Branding & Establishing Your Online Community | #TheMomBlogCollective WEEK 2

Happy Tuesday!! Hope you all had a wonderful weekend! We had a lifestyle session on Friday night and then took a day trip to one of our fav little towns, did some antiquing had a picnic on the river on Saturday. Sunday was a lazy day spent at home, which was just what we needed on a rainy day. We finished the night with big bowls of chicken chili and movies.

 If you missed my post two weeks ago, I shared a bit about a new series I've started on my blog called #TheMomBlogCollective; a handful of my favorite bloggers and I have teamed up to write blog posts twice a month, answering all the questions we get most often related to blogging, instagram, photography, collaborations, motherhood and more. You can find the first post in the series here. You can also search the #TheMomBlogCollective on instagram to find all the other posts sharing on these topics twice a month as well!

{Pretty much the perfect capture of our family; Olivia cheering and excited about something, Poppy clapping for herself and Adaline just a little unsure of what she has gotten herself into}

This week is all about establishing your brand and building an online community. Creating a well-known brand and building an engaged community are two keys to creating a successful blog and instagram and really being able to do a lot with both -- such as collaborate with other bloggers & companies, promote products, get paid to blog and more.

In the Week 1 post, I shared my top 5 tips on starting a blog and instagram and one of the tips was all about picking a blog name. That is really where your branding starts: picking a name that gets people's attention and tells your readers + followers what type of content you will be sharing but also that is memorable and has a ring to it. True story: When I was first launching my blog and trying to finalize a name, I knew I wanted the word "nest" in it because it would primarily be revolved around my home and family, especially as a new Mom. My husband is actually the one who came up with "A Blessed Nest" and as soon as he said it out loud, I knew that was it. It's easy to remember and in just three short words, it defines what I share about: my home, family, faith and motherhood. Remember that your blog name is the foundation of your brand; don't be afraid to play around with the wording until you get it just right.

Another important part of establishing your brand is purchasing your domain so your blog URL matches your blog title. Whether you host your blog through Blogger or Wordpress (or another site), if you want to grow your brand you need to own your domain. That just means that your web address is www.Your-Blog-Name.com versus wwww.Blogger.com/YourBlogName or www.Wordpress.com/YourBlogName. It shows professionalism to companies and makes it especially easy for people to find your blog in online searches. You can purchase a domain through many different sites and pay as little as $9.99 per year. 

A third key aspect of branding is paying attention to the overall look of your blog, instagram and/or other social media accounts. The key is consistency across the board -- both in the name (you wouldn't want to name your blog one thing and set up your IG account with a completely different name; they should be similar, such as A Blessed Nest/@blessednestblog OR identical) and in the design. Creating a cohesive look to your blog layout, in your photos, across all your blog posts, etc. is part of staying consistent. If your blog is bright and airy but your photos are dark and underlit, it will seem like they aren't being done by the same person and comes off confusing to those following you.

Personally, I think the most attractive blogs and instagram feeds are bright and white and easy to look at with the right mix of content and photos. We will be sharing more in Week 3 about instagram specifically and creating a cohesive feed as well as our tips for taking great photos, but keep in mind as you establish your blog the overall look of your blog is a reflection of your brand and you want a consistent look and feel in all areas.

Finally, establishing community around your blog is what builds your brand and in turn, your following and your growth organically so your brand becomes more well known. One of the very best parts about blogging has been seeing the community that I've created around A Blessed Nest, both here and on instagram, and connecting with other young moms in similar seasons of life through the process. I love getting emails from readers that were so encouraged by one of my posts, or a DM from a Mom about how they saw this/read that and it has helped them so much or how they always look forward to something specific that I post or share about. Those are the messages that encourage me so much and without a community, they wouldn't exist.

A few ways to establish your online community are...

1. Start following other blogs and instagram feeds you admire or enjoy! You don't need to follow every single one that exists (because really, that would be nearly impossible), but start by following along with those that you love reading and seeing the most. Interact with them by commenting regularly on their blog posts and instagram or "liking" their photos. I have gotten to know some of my closest blogging friends because I was either first following them or they were first following me and we started interacting through comments and a friendship grew from there over mutual interests and similar life seasons.

2. Collaborate with other bloggers. As you get to know bloggers and find ones that have a similar style or niche as yours, work together. Ask if they would like to host a giveaway together, or to do a collaborative blog post (such as our Mom Blog Collective series), or even to just do a Follow Friday on instagram, where you get a group of 5 moms and create a 4-photo collage (using one photo from each of the other 4 feeds but not your own) to post on instagram on a Friday, tagging them and sharing why you love following along with them. I collaborated with so many bloggers throughout my first year of blogging and still do; getting my name, face and brand out there through these collaborations was a big key to my growth.

3. Remember that a community is different than an audience; an audience passively watches (or in this case, reads) whereas a community interacts, shares and participates. You want those who follow you and read your blog to be people that interact with you, share your posts and tell others about your blog so your following grows, right? To have this -- a community that is engaged, interacts and shares -- you need to be sure you are doing the same. Interact with your followers. Comment back. Open and reply to DMs when you can, even if you can't get to all of them. Sometimes I do an instastory and get 50+ DMs in a matter of minutes. Obviously, I don't have the time to reply to every single one (at least not right in that moment) but I open one or two and respond to a question or comment and without fail, I get the same response every time -- "Thank you so much for responding!" or "I appreciate you getting back to me so quickly, thank you!" etc. etc. When you genuinely interact with those who follow you, whether by replying to comments on your blog, instagram, emails or DMs, your followers will recognize that and your community will grow. 

4. Share the content of other bloggers. Just as you would hope others would share your posts, do this for others! I love sharing articles or blog posts that really resonate with me within my blog posts or on my Facebook page. When people post on instagram asking about who you love following, tag your favorites and share why! Remember that as you help others be seen, be heard and grow, you will grow alongside them. You will reap what you sow.

5. Be genuine. Perhaps the most important piece of your branding and building a community is to really just be genuine by being yourself. Remember that blogging, instagram, social media...it's not a competition. We are all just trying to put our best foot forward, connect with each other and create memorable content that encourages, uplifts and inspires. Not everyone will read your blog or follow along or love your posts, and thats okay. I'm not doing what I do for the approval of others; I'm doing what I do because I love to do it! Being genuine in your writing, your posts, your photos and your interactions with your followers is what draws people to you. You can tell pretty quickly whether a blogger is down to earth and genuine or not; staying true to who you are and being real with those who follow along is going to get you far!

You can find all the posts sharing on this week's topic below:

I hope that was all helpful and gives you some new ideas for branding and building community around your blog! Be sure to leave a comment sharing what you'd most like to read about in this series, either here or on instagram! XO

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