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Creating Your Brand Identity for Your Blog with Jen Orcutt

Jen is a brand designer and consultant for a passionate soulful entrepreneurs at White Brick Design Studio. When it comes to design, Jen believes that the key to success is infusing her client’s unique vision and style in to every element of the brand.

In this episode you’ll learn:

    • How to find your brand identity
    • How to get to know your brand and what works for you
    • The importance of having a beautiful and functional website

Click to listen and Subscribe to the Blissful Bites podcast in iTunes to listen to Jen Orcutt

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Tell the listeners about you and what you do.
I am a brand stylist and web designer. Typically, I work with female entrepreneurs, in general but recently I’ve really been working a lot one-on-one with food bloggers specifically. I help them uncover how they want their brand to be showcase to the world, how they can really tapped into their own individual values and how they want their brand to be conveyed and then how we can integrate that into a design that really helps them shine and helps their mission and their vision come to life which is a lot of fun.

You used the word brand identity a lot on your website, can you just break down exactly what that even means?

Brand identity to me, how I define it, is how someone feels when they see your brand. When they see your logo or when they go to your website, how that makes them feel; that is going to be the identity that you create for yourself and for your business.

It’s important to have one because especially as a food blogger, the industry tends to be a little bit saturated. There are a lot of food bloggers, so creating a strong brand identity that is really unique to who you are is so important in terms of separating yourself from others in the industry.

A brand identity, in terms of what it would actually include, is a logo and a color palette and font pairings and really all the different facets of what your brand looks like combining all of those in a way that only you have and only matches with your unique style.

How do you think people can just get started with creating a brand identity if they are trying to do it on their own?

If you want to get started on your own, the first thing you want to do is just browse Pinterest. Pinterest is such a great tool for discovering inspiration, different colors you like, different textures, fonts. Let’s say you tend to be drawn to teals, looking up on pinterest teal colored palettes and just getting a feel for different colors that really speak to you and really resonate with you.

Currently, I’m working on something and I’m going to be launching customize branding kits. What I am doing is I’m building an entire personality quiz that you can take and then based on your results, I’ll send you a branding kit that mimics the results. But in the meantime, definitely browsing Pinterest, getting a feel for colors, fonts, logos that you like, looking at other websites, how they are doing it and then from a design perspective, if you have Photoshop, playing around with that Photoshop is really valuable resource to have even if you are not a designer.

Just, in general, if you are going to be creating your own graphics. I know Canva is another really great resource that’s a free resource if you don’t have Photoshop. But just playing around and really taping into who you are and what appeals to you and the message that you want to convey to your readers.

Where do you think the process starts for knowing your brand a hundred percent and then figuring out your brand identity?

My best advice would be to really get a feel for what your readers respond most to and you can do that just by going through the comments or by sending out questionnaire or survey and just getting a feel for what they really like about your blog and your brand. Engage with them because they are going to be the people that invest or follow your brand, so you want to make sure that it is speaking directly to them.

Surveys are a great way of doing that, contacting them if you have an e-mail list just sending out a quick little e-mail with asking for them to respond. From a design perspective again, if you haven’t established a strong sense of self within your brand, if you’re just going through the motion in order to put out posts and to keep up with the more popular bloggers, then that’s not going to do you any service. I think, number one, you need to be blogging for yourself and uncovering your own identity.

What do you look for most in an effective website and how can you make it more professional and functional?

There are few different things that I recommend to bloggers to really want to separate themselves from a blogger and really transition into a business owner. There’s a big difference there. And you can be a business owner as a blogger however there’s a difference between identifying yourself as just a blogger.

In terms of design, some main things that you want that will really help you become more professional is a landing page. When people click on your website URL taking them to a homepage rather than directly to your blog page. This makes a huge difference because it really allows you to showcase everything that you want your brand to be represented by on that homepage. Some common things that you might want to include in your homepage are an e-mail subscription box.

Let’s say your three most recent or most popular posts, if you have any kind of free incentive that you are offering, you want to plug that up there, your logo, naturally it’s going to be on every page of your website. Just being intentional about where you want your visitors to go when they visit your website.

If you have services that you provide, you want to make sure that there is a big button that links to your service page and any navigation buttons that will link to your most important pages on your site. Showcasing that and strategizing that on your homepage really allows you to dictate where new readers or followers will go and also just from a design standpoint it just looks more professional to have a homepage rather than going directly to your blog page. If you go directly to the blog page that is going to be what your known for, just a blogger.

Even if you do is just blog, there are still other ways that you can market yourself with your homepage to just make it seem more credible. Another thing, getting rid of ads on your site can be really effective because ads tends to slow down your site a lot and it makes it the loading time a lot slower and also the amount of money that typically bloggers make through ads I don’t think is worth the effect that they have on the aesthetic of your site. I think that there are many more ways to make money such as creating a source of passive income like an e-book or an e-course and selling something that you actually created rather than the ads.

Another thing I see often times is on the sidebar, they can get a little messy and have a lot of widgets and features that aren’t necessary. So, if you have the categories, drop downs and then archive’s drop down and then a popular post drop down which is all tends to be redundant, maybe getting rid of one of those categories are great to have but you don’t need all three.

If you have a bunch of sponsorship buttons or badges that aren’t necessarily promoting you in any way or doing anything for you, getting rid of those perhaps. The main thing you want on your sidebar are a main head shot or a photo of you with a brief bio, your social media icons, a sign up subscription box for your e-mail list or your Feedly accounts, any kind of free offering that your providing or any e-books or source of passive income that you are providing, an ad for that, and then a category’s drop down and that’s really the main features that you should have on your site. Other than that everything should be supporting you in some way. If it’s not then I don’t think that its necessary.

Creating your brand identity

What tips do you have for marketing yourself?

The first thing I always tell myself when I’m marketing myself is doing it in a way that makes it customer based rather than me based. That means that marketing yourself in a way that you really showing that you want to help the customer and the consumer, you are not doing this for yourself you’re doing it for them. I’ll always say note the difference in these two marketing pitches. No one would say, “Buy this e-book from me,” or say “I created this e-book to help you…”

Making it focused on the client and how you created this for them rather than for yourself which is what you ultimately did and marketing yourself in that way will make clients or customers feel a lot more comfortable and a lot more willing to invest in you. It’s just one of those things that you have to just do and trust that you have to do it and not get so caught up in your head and just kind of go through the motions of it.

Is there any last tip you want to share maybe something that you think is an absolute must have for your blog?
If your purpose is to get more followers which tends to be for bloggers, I think the best thing that you should have in your website is some kind of free incentive, free opt in and then marketing that very high up on your homepage. Having a newsletter subscription box with some kind of marketing copy for your free incentive and then having people sign up directly that I think is really important to get more followers and if you are having trouble of thinking something especially if you’re a food blogger you could do a meal plan guide or a grocery list guide even tips for food photography if you want to be speaking to other food bloggers. Just having some kind of one page free PDF, it doesn’t have to be anything crazy.

Tell everyone where they can find you.
You can find me at WhiteBrickDesignStudio.com and that’s where you will be able to navigate all my design services. You can find me in screen-shot-2016-12-05-at-9-36-43-amInstagram too @whitebrickdesignstudio.

Jen is a brand designer and consultant for a passionate soulful entrepreneurs at White Brick Design Studio. When it comes to design, Jen believes that the key to success is infusing her client’s unique vision and style in to every element of the brand.

Find Jen!

Together We Grow with Amanda Brooks

Today’s post is all about growing your business on social media. Our guest today, Amanda Brooks, shares her strategies to growing her blog and business. Over the last few years she is doubled her readers and following on each social media platform without pulling her hair out. She’s created the lifestyle she wanted thru following her passions, making the right choices surrounding her brand and strategy.

Did you have a particular growth strategy to building your social media accounts?

I’m someone who loves research, so I will read everything there is and anything that I can get my hands on. I researched some of the tactics and strategies that people were using and if I’m spending the time pouring my heart and soul and effort into writing blog posts that I think are actually valuable, I need to get them out there. I need more people to read them otherwise why am I doing this? One of the things for me that I knew even before I started was together we grow. Too many entrepreneurs and bloggers come at things from a very competitive attitude and I just don’t believe in that. There are enough readers for all of us, so I love sharing other people’s great content and that paid off for me. I think sharing other people’s work was key. Another one was really just taking the time every once in a while to read some of the latest industry news on what tactics are working and then continuing to test the map.

What was the social media platform that really launched your blog growth?

I have done pretty well on Twitter for a very long time but I think Pinterest has really evolutionized blogging in the last few years. The amount of traffic that it drives is mind blowing and I’m a little terrified if we ever stop using it.

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Amanda Brooks

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Do you have 3 quick tips to maximize people use in Pinterest?

    1. Make sure you’re using vertical pins. You can have the most beautiful food picture but if it’s horizontal when someone is scrolling through Pinterest, it just doesn’t grab their attention.
    2. Re-pin other people’s content. People want to follow people who are sharing great content. If all you’re doing is pinning one blog post per day from your website, you’re not building a Pinterst board that people want to follow.
    3. Pinning at the right time of day. There is a number of studies that show that the evening is when people tend to be on Pinterest, so that’s when you want to be putting your best stuff into their feed.

 

Do you have a Pinterest scheduling tool that you like?

I use Ahalogy and got in when it first started.

What do you think is the most underutilized tool that entrepreneurs need to babe using?

I really think that tracking and scheduling are sort of huge things. When I say tracking I mean setting up a spreadsheet where you literally track every dime that comes in to you. You track it from the perspective of what did you receive as a service? What did you receive as a product? What did you receive in terms of actual cash money. I think just seeing that every month is super helpful to keep you in the mindset of making money. You can think about how much you could make or should you be charging more if you have a different goal. Track that right along with your expenses, so that you know if you’re really over investing before you’re bringing enough income.

Do you have any suggestions how to craft the pitch?

In the early days I pitched brands like crazy because I knew that working with brands was (at the time) one of the fastest ways for me to grow. I think what’s key is look around at what brands are already sponsoring other people. It means they’re open to the idea. Consider what brands you truly absolutely love and talk about. When you first write to them make that clear and even provide them a link to a place where you already talked about them because 8 million people are reaching out to them. Instead of focusing on your numbers especially if you’re a smaller blogger you reach out to them, “Here is my audience and here’s how it’s going to benefit you if I talk about you.” I think that’s the biggest key from any PR person is when they get your email what do they want to know? They want to know how it’s going to benefit them to work with you, not how it benefits you.

How has what you do change over the past few years?

Definitely my writing style has evolved over the years. For a while I looked at what some of the big blogs were doing. They were sharing their personal day to day or what they  ate and I tried that a little bit and then I tried doing very specific reviews of a product and those things didn’t feel quite right to me. I started looking around and realized there was really a couple specific types of content that people love to share. They love to share things that are educational, they love to share things that are funny and they love to share things that really set them apart in some kind of light, whether it’s showing that they’re an expert or something that’s emotional and really connects with them. I started focusing on that and thinking about that every time I went to write a post.  I started posting less and by posting less I got more readers, I got more shares and my actual views went up quite a bit.

What is the best way to make money on your website and just online general?

There are the ads on the side, those might be very small income until you start driving more traffic but it’s a way to get started. Working with brand sponsors is a great tool if you can figure out what it means for you. What I mean by that is do you want to be a site that just does reviews? You can absolutely do that all day long. For me when I work with the brand I still like it to be a very informational post.

How can we maximize our time without feel like we’re spinning our wheels?

I think the key is not feeling like you need to do it all. Figure out which platforms you enjoy and which platforms are actually driving you traffic. Get really, really good at one of them and you can start to leverage that one to grow another.

What works best for you?

Pinterest, like I said, is absolutely the top traffic driver. I love the interaction though that comes from Instagram now.

Do you have a few tips on how to grow your following on Instagram?

One is to look at why people follow you. In my case, obviously I write about running, my channel needs to be all about running and fitness. If I randomly post the photo of my cat, it’s all right but if I do a whole bunch of cat photos and random here’s my kitchen and here’s this and here’s that, people are confused. That’s not why they followed me so when they find your photo because you’ve used a great hash tag and then they looked at your feed and then they’re like, “Wait a second. She was talking about food and has this beautiful food photo but the rest of her feed is like her kids and her cats why would I follow her?” Now Instagam has made it easier to have multiple accounts if you want to be able to share photos of your kids and stuff maybe you’ll have a personal account and then you have an account specifically for your business and it’s focused entirely around whatever your topic is. That is huge for growth.

What about hashtags? Do you think you should be using them and how you should go about finding them?

Hashtags are key for Instagram; it’s how people find each other and how they figure out who to follow. One of the things you can do is look at someone in your niche who is doing well, see what hash tags they’re using and start using them. I try to rotate through different hashtags so that I’m not using the exact same ones all of the time. I have a note file on my phone so that I can copy paste the hashtags and put them in. I don’t have to remember them off the top of my head.

What is your social media pet peeve?

It’s the automated message when I follow someone on Twitter that says, “Hey! Thanks for following me. You can connect with me here, here and here…” It really, really bothers me and I always immediately unfollow them.

Why do you think people need to have an editorial calendar as opposed to just flying by the seat of their pants?

When I am brainstorming ideas it allows me to write things down. I can easily build on something that pops up here or there, so I’m never forgetting all of those ideas. It also helps me to stay on track if I’m doing sponsored posts. I know exactly what day it’s due so that I’m not working on it the night before.

What does balance really mean to you?

I don’t believe in traditional balance. Because balance for most us means that every day is this perfect ideal world of I spend exactly this much time working, exactly this much time with family. You have phases where you have a big project and you might be working lot. You have phases where things are easier and so you could step back and really invest in time with friends and family. For me balance is looking at things as a whole whether it’s food (“Did I generally eat well this week?”) or whether it is work. So, finding that space of knowing what’s your priority right now and leaning into those periods when you are a little bit less busy. It’s really easy as someone who works for yourself to just make yourself always busy. It’s choosing to see those moments where you can step back and really utilizing them to enjoy the life that you’ve wanted to create.

How do you manage the juggle?

Juggling for me is a matter of priorities. I have a notebook and every day I write down what I call my sacred 6. I write down 6 things that absolutely must happen that day and everything else if it doesn’t happen, that’s just life. My sacred 6 might include meditating and running.  I’ll look at what are 4 things that are going to move me forward in my business today because it’s super easy to get bogged down in the 8 million things that we need to do. If I can break it down to just focusing on these individual things today then I’ll know I’ve done what I need to do and tomorrow I can keep going from there.

How do you manage to stay healthy while you’re traveling so much?

Travel is never an excuse to skip a workout, it’s actually the best reason to work out. I love running in new places even when I’m on press trips, which means that your time is not your own. I will find ways to get up early or after dinner to go run because I know it’s going to give me more energy. It’s exciting to see a new place in a different way. I also really make sleep important.

What is the one thing you want our listeners to know about building a brand?

I think one of the things that is really key is to decide what you want to focus on. As soon as you decide who you’re writing for and what topic you really want to become an expert at that’s when you’ll start to see growth.

CLICK to listen to Amanda Brooks from Runtothefinish.com on the Blissful Bites Podcast in iTunes

Amanda is an eight time marathon finisher who has turned her passion for running into an online business through her blog amanda brooksRunToTheFinish.com which has become a destination for running tips, motivation and nutrition advice. Over the last few years, she has doubled her readers and followings on each social platform without pulling her hair out! She’s created the lifestyle she wanted through following her passions and making the right choices surrounding branding and strategy.

Amanda provides digital strategy coaching to fellow bloggers looking to create a stable income from their site and grow their following on social media. Learn more about her services here.

 

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Amanda Brooks