Bonus- Guest Post by Connie Bensen

connie bensen

Building Brand Through Building Community

By Connie Bensen

A huge thank you to Chris for letting me guest blog! It’s truly an honor as Chris has been a great mentor & I appreciate the opportunity offered to save him from a day of blogging!

Chris has the incredible ability of helping others & has provided me with great mentorship.

I’d like to share my methods for efficiently building an effective brand. Everyone has a story & into this post as I share my tips on building brand. I’m leaving off the word ‘personal’ because it makes some uncomfortable & most of these can be applied to products & businesses. The sociology around branding is intriguing to me. I see people focusing on SEO, monetization, getting a job, etc. And yes, it’s important to be proactive & strategic but if you focus on content & networking those first items will happen indirectly & in a much more powerful way!

My story has been an adventure.

I joined the social media world via Library 2.0 in rural Minnesota. As a public librarian for 10 years I was known as the ‘Library Lady’ in the community. Establishing that presence was much easier than it is to do so online. I read the same books that you have (Word of Mouth Marketing by Andy Sernowitz, Naked Conversations by Shel Israel & Robert Scoble). And I knew that blogging was about finding your voice. But I’ve come to realize that branding is more than that – it’s about finding your purpose & expressing that!

My goal is that these ideas will help guide you through the wilderness of exploration and provide some practical steps to assist you in building your unique brand. It truly is a journey.

The nice thing is that a brand evolves. That takes the stress off. No one wakes up & says, ‘I am…’. That would be too contrived. It’s a periodic review of:

  • Who are you?

  • What makes you unique?
  • Your differentiating qualities & skills are what makes you valuable.
  • What’s your message?
  • What are your goals?
  • Who is your audience?
  • What experiences do you have to share with others?
  • How can you help others? What value do bring to them?

Tip: After you’ve been blogging for a bit ask others for feedback. What may not be apparent to you usually is to others.

I had my personal blog up for 3 months & expressed to Anna Farmery that I thought my topics of social media were too broad. She immediately told me that my focus was on Community Building. And so it was!

When you have some ideas for those questions decide on a plan that is:

  • Memorable – I used a casual photo & the color red; Connie Reece is lovely in her pink boa
  • Repetitive – that photo & my name are repeated everywhere that I am online
  • Companies have it easy in using their logos & their employees are creative
    @LionellatDell @JohnatDell

  • Consistent & sincere – be you everywhere you go whether online or in person

Those are all part of getting started. The most exciting & challenging part is building community around your brand. (yes! I’m a community manager)

Building brand is all about relationships & networking. At this point you’ve decided what your goals are & set up a blog or built a community (as well as dutifully put in the exciting content). But when/how will people know about your site & what you have to offer?

Listen & observe

This step can be done before you’ve created your site (and probably should be). Read & learn as much as you can about your niche. There is so much out there!

  1. Use a blog reader & take advantage of RSS feeds
  2. Find people in your area that you admire & observe what makes them successful. Many of us are happy to mentor when sincere interest is shown in our work.

Interact. Build a Network.

  1. Contribute to the conversation. It’s imperative to get involved for the rest of my these steps to work. I have tips if you’re nervous.

  2. Commenting on blogs & in social networks will result in meeting great like-minded people. Add a link to a related post that you’ve written.
  3. Respond to blog comments via email & thank the person
  4. Use your blog or site to respond to other’s blog posts & link to them
  5. Get involved in social networks of your choice – Twitter, Facebook, niche communities, FriendFeed, etc
  6. Twitter & Stumble posts that you enjoy – it’s a great way to share good articles and drive traffic to them.
  7. Evangelize for what you believe in – your favorite brands are listening & will embrace you (even if they are people! Because they are monitoring their brand)

Tip: Make sure that comments & links add value & are relevant to the conversation.

Monitor

  1. Use google alerts, tweetscan.com, yahoo pipes, etc to monitor your brand & respond quickly

  2. (Radian6 has a great brand monitoring product that quantifies these) – monitor your name, product, brand & keywords.
  3. Use FeedBurner & Google Analytics to monitor traffic. Where is it coming from? What types of posts or topics is attracting it? I check every day. If you have a business it’s very important to watch trends and adjust accordingly.

Tip: I monitor for ‘community manager’ for two reasons: connect with others on Twitter & read the news about the emerging profession.

Continue to Build Your Network & Increase Your Social Capital

  1. Re-evaluate the questions at the beginning

  2. At a certain point you’ll find yourself mentoring others

Building a brand doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process that requires attention to details. Feel free to ask The web congregates around shared interests & that is the secret to building community around your brand. The reason many of us read Chris’s blog is because of his amazing ability to help everyone. My steps focus on being both proactive & reactive to others. If you help others you will receive equal or more in return. friends & mentors if you have questions or contact me if you would like explanations of how I use any of the tools that I mentioned.

I saw a quote while I was on vacation: How the world sees you, is how you see the world.

It’s all about attitude. Who are you? And how does the world see you?

Guest post by Connie Bensen . The last of the three part series on personal branding will be posted on Wednesday.

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  • http://www.myklroventine.com Mykl Roventine

    Thanks Chris for giving up the floor. Connie, thanks for sharing your own story and such a wonderful roadmap for brand-building. I’ll be absorbing this for days to come.

  • http://www.myklroventine.com Mykl Roventine

    Thanks Chris for giving up the floor. Connie, thanks for sharing your own story and such a wonderful roadmap for brand-building. I’ll be absorbing this for days to come.

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  • http://www.smalldots.wordpress.com Beth Dunn

    Connie, GREAT post, and really spot-on with a lot of things that have been running through my mind lately. You do a great job of building community and your brand online, and I appreciate your skill at dissecting how it all works.

    Thanks!

  • http://www.smalldots.wordpress.com Beth Dunn

    Connie, GREAT post, and really spot-on with a lot of things that have been running through my mind lately. You do a great job of building community and your brand online, and I appreciate your skill at dissecting how it all works.

    Thanks!

  • Kevin Farner

    It’s interesting, I’ve seen you and Chris Brogan in the same light and didn’t know you knew each other at all. I think what I see in common is that both of you focus your community building and brand on what you can do to help others. And it is sincere. So many people go into networking to see how they can benefit from it, versus going into networking to help others. Great post!

  • Kevin Farner

    It’s interesting, I’ve seen you and Chris Brogan in the same light and didn’t know you knew each other at all. I think what I see in common is that both of you focus your community building and brand on what you can do to help others. And it is sincere. So many people go into networking to see how they can benefit from it, versus going into networking to help others. Great post!

  • http://www.conniebensen.com Connie Bensen

    Thanks Mykl – it’s meant to be absorbed slowly. If you do all that in one day your brain will hurt!

    And thanks Beth, I’ve learned so much from both yourself & the other Beth (@kanter)

    Kevin – who doesn’t know Chris? I mean really?! :) He befriended me at Facebook…and sets an amazing example for us.

  • http://www.conniebensen.com Connie Bensen

    Thanks Mykl – it’s meant to be absorbed slowly. If you do all that in one day your brain will hurt!

    And thanks Beth, I’ve learned so much from both yourself & the other Beth (@kanter)

    Kevin – who doesn’t know Chris? I mean really?! :) He befriended me at Facebook…and sets an amazing example for us.

  • Robyn Flach

    Great post Connie!

    I read Chris’s blogs and all material from him that I can get my hands on, because of all I learn from what he writes, but I also read yours! You are both approachable and helpful. Right now I think I have so many things bookmarked from you, Chris, and many others, that I need a day just to read them all. Everyone has a unique flavor. (Need to narrow my focus a bit, but it’s ALL so interesting!)

    I agree with having the framework laid out in your mind before starting helps, and as well needing to re-assess it from time to time. I have already witnessed a few people’s voice/direction evolving in the short time I have been participating and observing. And I love your statement about just letting your own personality come thru where ever you are online.

    Blessings,
    Robyn

  • http://robyn.flach@excellanz.com Robyn Flach

    Great post Connie!

    I read Chris’s blogs and all material from him that I can get my hands on, because of all I learn from what he writes, but I also read yours! You are both approachable and helpful. Right now I think I have so many things bookmarked from you, Chris, and many others, that I need a day just to read them all. Everyone has a unique flavor. (Need to narrow my focus a bit, but it’s ALL so interesting!)

    I agree with having the framework laid out in your mind before starting helps, and as well needing to re-assess it from time to time. I have already witnessed a few people’s voice/direction evolving in the short time I have been participating and observing. And I love your statement about just letting your own personality come thru where ever you are online.

    Blessings,
    Robyn

  • http://www.squidoo.com/babyboomersandretirement Carol Ann Wiley

    Wow, what a great roadmap for branding. Great job. I have already printed it and will have it next to me when I am considering what I do next on my new, working “branding website”.

    Good job, Chris, for knowing that you had a young woman with a great grasp on what branding is all about.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/babyboomersandretirement Carol Ann Wiley

    Wow, what a great roadmap for branding. Great job. I have already printed it and will have it next to me when I am considering what I do next on my new, working “branding website”.

    Good job, Chris, for knowing that you had a young woman with a great grasp on what branding is all about.

  • http://blog.sironaconsulting.com Andy Headworth

    Great article Connie. You have given a great insight into personal branding. What makes it more powerful is that it is from personal experience.
    Both you and Chris have this clever ability to be able to zero in to what people are thinking at the time.

    Andy

  • http://blog.sironaconsulting.com Andy Headworth

    Great article Connie. You have given a great insight into personal branding. What makes it more powerful is that it is from personal experience.
    Both you and Chris have this clever ability to be able to zero in to what people are thinking at the time.

    Andy

  • http://www.seohertfordshire.blogspot.com/ James Norris

    Thanks a lot for the initial advice. I have just started my first blog and found many of the points very interesting and hopefully very useful.

    James

  • http://www.seohertfordshire.blogspot.com/ James Norris

    Thanks a lot for the initial advice. I have just started my first blog and found many of the points very interesting and hopefully very useful.

    James

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  • http://www.cloudid.com david usher

    hey connie
    great post, really thoughtful!

  • http://www.cloudid.com david usher

    hey connie
    great post, really thoughtful!

  • http://BuzzVoice.com/ JohnAtkinson

    Excellent advice Connie. As proof that Chris is the ideal mentor, I’d like to share an “in the wild” experience –

    Last week I attended the Tech Cocktail Conference in Chicago. During the session on building a personal brand, Gary Vaynerchuk, who happened to be in the audience, stood up an asked the question: “Who would you cite as the person who has done the best job building a personal brand?”

    The audience unanimously blurted out: “Chris Brogan!”

    IMHO – That’s undeniable proof!

  • http://www.PimpMyNews.com John Atkinson

    Excellent advice Connie. As proof that Chris is the ideal mentor, I’d like to share an “in the wild” experience –

    Last week I attended the Tech Cocktail Conference in Chicago. During the session on building a personal brand, Gary Vaynerchuk, who happened to be in the audience, stood up an asked the question: “Who would you cite as the person who has done the best job building a personal brand?”

    The audience unanimously blurted out: “Chris Brogan!”

    IMHO – That’s undeniable proof!

  • http://spiral-scratch.blogspot.com/ Liz

    You offer a lot of ideas to think about. I have a blog, too, and I think it’s too personal, too much about me and not enough about “something”.

    But when I compare it to blogs that I admire, it seems like these bloggers have inside connections to information or a seemingly endless amount of time to update their blog throughout the day or a great collection of contributors to add fresh content. I also don’t want to add another blog onto the logpile of all of the blogs on my field of employment.

    It’s only distinguishing quality is me and my authorship and yet if I don’t broaden the subject matter, the audience will always be limited to those in my social circle (those who know I have a blog!). Yet, I don’t want to just repeat stories/news that appear in other blogs and either have no original content or just duplicate what’s being written about in more successful blogs.

    Your suggestions (and those of this intelligent reading audience) would be most welcome!

  • Liz

    You offer a lot of ideas to think about. I have a blog, too, and I think it’s too personal, too much about me and not enough about “something”.

    But when I compare it to blogs that I admire, it seems like these bloggers have inside connections to information or a seemingly endless amount of time to update their blog throughout the day or a great collection of contributors to add fresh content. I also don’t want to add another blog onto the logpile of all of the blogs on my field of employment.

    It’s only distinguishing quality is me and my authorship and yet if I don’t broaden the subject matter, the audience will always be limited to those in my social circle (those who know I have a blog!). Yet, I don’t want to just repeat stories/news that appear in other blogs and either have no original content or just duplicate what’s being written about in more successful blogs.

    Your suggestions (and those of this intelligent reading audience) would be most welcome!

  • http://scottpurdie.com Scott Purdie

    Hey Connie, Strong post! Thanks. The part I took a lot from was about going back and asking yourself the questions again after a while and asking people for feedback! Sounds obvious but its sensible to evaluate where we are.

  • http://scottpurdie.com Scott Purdie

    Hey Connie, Strong post! Thanks. The part I took a lot from was about going back and asking yourself the questions again after a while and asking people for feedback! Sounds obvious but its sensible to evaluate where we are.

  • http://www.conniebensen.com Connie Bensen

    John – There are people with amazing strong brands like Chris Brogan (rockstar; How can I help you?); Web Strategist Jeremiah Owyang; Problogger Darren Rowse, Dan Schawbel – Personal Branding Expert for Gen Y, etc. And I’ve enjoyed the challenge of unraveling ‘how did they do that?’ and applying it to my own brand. I’ve tried to help everyone do that. It’s one thing to admire others brands, but take it a step further & build yours!

    Liz – that is an excellent question. Blogging should be fun. Be you – write about what you want to (it’s your platform). For me blogging is based on intrinsic motivation – how can I share my knowledge with others. My suggestion would be to choose a category & start writing posts on that topic. If you like that, then try another. Take it in little steps. Soon you’ll find that you’ll be thinking about new posts & topics. (It’s a bit addictive once you get on a roll)
    Maybe Chris will address the topic & I bet he has some great ideas. And other readers – what do you think?

  • http://www.conniebensen.com Connie Bensen

    John – There are people with amazing strong brands like Chris Brogan (rockstar; How can I help you?); Web Strategist Jeremiah Owyang; Problogger Darren Rowse, Dan Schawbel – Personal Branding Expert for Gen Y, etc. And I’ve enjoyed the challenge of unraveling ‘how did they do that?’ and applying it to my own brand. I’ve tried to help everyone do that. It’s one thing to admire others brands, but take it a step further & build yours!

    Liz – that is an excellent question. Blogging should be fun. Be you – write about what you want to (it’s your platform). For me blogging is based on intrinsic motivation – how can I share my knowledge with others. My suggestion would be to choose a category & start writing posts on that topic. If you like that, then try another. Take it in little steps. Soon you’ll find that you’ll be thinking about new posts & topics. (It’s a bit addictive once you get on a roll)
    Maybe Chris will address the topic & I bet he has some great ideas. And other readers – what do you think?

  • http://www.spire.com Tyson Goodridge

    Connie- great comments and advice that really resonate with me (I’m a community manager too). And to what Andy Headworth says above- your timing is perfect- you both have a great sense of when, and how to deliver some timely thoughts. Kudos to you both.

  • http://www.spire.com Tyson Goodridge

    Connie- great comments and advice that really resonate with me (I’m a community manager too). And to what Andy Headworth says above- your timing is perfect- you both have a great sense of when, and how to deliver some timely thoughts. Kudos to you both.

  • matt jones

    Connie,
    Great post. Had a follow up question based on your past experience: are there any good models in the world of libraries for remaining relevant and vibrant?

    I volunteer with a group in upstate NY that helps non-profits with business and marketing planning. Libraries of all types have been frequent customers as of late: from university settings to small town community libraries. Most are struggling. Any advice or sources much appreciated!
    Matt

  • matt jones

    Connie,
    Great post. Had a follow up question based on your past experience: are there any good models in the world of libraries for remaining relevant and vibrant?

    I volunteer with a group in upstate NY that helps non-profits with business and marketing planning. Libraries of all types have been frequent customers as of late: from university settings to small town community libraries. Most are struggling. Any advice or sources much appreciated!
    Matt

  • http://www.radian6.com David Alston

    Hey there Connie,

    Great post. For those wanting to begin the journey this is a wonderful roadmap.

    And thanks for illustrating point #7 and mentioning Radian6 :-) I knew about your post of course because, as you mention, I was listening for our brand (using our own solution of course :-).

    David Alston
    Radian6

  • http://www.radian6.com David Alston

    Hey there Connie,

    Great post. For those wanting to begin the journey this is a wonderful roadmap.

    And thanks for illustrating point #7 and mentioning Radian6 :-) I knew about your post of course because, as you mention, I was listening for our brand (using our own solution of course :-).

    David Alston
    Radian6

  • http://www.theengagingbrand.com Anna Farmery

    Connie – you know I am a big fan and glad that I helped in any small way. I think what makes you special is that you were part of a community first and a community manager second…..that gave you the passion but also the great insights from both sides which you how share. Great post.

  • http://www.theengagingbrand.com Anna Farmery

    Connie – you know I am a big fan and glad that I helped in any small way. I think what makes you special is that you were part of a community first and a community manager second…..that gave you the passion but also the great insights from both sides which you how share. Great post.

  • http://www.mamasvillage.blogspot.com/ foodplayground

    So much informative content in such a fluid-nice-tone-to-hear-in-my-head, inspiring, I could go on and on. Thank you Connie for sharing in such a succinct manner. Thank you Chris for hosting!

  • http://www.mamasvillage.blogspot.com/ Susana

    So much informative content in such a fluid-nice-tone-to-hear-in-my-head, inspiring, I could go on and on. Thank you Connie for sharing in such a succinct manner. Thank you Chris for hosting!

  • http://www.conniebensen.com Connie Bensen

    Hi Matt,
    There is a very strong Library 2.0 force.
    Library 2.0 ning http://library20.ning.com/

    I have a post with links to Michael Stephens & Stephen Abrams – they are the leaders & their materials & presentations are inspiring (I heard both in person & am here now). There’s also a link there for librarians to learn about web 2.0 concepts.
    http://conniebensen.com/blog/2007/09/15/learn-about-social-media-with-librarians/

    @kanter Beth Kanter does great things with non-profit tech
    Beth Dunn also is with non-profits

    The Beth’s echo my recommendation to experiment & try new things to stay relevant. I found programming & providing a community meeting space is also what the public wants. Shift from the quiet library to a vibrant cornerstone of the community. Provide for all age groups – millenials expectations are quite different. Dance, Dance Revolution is just as much part of the library as the books are now.
    Feel free to connect with me if you want more information.

    and thanks everyone for your kind words!

  • http://www.conniebensen.com Connie Bensen

    Hi Matt,
    There is a very strong Library 2.0 force.
    Library 2.0 ning http://library20.ning.com/

    I have a post with links to Michael Stephens & Stephen Abrams – they are the leaders & their materials & presentations are inspiring (I heard both in person & am here now). There’s also a link there for librarians to learn about web 2.0 concepts.
    http://conniebensen.com/blog/2007/09/15/learn-about-social-media-with-librarians/

    @kanter Beth Kanter does great things with non-profit tech
    Beth Dunn also is with non-profits

    The Beth’s echo my recommendation to experiment & try new things to stay relevant. I found programming & providing a community meeting space is also what the public wants. Shift from the quiet library to a vibrant cornerstone of the community. Provide for all age groups – millenials expectations are quite different. Dance, Dance Revolution is just as much part of the library as the books are now.
    Feel free to connect with me if you want more information.

    and thanks everyone for your kind words!

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  • http://www.phonefusion.com Michael Manna

    Connie,
    Great blog post. I would love to have you on a guest for my podcast for PhoneFusion. I, selfishly, would ask for some tips as well. Keep up the great work.

  • http://www.phonefusion.com Michael Manna

    Connie,
    Great blog post. I would love to have you on a guest for my podcast for PhoneFusion. I, selfishly, would ask for some tips as well. Keep up the great work.

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  • http://www.savetubevideo.com youtube downloader

    I’d like to share my methods for efficiently building an effective brand. Everyone has a story & into this post as I share my tips on building brand. I’m leaving off the word ‘personal’ because it makes some uncomfortable & most of these can be applied to products & businesses. The sociology around branding is intriguing to me. I see people focusing on SEO, monetization, getting a job, etc. And yes, it’s important to be proactive & strategic but if you focus on content & networking those first items will happen indirectly & in a much more powerful way!

  • http://www.savetubevideo.com youtube downloader

    I’d like to share my methods for efficiently building an effective brand. Everyone has a story & into this post as I share my tips on building brand. I’m leaving off the word ‘personal’ because it makes some uncomfortable & most of these can be applied to products & businesses. The sociology around branding is intriguing to me. I see people focusing on SEO, monetization, getting a job, etc. And yes, it’s important to be proactive & strategic but if you focus on content & networking those first items will happen indirectly & in a much more powerful way!