Monday, August 3, 2009

Book Blogs and Branding

A few days ago I read this article online, about the importance of building a personal brand for yourself (and your business, if you have one) online, to create a consistent online presence, market your product or service and make a name for yourself in the online world.

I started thinking about how the idea of personal branding might apply to blogging in general, and book blogging particular. We all choose a particular way to present ourselves online, through our blog layout and color scheme, the choice to use or not use custom graphics and how or if we use those graphics and color scheme on other social networking platforms like Facebook or Twitter. We also make decisions about how to represent the content we create; some bloggers let it be known that they specialize in certain kinds of books, like young adult or faith-based (whatever that faith may be) or science fiction or romance or whatnot.

My own blog branding grew slowly over time; when I started my blog, it had a different name, a Blogspot URL and a generic layout. Soon after I started I realized I needed a better name than the one I started with, so I changed it and decided to buy a domain name and with it a matching email address, so I could start to develop that consistent, branded presence. After that came the long search for graphics that suited my vision of the blog. I wanted something snappy and (somewhat) cool, something that wasn't on every other blog. I spent a long time searching for templates, then searching for someone who could make a template for me, then finally ended up doing the DIY thing and buying a license for pre-made artwork which I could customize.

After I got the look of the blog down I had to figure out how to promote it better, and started doing memes and getting involved with other online tools, starting with MySpace and going from there. Meanwhile I continued to write and post (even though for a long time I was the only person reading) and work on figuring out my blog's identity. The license I have for the logo artwork allows me to use it on business cards and other promotional items, so I've been able to use my online identity off-line as well. And of course it's always evolving, as long as online trends come and go and today's essential tool ends becomes tomorrow's has-been.

Now as I approach two years of book blogging this month, I'm trying to figure out where to go from here, and I'm wondering what you all are doing to build and promote your personal brand- or if you think it's even necessary, given your own goals and reasons for blogging. I know we all blog about books because we love to read, but what are some other reasons- what else keeps you going, and how do you work towards meeting those goals? Is your blog your business card? Your resume? Your calling card to friends and family?

My family doesn't read my blog (as far as I know) so mine has evolved into a combination of personal hobby and professional calling card. I'm constantly trying to figure out if it's more personal or more professional. On one hand, I review pretty much everything I read, which makes it more personal- I'm not just reviewing books I read for work, or books in a particular category. On the other hand, I try to keep the tone at a certain level and I don't talk about myself or my personal life much because I publicize the blog to people I know professionally and I don't want to be too casual or familiar.

It's hard to know where the balance is sometimes, and it's something I'm always working on. In the end I think because I'm genuinely interested in the work I do the personal and the professional blend together quite well, and I know that even when I'm no longer working where I'm working, I'll keep reading what I'm reading. Maybe something new will be added to the mix, and the blog will change too. We'll see.