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Comments for Armchair BEA Branding
Book blogging has grown up with social networking. Book bloggers connect with each other, other non-blogging readers, authors, publishers, publicists, librarians and all other manners of bookish people through sites like Twitter, GoodReads, Ning and Facebook to name a tiny fraction of sites available. With dozens, if not hundreds, of book bloggers to connect with and follow, the easiest way to recognize one's favorites is through their branding.
Branding started with the marking of livestock with a small icon that was easily recognized as belong to a specific ranch or farm. Since then the brand has moved into all forms of marketing and includes things like logos, trademarks, jingles and so forth. While the average well established book blogger probably isn't necessarily running a business, an easily recognizable identity is paramount to making and keeping those social connections.
When I first started my site, I had a completely different goal in mind than book blogging. The word "blog" (as in "web log" hadn't even been coined yet (but would at the end of the year). My site's original purpose was to find web design clients. Since I needed something to build my blog's look and feel around, I picked my then calico cat, Caligula as my inspiration. Her tricolor fur set (and still sets) the basic color scheme. Her ability to reboot my computer at the most inopportune times inspired the name: "Puss Reboots."
Brands can transcend their original purpose
Although I started this site as a web design site, I've kept the name and the brand and let it evolve over time. My post current version to the brand, involves the square icon of Caligula stretching her paws against a purple background. I use it in one form or another on most of my online activities: leaving blog comments, writing on livejournal, blipping and tweeting.
I originally had to create it when I started my Livejournal site. A friend had already started streaming my RSS feed to livejournal under my old online handle: caligula00, so I had to create a new handle. It made sense to have a handle that matched my main website's name: Puss Reboots. Since spaces complicate things in URLs, I merged the two together into "pussreboots" and the new online brand was born.
It's not just book blogger brands that can (and should) evolve over time. Take for instance, Motorola. Back when it was a new brand, it was attached to an innovation at the time: the car radio. MOTOR for the car and OLA because the big music playing brand at the time was Victrola. Motorola has since broadened its horizons to "electronics" from car radios and is probably best known for cell phones (which are often used in cars and can often play music). So the basics of the brand are still there but the brand itself has transcended its original purpose of selling car radios.
If you are just starting out as a book blogger, don't stress about not having a brand or a customized template. First and foremost you need content written in your own voice that shows your passions for what you read. A well branded, beautiful site won't invite visitors back if it lacks original content. That doesn't mean every piece has to be letter perfect. Of course not! The blogging process is organic and bloggers learn as they go. Look at the earliest posts by any of your favorite bloggers and I'm sure you'll see they have grown as writers since then.
Be flexible but be consistent!
You might be a picture book blogger now. Or maybe paranormal romances are your thing. Your reading choices might evolve over time. Don't paint yourself into a corner with your brand. Make it something flexible, something that can evolve with you over time as your tastes change. If you don't, you'll find yourself with a blog that was once fun that now feels like work. Unless you've managed to make your blog into a paying job, don't let it become work. Don't be a slave to your branding!
Do however, use that brand in all your social networking activities that directly reflect on your blog.
Comment #1: Monday, May, 24, 2010 at 18:21:26
Great post! I am still new to blogging so it is nice to get advice from someone who has been doing it for a long time. I hope it never feels like work.
Comment #2: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 14:04:28
Welcome to the world of blogging.
Comment #3: Monday, May, 24, 2010 at 19:12:25
Excellent post. I don't have a particular genre. I read whatever has a cover. But people (including publishers) are often confused as to what my taste is. Sometimes I have thought of sticking to one.
Comment #4: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 14:08:19
I'm like you. I read pretty much anything. My reading though goes in cycles. Right now I'm reviewing a lot of children's books because I'm reading with my children or they are reading to me.
Comment #5: Tuesday, May, 25, 2010 at 00:31:02
I think that the evolving of one's brand can be the most exciting and terrifying thing, all at the same time. I went through a reboot of my own at the end of last year. I always had a book blog, but it was more of a red headed step child to my home dec blog. The home dec blog was starting to be a job, I wasn't passionate about it anymore, so I rebooted Chew & Digest Books. I haven't looked back since, the switch was so freeing.
Comment #6: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 14:19:03
My blog post topics evolve over time. It's become more and more bookish in the last four years.
Comment #7: Tuesday, May, 25, 2010 at 08:05:04
I have heard a lot about branding in the publishing market. I never really thought about it much in the book blogging world. I never say that I read just a certian type of book because I don't I read what I am in the mood to read whether its YA, romance, steampunk, etc. So I made sure my blog reflected my choices by not having my blog name brand me. Its called Books, Movies, Reviews. Oh my! That leaves me lots of things to blog about. LOL
Comment #8: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 14:19:03
The "Oh My!" is a nice touch and gives you the opportunity to blog about anything that might strike your whimsy. I like it. Happy blogging.
Comment #9: Tuesday, May, 25, 2010 at 08:49:08
Blogs and books do evolve just as everything else does, its the wonderful thing that life allows, as more and more comes out theres the urge to try new and different. Great post.
Comment #10: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 14:23:48
But it's easy to fall into a rut. Innovations become habits and ultimately rituals. I'm guilty of this with mine. It's good to try new things with one's blog.
Comment #11: Tuesday, May, 25, 2010 at 09:02:13
Thanks for the tips!! I love your explanations about how your brand evolved. I agree that however you choose to brand, make it flexible enough so that it evolves with you, but doesn't tie you down.
Comment #12: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 14:38:09
A good brand has some wiggle room. Thanks for stopping by.
Comment #13: Tuesday, May, 25, 2010 at 11:37:47
I absolutely agree! You should not become a slave to your brand. I've changed "styles" a few times over the past year. It takes a little time to find your "voice."
But, once you do, it's magic!
Comment #14: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 14:41:13
My blog has changed styles many times too. You can look up previous versions of it on the Internet Archive.
Comment #15: Tuesday, May, 25, 2010 at 15:02:48
Comment #16: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 14:50:50
Comment #17: Tuesday, May, 25, 2010 at 15:08:29
Terrific post. Excellent advice to be consistent wherever you go - use the same image and name for the comments and handles you use as you do for your blog. Makes it easier for people to recognize and remember you so they can find you without problem in the future.
The website Gravatar allows you to upload an image and it will automatically display next to your name on any blog/forum platform you comment on or participate in - keeps your brand image attached to your name wherever you go.
Comment #18: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 22:50:50
I do have a Gravatar. I also have a Blogger profile (with the same avatar) to make commenting on blogger blogs much easier. I meant to mention both and then they slipped my mind.
Comment #19: Tuesday, May, 25, 2010 at 23:28:20
This is a great post! I use my same picture for most of my sites, but I'm really wanting to switch my design up and I'm not sure how to incorporate everything into one . . . evolving just as you said! I've changed my design twice and I have yet to find one that really wows me. Until then, I try to be as consistent as possible.
Now that I've rambled . . . moving on!! :)
Comment #20: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 22:53:32
You could turn to your blog readers for their oppinions. Survey Monkey or a Google Docs form can pick your readers' brains. See what they think are the key elements of your sites. That might help you focus your efforts on the redesigns.
Comment #21: Tuesday, May, 25, 2010 at 23:45:15
I was just about to think that your blog's name came directly from Caligula (which means "little boots") it must be a very clever cat to be able to reboot your computer!
Your post is good food for thought. I've found my blog evolving over time, as well.
Comment #22: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 22:58:34
I wish I could claim my cat's name and my blog's name were so cleverly planned. I do know that Caligula means little boots and Caligula cat does have the cuttest white boot feet but her name came before we even knew we were adopting a calico. Then when it came to naming the site, I wasn't thinking on puns on her name. The site name came to me while my husband and I were driving back home from having dinner out. It was a quick decision followed by a lot of giggling.
Comment #23: Wednesday, May, 26, 2010 at 00:26:33
This is a wonderful post and so perfect for BEA! Very well written as well. Branding is so important. At least to me it affects more of what I see on Twitter than anywhere else. When someone changes that little picture, their avatar, I get so confused! If I could offer one piece of advice it would be to pick a picture and stick with it! Everything else can change as you go.
I love the story about how you started your blog and your kitty. So great! Thank you!
Comment #24: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 22:58:34
Thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed the post!
I was already branded with the calico avatar I'm using by the time I started my twitter account in April of last year. I wanted to make sure that blogs I comment on regularly would recognize my avatar when I started tweeting.
Comment #25: Wednesday, May, 26, 2010 at 12:03:34
Good points, particularly about not being a slave to your branding!
And thanks for sharing your blog name story. For ages I've vaugly thought you started as someone specializing in fairy tale retellings Puss in Boots becoming Puss Reboots.... and I sort of wondered why there weren't more reviews of this type of book here! Now I know :)
Comment #26: Friday, May 28, 2010 at 22:14:20
Thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed the post!
I'm glad you enjoyed my origin story. I've never specialized in a specific genre.
Comment #27: Thursday, May, 27, 2010 at 13:21:09
Great post. It's making me think about my own branding. Change is always tough for me, though.
Comment #28: Friday, May 28, 2010 at 22:18:32
Long lasting brands evolve slowly over time. You don't need to do something drastic to revitalize your blog. Try to change a little detail and see where it takes you.