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Your Blog is Your Business Card

The following are the notes for my popular workshop “Your Blog is Your Business Card”. The premise is that today’s business card can’t hold all the contact information necessary to connect adequately with potential clients, but the blog can. It is the holder of your contact information and online identity. The workshop covers the philosophy behind this position and helps the participant understand how to create an online persona.


In the Victorian age, calling cards or visitor cards were delivered to someone as a request for a meeting. If the recipient didn’t know the person, the information on the card, and tapping into their own social network for information on the stranger’s reputation, would help them decide whether or not to accept the invite.

Today’s business card would fill a billboard with all of the contact information we have on the web. Potential clients may connect with us through Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, Tumblr, StumbleUpon, Ravelry, MNng, YouTube, About.me, CafeMom, CaringBridge, 43 Things, deviantArt, DailyBooth, DailyMotion, Vimeo, Slideshare, MySpace, Orkut, Plaxo, Plurk, Wooxie, WordPress.com, Bebo…the list is long. That doesn’t include the more traditional email, phone, or snail mail.

While potential clients may find you through a search or these social media networks, the key to a successful online presence is to make it easy for your customers and contacts to find you where they hang out, and they find that information through your blog.

Let me explain first that a blog is a website. The definition of a website is a that is an address with a collection of web pages. A blog is a website, a collection of web pages presented in reverse chronological order. So a blog is a website and a website is a blog. I enjoy the word “blog” as it has many other stereotypical and emotional connotations, and it continues to be a disruptive force on the web.

That said, how does a blog become your business card, your representative on the web.

Your Blog Defines You

A blog is your representative on the web. Literally. Think of it as your wallet.

A well-designed and structured site features information that identifies you as the owner. It offers information on how to contact you. It contains pictures of you and the things and people important to you. It may have some very personal items you like to keep close to you. If you lost your wallet, you’d feel like you lost a part of yourself. That “self” is your blog.

Your blog begins the process of defining you in the site title and tagline. Both must represent you and what you do, but mostly what you are doing on this site.

The site title is often a clever saying or combination of words that may represent your company title or activity. It may also be your name. However, a site name like “Sally’s Blog” isn’t very helpful information. This is where the tagline comes in, the subtitle to your site.

If the site’s name is “Sally’s Blog,” the tagline might say “Covering the Science Fiction writing industry.” Now we know what Sally is all about and we have a sense of what we will find on the site.

In WordPress, the site title and tagline are often set when the site is installed and setup, but you may change it any time on the Administration Panels > Settings > General.

The About Page

The next most important content on the site is the About Page.

Often known as the bio or profile, this web page is named “About” by web standards, acceptable standards and customs used on the web over time. It is not “About Us,” “About Me,” or “About Sally.” It is just the word “About.” Changing this may cause problems as people are learning how to type in About at the end of the site address and if it comes up with a page not found, it’s not a very good impression.

A well-written About web page features two critical pieces of information: the purpose and goals of the website and information on the author of the site.

The purpose and goals of the site are the reasons you are blogging, and your expectations about the content you propose to publish or have published. If the site is about the Science Fiction writing industry, this section needs to expand upon that information. Is it about the publishing of science fiction, the writing of science fiction, about authors of science fiction, or the industry in general? Be very specific.

The information about the author of the site is about you, the author and publisher. It should be written in a conversational resume format, a narrative of your expertise and experiences. It may be written in third or first person. It depends upon the presentation of the site’s content, voice, style, and persona. A more personal and informal site may have the About information written in first person. A more formal site may offer the information in third person.

The About page does not have to expose any private information, but it must provide enough information to create a sense of trust with the reader. They have to know that you have the experience and expertise to talk about these subjects. They want to know that you have been there, done that, and survived and have the stories to tell.

This is your chance to brag, to toot your own horn louder than ever before. You may be humble on everything else you do in your life, business, and web, but make this the moment you shine the light fully on yourself. You may not get another chance to make this kind of impression, so use it well.

For more information on writing your About page:

The Contact Page

The Contact page is also called “Contact” not “Contact Us” or derivations thereof. It is the main method of contact you, the author and publisher of this site, and you the business person.

The Contact page opens with a welcome and invite to comment, not just the form. The form is often impersonal and not helpful to someone not familiar with them or your methodology. Write a short opening paragraph that explains that they may contact you through the contact form below, then include your name, address, phone, and other contact information before they get to the form.

If you wish to have your mailing address, phone number, and fax available, add them here. This is not required and your choice. These forms of contact are traditional, but still used by many businesses.

Include a list, with images or without, of all the social media sites and services you are a member of, as well as all the various websites you own or write for. This offers them options familiar to them for contacting and interacting with you.

DO NOT DISPLAY YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS.

Displaying your email address on a web page is wrong for many reasons, but I will offer only two.

First, exposing your email address is a security risk. It is one piece of information that allows you to log into every online service and network that you are a member of. There have long been email harvesters that look for public displays of email, collecting them and using them as sources for spam emails, but lately there have been some greater evil doer web bots using these emails to attempt to break into secure online services, like your email. Don’t risk it.

Second, when you display an email address, the web browser or publishing platform either doesn’t display it as a link, which means the user has to copy and paste it into their email service (making more work), or displays it as a link, specifically a mailto link. When a mailto link is clicked, most computers look for your default email software.

Most people today don’t use email software. They access email through a web page. The computer doesn’t know this and starts to load whatever the system was originally set up with, typically Outlook Express. Not anticipating this, and since the program probably was never installed or setup up properly, it starts the setup process, which freaks people out. I’ve gotten calls late at night from people believing they’d clicked a link and malware or virus was taking over their machines. It’s just the computer doing what it was designed to do: be helpful.

Avoid all of these issues by simply presenting a contact form. People fill in the information, click submit, and the form is emailed to you. On WordPress, a copy of their form information is saved in the Feedback screen if you are using the Jetpack WordPress Plugin or WordPress.com.

Set the contact form at the bottom of the Contact page as people rarely read beyond the form.

Establishing Your Online Identity and Brand

You are a brand. You may not want to be, but you are on the web. You have an identity, personality, and reputation online. Since you can’t be there in person, you have to let your virtual self be friendly, personable, and someone people want to get to know.

Working with businesses in the online world for over 20 years, my policy on marketing and promotion has never changed.

Make them want you. Don’t beg for business.

Creating a solid online identity and personality is your brand. Design it to attract the people and business you wish to work with and know.

This begins by identifying who you are, then who your customer is, on the web and real world.

Who Are You on the Web?

Think about who you are in person as well as on the web. They don’t have to be the same, but it helps. I call it living a WYSIWIG life on the web (What You See Is What You Get).

It begins with identifying your character, personality, voice, and persona.

Are you the student, eternally learning and sharing the lessons learned? The teacher, telling everyone how to do it? The expert, knowing everything there is to know about a subject? The philosopher or pontificater, telling the world what you think about whatever? Or the explorer, always seeking new things and eager to share your discoveries with the world?

There are many personalities and personas, but it helps if yours is consistent. It is easy to switch back and forth between two personalities that are similar, like student and teacher. You may confuse the reader if you switch between parent, explorer, teacher, and shy sharer. I use the example of a parent who wants to be the child’s friend. There are times when the child needs a friend, and others when they need a parent. A child may be confused by a parent that doesn’t clearly define their roles, as may your readers.

Are you known or unknown (anonymous), visible or invisible? You don’t have to be you, the real you with your real name. You can be Sally Smith or Fred Fleetstone. Avoid being SexyChick69 as that often encourages people to find out who you really are, inviting a violation of your privacy. Be a human sounding name, even if it isn’t yours, and your anonymity will last longer.

Do you show your picture or hide behind a logo? Either are fine. Choose an avatar/Gravatar/Profile image that represents you and your personality if it doesn’t show you or your face.

Here are more tips for creating a solid online identity:

  • Linked to Expertise or Subject: Your online identity and site should be linked to your expertise and subject. The site name, tagline, your About page, the categories, tags, and topics on your site must represent your expertise and subject matter well.
  • Use a clear and recognizable image. Your avatar/Gravatar/Profile image should be you or your logo. Make the image represent your personality and subject matter if possible. It may be a cartoon or graphic representation but use of children, grandchildren, and pets hurts your reputation. Brag about these on your site, not through the image people associate with you. Remember, the image you use must be flexible in design and size, able to be viewed easily at 256 pixels width down to 16 pixels small. Square is best.
  • Let Your Site Set the Stage: Every pixel matters. A pixel is the smallest piece of visual information on a site. Every web page is measured in pixels. Make each one count. Let every word, image, category, tag, post title, logo, graphic, color, pattern, and design elements support your site’s purpose and goals. You want to make a good impression, this is where it starts online.
  • Choose Your Online Community Wisely: The entire web is not your audience. Go where the people you wish to connect with hang out. Go play in their sandbox. Then bring them to your sandbox – your blog.

Choosing Your Social Media Community

“Who is your customer?” The typical response I get is “everyone.” Guess what, that’s BS.

You can’t sell or publish for everyone. No one can. Not everyone will buy. But specific types of people will. They are the ones who want your business.

In business, these people are your demographics or target audience. I say they are the friends you haven’t met yet.

In order to use your site and social media to serve a specific group of people, you need to know who they are, and they are often just like you, interested in the same things you are. These are the peoole you want to connect with.

Don’t assume you know your audience. Get to know them. Know what their age, lifestyle, hobbies, jobs, education, income levels, marital status, family profile, ethnicity and culture is like. Get to know who they are, where they live, and how you can relate to them, and they to you, better.

Then go find them.

The following images are summaries of the general demographics of the most popular social media sites: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Google+, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Reddit to help you find your peoples or tribe from research done by the Pew Research company.

Social Media Demographics on Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, and Pinterest compiled by Lorelle VanFossen.

Social media demographics compiled by Lorelle VanFossen on Google+, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Reddit.

These social media services’ demographics boil down to the following:

  • Facebook: Buddies and families
  • Tumblr: High School and College students
  • Twitter: Professionals, businesses, and journalists
  • Pinterest: Homemakers, crafters, and visual folks (though schools teaching young students to use this)
  • Google+: Professionals, intellectuals, photographers, visually inclined people, and web and IT professionals, and businesses for the SEO coverage
  • YouTube: Everyone with little education and a lot of time on their hands
  • LinkedIn: Professionals, highly educated, business, and job seekers
  • Reddit: Socially active professional, activists, and over-educated folks

Over time, social media platforms shift and change their demographics. Facebook used to be for college students, then they opened the door to everyone. It became a tool for the young, but today, the young are fleeing and the older generations are embracing Facebook as a platform to stay in touch with each other and families. The above is just a snapshot at this time.

These are just the most popular social media sites. Your audience might be on GoodReads, Ravelry, or a community build in and around a specific website.

Where do you hang out? That’s where your customers are likely to hang out as well.

Once you have found your social media communities, you need to track them.

In my presentation on Speed Blogging, I provide more information on how to save time and energy blogging to help you get back to what you really want to be doing, and that includes tips on how to automate some of your social media and how to monitor and track it.

It starts with learning about how feeds work. Imagine sitting down to the newspaper every morning and having it customized to provide you with the news and information you want and need, and not stuff you have no interest in. That’s how a feed reader, a web app that translates feeds into readable content, works. You add the sites you wish to track and it brings them all to one interface for you to peruse and read on your schedule without going from site to site to site.

Every WordPress and most websites automatically generate a feed, sometimes calls RSS or Atom (types of feeds). This is a syndicated, contextual version of your site. This feed is read by anyone using a feed reader or aggregator. Popular feed readers for desktop and mobile include Feedly, Google Currents, Flipboard, and Pulse. Aggregator sites pull information from a variety of websites into a curated format, grouping like content together by categorie and topics. Examples include alltop and popurls.

Choose a feed reader and start adding your favorite sites and social media networks to it. I recommend starting with Feedly as it is easy to use and works across all computer devices and platforms.

For more information on feeds, see the following:

The other method of tracking social media is through social media monitoring and tracking web apps and web services. Some are free, but the most powerful are not. They include:

For more helpful tips and information on managing and interacting with social media, see:

Summary

Putting your business card on your web, specifically turning your blog into a glorified business card, means putting your professional identity out there for all to see and admire. It means being you, the webby you, on the web through your persona, avatar/Gravatar image, interactions, and content.

For more help on blogging, social media, and WordPress, consider the following:


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6 Comments

  1. Posted August 2, 2014 at 4:44 am | Permalink

    The modern business card is nothing compared to Victorian versions and a blog, in effect, is a return to those days. It was often the case that a personal card – which is what a blog is too – was a photograph of the person visiting, used in case those that they were not calling on were not at home. They were often also used as mementoes of time together, such as at the end of an educational course, in order to remain in touch.
    An excellent set of examples, covering the years up to about 1920, can be found on Animorum Immortalitate.

    • Posted August 2, 2014 at 8:28 am | Permalink

      Thanks. I was actually looking for antique business cards for my presentation.

  2. Posted August 2, 2014 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    Lorelle I lovew the work you do. You are really helping people to improve their (blogging) business. Keep up the good work!

  3. Patrick Keller
    Posted August 30, 2014 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

    Wow. You rock! Thanks! My “contact” page needs some real work, apparently!


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