Whether you are building a professional online identity or satisfying your creative itch with a personal blog, branding is an integral part of building a successful online presence. In this post I discuss how branding considerations drove choices I made as I began building my online presence.
Your Domain: The Beginning of Your Brand
I occasionally see interesting sites hosted on a blogging platform’s default domain, e.g., myincredibleblog.wordpress.com (not a real site) and wonder if the blogger is aware of how easy and inexpensive it is to register his or her own domain name. If you’re going to pour your soul into your blog, why not invest in a fully qualified name for it? By branding your efforts as myincredibleblog.com instead of myincredibleblog.wordpress.com, you’re sending your readers a signal that you are serious about your online presence, that it’s not just a short-term experiment. (By the way: myincredibleblog.com is available as of this writing, 2012-09-05, if someone wants to register it…)
A domain registration typically costs between $10 and $30 per year depending on whether you buy extra services such as domain privacy. Many blogging platforms such as WordPress.com or Google Blogger (BlogSpot) will register a custom domain for you—search their help pages for details. If you need or want to use an independent domain registrar, namecheap.com gets good reviews.
I consciously made branding part of the development of my blog and associated online efforts. My first branding effort went into getting a meaningful domain name. I went through several iterations before finding a domain name that satisfied me. My first attempt was TechTravel.me, which suitably described my twin passions of technology and travel. Unfortunately, it didn’t take me long to decide that “.me” was less credible than “.com” for an industry/professional blog. Dot.com domain names will probably decrease in importance in the future as ICANN dramatically expands the number of generic top level domains, but for now a dot.com name suggest that your site is a serious endeavor.
Finding a short meaningful dot.com name consisting of 1-3 common English words/abbreviations is challenging these days—it seems like most of the good ones are already registered. Unless you are willing and able to pay big money to the current owner of a catchy domain name you will have to be creative to come up with an available name. I tried dozens of combinations of technology and travel terms to find an available name—not easy given the popularity of technology and travel sites. When I found that TechTravelReview.com was available, I took it, but after a while I decided I needed something different. I wanted something shorter and a bit more abstract—that would let me tweak my brand as my objectives evolved. I finally settled on TCTReview.com because it was available, reasonably short and could be flexible in meaning. Initially, TCT serves as a mnemonic for Technology and Travel. As a bonus, my initials are TC, so people might also remember the domain name as a mnemonic for “Thomas Crook’s Tech Review” or “Thomas Crook’s Travel Review.”
Logos, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and More: Consistency and Leverage
Use a logo to reinforce your online brand. To associate a logo with my brand, I decided to build the logo out of the brand letters TCT. There are many ways to associate brands and logos, but reusing the first three letters was easy and didn’t require a professional designer to implement.
If you’re aiming to build a comprehensive online presence, you’ll need to include Twitter as part of your strategy. When I registered a Twitter account, I used @TCTReview for the username and reused the TCT logo to maintain consistent branding. I also created a Twitter account in my own name, @ThomasJCrook, to serve as a search destination for friends and professional colleagues who may not know about TCTReview. I use the bio section of my @ThomasJCrook Twitter profile to refer people to @TCTReview and TCTReview.com.
So far I have chosen not to create a TCTReview branded Facebook account, for a couple of reasons.
- TCTReview.com is largely updated on my own time and I don’t want to spread that time too thin. I don’t have time to keep both my blog and a branded Facebook page up to date and do a good job. If TCTreview were my full-time occupation, I would definitely have a branded Facebook account—the network effect of Facebook is too great to ignore if you have the resources to leverage it.
- I can still use my personal Facebook page for the purpose of flogging my blog and building the TCTReview brand. “Thomas Crook” is the primary brand my family and close friends will always associate with me but they will read TCTReview posts that I publicize on my personal Facebook page.
LinkedIn is where I maintain my professional identity. It’s also a great place to promote my online brand. I ensured that my public LinkedIn profile has links to my TCTReview blog and my @TCTReview twitter account. I changed my LinkedIn public profile settings to include my summary information, because my professional experience lends credibility to my blog. As with Facebook, after I publish a new entry to my blog, I always post a link to it on LinkedIn.
In Branding Your Online Presence Part I, I’ve covered common steps most people who are looking to build an online brand will want to follow. Coming soon in Part II I’ll cover an optional but cool step you might want to consider: Setting up your own custom Short URL Domain to Reinforce Your Brand.