blogging for personal branding

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Blog Your Brand : 

Blog Your Brand Trisha Okubo Disruptive Innovator, eBay 10 Steps to Building Your Brand by Blogging

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Hi, I’m Trisha Okubo. By day, I’m a Disruptive Innovator at eBay, where my work focuses on social commerce. (If anyone wants to chat about social networking and eCommerce, let’s dish after this session!)

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By night, I’m the founder and editor of a Top 3 Fashion Blog: Omiru: Style for All

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And since Omiru’s founding,

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We’ve written well over a thousand posts, What to Wear for Girls Night Out at the Club How to Wear Fishnet Stockings without Looking Trashy How to Fit Jeans into Knee-High Boots How to Fly in Style How to Wear a Short Sleeved Blazer Professional Style 101 5 Questions with Constance White, eBay Style Director Street Style: Boston Ready Made Outfit: Trenchcoats for Every Occasion Men's Trend Alert: Summer Plaids Fashion over Fifty: Five Style Tips What to Wear to a Casual No-Tie Wedding Q&A: What’s the Ideal Shirt Length for a Man? Q&A: What to Wear to the Company Holiday Party How to Stop Static From Ruining Your Outfit …

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Helped hundreds of readers who write in with style questions, “ What should I wear and where can I find clothes for a summer, European Honeymoon?”

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and built a loyal community of readers who trade fashion tips. “I just found out I’m pregnant, and I’m excited about buying clothes to fit my growing belly. Can you give me some inspiration?” - Vickie “Target has a fabulous line of clothing from designer Liz Lange. In fact, I’m jealous - I wish they made some of her designs for us non-pregnant women!” - Kate

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I’ve done style expert videos for Yahoo! Health/Capessa and SheZoom, Talking about things like…

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Fashion for Figure Flattery (Great for Petites!)

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How to Accessorize

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What to Wear to Work

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Through Omiru, I’ve also been recognized by mainstream media.

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We’ve also done radio segments for a prominent radio station in Richmond, VA. Random!

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Now, three years after founding Omiru, I’m a sought-after style expert, specializing in real style for real people.

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Today, using Omiru as a case study, I’m going to share with you: 10 Steps to Building Your Brand through Blogging

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I’m going to share the story of Omiru: from picking a topic, to creating and enhancing content, to relationship building and distribution, and finally to fostering community.

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But first, I’d like to address the somewhat negative connotation surrounding personal branding (aka self promotion).

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Self promotion gets a bad reputation because it’s often practiced at the expense of others.

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We call someone “self promotional” when their message helps them— but doesn’t help others.

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But self promotion doesn’t have to be bad.

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In fact, it can be used for Good.

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And you can use self promotion for Good when you provide value to your audience.

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So let’s do just that. Provide value and spread the word. How do you do this?

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No. 1 Pick a Topic that’s Uniquely You

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Back in the day, Microsoft asked: Where do you want to go today?

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If you’re blogging to build your reputation, the first step is to focus in on an area of expertise.

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Think about where you’ve been in life. (aka your experience) Now { Experience }

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Think about where you want to go in life. (aka your future) Now { Future }

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Think about your passion.

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For me, it made sense to focus on fashion.

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I’ve always harbored a love of style,

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I went to fashion school in the evenings during college,

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And I’ve done a lot of fashion consulting. (so if you want some style tips, find me after the session)

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But fashion as a topic was way too broad.

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How broad— or how narrow to go?

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This is the Goldilocks Question.

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You don’t want a topic that’s too broad… (e.g. technology companies)

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Or too narrow… (e.g. technology companies in Mountain View that heart dogs at work)

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You want a topic that’s Just Right. (e.g. technology companies that are likely to ride out the bust)

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If you’re building reputation, the ideal topic is broad enough to be interesting

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But also focused enough so that you’re the Best at Something.

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Maybe it’s being the keeper of the Cutest Pet Photos Online.

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Maybe it’s being the most distinguished chocolate connoisseur.

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Maybe it’s being the sharpest LOST commentator.

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Whatever your topic is, you should aim to…

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No. 2 Stand for Something Real

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A blog is easy to start, but it’s hard to maintain.

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Somewhere between 60 and 80 percent of blogs are abandoned within one month.

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Why is blogging so hard?

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In between all of your other commitments,

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…and Life

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You’re going to have to find the time and energy to maintain the blog.

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Plus, you’re going to have to find new stuff to write about every day.

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Long story short— If you don’t love it, don’t blog about it.

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Where possible and where appropriate, create a new category.

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But isn’t it hard to create a new category?

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Sure it is.

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If it weren’t hard, everyone would be doing it.

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(But on the flip side, it’s easier to stand out if you’re in a category of one.) 1

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Tim Ferriss did this brilliantly.

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He wasn’t quite in the career category…

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Or in the work-life category.

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So he created a whole new category: Lifestyle Design.

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Not only was this a more accurate description, But it also made him a creator

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Instead of an imitator.

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But back to the main point of standing for something real.

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There are tons of blogs out there, with tons of voices.

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So do your research to explore the other blogs in your space.

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And then focus your topic so that you’re the: best (or the only) blog in your area.

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At this point, you should be able to distill your blog topic into a single short sentence.

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An elevator pitch, if you will.

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As for Omiru, I needed to narrow down the fashion topic.

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At the time, I was a recent college grad, and I didn’t have a whole lot of cash. $

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And regardless, I didn’t want to spend my entire paycheck on fashion.

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My other fashion challenge?

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And to add insult to injury, I have no waist.

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But my financial situation and my figure flattery issues gave me my blog topic.

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Real Style for Real People Great fashion for everybody, regardless of financial situation, or personal architecture.

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Once you have your topic, it’s time to start writing great content.

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How do you do this?

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No. 3 Be Newsworthy

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I currently work at in ecommerce, but my background is in media.

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Traditional media has its challenges ahead,

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But it knows something really important.

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They know what will get your attention and what won’t make you turn your head.

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In other words, what’s newsworthy and what’s not.

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What makes something newsworthy?

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#1: Timing

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People don’t want old news. They want new news! (probably why its called “news”)

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They want the latest update in a story, a meme that’s particularly on-trend.

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#2: Significance

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How many people does the story affect?

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Tons of people?

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Or just a few?

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(there’s no shortage of guys who need to dress to go out) Fashion for short ppl SS

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#3: Proximity

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The closer people are to a story, the more interesting it is.

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San Francisco Fashion >> Boston Fashion

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But it’s not all about geography.

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It’s about how much you can relate to the story.

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For me, petite fashion is more interesting than regular fashion.

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#4: Prominence

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When possible, and where appropriate, write about well known personalities.

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It’s more interesting for readers to hear about the fashion from

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Than it is to hear about what I wore to work yesterday.

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#5: Human Interest

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Here, the key is to appeal to emotion.

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Think of things that are off the beaten path, personal stories, and profiles.

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Timing, Significance, Proximity, Prominence, and Human Interest are the standard criteria for newsworthiness.

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But since you guys are so awesome, you get an extra one.

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(#6:) News You Can Use

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This is where most of Omiru’s stories fall.

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We share How to Mix and Match Patterns, +

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But there are tons of other newsworthy media sources out there, both mainstream media and blogs.

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Newsworthiness is part of the price of entrance to building a personal brand via blogging.

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It’s necessary, but not sufficient.

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You need to be more than newsworthy. You need to…

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No. 4 Be Awesome!

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But how do you be Awesome?

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After all, we can’t all be Barney. Photo Credit: CBS

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Ask yourself: What Would Aretha Do? (WWAD)

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Give your audience R-E-S-P-E-C-T!

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Respect their intelligence by discussing what’s important to them.

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Respect their time by being concise.

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Respect their views by engaging them in dialogue.

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Respect them by going above and beyond the call of duty.

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A few simple ways we try to be Awesome at Omiru:

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Only Relevant Ads

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Readers Help Drive the Editorial Calendar

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In order to find the awesome things that work, you’ll also find a lot of things that don’t work…

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What to do?

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No. 5 Create a Stoplist

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It’s no secret that we live in a time starved society.

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We all have stuff to do.

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Jobs to go to.

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No matter how passionate you are, you only have a limited amount of time.

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So what do you do?

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Prioritize the stuff you’re doing, and create a stoplist.

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The stoplist is just what it sounds like. A list of things you stop doing.

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(Not stuff you’re doing less. It’s stuff that you cut out completely.)

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Stop doing the things that suck your time away from meaningful, effective things.

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Easier said than done.

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But you can do it.

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Write down all the things you’re doing for your blog on a piece of paper. 1. 2. 3. …

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ID the things that are actively helping you, +

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And the things that aren’t. _

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And then stop doing the things that aren’t helping you. _

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For Omiru, one of those things was actually Social Bookmarking buttons.

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Bloggers (and other publishers) often add buttons for social bookmarking sites like:

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They provide an easy way for readers to bookmark/share your posts— so your content spreads more easily online.

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I added these buttons to posts, but Omiru readers didn’t use them.

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This doesn’t mean that social bookmarking doesn’t work.

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But it depends on your audience.

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(And if your audience doesn’t like it, don’t force it.)

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Once you’ve created your stoplist (and stopped doing things that don’t matter), it’s time to look outside your blog to…

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No. 6 Build Real Relationships

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As bloggers, we don’t exist in a vacuum.

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We can be competitive and closed off, or we can choose to be open and friendly.

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I’d advocate for open and friendly :)

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If you did your homework and chose a topic that’s focused (and one that you’re uniquely suited to write about)

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Chances are, you and your fellow bloggers are writing about different enough things.

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And even if you aren’t, I still think it’s beneficial to be friendly.

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You have more to gain than you have to lose.

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Links from Blogrolls and Link Posts

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Someone to bounce ideas off of.

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Advice from other bloggers

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Introductions to people in your field. I’d like to you to meet….

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Then again, what you get is a function of what you give. f(give) = get

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So how do you build relationships? (i.e. how do you start giving?)

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A couple of best practices:

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Actively participate on other blogs. Especially before asking for a link or any favors. (Oh, and down with form letters.)

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Do other bloggers favors.

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If you know another blogger is looking to borrow a set of Pantone swatches, let her borrow your set.

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Once you’ve built those relationships, you can share opportunities.

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If there’s a paid gig I don’t have the time for, I’ll refer one of my blog friends.

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And if I’m doing press interviews, where appropriate, I’ll refer reporters to them.

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And they do the same.

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That’s how I got the WSJ interview. Elisa Camahort (BlogHer) referred the reporter to me.

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But in order to build Real Relationships, you need to do more than email and chat with them online… OMG! I did not just see that...

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No. 7 Meet People in Person

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Why is it important to meet people in person?

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Well, who are you closer to?

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People you hang out with online…

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So whenever I get the chance, I meet up with my blogger friends.

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During New York Fashion Week, we meet up…

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Have drinks

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Dish about fashion What do you think about Marc’s Spring line?

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And blog together as the models come down the runway. (Look, florals are back!)

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Shared experiences lead to closer relationships.

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So when it comes time to refer another blogger, who am I going to call?

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That’s right. The people I hang out with in person.

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But by meeting people in person, you’re building relationships 1:1, which isn’t so scalable.

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How do you scale?

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No. 8 Make it Easy to Spread the Word

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As a personal branding blogger, you’re always looking to grow your audience.

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You can do this in two main ways:

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(1) Spreading the word yourself, or

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(2) Having your fans help you spread the word.

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For your fans to help spread the word, you need

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Something worth sharing, (but you’re already creating awesome, newsworthy content, right?) Awesomeness!

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And an easy way for fans to share.

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What are some things that make content easy to share?

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RSS helps readers get your content wherever is most convenient for them.

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And while we’re on the subject, there’s a debate between full text and partial text.

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Full text is more satisfying for the reader,

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But partial text encourages readers to come back to your site.

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We chose full text so that readers can get Omiru articles however is most convenient.

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Why? Our philosophy is that we’re looking to build an audience, not just traffic for Omiru.

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Email Newsletter

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Again, we like to empower readers to read Omiru however they like to.

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Email newsletters still work well, especially among communities that aren’t big on RSS (e.g. fashion).

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I have to admit— Omiru doesn’t have an email newsletter yet, but it’s the next thing we’re adding.

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We get requests for email newsletters all the time. It’s the second most requested feature. Hey, I love Omiru! Do you guys have an email newsletter?

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A couple of Email Newsletter Best Practices:

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SAMPLE (1) Let people know what they’re signing up for. Show an example newsletter up front.

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(2) Encourage signups by giving something away free upon signup (e.g. an informational PDF).

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P.S. Social Bookmarking also falls underneath this category of tools to make content easy to share.

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It didn’t really work for Omiru’s audience.

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But the idea of social bookmarking is extremely powerful for the right audience.

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Speaking of sharing content off of your site, part of a sound blog strategy is to….

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No. 9 Create Community Wherever You Go

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Some bloggers are tweaked that community is happening around their content on other sites.

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But IMHO, that’s an old-school way of thinking.

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Sure, you don’t want your content stolen.

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Or reposted without attribution.

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But if conversation is happening around your attributed content on another site, It’s better than no conversation (or less) happening at all.

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Think about it this way. Where’s your potential audience?

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They’re a lot of different places.

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They’re on your site.

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But they’re also on similar sites.

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And related sites.

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And really, all over the Internet.

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So, why force them to come to you?

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Why not help them out? By going to where they are.

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How might you do this?

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(1) Guest write for other sites

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I do this on BlogHer, where I serve as a Fashion & Shopping Contributing Editor

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(And in fact, some of Omiru’s writers are guest blogging to create more awareness for their own sites.)

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(2) Build Your Social Network Presence

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Create a profile on the appropriate major social networks.

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On Facebook, you can import your blog posts via Facebook Notes.

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And while you can’t edit your posts,

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You can share them easily with friends.

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And even tag people in your posts. (Don’t spam!)

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As for your profile page, populate it with extra content that’s not on your site.

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After all, if there were no goodies there, why would someone come visit your page?

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It’s even more important for a personal branding blogger to add this extra content.

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It gives you the opportunity to talk about yourself— and why you’re passionate about your topic.

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It’s an opportunity to share stories.

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Like your quest to find the Perfect Pair of Jeans.

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Or the crazy backstage interview you had at Fashion Week where you witnessed a model meltdown.

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But traditional social networks aren’t the only places to build your presence.

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(3) Participate on other Social Sites

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A couple that I use personally are FriendFeed and Polyvore. (who, incidentally, share a workspace in Mountain View)

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On FriendFeed, you can automatically import your blog posts to be shared with your friends.

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And the beauty of it is that conversations can happen around this content.

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Added bonus? They’re pretty high-quality conversations (at least right now).

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Plus, you can gain new readers…. not only friends, but friends of friends, and friends of those friends..

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Polyvore is another cool site that I use to build community around Omiru.

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It’s a web application that allows you to mashup images from around the web.

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I use it for creating outfits, mixing and matching clothes from different online stores.

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And I can dish about fashion with the community, sharing fashion advice and outfit ideas.

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You might be thinking, these tips are all well and good (common sense, even) but will they work for me right now?

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Chances are, yes. But you have to…

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No. 10 Be Patient

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Overnight successes are very rare,

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And overnight success stories are often not overnight at all.

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I’ve been working on Omiru for three years.

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And for Omiru, community is still a work in progress.

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We have a community of regulars who are really passionate about affordable, feel-great fashion.

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Readers help each other out: they dish about fashion dilemmas, they share style tips, and they talk about their experiences.

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How did this happen?

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Shared Passion

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This goes way back to the beginning: Choosing a blog topic. If you’re passionate about something, it shows.

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And other people, especially those who share your views, are drawn to it.

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And passion breeds interaction—and community.

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My main point about community?

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Community isn’t something you do. It’s something that happens.

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There’s no secret recipe for community.

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And you don’t go out and “build” a community like you build a product.

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It just doesn’t work like that.

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What you can do, though, is to lay the foundations for community to grow.

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And you lay these foundations by…

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No. 1 Pick a Topic that’s Uniquely You

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No. 2 Stand for Something Real

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No. 3 Be Newsworthy

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No. 4 Be Awesome!

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No. 5 Create a Stoplist

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No. 6 Build Real Relationships

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No. 7 Meet People in Person

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No. 8 Make it Easy to Spread the Word

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No. 9 Create Community Wherever You Go

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No. 10 Be Patient

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What now?

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Do you have something you’re passionate about?

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Something meaningful?

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Something worthwhile?

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(I bet you do!)

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So go on, start your own blog. Or take your existing blog to the next level.

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