This post is by Jessica Miller-Merrell, a leadership blogger at Blogging4Jobs. She is a digital strategist with a passion for recruiting, HR, training and social media and is the author of “Tweet This! Twitter for Business,” a how-to business guide for Twitter.
There is no longer any that doubt that blogging is big business, said branding expert Sandra Miley, who spoke at BlogHer Pathfinder Day on Thursday. There are almost 165 million active blogs in the world, as of February 2011, and mommy bloggers are the largest group of bloggers in the world, she notes. BlogHer, a blogging community of women, boasts 25 million unique visitors to their website each month.
But how can aspiring bloggers get started with finding a voice and an audience? Miley, who has worked with companies such as Adobe, Nokia and Rackspace, gave BlogHer attendees insights into building and growing a blog into a brand and business.
Miley recommends that bloggers start by conducting a gap analysis to design and develop their brand and then target the right audience to monetize their blog. A gap analysis is a common planning and strategy tactic used by businesses to determine ways a brand can adapt to market conditions to reach their goals. For a blogger, these goals could be to increase Web traffic, e-mail subscribers and blog comments, or to lower a blog’s bounce rate.
Performing a gap analysis involves a simple five-step process:
- Start with a list known gaps — holes in the market where a need is not being served by the products and services currently available.
- List potential gaps — areas of opportunity that could arise later.
- Make a list of triggers that may lead to gaps — what could you do to turn a potential gap into a real opportunity?
- List market trends related to your industry or blog specialization. Where do you fit in?
- Assign actions you can take in these areas.
An analysis like this can be as involved or as simple as you wish. The goal is to benefit the end user and its complexity depends on the complexity of your own brand, blog and business.
This analysis should be repeated once every two years for maximum effectiveness. The strategy you devise won’t be so different from the ones large corporations use — you’re just working on a smaller scale. But even though the scale may be smaller, these kinds of insights are every bit as important to bloggers large and small.
Miley says it’s important to work with someone who isn’t closely involved with your blog, because that distance will allow them to see the big picture. But that doesn’t mean you have to hire a professional to get the job done, she argues.
A gap analysis will provide bloggers who are building a brand presence with an understanding of where the market opportunities lie, allowing a clear strategy and brand vision to be established. When it comes to the process of growing and facilitating your community, good content wins out every time. “Be yourself and the flock will find you,” says Miley when discussing brand authenticity. “There is power in being your authentic self.”