I hold my hands up. I accept that I have violated the number 1 rule of blogging on the internet: write around a niche.
While my site has had a trickle of traffic and one relatively successful post, no one is really reading this – apart from my housemate, girlfriend and potentially her mum.
I’m okay with that and I’m not okay with that.
Nowadays I’m a marketer more than a writer and bad practice doesn’t quite sit well with me. I have made next to no effort to promote this space and I think at least some of it boils down to a lack of coherent narrative…
What would I actually be selling to readers?
The Personal Brand Statement
Every blogger or aspiring blogger faces the same dilemma: should I build a personal brand blog or pitch a niche?
The distinction is more complicated than it first appears.
You could argue that all solo blogs are an extension of a personal brand. But that depends on your definition of a personal brand…
When someone starts writing on a URL that is fullname.com they are making an inherent statement of authorship. They are consciously tying their words and their identity. It seems likely that personal development is a motivation, in a career sense or otherwise. They want people to see them as a blogger or at least as a certain kind of person. Someone who is trying to stand out.
The simple fact they are taking ownership of their project – physically slapping their name on it – indicates a level of self-belief.
Many writers lack this self-assurance. They choose to write under pseudonyms or in circles that are sheltered from their everyday lives, family and friends. (Of course, there are plenty of other reasons confident writers choose to do the same.)
A good case can be made for this compartmentalisation.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
What’s In A Blog’s Name?
Picking the right personal brand or niche blog name is something all bloggers agonise over when starting out. As a member of a number of blogging Facebook groups, I see posts asking for name suggestions, preferences and assurance more than anything else.
It is a big call to make. The name of a blog reveals an enormous amount about a blogger’s motivations. To a small extent, it can influence their success too.
What can be said then of QuiteFrankLee.com?
On the one hand, it shouts personal brand. I am clearly the subject. I dare say that the use of the pun (whether you like it or not) angles towards at least an attempt at wit. There’s a sense that the blog will resemble an opinion column. This was at least my initial thought process when I coined it 5 years ago…
Like all naive personal-branders, I told myself my niche was me. My USP would be authenticity. Maybe there’s nothing wrong with that.
If that’s what my actual blog name says about my blogging motivations, what it doesn’t say reveals even more.
When I relaunched QuiteFrankLee at the start of this year, I almost made the decision to write under leegannon.co.uk instead (.com was taken). In fact, I have bought and parked the domain, still partially weighing this up.
What’s the difference?
The decision to drop my surname reflects my desire for some level of anonymity. I have only shared the project on Facebook maybe twice, even though both occasions exploded my traffic. I guess the reluctance to share my work is rooted in vulnerability, ironically contradicting the nature of personal brands.
Although a lot of the time I am writing about professional growth (and I have intentions to post these in the future on LinkedIn), at the moment, I wouldn’t want, for instance, my boss to read my blog. Not that I have ever said anything less than complimentary about my work and the company.
I just feel some sort of boundary would be crossed.
I would imagine that a lot of bloggers struggle with the same inner conflict:
What is appropriate to share?
Is the personal brand you are striving to build all-encompassing, inhabiting your personal, work and public life, or is it more one-dimensional? A vehicle for career development, a personal hobby or a creative venture.
It seems important to get this straight in your mind as it affects the nature of your content, the goals you set for the project and fundamentally your relationship to its audience (assuming there is one). It’s fair to say I haven’t got this straight yet.
The Case For Niche Blogging
Earlier I suggested that a blogger has two options when starting a blog: creating a personal brand blog or writing within a niche. Before we talk about the latter, it’s worth highlighting that this is something of a false dichotomy.
Even when writing within a niche, the success of a blog is determined by your personal take on that subject. This opens the door to personal branding and indeed most successful bloggers who have claimed niches, have built personal brands doing so.
Assuming you aren’t already famous, creating a successful personal brand blog, without a niche, is extremely difficult. While doable, it requires a lot of charisma, incredible writing skill, impressive marketing, or all of the above.
Of course, success is relative but however you define it, it seems to come a lot easier when you introduce a niche. Without it, you are up against the world. With one, you only need to become an influencer in a small space and community. The narrower, the easier, and you can broaden out from there.
At the moment I have something of a scatter-gun approach to blogging. The loose glue holding the thing together is a “development” theme. Personal or professional development is far too broad though to be a niche. The playing field is far too open to even aim at something resembling success.
What I need to really work on is filtering my topics down. I could take personal development and acknowledge that I am vaguely writing for people my kind of age. Perhaps graduates concerned like me with the career ladder. Better, but not great.
Personal development for graduates?
I’m willing to bet a lot of people are writing in this space. That’s fine but I might try and go one better. What about personal development for Humanities graduates who are making the leap into the real world? It’s wish-washy but maybe workable.
A step in the right direction but I’m not convinced.
I need to go away and come up with a plan…
In summary, I’ve come to realise that I need to spend some time working out my niche as the “brand” of QuiteFrankLee feels empty without some kind of anchor to weigh it down. A niche will provide some direction when I sit down to plan next week’s post. A better idea of the audience I am addressing.
If I can work on at least a semi-coherent narrative then the prospect of marketing this project seems less overwhelming. I can search for relevant websites, influencers and interest groups and start taking this a bit more seriously.