The Internet is full of tips and how-tos on turning your blog into an absolute success. Most of these recipes for success, however, do little more than list what you’re supposed to achieve, rather than how to go about it. I’m going to focus on one of the most reiterated pieces of advice out there is being original/ authentic, and the advice in itself is not bad.
According to WordPress, users produce around 53.6 million new posts every month, unless there’s something different about you, your piece or your style, good luck ever getting noticed. The issue with abstract pointers like this is they’re missing actionable insight on how to achieve this; which is what we’re going to try and shed some light on.
1. Define Your Blogging Identity
We talk about branding corporations and products, but pay considerably less attention to branding small company blogs and even personal ones. One reason why this happens is because we see branding as a lengthy, costly process that might yield benefits some time in the distant future and, the truth is, very few people know how to go about it.
Personal branding doesn’t have to result in a brand manual, market positioning, cumbersome strategies or complicated graphs. Its essence is defining an entity, in simple and relatable terms that can then be used to consistently represent said entity and convey its message. Of course, applying the process to a corporation with 20 subsidiaries will require way more resources than those needed to brand a manufacturer that sells handmade shoes but the value, applied in proportion to the business, is roughly the same.
There are a few essential elements you’ll have to define in order to have a firm grasp of who your blog will become. The first is deciding if you want to be yourself, and let the world experience the full scope of your personality, or create a new identity. There’s no right or wrong choice here but it’s important that you create something you can stay true to. Whichever one you go for, your next step will be to build your character, much like a writer develops a character in a novel.
Picking 3 to 5 character traits for your blog (for example, honest, open, non-conformist, thought-provoking) not only allows you to create a language baseline for your character but almost immediately leads to a list of topics and approaches you can use as a draft for your editorial schedule. After you’ve defined its main character traits and language baseline think about what your blog has to say and why it’s saying it. Sticking to the novel analogy: in a room full of very different individuals, think about who your character would be talking to and what the purpose of said conversation would be.
2. Skip the Templates
Blog templates can be a fast and easy solution when you’re running a personal blog and don’t have the time and resources to build a custom website. Still, templates can be problematic to install leading to all sorts of bugs, especially on mobile devices, not to mention the fact that you’re trying to be original by picking stock designs.
The biggest issue with templates, however, is that they’re missing the very essential input of someone whose job it is to implement the narrative of a branding effort into a functional, visual web page – the designer. If you want an authentic visual identity, that is relevant for the blog persona you’ve built, you will need a designer’s help.
Contrary to misconceptions floating around the internet, often propagated by mediocre professionals, design is not artistic, it’s functional and great designs live in that sweet spot where great branding implementation and user-centered features meet in perfect harmony.
3. Make Your Persona Known
The purpose of building an online persona is to come up with a character that people will recognize no matter where the stumble upon it. You don’t have to wait for people to come to your blog to get to know it; you can just as easily take it out on the town and introduce yourself to your audience on different social media platforms, other blogs, various publications or online communities.
Most of us already participate in online conversations – so why not take the opportunity to drop your personal accounts in favor of engaging audiences through your blog persona. While you might quickly get comfortable with expressing yourself through your character in the relative safety of your blog, you might feel a sense of apprehension when faced with doing it on someone else’s. The challenge here is in overcoming personal preference and opinion in favor of what your built persona would opt for, otherwise, the entire effort is pointless.
4. Be Selective
One of the toughest exercises you’ll have to become better at is being selective with the topics you comment on, the ones you write about, the opinions you share and the approaches you take. If either of them doesn’t sit well with your blog persona, no matter how much truth there is in what you’re saying, toss it! Slip-ups in consistency can cost you the authentic voice you’ve put so much time and effort into building and send you right back to the starting line.
Even if you’ve opted for a very personal branding, showcasing your own personality traits, you’ll still have to refer back to your audience for cues in deciding what to talk about and how to appeal to them. The issue with personal branding is that people often mistake it for personality, in that they believe that an audience is loyal to them much in the way an old friend would stick around even on your worst days because of a strong bond forged between you.
Audiences are very capricious and they can abandon, or worse, turn against you, very quickly. Regardless of how well you’ve targeted your audience, they are reading your stuff because it’s informative, entertaining, relaxing, distracting, etc, all wrapped up in a package they can relate to. Ignore the package and stuff it with too much of your personal problems, complaints and frustrations and you’ll soon be talking to an empty room.
An essential part of every identity is its ability to learn from past experiences and evolve to become a better version of itself. This is true for everything from brands to products to people and, unless we learn to adapt and perfect a product, professional competencies and branding, soon enough we’ll find ourselves sitting on a shelf, gathering dust.
Blog personas evolve naturally through the topics they touch on, especially if you keep a close eye on trends (Google Trends works perfectly) and your own Analytics data. Always use comparison views when analysing traffic reports to keep track of shifts in interest in different topics. If you’ve written four posts about molecular gastronomy taking a very scientific approach and you’re seeing a drop in the average time on your page, it might be time to switch it up and publish entertainment-oriented posts or spend more resources targeting a niche audience.
One great way of developing your blog persona is by keeping an eye on your audience and change with it; be careful, though, to always stay true to your core identity, otherwise you risk becoming a kaleidoscope of incoherent personalities.
Finding, defining and developing a consistent and authentic blog identity is not something you’ll be able to achieve overnight. It takes time to build and discipline to maintain but the rewards are well worth it; after all, you want audiences to read you whoever you decide to be and whatever soapbox you choose to speak from.
Is your blogging persona authentic? How much of your true personality do you present as a blogger? Let us know in the comments!