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TGIF. It may be the first Friday of the spring semester for us, but we’re already crazy busy with jobs, schoolwork, and the million other things we’ve overcommitted ourselves to because we’re Type A like that. Cue the coffee, chocolate, and frequent Facebook breaks.
To kick off New Year, New Blog (NYNB) and the year of kick-ass blogs, last time Taylor and I gave you the ultimate branding checklist to make and check twice. Today, we’ve brought in some of our favorite girls from across Blog Land to join us and talk about how they’ve put their ideas into action to brand their own blogs. We’ll introduce them, tell you a little bit about why we chose them as our favorites, then hop right into some questions that they’ve answered for you! In between, we’ve made a collage for each girl’s branding, almost like a vision board. This way, you can see exactly what we’re talking about, and hopefully make one for yourself once you’ve gotten your brand to be top notch! It’s a doozy, but we promise: it’s SO worth it. (Stay tuned until the end and you’ll get yourself access to a discount code for NYNB VIP status!)
Meg from Half and Half Blog: We chose Meg because her brand is strong across Twitter, Facebook, and of course at The Half and Half Blog, where she regularly dishes out pithy critique of popular culture mixed with self-deprecating humor and plenty of awkward childhood photos. Meg’s brand is relatable, humorous, and makes us feel as if we would be totally comfortable sitting down with her for a glass of wine (her favorite food).
Kirsten from Organized Charm: Kirsten’s blog Organized Charm is an A+ example of how to combine lifestyle blogging with niche blogging and kill it at both. As she puts it, her goal is to “[make] life as bright, cheery, and orderly as possible.” Her organization blog makes us both want to clean our rooms and be her best friend, something most of our moms couldn’t even do.
Ash from The Grits Blog: Did you know that Ash changes her blog theme with the seasons? No really though. When Halloween comes around, she’s got spider webs hanging from her header, and Christmas means colored lights stringed out all over her layout. Through it all, though, the grit of Grits stays the same, giving us thoughts and tidbits on the grit of life and making her brand a constantly dynamic and fabulous one.
Kallie from But First, Coffee: Kallie’s branding is so engrained in our heads, we wake up thinking “but first, coffee!” Maybe it’s our mutual love of caffeinated beverages, but we’d like to think that Kallie’s coffee-stained signature and cute YouTube intros are purposely en pointe and hamming up the BFC brand. It’s classy and relatable, and for that, we love it!
Now, onto the fun stuff…we threw a few questions at each of our girls, then answered them ourselves. Brace yo’self…you’re about to get some major knowledge!
How did you come up with the concept for your blog?
Meg: If it’s not outwardly apparent, I don’t take life too seriously. I generally like to make fun of everyday life. I saw websites like Elite Daily, and read some articles and realized that I could write those exact things, but in my opinion (because I’m an outspoken narcissist about my work; it’s my brainchild and you have to love your brainchildren), I could write them better. So I decided the only way to prove that point would be to start my own little corner of the internet where I could have an unfiltered forum to voice my opinions about anything and everything. Thus, Half and Half, was born! I came up with the tagline Half wit, half wisdom, a whole lot of nonsense shortly after. There are some days where I’m moody and want to write something serious and heartfelt (wisdom), and some days where I really just need to release a lot of stress and write a sarcastic commentary on how crazy women are (wit).
Kirsten: One night, I was (desperately procrastinating) doing an assignment for my Educational Research class (yes, it was totally as fun as it sounds) and I just couldn’t anymore. So, I started looking up tips for anti-procrastination, effective studying, and time management. I found a lot of info here and there but most of the sites were so boring. I just thought “wouldn’t it be cool if there were ONE site that took all this info and made it colorful and easy to read?”. And once I realized there really was NOTHING like that out there, I just decided to create it myself! And that’s how Organized Charm was born!
Ashley: Well my blog started out strictly as a beauty blog and then it blossomed into a free for all. After about 6 months of blogging, I figured out that I wanted my blog to be a place where women of all walks of life could come and find some relatable information. This information being about everything from beauty to infertility to every day life.
Kallie: The concept sort of evolved over time. I didn’t really understand what I was getting into when I started my blog, it was supposed to just give me a creative outlet. While that’s still what it does, I take a lot of other things into account now like what my readers what to read, what kinds of posts I enjoy writing the most, etc.
Taylor: Like Kallie, I had no idea what I was getting into when I started. I was blogging as a way to express myself creatively; in other words, I was blogging for me. Because I was blogging about myself and my life, I struggled to find a niche. I wasn’t a “beauty blogger” or a “fitness blogger.” I eventually realized that what tied my writing together was my humor and unique voice, so I ran with that. I wanted my blog to feel like a coffee date with your best friend, the sassy one who always has some sort of outlandish story to tell about her life, and A Cup of Tay was born. I don’t seek to help people or educate them; I want to entertain readers with my writing and connect with them on a personal level.
Erica: I started off writing for a college fashion magazine. I ended up getting frustrated when my work would be edited in a way that didn’t feel “me,” and I really just wanted to express myself in a way that would be 100% genuine with people reading. Ultimately, I hoped to be able to connect with people and provide content that was inspirational, funny, and aesthetically awesome. I’m ridiculously close with my mom, so she and I were brainstorming potential blog names one night together. In typical mom fashion, most of her suggestions were cheesy with a side of corny. But then she started tossing around things with my middle name, Rose, and the idea of inspiration and growth. From there, “Coming Up Roses” was born!
How did you/are you branding your blog accordingly?
Meg: The title and tagline absolutely needs to reflect what you’re talking about in your posts. As an outward appearance, no one really knows what Half and Half means until they read the tagline. Once your gorgeous reading eyes roll over, wit, wisdom, nonsense, it clicks (hopefully) and you immediately get a feel for what type of content you’re going to encounter on the site. It also helps if your site is uniform, neat, easy to navigate, and your posts reflect that consistency as well. If you’re going to attach featured images, make sure they’re consistent throughout your blog, use the same fonts, make your social media accounts have your blog header and include links to your site wherever you can be found.
Kirsten: I kind of think of “branding” a blog as giving it a personality. I knew that I wanted my blog to be helpful with science-backed information, but I also wanted it to be cheerful and fun and pretty! I incorporate a lot of pink and turquoise into my blog’s design (because they’re my favorite colors)! I also write just like I would talk to my friends. I think it’s really important to keep your blog true to yourself because you are the only one with your unique personality! If you allow that personality to shine through, it gives readers a better sense of who you are and it creates a genuine relationship!
Ashley: I changed my tagline! In all honesty I can’t remember the original one but here is what I have now: “Living to experience everyday as an adventure by blogging about the grits of life.” I have also made that my mission statement. I want every day to be an adventure and what better way to do that than by having an open diary to keep me accountable.
Kallie: I wish I had known to brand accordingly before I started, I would have used the same handle name across multiple forms of social media. Now I just try to use consistent headers and info across my social media so that people can associate them all together. The actual brand of my blog spans to twitter, instagram and YouTube, and I still struggle to mesh them all together.
Taylor: Branding for me has been about consistency in name across social media. All platforms have my blog name in them somewhere (twitter = @acupof_tay, instagram = @acupoftay) and are consistently branded with my blog header/logo. Because my brand is centered around this “coffee date” idea, my brand is also really reflected in my name, A Cup of Tay. My logo for my blog is even modeled around the Starbucks logo to give it the feel of approachability and familiarity. I’m definitely still working on how I want A Cup of Tay’s brand to look on instagram and Twitter as far as content, though.
Erica: I’m just now getting to a point where I feel like I at least have an idea of where I hope everything aligns. I try to incorporate “blossoming” to symbolize growth. I think there are a lot of cool metaphorical ties that can be drawn between roses and women who are constantly changing and growing, each of us with our fair share of pretty petals and thorns, but all beautiful nonetheless. But honestly, I’m just branding it as something fun, quirky, inspiring and real. Now that I’ve expanded onto YouTube as well, I’m hoping that that helps convey extra realness and fun…although things might get weird along the way. (:
What does your brand mean to you?
Meg: With my tagline, I think it means I can pretty much cover whatever I want and it’s still within jurisdiction. People who know me in real life can attest to the fact that I say some pretty ridiculous things. But with my blog, when I write those things down, I have the ability to make them seem less ridiculous. Or at least be able to have reasoning behind the statements. I get to have a place where all my thoughts come out to a cohesive (hopefully) point, where as talking doesn’t allow me to do that. My blog/brand means that people actually get to read what’s going on in my brain, and I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing.
Kirsten: I wanted to create a brand that celebrates being girly AND smart (kind of like Elle Woods in the form of a blog)! I wanted to send a message to girls that you can make straight A’s AND go to parties. You can use “literally” in every sentence AND be well aware of the fact that you mean it figuratively every time. You can wear pink AND be interested in politics. No matter what you’re “labeled” as, if you want to become something else, just become it! Good grades, organization, and productivity are simply products of discipline, hard work, and planning! We make ourselves into whatever we want to be!
Ashley: It’s me. My brand is me – so it means a great deal. I want to be relatable, positive, and happy. I work hard to make my brand reflect that!
Kallie: But First, Coffee means a lot to me. It’s my creative space to share things with the world and give myself a chance to truly “be my own boss.” While BFC isn’t my career (I wish), I still treat it as a job, where I’m my boss as well as the creator, editor, designer, and marketing team. So, I guess for me it’s a chance to prove to myself that I can create something worthwhile, that people care about reading and sharing and watching.
Taylor: To me, A Cup of Tay stands for being confident while being able to laugh at your own shortcomings. I have always loved this quote from Coco Chanel, “A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous,” and I’ve tried to capture it in my brand. I want A Cup of Tay to be both “classy” in the sense of being able to write about important issues with eloquence, and “fabulous” in the ability to talk about fanciful things like Zefron or Starbucks. I wanted, like Kirsten, to have a brand that was both smart and girly.
Erica: A reader described my blog to me once, and I think she put in words what I was struggling to for awhile. She said that Coming Up Roses is for inspiration, laughter, and pretty things. It’s simplistic, but it’s exactly what I hope people come to my creative space to get! Overall, I think I just always want people to be able to stop by my blog, poke around a bit and read something good, and then leave feeling like they’re at a better place than when they came. Whether they’re feeling personally motivated or uplifted, more lighthearted, or have a new idea for their wardrobe or makeup bag-of-tricks, I just want readers to feel like Coming Up Roses is a good, positive and hopefully irreplaceable part of everyday life!
If you have rebranded at all, how did you go about doing it and why?
Meg: I did rebrand, when I first started my blog, it was called 24 Problems, and it really didn’t have anything to do with what I was talking about in my posts. I never really posted about my problems, and I definitely didn’t have 24 of them to list. When I got Freshly Pressed, I changed the name of my blog to Half and Half, created a tagline that fit with the content of my posts, and had a reintroduction post talking about the changes I imposed. Also, it gave new readers a chance to ‘meet me’ so to speak, which turned out to be beneficial.
Kirsten: I’ve never pulled a major Katy Perry/Lana Del Rey style rebranding but I certainly have changed things over the course of my blogging career. While I’ve always kept my voice the same, I have changed the overall design of my blog. The background used to be a swirly, gray pattern. I eventually changed it to just plain white in order to brighten everything up and make the content stand out more. I also used to write more about home organization before I really found my current niche. But maybe I’ll go back to that someday… that’s the beauty of a blog: It changes as your life does!
Ashley: I completely changed up my blog design! I went from all glitter and pink to a static main design with ever changing margin art. I also quit blogging about the same thing – I changed up my topics.
Taylor: I’ve kind of rebranded twice. When I first started blogging, it was my little corner of the internet, so it was some generic WordPress template with my name as the header. When I decided to start getting serious about my blog in December 2013, I chose a brand name that I really thought fit me: Pinstripes and Lipgloss. I was hoping to capture in the brand my life as a business student (the pinstripes) and my love for fashion, beauty, and other fun things (lipgloss). I decked out the website in a cute pinstripe pattern, made buttons, the whole thing. I had consistent branding across social and all of that. During the spring and early summer, I began to realize that my brand was not really representing what I was writing about. P&L sounded to me like the name of a fashion blog, and even though I knew what I meant, I wasn’t being clear with my brand to readers. I knew it was time for a change, and after a lot of brainstorming over names, “A Cup of Tay” just seemed natural. I am an avid tea drinker and it just had the warm, fuzzy feeling I wanted it to. As far as visual branding, I went with a coral-ey pink (one of my favorite colors) and kept things clean but personal.
Erica: I’ve actually never re-branded! When I first started blogging though, I was on free WordPress with a generic template and an image that probably wasn’t even okay to use as my header (who knew about stock images way back then?? Not this girl.).
What is your best advice to someone creating their own brand for themselves and their blog/business?
Meg: Comment, comment, comment! Make sure whoever likes, comments, or follows your blog, you do the same. It’s imperative that people know you’re paying attention to and reading what they’re writing. After all, they’re paying attention to you! Get involved with other bloggers, see if you can guest post, get people to post, and join community groups – The Daily Post has a blogging 101 challenge that’s awesome, and they do daily prompts and weekly challenges that help you generate content and also get great feedback. Getting exposure and linking up with other bloggers is a great way to gain more followers, but also develop and hone your writing skills if you know you have an audience that depends on you. And, don’t force posts! If it’s not there, don’t stress, make sure you’re putting out the best content you can. Quality over quantity, especially when you’re first starting out.
Kirsten: I would say just to be as true to yourself as you can! What colors do YOU love? What are YOU interested in talking about? How do you talk to your best friends? Are you serious and sophisticated? Are you sarcastic and witty? Do you tell hilarious stories? Whatever your own personality is like, try as hard as you can to make that shine through your blog! Think of readers like friends: people with similar interests will be attracted by your content and people with similar personalities will be attracted by your writing style. Most of all, if everything is 100% you, you will LOVE writing!
Ashley: Chill out. This isn’t an overnight success type of deal. Take it all one step at a time, advertise, build your tribe, and most importantly just have fun!
Kallie: 1. Create something that can grow with you and will always encompass everything you do. I chose But First, Coffee because it’s about all the things I do/love in life (after my morning cup of coffee.) This concept can grow with me as I get older, get married, and even have a family.
- If you’re just starting, try to use the same names across all social media.
- Take time picking the right name. It’s a daunting task because you want it to encompass you/your brand, but also be unique. With all the mass amounts of media we see every single day, you want something that people will remember.
- Don’t forget about taglines. These can be great ways to quickly explain your brand, but also something that helps people remember you. (We all know “just do it” is Nike.)
Taylor: Think about creating value. Why would your reader read your blog? What value would it have to them in their lives? If you can’t answer that, you don’t have a brand. Your brand should be built around how you differentiate yourself from the million blogs out there and what your blog offers readers. Another piece of advice I have is to think about who exactly your reader is. As we mention in the branding checklist, aligning visual branding with what your brand represents is key. Colors and patterns should be thoughtfully chosen based on the feel you’re trying to give your brand. Lastly, if your blog is a lifestyle blog, or is focused on yourself in any way, make sure your brand is genuine. I tried to be a beauty blogger for awhile and I tried to care about putting together outfits as a fashion blogger, and it just didn’t work. I love both of those things but what motivates me to write is neither of them. I think it showed, and I think my brand suffered because of it. Be authentic!
Erica: I’m going to echo Kallie and Taylor especially in saying that it’s absolutely crucial to pick something that can grow with you. Choosing a blog name that has the word “college” somewhere in it limits you to your own college years and the college-age crowd; will you still be able to adequately connect with your audience when you’re 35, married with kids and attending happy hours with the professional crowd? And to jump on Taylor’s bandwagon, create something valuable for people. It’s a bit different if your goal is leaning more towards personal documentation instead of building a brand or business, but in order to really get a sticky audience, you’re going to need to make them feel like they’re better off after having left your site than when they were when they first clicked on your link. Figure out who your reader is. Talk to her. Get to know her. Make it a two-way conversation, comment on other blogs and answer the comments on your own, have your voice across all social media platforms be similar and in line with your branding. In the end, just make sure you’re having the time of your life!
What tips did you find most helpful when building your own blog and brand? How has your personal brand evolved over time?
(Feel free to write about any of these in addition to/instead of the prompt below, and LINK UP with us!)
Challenge: Ask a friend to give your branding a quick run-through and provide honest feedback. Answer the above questions yourself first, and compare your own answers with those of your honest feedbacker. Then buy them a latte and give them a hug for their time and opinion.
Blog post prompt: Write about how you chose the name for your blog.
Don’t forget to use the hashtag #NYNB across social to share your ideas and meet new friends. If you like what you see from NYNB, we’d love to help you out even more on a more personal front. Join our VIP team! We won’t go into the details now (click here for that), but use code JANUARY16 to get your exclusive VIP eBook for a discounted price of $16 for today only! (Cos it’s January 16th…get it? Get it????). Sales pitch done…now go make your weekend an amazing one.