogger’s personality – yours. This is exactly the opposite that you did when you built your blog. In the beginning it was probably all about you and developing a voice. Part of doing that today is also cross-networking your blog on Twitter and Facebook, for example. The more known you became, the better read the blog – because of you.

Do the opposite now. Build a stream on Twitter for your brand that is separate from you. If you have been using the brand’s name as your own, like in the case of Aaron with Technosailor, start a stream for Aaron and begin using Technosailor for the brand. Think it cannot be done? There are many memes on Twitter started by people with streams who developed a separate persona for a niche message.

What if I Use My Name?

If you use your name and have an eye on an exit strategy that culminates with a sale, what you need to do is find a name for that publication. Then you can begin to build equity into the brand by borrowing from your own. Here’s how you do it.

You begin by always associating your name with the blog name everywhere. Sooner or later, readers will begin to see you as one and the same. Then you start using your name a little less, making the blog/brand name more prominent while still using your voice.

Once you see that you are making headway with the new brand, you can complete the transferring of equity into that brand by working on making that voice separate from yours as I outlined above. The brand that can stand on its own and be seen as an asset with an established readership – metrics, please – and earning potential for a buyer, will be much more appetizing. At that point it will be neutral enough to appeal to someone else.

You Could Start by Developing Just the Brand

There is always the option to develop the brand as a publication with its own voice from the beginning. In this case you may be seen as the editor and not linked too closely with the posts. You plan it this way and play it detached for the very reason that you have an eye on transferring the asset in a sale.

Of course, even companies often start with the founder’s name and manage to be sold profitably and continue under a different leadership. In some cases it takes a long time – think about Ford – and many layers in the organization to make that happen.

I have a pretty good idea that online everything tends to move much faster – including the rate at which people may experience burn out. If an exit strategy is what you have in mind, you do want to think about making the arrangements to position your brand for it well before that critical moment. The value of your asset depends on it.

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March 20, 2008

Bird Feeders and Blogs: How Are You Luring Birds to Your Blog?

Cat looking out window - photograph copyright Lorelle VanFossenI have several bird feeders outside my window. My cats pass much of their day sprawled across my desk watching the birds feed. The window is covered with paw prints. I have a hummingbird feeder for the Anna’s hummers that pass through on their migration north and south, as well as the rare rufous hummingbirds which hang around year round. I have tiny seeds for the small birds, wrens, finches, chickadees, junkos, and sparrows, and larger black oil sunflower seeds and other goodies in another feeder for the spotted towhees, nuthatches, and northern flickers. On a fence, I have mounted a wooden box with a lid filled with dried corn, peanuts, and sunflower seeds for the squirrels and chipmunks to dig into with glee.

Each feeder is designed to service specific birds. A flat screen feeder that attaches to my office window allows ground feeders to land and feed. The hanging feeders have branch-like posts for the birds to land on and pull seeds from the holes in the side of the feeder. For small birds, I keep some feeders stuffed with thistle and niger, restrained with a smaller hole through which they can insert their beaks like breaking into a tree crevice or nut and extracting the seeds.
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March 14, 2008

What Are You Not Doing With Your Blog

When Aaron Brazell put his blog up for sale, he got a rude awakening of what he was not doing with his blog that would have made his blog more marketable, thus worth buying.

Recently, I started thinking about what I’m not doing with my blog that I should. I do a lot already, and I also am an advocate of organic marketing, natural marketing and viral techniques rather than grasping and desperate. So what more could I do to increase the diversity of those who read my blog, keep readers happy, and continue to be a source for information on blogging and WordPress?
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March 13, 2008

Looking For New Places to Take Your Blog Out

At the Romance Writers of America conference on web publishing for authors I spoke at last week, a running theme on blog marketing kept popping up: how to reach beyond your current market.

In other words, how to reach new readers who wouldn’t normally read your blog.
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March 7, 2008

7 Types of Comments that Matter

We talked about how comments matter in conversational marketing. While we all acknowledge that time is probably one of the biggest constraints we face, including comments in our social media marketing strategy can make a big difference. Why?

We are more comfortable hiring someone who engaged with us actively. While weak links in networking do help a great deal, direct recommendations and referrals come more readily after some interaction. In that, content in the way you think and articulate your expertise is still king – in the posts and in the comments.

In some cases, building credibility with other bloggers through thoughtful comments can help you launch your social media activities with a bang. People already know about you and your content. This of course works best when you’re willing to give away some ideas for the good of others.

There are 7 types of conversational marketing comments that matter:

Responding to a question in the post. This is pretty obvious, I know. It is however, the easiest way to participate by showing you are listening and are willing to give away information. Have you noticed also how responding to questions is becoming prominent in your LinkedIn Profile?

Adding a thought provoking question of your own. You are showing that you have considered the information provided and are willing to build on the idea by sharing your experience. I’ve seen lots of smart questions asked on Twitter, too — either to begin or extend a conversation that is then captured in a blog post. This is an example of integrated marketing in social media.

Making an open ended statement as additional thought. This is one of the best known forms of solicitation for further thinking and discussion. It works so well because it gives the other party(ies) the opportunity to add more information as you broaden the scope.

Pointing to other resources. Let’s face it, we don’t all have a full research department at out beck and call. When you offer knowledge to others, you not only look good, you build a reservoir of good will in the process.

Extending the conversation to other applications. This will definitely raise your profile with the blogger and all the other readers. And it may establish you as a knowledgeable source. Show them how something could be employed elsewhere. You may raise the question of why give away so many ideas. Trust me, the money is in the implementation. Ideas are free – or they want to be.

Providing an example as a case study. This will highlight the possibility of an interview as part of a subsequent post at that blog. You are establishing yourself as a domain expert in a particular field or for a topic.

Offering to co-author a subsequent post on a topic. It’s a more direct way to go from comment to a blog’s main real estate – the post – without saying you’d like to take over. This is especially useful if you don’t already have a blog of your own but have been very active and generous in the comments to other blogs.

I categorized them as conversational marketing because they show a degree of high involvement and can lead to establishing and deepening a relationship. What other types of comments worked for you?

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March 3, 2008

Banging the Pots and Pans on Your Blog

During the new year’s resolution fervor, I heard a lot of people talk about “taking my blog to the next level” and “putting more energy into my blog” which basically boils down to either fixing up the look and feel of the blog’s design and interaction, or making a lot of noise to get the attention you think your blog deserves.

Let’s look at the latter: banging the pots and pans together on your blog.

In order to get attention to your blog, you have to publish something worth attracting attention. It must inspire, motivate, educate, entertain, and give us something interesting to talk about. The latter is the key. You can write the most brilliant exposé but if it doesn’t compel readers to talk about it, to tell friends and strangers, to make bloggers link, then it isn’t an attention-getting post. An attention-getting post is a viral post, one that begs to be spread around.
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