Saturday, March 14, 2009

Win of the Week: Branding & social networking

Many people will read these "wins" and realize I'm not writing much that's new. Lots of people have written about these topics before, and written about them very well. When I know of it, I'll be linking you to their posts so you can learn more.

Cuz why say again what's already been said?

But I also hope to be adding to these topics by talking about them in a really simplistic way. For beginners. I hope you'll find them useful. (And if you know of sources I miss, please, let me know and I'll amend the post!)

There are many reasons one would partake in social networking, but today I'll be talking about using them how to promote your "brand" as a blogger.

What? You didn't know you were a brand? Well, you are. If you have a blog, the look of it, the name of it, what you call yourself and your kids, what you write about -- is your brand. At McDonald's, you know you'll see the yellow and red arches, you know what you order will most likely be called a "Mc-something" and you know it'll be cheap.

Here, on my blog I tell tongue-in-cheek stories about the battles of parenting and being a working Mom. I try to be funny and keep in mind that I'm thankful for my life. I show off my photos and am always truthful -- even if that means admitting my failures.

Most important above all else, stay true to your brand. Meaning yourself. Don't write about something because its popular, write about something because it moves you, or makes you laugh, or because you like to cook and share recipes. Whatever. Just don't write about Jason jilting Melissa on the Bachelor because you think people will find your blog while doing a Google search. You may get a few hits that way, but its more valuable to find the folks that will like you for you and come back to your blog again and again and again.

(That being said, I feel I should mention that my blog does make the first page of search results for "mom ghetto booty". ahem.)

That being said, let's talk Twitter!
Basically, Twitter is an online chat forum, where users describe what they're doing in 140 characters or less. There's a technical reason as to why only 140, but it doesn't much matter - just know you can't write more than that in a single entry.

Why is it useful to you as a blogger?
Services like Twitterfeed can automatically tweet for you when you publish a new post. (You first need to establish an RSS feed to do this. I'd recommend Google's Feedburner to do that. Those handy dandy links in the footer of each of my posts [where you see Stumble this, etc.] are added as a service of Feedburner.)

Some folks opt to skip the auto generated Tweets in favor or more personalized ones. Either way, you can shorten the length of your URL (so as to stay within the 140 character limit) by using a service like Tiny URL or Bitly. The more people you "know" and that buy into your brand (or, in a less business-like sense - actually know you, whether in person or online) the more that will click over through that link and visit your blog. This blog gets quite a bit of traffic from twitter.

Plus, its fun. You will "meet" new people. You will find other blogs you love, and other people will find yours. (Are you following me yet?)

For more great posts about using Twitter (and all things Bloggy), check out Problogger and follow him on Twitter. I've found Darren's tweets to be some of the most useful - ever.

The next social network I'll talk about is Facebook.
I think we call know what a time suck Facebook can be, but have you set up your blog through Networked Blogs yet? Its a handy dandy little app where you can showcase your blog. (Take a look at mine here. Oh, and, uh, if you're so inclined, follow it!) By using Networked Blogs, your friends will then see your posts included with your other updates. You can opt to publish the just the name of your post, or a bit more and include thumbnails of any images you might have included. The more people who see your posts, the more people who will click over and read them.

And if you're sending them little green plants already anyway, why not invite them to read your real, relevant thoughts? (Heh...*snort*.)

You will need to set up a feed for your blog first - you can use Blogger's widget, but I feel you get a bit more if you use Feedburner or something similar.

If you're concerned about privacy, there's a lot you can do as far as adjusting your settings. This article is really helpful. (I guarantee you'll go "HUH! I did not know that!")

StumbleUpon is one of those social networking sites that require a bit more explanation. My bloggy friend Jennifer, from Playgroups are no place for children wrote a few posts on blog tips that I highly recommend you check out. She knows what she's talkin' bout.

I like to think of StumbleUpon as an online catalog of links to good Web pages. Users can mark pages they've stumbled upon in the vast wilds of the Internet so that others can find them as part of that catalog. SU offers a toolbar you can download to make the process of marking pages you like (or don't like) and browsing pages other people liked easier.

Its important to set up your profile thoroughly, and list your preferences so that when you click the "stumble" button (to be given a random page) you get one you'll actually be interested in. Otherwise you could get pages on dirty jokes when really you'd be more interested in couponing.

This post is a must read for new users - Jennifer describes how to correctly Stumble a post. And when you're done with that? Read this one, too. If you use StumbleUpon correctly, and "friend" people there, its more likely that others will stumble your posts. Having a post "stumbled" can drive lots of traffic to your blog.

That being said, its important to Stumble posts you really like. Not just something a friend wrote and asked you to Stumble. If something's already been Stumbled, you can still give it a thumbs up and include a little explanation as to why its good - this will help more people to decide its really worth visiting. The more "thumbs up" a page has, the more "weight" it has in the realm of SU pages.

There are lots of other sites that work similarly to StumbleUpon, including Kirtsy, Digg and They're each worth checking out, but pick your favorite one and use it. I don't know that you could successfully use them all.

Ning is an online tool you can use to develop your own, smaller social networks. I used it to create a Wisconsin Blogger's group, and belong to several others (Mom Bloggers Club, Blissfully Domestic Living (don't laugh - I can be domestic) and Grace in Small Things).

I could talk all day about all the different social networks all there (if you really want your head to swim, check out the list of social networking sites on Wikipedia!) but my advice is to pick a few you like and stick with 'em!

If you found this post useful, Stumble it, please, so that others may find it, too! And be sure to subscribe to my feed so that you don't miss anything! Next week, I'll show you how to add another side bar to your blog!


Melisa with one S said...

My branding? My avatar. Once I put it up there, I have never changed it (and don't intend to), and I use it for every social network I'm on (though I change my Facebook avatar regularly because that's just fun, and more of my FB "friends" are non-blog readers than blog readers).

I have no doubt that, when I'm at BlogHer in July, I may not be recognized immediately but once I hand out a business card with my avatar on it, my readers will exclaim, "OHHHHH!" That's branding. :)

Thanks for the info on Stumble. I've never looked into that very deeply, but now I will! :)

Mama Smurf said...

One of these days I'm going to beg you to put a feedburner/twitterfeed on my blog for me (I'll pay you)...because I am VERY computer illiterate.

One of these days...

Nicole O'Dell said...

I really loved this post. thanks for putting all of the info in one place like this.

Petula said...

All of this can be quite confusing so it's good to read about it again. In my case, I have to read it again and again to even get halfway to a solid understanding of some of them.

Amy said...

I'm going through this post link by link.

Just signed up for twitter (following you. wink.)

Set up feedburner. Hope I did it right.

On to networked blogs. Wish me luck!

Kat said...

Very cool post. I have tried to teach my self Stumble... guess I had better head over to Jenny and see how it is really done :)

Roger said...

How do you have the time to do all of that social networking? I got tired just reading this, and I didn't even go to the links, yet.