If there’s one thing you could argue is more important than your startup’s brand it’s your personal brand as a founder and entrepreneur. This is the brand that will transcend whatever companies you start or work for, and will be with you until the end of your career. Establishing your personal brand is hard work though, because it doesn’t start tomorrow, it started yesterday, and it’s an ongoing process.
So what’s the right way to go about it? How do you establish yourself as an authority or thoughtleader in your respective industry? It’s a multi-faceted answer sure, but one strategy I’d like to explore in this post is that of blogging.
So what exactly is a blog? According to the good old Google machine, a blog (noun) is “a personal website or web page on which an individual records opinions, links to other sites, etc. on a regular basis.” In essence, it’s a way of displaying any information you wish to share with an audience… “on a regular basis” — I can’t stress that last part enough.
“Blogging kickstarted my career,” Brian Krogsgard, founder of WordPress curated news site Post Status, told the audience at WordCamp Cape Town 2013. Krogsgard is just one example of many entrepreneurs who have done well to embed themselves into a community through the use of a blog. Just take a look at someone like ex-founder of WooThemes Adii Pienaar, whose personal blogreportedly brings in about 10 000 unique visitors every month. These are entrepreneurs whose respective startups imbue a level of reputation sure, but I would argue it’s their smart use of blogging that takes them into the realm of “authority”.
Before authority there is community
For Krogsgard, he started learning about WordPress development from blogs before he was even in the industry. Before you are established, you can not only learn, but you can “pay it forward,” says Krogsgard. Find the key players in your industry online, find their own blogs and the blogs they are active on, and start communicating. It’s about increasing your online presence while leveraging the reputation others have already built up. If what you have to say adds value, you should see results. But remember, the more active you are the better — it’s that regular basis thing again.
This is how you can begin to ingrain yourself into a community.
Patience my young Padawan
Once you are “in” the community, you can start using blogging to advance your position in the industry. Cultivate your network by passing on the information you have learned (from working on your own startup) — but be true to who you are. If you know everything about failure, write about failure, if you know everything about mobile, write the hell out of mobile. You have to become part of the conversation. Think of your blog as an auxiliary tool — one that allows to you share what you learn along the way on your entrepreneurial journey. However, don’t be afraid to admit when you don’t know something. For Krogsgard, you have to be confident that you can teach other people, and the writing gets faster and easier the more you do it.
But, “authority does not come overnight” warns Krogsgard. It took him two to three years before he started to reap the rewards of all his hard work. So engage, but don’t expect overnight success.
“It’s not about the traffic. It’s about your passion.”
Krogsgard says you shouldn’t be discouraged if you aren’t getting thousands of unique visitors every day. What’s more important is the kind of traffic you are getting. If you are being read by leading people in your industry, you’re probably on to something. If you are writing on programming, are developers reading your blog? If you’re writing on markets, are investors reading it? The type of visitors is far more telling than simply how many visitors.
Find the people
Here’s a pro tip. Krogsgard advises that you should identify the people who share your content — identify your advocates. If you can get to know your community by person then you can create relationships, which helps to continue establishing yourself as an authority — even if this is done one person at a time. The more personal the relationships you form, the more straightforward and honest you can be.
Tips for running your blog
Here are some timeless tips for the successful running of your blog that Krogsgard gave at WordCamp Cape Town 2013:
- Accuracy trumps everything. Be factual, don’t spread rumours. Do your research.
- Focus on strong content, page views will follow.
- Search engines matter. Make sure your theme and plugins aid, not hamper this.
- Have a strong mix of “evergreen” and timely content.
- You can’t predict what will be popular.
- Ask people to share. You’ll be surprised what asking will do.
- Don’t be afraid to just be a blog. You don’t have to become a magazine.
- Monitor your growth and make content changes from what you learn.
- Give thanks to those that helped you along the way.
Blogging can help create more opportunities within your industry. You never know when you might be asked to speak at an event, write a guest post for a publication you hold in high regard, or perhaps even write a book on your field of expertise. Be authentic, be patient, start today and remember write… “on a regular basis.”