When I was a kid, I ate a lot of peanut butter, always creamy smooth Jif. I didn’t like Skippy or any other brand. Only Jif. When I moved to Paris, this small American grocery store run by a Lebanese couple near my apartment was the only place I could find peanut butter, but it was the natural kind—all peanuts and no sugar. I couldn’t stand it, and never bought it again.
When I moved back to the states in 1995, I was on a health food kick, so I tried Laura Scudder’s peanut butter. I hated it. I hated that I had to stir it, and I hated the taste. I still bought it once in a while, but for the most part, I didn’t eat a lot of peanut butter.
Since I’ve been living in Berkeley, I’ve been eating a lot of peanut butter again. For a while I ate the (no-stir) Skippy natural peanut butter, and then I discovered Adams. It was similar to the Laura Scudder’s I hated in that I still had to stir it, but it tasted good, so I started buying it. I ate jar after jar after jar, and began serving it to my son once he was old enough, too.
Then one day, I went to the supermarket and noticed that the Laura Scudder’s was on sale. I decided to compare labels to see how much fat/sugar/salt it had compared to Adams (which is all peanuts and has no added sugar and less than 1% salt). The labels were identical in every way, right down to the company that distributes them: Smuckers. Here I had somehow convinced myself that Adams was superior to Laura Scudder’s when, in fact, they are the SAME peanut butter branded with different labels. One has a male/sur name (Adam/Adams) and the other has a female name. One has a bright blue label with large, circus-font letters while the other uses cursive on earth tones. While one emphasizes “all natural” and says “creamy,” the other says “old-fashioned” and “smooth.” The ONLY difference between the two products is their branding. That’s when it hit home how important branding is. MORE important than the product itself. Much more.
So, when it comes to blogging, Twitter, and FB, what makes a good personal brand? Rather than quote from studies or other blog articles, I’m going to tell you what stands out for me when I look at someone’s blog/Twitter feed/personal brand.
1. Clean, simple design. Designs that are busy or too dark and difficult to read are a turnoff for readers. Clean and simple—with or without photos or other images—is always best.
2. Professionalism. A blog full of great advice, insightful thoughts, hilarious stories, or great information and links is much more valuable than a blog full of ramblings about what your cat did to the couch last night. Unless it was really funny. In that case, tell me all about your cat.
3. Consistency. Whether you post every day or once a week, it’s important to be somewhat consistent so readers know what to expect, and aren’t disappointed when they get something different.
4. Integration. It’s important to integrate your brand across multiple platforms, that is Twitter, Facebook, and your blog for starters. You can start by linking them so when you post to your blog, it updates to Twitter, Linked In, and Facebook. There are multiple ways to do this, and I’ll talk more about that in a subsequent post. But you need not only to integrate the content, but your personal brand as well. Does that mean your Twitter background has to match your blog background? Not necessarily. Mine doesn’t. But if you do have a logo or a book cover or some awesome art, yes, use it, and use it across all platforms.
5. Personalization. If you don’t own your domain name, buy it. If it’s already taken, think of something original and buy that instead. This isn’t to say that your blog can’t be JohnSmith.blogspot.com or JohnSmith.wordpress.com, but it looks much more professional if you have your own domain name: johnsmith.com. Also, don’t use a blog template (like I do) if you can afford a web designer. A professional web/blog design really stands out among the gazillion blogs using the same templates over and over.
6. Promotion. It’s important to get the word out about your brand, but not to self-promote to the point of irritating your audience. I have one friend who is ALL about self-promotion, and I cringe every time I get an invitation or update about her latest workshop, networking event, or web seminar. Don’t make people cringe.
What do you think makes a great personal brand? Can you cite examples of people who have created successful (non-irritating) personal brands?