17/4/20083

Surviving an online rebrand.

RebrandingYesterday was a watershed here at the new blog in that it was the first day where the site traffic was larger than the old site at Randomelements. As such I thought it would be a good opportunity to run through how the rebranding was conducted.

Starting a new site is never easy (Rudy will tell you that) but changing your whole brand when you already have content, subscribers and an established identity (I have been using the Randomelements name for different reasons since 2000) is dangerous and generally not recommended.

So, with all that in mind, how did I go about my rebrand and live tell the tale?

Stages

I had an idea that things were going to change a while ago so I sowed the seeds by first changing my username on Twitter - it made sense in other ways too; Twitter is a personal service with direct interaction between people so using my actual name instead of a brand means people know exactly who they are talking to. Then, with any new service I joined I used my name instead of the brand.

With this in place the next step is to plan the change and know exactly why you're doing it. If you don't know yourself how are you going to explain it to others and get them to follow you?

Communicate

Don't just drop a change on your readers, inform them of what is going to happen so they can have time to adjust - we are creatures of habit after all.

Once the preparation work has been done the new brand can be created but ideally run in parallel to the existing one. This allows for a gradual switch over; your readers can follow in their own time which makes them more comfortable with the change.

The fear with a new site (especially a blog) is that it will be empty and not provide a "destination". If it is relevant the best advice is to re-post some of your best, recent content. This gives visitors something immediate to hit and, as it will be your best quality content, be more likely to stick around or subscribe to your feed.

Focus

Now is also a good time to re-evaluate what you do and where your passions lie. It is pointless trying to fool yourself and your readers writing about topics you are no longer passionate about - they'll know. Instead, you should re-focus to your strengths and current passions; not only will this reflect in the writing itself enhancing the quality of what you do but it will also make it far easier to actually write the content in the first place. Ideas flow more freely when you don't have to force yourself to write on any given topic, stick to what interests you and content will sometimes write itself.

When the new brand has been fleshed out you can then go back and look at migrating your existing readers. The first step is to redirect the old RSS feed so people will automatically get your new content and not miss anything - again make sure that you have communicated that this is going to happen and, in doing so, make sure that you frame it in positive terms. It needs to sound like you are doing your readers a favour.

Moving house

Your old site should also be adorned with notices advising of the change of location for those new readers who may have visited during or after the rebranding process and therefore may not know what has been happening.

Personally, I will be keeping the Randomelements domain live for the foreseeable future as there is a good quantity of popular content. If you are planning on taking an old site down I would not do this too soon. Give people plenty of time to discover the change for themselves before forcing them to the new site with a redirection. Again, you want to make people comfortable with the move as many readers will not read the new site if they think the content they are looking for is no longer available.

It goes both ways

You can't expect people to just magically turn up at your new site, you need to be promoting it in any location that you have a presence. Make sure that you are linking to others especially when referring to them in your content. Make others realise that your content is related and they will have more reason to reciprocate.

Using social media is key to building links and relationships with other people in your area and attracting new readers but avoid spamming your followers. You should have a good mix of conversation and promotion of others around updates about your own site. Additionally, you should promote a consistent image across any service that you use to interact with others - ensure that you are using the same name and avatar to make yourself instantly recognisable.

In conclusion

As discussed, I personally think that a successful rebranding will be the result of really understanding why you want to rebrand then effectively communicating this with your readers before even making a change. Once a change has been made you are then relying on the quality of your content to carry you through.

A brand should be chosen carefully and the scope of coverage should also be considered. How many topics should a blog cover before it loses its identity? What shouldn't you consider as a brand name? Laurence commented to this effect on an earlier post.

If the rebranding is done in a planned, measured way then the outcome should be fine.

Your take

What would you advise someone looking to change their online brand? How should they go about it and what services should they employ to help get the message across?

Surviving an online rebrand.

Putting the 'social' in social media.Comments

Kimberly of Learning SEO Basics has made a great point with her post "Stop Selling and Start Giving". She argues that the ever increasing plethora of social media products (those how-to's being sold by the world and his wife) are nothing more than old school marketing.

A very similar point was made by David Cohn in his post: What I Hate About the Internet - Everyone is a "Social Media Consultant" in which he touches on the issue of Twitter spam accounts.

I immediately replied to Kimberly that "Social = building trust and relationships not spamming for business ends". All we ever get, however, is how you can sell your brand or product using social media.

Wrong!

Interaction on social media should not be the sales pitch; anyone who follows 20,000 "friends" completely arbitrarily is going to get ignored. People will not reciprocate and you will be branded a spammer - a wasted opportunity.

Connect

The clue to social media is in the name, it's all about building community, interacting with people rather than ramming stuff down their throats. Connect with people and offer help or advice, even the odd freebie. Create a relationship and gain trust. Use social media as a point of contact where customers can make queries, find information or even get support. Instead of blindly forcing your presence on the world at large target your existing customer base and let them know of the new ways in which they can get in touch - word will soon spread.

Social media is taking hold and progressing far quicker than business can react and too many "experts" are still applying the old rules. The game has changed and the existing rulebook can be thrown away; it's time we all learnt how to play again.

Putting the 'social' in social media.

What makes a good social media role model?Comments

Following on from his previous post Mark Dykeman takes a look from a contrary point of view and says that being a Role Model 3.0 may not be such a great thing due to the time involved in out reach.

His model of the different role model types shows that role model 3.0 will have a high authority but, in my view this does not automatically imply a high availability.

What is a role model?

To use the same definition as Mark:

"a person whose behavior, example, or success is or can be emulated by others, esp. by younger people."

In a social media context this would mean someone who "gets it" and therefore is an authority on what social media is can how it can be used effectively. As such , people are going to want to emulate their online behaviour.

In the context of my previous post where we are looking at how ordinary people can be educated about social media and it can be made a mainstream means of communication it is the role models who will obviously be blazing the trail.

To twist a well known phrase:

"With authority comes great responsibility"

Mark expresses concern over the time a role model may have to devote to their "status" but, surely it is better to have a role model who demonstrates how social media can be used in conjunction with our existing lives and not instead of them. They would, by necessity need to unplug and not be the type who spends all their time on twitter when they could be doing something else. The average person would not want to emulate this behaviour anyway so, by definition, the social media addict couldn't actually be a role model.

Balance

If we are to encourage those people with normal lives, normal jobs and families to use social media then the best example to set is one of balance. We don't want to create a world where people only communicate virtually; social media is a facilitator, not the end product.

We must show how social media can be used responsibly without detriment to other aspects of life otherwise it will always be seen as the playground of the geek who is "always on" and thus never go mainstream.

Your take

What do you think makes a good social media role model? How can we lead the way and educate those who have not yet experienced social media or realised what it can achieve?

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What makes a good social media role model?