The key to establishing yourself online and within your niche, is building a strong brand. Unfortunately this is far easier said than done. The process of designing, building and nurturing a new brand means you have established:
- A unique voice
- Consistent compelling content
- A trustworthy reputation
The problem for most comes down to the simple fact that there is no single path to achieving any one of these things. And yet, you need to achieve them all in order for your brand to blossom.
What works for some, may not work for others.
What seems to be an obvious indicator of success for some, may be hidden for others.
A ‘brand’ is such an abstract, malleable concept and it may be difficult to know if you’re heading in the right direction. In fact, it can be down-right frustrating.
So the question becomes:
What is ‘Normal’ what it comes to building an online brand?
Here are 4 normalcies of brand building that, although may not give you the answer to the status of your brand’s growth, should give you the comfort knowing that you are not alone in your frustration and process.
Defining Your Voice Can Take A LONG Time
Whenever branding is discussed, one of the first components to be included is the idea of establishing a ‘voice’. This ‘voice’ must combine a powerful mission statement with a unique approach.
It won’t work with just one or the other.
This voice may not come to you right away. In fact, it is normal for this to take a VERY long time to fully realize.
As Malcolm Gladwell has said in his book ‘Outliers’, it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a craft.
Once you do fully realize this voice, your focus and ability to create compelling content will be likely to become prolific.
When I created MicControl, it took me over a year’s worth of daily blogging before I found my voice.
I knew I wanted my mission to be helping musicians to advance their careers through digital marketing. But it wasn’t until I found the right approach of creating lean, skim-able, and most importantly actionable articles focused on social media marketing tactics, that my voice became truly defined.
Once this happened – the content started POURING out of me. What once took me several days of sketching, researching, drafting, re-drafting, editing and formatting, now took me only a few quick hours at MOST.
You Will Doubt Yourself… And Then You’ll Doubt Yourself Again
Doubt HAS to be the number one killer of brands. I can say from personal experience that this was the hardest obstacle to overcome. And yet, I had to work to over come my own doubt about my brand on a weekly basis (if not more often).
Because building a brand is so abstract, and can take such a long time to establish, you’ll often feel like you’re just treading water.
This is normal!
Because of this, it is important to find any successes, even if they are small, that you can not only rejoice in on a regular basis, but can use to keep you motivated:
- A handful of Facebook ‘likes’ on a status update
- A comment left on a blog post
- A Re-Tweet or an inclusion in a #FF (Follow Friday) tweet
These are all successes. Use them as indicators of your growth and realize that with each small success, you’re working towards your brand-goal of creating compelling content, a unique voice and a trustworthy reputation.
There Is Often No Discernible Tipping Point
All of the small successes that are discussed above will, as Malcolm Gladwell once again famously outlined, help you to reach your ‘Tipping Point’. That is, the point in which all of these small successes finally barrel over into your one major moment… in this case it would be the moment that your brand becomes established.
And as true as this idea is, the more realistic truth is that often there is no discernible tipping point when creating a brand.
To once again use my own experience as the example, after a year or so of working day-in-and-day-out of blogging on MicControl, giving guest blog posts to others, tweeting consistently and building conversations, my personal brand as a blogger had developed.
But it wasn’t obvious to me AT ALL.
I still dealt the same lingering doubt that I felt from the beginning.
It wasn’t until one day when I woke up and realized that I had 3 separate article being published in the same day (one on my own blog and two on other highly reputable music marketing blogs) that I realized my brand was there.
This was likely months after my tipping point had come.
Although the concept of ‘the tipping point’ is certainly real, it may be more normal than you think for it to be hidden from you.
Your Commitment to Engagement Will Be Greater Than That Of Your Fans
Let’s face it, it is human nature to avoid disrupting the status quo. Very few people are willing to put themselves out on a limb, for the fear of being judged is too great. It is this simple reason that studies show people fear public speaking more than death.
Now let’s take the idea of putting yourself out on a limb, and add in the fact that through social media you’re now doing this in a VERY public forum where anyone and everyone can judge you.
If you consider this, it makes all the sense in the world why your blog posts aren’t being commented on, or your questions on Facebook aren’t being answered.
People are afraid to be the first to speak up.
Because of this, it will be absolutely normal that your commitment to engaging your fans be far greater than their commitment to engaging with you.
It is only once you establish yourself with the trustworthy reputation that any ideas, comments and responses will be heard, validated and appreciated, that your fans will start to match your commitment to engagement.
As my final self-driven example, I didn’t receive my first comment on MicControl until about 6 months into my blogging.
In each blog post, I would include a clear Call to Action at the end, asking people to engage, but was always left with nothing.
However once I started engaging with people through OTHER forums (i.e. other blogs where I had guest posted that already had an existing, engaged reader base), by responding to all comments, joining conversations that were good or bad about my ideas, and simply letting others be heard, the reputation started to build. It was this that lead to the same level of engagement I was achieving elsewhere to happen on my own blog, ultimately helping me to establish my brand a blogger.
What About Building Your Brand Has Left You Puzzled, Frustrated or Confused?
I am thankful enough to say that I was able to build a personal brand, and no doubt Ariel can say the same. Share your brand building challenges, questions or concerns in the form of a comment below and we will both weigh in based on our own personal experiences.