The Reasons Branding Confuses You and How To Fix That Right Now

By Rachel Thompson | Author Marketing

Mar 20
The Reasons Branding Confuses You and How To Fix That Right Now, BadRedheadMedia.com, @BadRedheadMedia

Awhile back, I wrote an article, Branding 101, which detailed the basics for writers what branding is all about. Read that first if you haven’t yet, then come on back. over. This branding article by professor, author, and Forbes writer David Vinjamuri is also quite helpful.

What Do You Think Branding Is?

In talking with writers and bloggers, I asked them what they think author branding means. Here are some responses (from a recent Facebook post):

  • “I’m not sure what to share and how to tie it into my book. It’s supposed to be about my book. Right?” 
  • “I think it’s about expectations, but I want to subvert tropes. So it’s not so much about me as what I write.”
  • “I struggle with this because I don’t want to be a ‘brand.’ That’s tedious. I just want to write.”
  • “To be read, we need a brand. We need to teach readers why they want to read our books.” 
  • “Branding is about keeping visuals similar. Fonts, and colors, and things like that. That’s about all I know.” 
  • “It’s about being available on social media.” 
  • “It’s about consistency and expectations and being true to yourself. How I’m supposed to do that, though? Um, Canva?” 
  • “Branding is about where you want to go. What do you envision for yourself, you, the author? That’s what you need to focus on.” 

I think you’ll agree with me when I say what branding is and what it’s not is not clear at all to most writers (it wasn’t to me when I first started out, either). I promise you, it’s not that complicated! There is an easier way.

Here’s what I have in store for you right now:

  • I’ll review what branding is,

  • what branding is not,

  • and present practical examples of successful author branding to help you get a clear picture you can use in your own author marketing. 

What branding is:

  • the way you want readers to see you because it’s who you are
  • a way to manage readers’ expectations.
  • a way for readers to identify your message and associate certain topics with you, the author.
  • a way for you to deliver and discuss consistent topics
  • a way to be authentically you by connecting with readers about topics that excite you, that you’re passionate about or are an expert in
  • a way to build relationships with others based on common interests
  • a way to share what makes you unique and build relationships with others based on that
  • a way to strategically focus on your demographic to create an interactive reader dynamic
  • the foundation of your entire author platform and your marketing
  • authentic, consistent, and unique to you

Do you notice one word that is missing from every one of those bullet points? I’ll wait.

BOOKS.

Branding is not (solely) about your books. I know, right? Weird.

What branding is not

  • marketing. marketing is the tactics you use to connect to readers
  • spamming book links constantly that say “Buy my books!”
  • sending automated welcome messages which assume everyone is your reader (newsflash: everyone is not your reader)
  • focused solely on your books
  • one aspect of your platform, e.g., just social media or just blogging
  • just about visuals
  • set in stone and unchangeable
  • something you take on and off, like your pants
  • canned, fake, and common

Practical Branding Tips 

So far, branding may still seem fairly nebulous and confusing, or a buzzword Mad Men came up with back in the 1950s (or the ever-present tired joke about cattle). I’m going to use my author account, RachelintheOC, as a case study here so you can see my branding in action. I’ll also mention other authors who are kickin’ it, so you can see their branding in action as well.

We’ll use:

  • keywords/key phrases
  • visuals 
  • blog posts 
  • articles I share 
  • social media examples 
  • avatar 
  • bios

If you’re still kinda foggy, here’s another simple, great definition: branding is strategic. marketing is tactical. 

Keywords/Key Phrases

You may ‘just want to write,’ but I challenge that notion. Writing is great, which is why we’re authors, but don’t you want people to read what you’ve written? Don’t you want to make people think? Feel an emotion? Incite them to act?

What I recommend, when working with authors, aspiring or veteran, is to identify 5-6 interests, topics you are passionate or excited about in real life, and make those your keywords/phrases.

Think of it this way: if you’re at a dinner party and looking for discussion topics, what are your go-to subjects? Not small talk; I mean the meaty stuff you know about, are an expert in, topics you want everyone to know about? Climate change, cookie baking, pet rescue, woodworking, sewing, sports, cars, cats, movies, etc. Know how you create bonds quickly with people you’ve just met? It’s by hitting on common bonds of interest.

This is how you build relationships. 

(Caution: even though it’s just about impossible right now, avoid discussing politics and religion unless you’re a well-known expert, your well-established keywords/key phrases and author platform directly relate to politics and religion, and you have already established your branding through your writing and social media on these topics.

Why do I say this? It seems obvious but it’s not because writers have voices and we want to use them (believe me, I’m no exception): you risk alienating readers, book bloggers, and book reviewers–particularly on Facebook where people write novels about their opinions on politics.) 

These keywords/phrases will change and are not set in stone, as you change and grow as a person and writer. However, set up your 5-6 to start (and pick 3-4 as ‘back-up’ keywords/phrases — topics you may not discuss all the time but still round you out as a person). Another tip: think like the reader you are. You use Google all the time — what do you search for when you want to find a book? Then those are the words and phrases you want to apply to yourself.

My keywords/phrases for my author account are as follows:

  • Sexual Abuse and Childhood Sexual Abuse (as I’m a survivor and advocate for others)
  • Women’s Issues ***This verges into political territory and I’m well aware of that, yet I’m established in this area***
  • Real Life
  • Memoir/Poetry
  • Relationships
  • Mental Health

I also have ‘back-up’ keywords/phrases which are more fun and less serious. These are:

  • Nutella
  • Cats
  • Cooking (well, joking about my ‘supposed’ lack of cooking skills)
  • Humor

This sets expectations for readers. They know whether they come to my blog, social media, read a quote or an article I’ve shared, it will consistently be about one of these topics.

Visuals

Here are three of my book covers and my current social media header. This header is consistent on ALL of my RachelintheOC social media. My book covers all have red, my headers have purple. That is my signature. My Broken books have the same font, and my author name is at the bottom in a band of red.

The Reasons Branding Confuses You and How To Fix That Right Now, BadRedheadMedia.com, @BadRedheadMedia

The Reasons Branding Confuses You and How To Fix That Right Now, BadRedheadMedia.com, @BadRedheadMedia

Blog Posts

If you head over to my RachelintheOC blog, you’ll see that my overall blog topic theme is Real Life. This goes for my blog posts as well as guests. Topics range from sexual abuse to relationships to mental health to women’s issues to survival and PTSD, etc. Again, all within my branding.

Articles

What do we share once we figure out our keywords and key phrases? This is the easy and fun part! We can’t possibly create original content constantly or our brains would implode (or is that explode?). What to do? How do we find relevant, timely, interesting content that fits within our branding?

There are honestly hundreds of options to find great content, but I’m going to share what I use. *Note: These are not affiliated links and I receive no monetary compensation if you sign up for services. I’m not responsible if you do sign up and find the service unsatisfactory. 

  • Free: Google Alerts: Type in whatever keywords/key phrases you have chosen and set up daily or weekly news alerts. This is super easy and totally customizable.
  • Free: RSS Feeds of your favorite sites. I use Chrome, so I picked the Feeder extension and added in the RSS feeds of sites I tend to go back to again and again.
  • UpContent: I use the Pro version and while it takes a little bit of a learning curve to understand (which they walk you through with a phone call — great customer service), I’ve found their articles to be terrific.
  • Right Relevance: I also use the Pro version through Hootsuite, so the cost is only $4.99/month which offers me unlimited articles for keywords and phrases I choose.
  • Flipboard and ScoopIt!: both are free and allow you to find articles as well as customize and share articles you find.
  • StumbleUpon: More of a content aggregator than social media channel, I find a ton of great stuff here.

Tip: If you use a social media management tool like Hootsuite or Buffer (both are great!), you can import these apps to pull the articles and schedule in a snap, and then it’s all in one place.

Social Media Examples

I typically share four types of social media posts:

  • Visual quotes (mine and others)
  • Blog posts (non-promotional)
  • Articles (containing my keywords/key phrases)
  • Promotion

Here’s an example of each:

  • Visual quotes (from Broken Places, my latest @RachelintheOC release) — example on left. Visuals are important to share because they receive FAR more retweets, likes, and shares. See visual on right from CoSchedule.

Broken Places Quote by Rachel Thompson, @RachelintheOC, books, memoir

The Reasons Branding Confuses You and How To Fix That Right Now by @BadRedheadMedia, BadRedheadMedia.com, Branding

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Blog Posts (non-promotional)

For Twitter: This is the Reason Writing Your Story Helps you Thrive http://ow.ly/AqCY30a1FbR by @RachelintheOC #SexAbuse #survivor

For Facebook, G+, Linked In, and others: This is the Reason Writing Your Story Helps you Thrive http://ow.ly/AqCY30a1FbR by Rachel Thompson, Author #SexAbuse #survivor

  • Articles (containing keywords/key phrases)

Lovely and wise: On #Loss: Beautiful Letters of Consolation from Great Artists, Writers, and Scientists http://ow.ly/IVYh309U1oV via @brainpicker

Women Who Write: #Female Editors-in-Chief You Need to Know via @MAKERSwomen http://ow.ly/bUPq309XjHk #writing

  • Promotion (my books)

5-star @ReadersFavorite The @BadRedheadMedia 30-Day #BookMarketing Challenge http://ow.ly/Q1dy309Jknb #Amazon, just $4.99! “Get this book!”

#Writers: Claim your #FREE excerpt of the @BadRedheadMedia 30-Day #BookMarketing Challenge http://ow.ly/cigo309C01m via @instafreebie

Avatar

It’s most important that you use your face in your avatar. Why? Humans are funny creatures. We start recognizing faces as babies. Notice how you can remember someone’s face, even if their name slips your mind? If we can’t associate a face with a name, we are immediately uncomfortable on an instinctual level.

A few other key points here:

  • Use the same photo across all your channels. Remember, consistency is key to branding.
  • Use a hi-resolution photo of your face. When people click on your avatar, you don’t want it to appear blurry.
  • Don’t have a picture of you with 25 other people in a group or at a casual gathering (e.g., a wedding or skiing).
  • Look professional. If your mouth is hanging open or your hair is askew, is that the image you want to project? Because that is what people will associate with you.
  • No animals or weird creatures. Unless you are a weird creature, use your face.
  • Logos are fine for businesses, but even then, people still prefer to see a face. It’s a trust thing.

Bios

Every social media channel gives you space for your bio. I go into specifics in my BadRedhead Media 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge, so I won’t do it here, but there are a few key points to remember that hold true no matter which channel you’re on:

  • Don’t only say you’re an author or blogger. Use a verb: what will reading your book (or blog) DO for readers? (Mine ‘encourages survivors to speak’).
  • For Twitter, use a hashtag or two (but no more than that #or #your #bio #will #become #unreadable). Many shall we say, old-fashioned writers, are averse to using hashtags (“they’re ruining literature!”) but keep in mind, when you are on social media, you want to be as visible as possible. By using hashtags, such as #author or #writer, you create a hyperlink and become more visible in Search.
  • Hashtags are also commonly used in Search on all other social media channels (but are usually not hyperlinked in bios).
  • Be consistent. Provide a link to your website and/or book(s) on all bios.
  • Use the same avatar.
  • Use the same headers and visuals.
  • If you update something on one bio, update it on ALL bios.

Here’s my author Twitter bio. You can see that I use hashtags for author, survivor, and a few of the chats I founded (remember, they hyperlink):

The Reasons Branding Confuses You and How To Fix That Right Now by @BadRedheadMedia, BadRedheadMedia.com, Branding

 

As you can see, all of this works together across my entire platform to create a seamless picture, if you will, of what interests me, what I’m passionate about, what I want to share with people, what connects me to others, and yes, what I write books about. My branding is not difficult because I’m already writing about it (blogging, articles, guest posts, and my books), and that carries over to social media.

Branding Examples

Here are some authors whose author branding is spot on:

Evatopia Lit:

The Reasons Branding Confuses You and How To Fix That Right Now, BadRedheadMedia.com, @BadRedheadMedia

Sacha Black:

The Reasons Branding Confuses You and How To Fix That Right Now, BadRedheadMedia.com, @BadRedheadMedia

Books, Business, and Bad Words

SugarBeatBC (Barb Drozdowich, Author):

The Reasons Branding Confuses You and How To Fix That Right Now, BadRedheadMedia.com, @BadRedheadMedia

 

A Final Word

Branding isn’t brain surgery. Find your voice, be consistent, and be authentic. We spend our whole lives ‘finding ourselves,’ and all that rot. Now that you have a chance to truly express yourself, don’t run from it — rock this shit.

The key to building relationships on social media is being generous — so retweet/share, comment, like, interact, and provide interesting content that’s not all about you all the time. Whether you ascribe to the 80/20 Rule or 30/30/30 or no rule at all, remember to mix it up, give back more than you take, and keep writing great books

For a more detailed plan on developing your book marketing, purchase Rachel’s new book, The BadRedhead Media 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge now on Amazon!

Already a 5-Star Reader’s Favorite! 

30-Day BadRedhead Media Book Marketing Challenge, BadRedheadMedia.com, BadRedhead Media, @BadRedheadMedia, Book Marketing

Sign up for my newsletter and never miss a post again! I will never share your email and that’s a promise. Follow me on Twitter @RachelintheOC or @BadRedheadMedia for social media, branding, or marketing help. Increase your blog traffic by participating in #MondayBlogs (a Twitter meme I created to share posts on Mondays — no book promo)

All content © 2017 by BadRedhead Media aka Rachel Thompson, author, unless otherwise specified. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to use short quotes provided a link back to this page and proper attribution is given to me as the original author.


 

 

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About the Author

Rachel Thompson is the author of newly released BadRedhead Media 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge: How to energize your book sales in a month - created to help authors market their book. She is also the author of Broken Places (one of IndieReader's "Best of 2015" top books and 2015 Honorable Mention Winner in the San Francisco Book Festival), and the multi award-winning Broken Pieces, as well as two additional humor books, A Walk In The Snark and Mancode: Exposed. Rachel is published by Shadow Teams NYC and represented by Lisa Hagan Books. She owns BadRedhead Media, creating effective social media and book marketing campaigns for authors. Her articles appear regularly in The Huffington Post IndieReader.com, The San Francisco Book Review (BadRedhead Says…), 12Most.com, BookPromotion.com, and Self-Publishers Monthly. Not just an advocate for sexual abuse survivors, Rachel is the creator and founder of the hashtag phenomenon #MondayBlogs,  #BookMarketingChat (co-hosted with Melissa Flickinger) and #SexAbuseChat, co-hosted with certified therapist/survivor, Bobbi Parish all live Twitter chats. She hates walks in the rain, running out of coffee, and coconut. She lives in California with her family.

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