4 Simple Ways to Grow Your Brand

“No matter where you go, there you are.”
– unknown

You are your brand. Your brand is you. Wherever your go, there is your brand. Every action you take, every word you speak, every impression you leave, affects how others view your brand.

Last week I wrote a post about brand building through social media. The post in many ways was a follow up to a post written a few weeks earlier that asked can you be found where people are looking. The running theme of both posts was to expand your sphere of influence. Instead of seeing the goal as bringing the web to you see it as giving yourself to the web and being able to influence people beyond your small corner.

Guest Blogging

Yesterday I asked if anyone would like to guest blog here while I’m on vacation. I offered as an incentive the idea that you could reach a new audience. Two of the blogs I now read daily might never have come to my attention had their authors not blogged elsewhere.

I first encountered Chris Garrett through a post he wrote for Coppyblogger. A few days later and another post. A week after that it was a post on ProBlogger. Or maybe it was a post on BloggingTips? Codswallop? I don’t remember the sequence, but I do know Chris’ own blog was the last place I read his work. By then I was already sold.

Skellie is quickly becoming one of my favorite bloggers. I think in Skellie’s case the first post I read was at ProBlogger. Shortly after I noticed her writing for DailyBlogTips. As with Chris the last place I read Skellie’s posts were on her own blog. And again like Chris I was already sold by the time I arrived.

In both cases a blog post gained my attention and a mental note of the author’s name was made. Neither time did I click immediately back to their sites. But I did become more familiar with names that I then started to notice on other blogs. Second and third posts also caught my attention and in time I did click on a link. Now Chris and Skellie both have a loyal reader.

They each could have used the original post I read on their own site. The content likely would have drawn many links and improved search visibility. But myself and others still might not have found that content or the authors. By pushing their content to another site two authors gained subscribers.

Blog Commenting

Caroline Middlebrook wrote a couple of posts in the last week about blog commenting. In the first she looked at her stats for the month of October. One observation of the month’s stats were 673 visitors through other blogs. The traffic is a mix of links and comments.

In the second post Caroline sets out a blog commenting strategy and among other things has this to say about developing her brand.

My brand is my name, and I suppose my picture. The way to reinforce my brand is simply to be everywhere! That way, people start to recognise the name and human curiosity may eventually result in a click through.

and

But, and this is a big but – I will not post trash…

When you comment on blogs you have an opportunity to place your brand in front of an audience that might not be familiar with you. See each comment as an opportunity to further build your brand. By leaving comments that are well thought out you create positive associations and human curiosity does eventually lead to a click and a visit.

Forums and Other Social Communities

Social communities have long been a way to market yourself and network with like minded people. Forums have always had the ability to drive traffic to a website, but they have much more impact as a brand builder.

Before I ever joined a forum I read a lot of them to learn from the wisdom of others. I remembered the names of the people who I learned from the most. One name I used to see a lot was Randfish. The name itself is memorable, but more so was the advice the name left behind. I had no clue who this Randfish was, but time and time again I would learn something from him on one forum or another.

Eventually I found my way to SEOmoz and have been reading ever since. I’ve read every post on the site during the last two years, but I might not have read any had I not seen the name Rand Fishkin as the author of that first post and made the connection with Randfish the forum member.

Through active participation on webmaster and seo forums Rand convinced me to read one blog post he wrote months later. Randfish created a positive association with the brand SEOmoz long before I’d ever heard the name.

Most of my clients found me by first coming across something I’s written on a public forum. It wasn’t anything here that convinced them to contact me. It was content I left on another site that got them to email or pick up the phone. They called because instead of trying to bring them to me, I positioned my brand where they were looking.

Social Media

The common view of social media marketing is to see it as a way to build a lot of links quickly. It’s a valid way to see sites like Digg and Reddit as a marketing vehicle. Maki recently discussed the importance of social media marketing in this context.

If you read through Maki’s posts on DoshDosh you’ll notice his approach to gaining those links is by building a strong profiles and creating a brand on the sites. You’d be hard pressed to spend time with social media and not come across content Maki submitted. The content is good and adds value to the community. I find myself adding Maki as a friend often so I can see what he’s submitting. Maki has pointed me to posts and blogs I’ve enjoyed and I trust he will continue to do so.

I admit to being aware of DoshDosh prior to finding any of Maki’s social media profiles, but those profiles further the trust I have in Maki and help reinforce the brand. if Maki released an ebook tomorrow there’s a good chance I’d be lining up to buy it because past encounters have left me with a positive association.

Compare that to the idea of exchanging diggs or stumbles to attract attention to ordinary or less than ordinary content. Compare it to the person who’s submissions consist of their own content 95% of the time. The submissions become suspect. I won’t visit them. I won’t add the person as a friend and they hold no influence over me.

The submission might bring in some quick traffic, but the traffic is fleeting since it’s unlikely to be voted up by anyone else. The self-submitting exchanger, might still gain my recognition, but if I commit the name to memory it’s as a reminder to stay away in the future. The associations with your brand go both ways.

Building Your Brand

Branding has two components

  • Associations – both good and bad
  • Reach of the above associations

You can build both components of your brand by allowing it to travel beyond the confines of your site. Represent your brand in a way that creates positive associations in as many places as possible and you will find more people visiting your site. Give your content to others, add value to blogs with intelligent comments, become an active participant in social communities like forums, and build strong social media profiles and people will gain familiarity with your brand and they will begin to seek you out instead of you having to pull them in.

“One’s destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things.”
– Henry Miller

Download a free sample from my book, Design Fundamentals.

20 comments

  1. Cheers for the mention, Steven… and thanks for all the kind words!

    Incidentally, I just published a post which sorta echoes the points that you’ve made here.

    Brands capture mindshare only when they are made familiar and when they are pervasive. Being everywhere and offering assistance/favors is a great way to build perceived authority/value.

    Incidentally, I’m a HUGE Henry Miller fan… I love the quote. I should definitely try to work some Miller in some of my future blog posts as well. :)

  2. @Maki – Thanks for stopping by and for the social media love, I was happy to mention you. All the kind words are completely true. I’ll look for your post.

    I agree about being pervasive to capture mindshare. It’s interesting that with both Chris and Skellie they each wrote at least one post that made me take notice of their names. The one post was enough for me to know who each was, but I still didn’t visit. Over the following weeks and seeing their names authoring articles in several places I did seek each of them out.

    I discovered Henry Miller about 10 years ago while working in a bookstore and have read my way through a number of his books. I still have plenty more on my shelves I need to get through. The quote I grabbed was one I happened across while looking for quotes. It wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, but it certainly fit. When I saw his name on it I knew I would use it.

    Something about the way he writes captured me from the first.

    @andy – Thanks too for the article.

  3. I find the whole issue of commenting really interesting. Two of the blogs I write have to deal with outdoor issues. I read a great many other blogs and try to leave substantive comments on those blogs. The response I’ve gotten has been tremendous. I also know that my comments have brought other people to the blogs I write. Sometimes it is a lot of work to leave as many comments as I leave, but I think it is worth it.

    For me, blogging is about community. I like to be use comments to encourage others and to start interesting discussions. Plus, as Caroline says, commenting helps create my personal brand and image.

  4. Apologies for what will be a complete tangent, but this post caught my attention because I read it in my feed reader as “4 Simple Ways to Grow Your Beard”. All I could come up with was (1) Let Time Pass, so I was curious what the other three were :)

    Now that I’ve read it, your title/idea is much better.

  5. @Kristine – One of the things about commenting is if you comment on the right blogs you’re talking directly to your target audience. Obviously you have to leave comments that add something to the discussion, which I know you do, but if you then you’re reaching out to people who will potentially subscribe to your blog, a blogger who may link to you, passersby who might learn who you are.

    Since early on a significant part of my traffic has visited through comments I left on a blog somewhere.

    By the way I don’t know if you looked at the post Maki mentioned in his commented above. I think you’ll like the post. It’s called The Secret to Building a Popular Blog and it fits in nicely with the ideas in this post. You’ll probably enjoy reading DoshDosh in general. It’s a great blog.

    @Pete – Funny. Now I wish I had titled it beard instead of brand. I am actually qualified to write that post.

    1. Don’t shave
    2. Wait
    3. Trim (to suit taste)
    4. Wait more

    Bonus tip: Process should take between 1 and 2 weeks. Mileage may vary. Consult your physician before beginning an anti-shaving regimen.

  6. What you described under the guest blogging section is exactly what I’m trying to do online. It’s good to know people still remember the names of people who weren’t named after a soft drink…

  7. Guilty as charged Pete. That is me. As much as I talk about branding I could have done a better job connecting the name with the username. The 99 ends up on some of my accounts since vangogh tends to be a popular username and if I didn’t get there first I need the numbers.

    I think I’m actually vangogh without the 99 on SEOmoz too, but long ago I tried to log in and couldn’t remember my password and for some reason ended up creating a new account. Shhh. Don’t tell anyone how dumb I am.

  8. Hey, you and me both. Ever since graduate school, I’ve suffered from that impostor complex; any day now, someone will walk into the room, point at me, and shout “Impostor!”, and that’ll be the end of it.

    Good to connect the persona to the handle; I’m officially subscribed now.

  9. With all the different personas we all go under it’s a wonder we even remember who we are. Sometimes I get confused who I am on a given site.

    By the way I thought I was subscribed to your blog as well, but when I checked I guess I wasn’t. The error is now corrected and you should have at least one new subscriber today.

  10. Nice one Steven – and ironically, how I came across this blog entry.

    1. Check out my Sphinn RSS.
    2. I see Maki’s submission
    3. I recognize the URL as “Van Gogh’s blog”
    4. I click and read :)

    If it wasn’t for SEOmoz, I wouldn’t have come across your great comments.
    If it wasn’t for Sphinn and power-submitters like Maki, I would not have come across your blog entry.

  11. Thanks Lucas.

    Funny that you found this post due to all the points it’s trying to make. In a few recent posts I’ve been trying to get at the idea that instead of always trying to bring the web to you, you should go out and meet the web and build yourself a presence where your target market spends its time. I think it gives you more places to influence people and also leads them back to your site.

    By the way all of your posts at SEOmoz have been great. The only problem is there needs to be more of them.

  12. Hey…

    Its all about internet marketing. If we improve our internet marketing, sure our product also get into a good brand. Blog commenting, Guest blogging, Social communities and social media are one of the important base in the internet marketing and without that we cannot improve our business and grow up our brand.

  13. I’m not sure it’s as easy as it seems. Branding takes a good deal of work and not everyone finds it easy to present the same consistent message all the time. But I agree that many of the things you would do to brand yourself will also be good for search engine optimization.

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