HOW & WHY YOU NEED TO THINK BEYOND YOUR BLOG IN ORDER TO GROW YOUR ONLINE PRESENCE
A Branch of Holly started nearly three years ago, and rebranded slightly almost one year ago, when I still had no idea just how vast this online world was. At the time, this blog was purely devoted to lifestyle - music, fashion, beauty - you name it, I wrote about it. I had no huge plans apart from simply to write and connect with people, which I'm sure most of you reading this can relate to with your own blogs.
What started off as a saviour for a difficult time in my life quickly became an obsession. I loved the process of creating a blog post. I lived for comments and Twitter mentions from my readers. Once you envelop yourself within the blogging community, you come to realise being a 'blogger' doesn't come down to just writing blog posts. It actually means a lot more than that.
Over time, I believe that I've built more than just a blog...
I've hosted guest posts and written guest posts myself for national titles and websites.
I've started freelancing and getting paid for some things I write.
I've done public speaking.
I've started a magazine.
I run an online community.
I'm in a fantastic marketing job for one of the top sixth form colleges in the country.
And all of this? It's been made possible by my blog - what you're reading right now. So, if you feel that spark for blogging and the need and want to carry on doing it (like I still do), then you're here for a good reason right now. But be aware of this: things don't stop and start with your blog. Really, it's one thing amongst everything else involved in your personal brand.
HOW I GREW MY PERSONAL BRAND
I didn't realise I had a personal brand when I first started my blog. It took me a while to see that this was the most powerful thing you could have. When I started A Branch of Holly, it was meant as a hobby - I had no idea it would set me off on my career. But at the time, I was coming out of a bad place in my life. Blogging seemed like a whole new world to me so I wanted to explore it, to see if I could make my own mark.
My first foray into realising my personal brand amounted to more than just my blog was when I talked about it in an interview. I soon realised that everything I was doing, my blog posts, my social media channels - they all built up to something more. And I wanted to do more.
The next thing I tried was starting my own newsletter. This was just before I decided to make the transfer from Blogger to Squarespace, which actually ended up being one of the best things I've ever done.
After that, the biggest thing I did was deciding to create my own eBook. I wasn't a professional designer or writer. But I'd created my own magazine through my Masters course, learnt so much else along the way and was a keen learner. I launched the eBook in February after running the challenge on my blog throughout January, and I haven't looked back. On top of that, I've started public speaking, launched a monthly digital magazine and I'm building my freelance writing portfolio.
Even without the initial intention, my blog has easily became the biggest strength in my personal brand.
Without my blog and the community I've been building, there's no way I would've been able to get to where I am today.
YOUR BLOG IS THE FOUNDATION FOR YOUR PERSONAL BRAND
After the first few months of running my blog, I began to feel less inspired and needed a change. For a lot of people, this would probably freak them out - the thought of having to change something that you yourself aren't happy with. Especially when you don't know where to start.
At the time, I wanted to transition to blogging about blogging and start my own business. But I soon realised I wanted to do these things for all the wrong reasons.
When I finally got my breakthrough, I was able to transition and develop everything seamlessly. There was no in-between. I worked hard and I'm still trying to get to where I want to be. There was no wasted time in trying to figure out what I was supposed to do. In fact, in January, which felt like my first 'real' month as a blogger in a long time, I had my best traffic month ever.
And if one day I choose to add another string to my personal brand? I'm 100% confident that I could do it. Not because I think I'm some superhuman that clicks her fingers to get things to work ;) But mainly, because I've created this blog.
Your blog is the foundation for your personal brand.
I'm sure by now you're thinking, yes, I love being a blogger too! And that's a good thing.
But if you look again at the title of this post, I bet you'll wonder why you need to think beyond your blog, right?
Because if you want to build your personal brand, grow a strong, big, impactful online presence and even make money from this someday, you need to have other platforms apart from your blog.
Think of your blog as the tool to build your foundation, to help you grow a community, establish your authority and get yourself out there. But if you want to really cement yourself as a true successful blogger (and if you're reading this, I know you take your title as a blogger seriously), then I would say for you to have something else, or a few things, that work alongside your blog. We call these brand extensions.
That's why I've started public speaking.
It's also why I'm now trying to establish myself as a freelance writer.
There was always the option of monetising my blog through ads and sponsored posts, but to be honest, it never really felt right to me. Because really, ads just take people always from your site - and why would you want to do that? Why would you work had to create such kick-ass content and then host a load of ads in your sidebar so people have the option to click away?
This is why guest posting is so effective. You get to host the written article on your website for people to enjoy yet still get chance to promote the person that wrote it. It's the best of both worlds.
So when I talk about thinking beyond your blog, I don't mean you should quit your job and take it full-time like so many people are doing right now. I'm not saying you should start creating products and paid courses (yet). I'm talking about using your blog to create a community - not followers. For me? That's why I created the #BloggingBreakthrough community.
Should bloggers create followers or a community?
Personally, I think bloggers who have the mindset of building a community and not followers, are the ones that achieve the most true success. Here are some reasons why:
- Followers don't mean anything unless they're active. And if you build a community, you get to establish yourself as the leader of that community, which helps you become an authority. This is because you'll be constantly producing and sharing useful content, and giving even extra to the people within your community. Even if you don't think you're a 'big enough' blogger to do this, it doesn't matter - there are many differences in followers and you want to hone in on the ones that are going to be most loyal. Remember, the more you reach out on a personal level, the more trust the connection will develop.
- After a while, a community becomes a natural progression for bloggers. You're working to communicate with a group of like-minded people, which naturally brings you together. If you're already cultivating a community on your blog and through social media, you can give it a proper name and create it.
- We also have a whole host of tools at our fingertips to be able to make this happen. Your comments section, social media, a Facebook group, your newsletter and even a chat service such as Slack are all so useful in helping creating your community. Growing your relationships will only strengthen your own blog and overall brand.
At the heart of every blogger and community builder is just a person that wants to help, teach and inspire others.
It could be they you help them organise their life by creating printables. It could be that you know the best tips and products for naturally curly hair (if there's a blog about that, hit me up!) Or it might be that you talk about web design.
Whatever your categories are, you're helping people, and if you're helping people, that only fuels your community even more.
So, friend, whether you've been blogging for five months or five years, I want to encourage you to think beyond the place where you publish content day-to-day. Your blog is the door that can open your whole personal brand to some incredible opportunities. It's the foundation. The core. The thing that helps you grow your community, and the catalyst to help you get to where you want to be.
But if you want to see the success that you deserve and build a successful, impactful personal brand just consider this - your blog is one thing. But it's not everything.
What do you think about this topic? Do you think beyond your blog when it comes to your own personal brand? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments!