One of the questions many moms in social ask is how to build their own personal brand. So I reached four special friends and asked if they would share their story with my audience. Meet Audrey McClelland of Mom Generations, Sugar Jones of Sugar in the Raw, Candice Derickx of Best Tools for Schools, and Ponn Sabra of the American Muslim Mom. I think you’ll enjoy their unique stories.
Audrey McClelland: Mom Generations
I’ve been working on building my brand since January 1, 2009. That was the day I officially launched – 365 Days of Fashion Advice for Moms. I knew that if I wanted to create something in the mom blogging space, it needed to be specific and something I was passionate about and knew something about. For me, it was fashion and nobody else was doing it then. I knew I needed to build this brand on my own, so I started with relevant, interesting and engaging content. I wanted the fashion advice to be personal, mom-to-mom… nothing too much, nothing over the top. Practical advice. I just knew I needed to stay consistent at the beginning if I really did want to build a brand of myself and advice that I wanted to share. To this day – I have never missed ONE single day of mom advice on MomGenerations.com. It’s almost been 3 years.
I personally think the criteria comes down to:
• Dreaming BIG
You don’t always know where something will go, or even how it will grow in terms of being successful, but if you just keep riding the path and the wave with above mentioned “tools,” you’ll succeed because you won’t quit until you do. I really think that’s the secret.
Presently I’m working with TJMaxx/Marshall’s, Rayovac, Schick, Degree and Land of Frost.
Sugar Jones: Sugar In The Raw
I’m what I like to call an accidental brand. My personal brand was born about seven years ago out of a desire to tell it like it is. Sugar is a nickname some friends gave me and my married name is actually Jones, so I went by Sugar Jones on-line thinking nobody would ever know who I was. As Sugar Jones, I got to use my outside voice. I felt comfortable sharing my true feelings about life, love, and the Internet without worrying about the ladies at the PTA or folks at church looking at me funny. Eventually, I “came out” as Sugar Jones to everyone in my life. They do look at me funny, but I’m too busy to care.
Being yourself. Being honest. Honoring who you are as a person before the brand. Not taking on any projects that are not in line with your values… even if you’re broke. Don’t do it!Be true to your core, even if it goes against the grain. See: Apple.
My original goal (and a dream I still hold on to) is to be a regular travel writer for Sunset Magazine. If there’s an Airstream involved, even better! Through blogging, I’ve had a chance to do quite a bit of traveling and writing about those adventures. It’s sometimes so surreal to me that my little girl dream is happening.
But until I can semi-retire in that Airstream, I’ll continue taking all the fun opportunities that come along. I’m also working on my new business, Smart & Social; teaching women how get the word out about their business through social media. I’m also working on a side project to get people to live with creativity and passion according to who they are. I’m calling it Live the Sweet Life. How’s THAT for branding?
Candice Derickx: SeeMummyJuggle and Best Tools for Schools
It’s been a longer process for me than some.Three years almost. I think I’m moving fairly slow at it but that’s OK with me. I like to take the time to get to know people. Just like I would in real life. Although it’s said ad nauseum, you really can’t fake it in social media. People catch on fairly quickly so you need to be you.
The key to success is finding the people/brands you mesh with. Like with like. If you’re not a deep thinker, you’re probably not going to have a lot of fun hanging with the philosophers. I still follow and interact with people/brands that I don’t necessarily think like because they have lessons to teach but for the most part I’m drawn to positive, upbeat people. That defines success in my circle. That being said if I was gloomy and dark, then there would be a group for that too. Social media is for everyone, I believe success in this medium is what you want it to be. For some it’s perks, for others it’s learning and for some it’s connections.
My business is @best_tools so there’s the money component, but we also have a philanthropic angle to our business so there’s one cause. Then I’m also building my brand under @seemummyjuggle, which is my writing at Yummy Mummy Club and LIfe in Pleasantville and where I can be a little kookier than when I’m tweeting under @best_tools. This goes back to what I was saying earlier. People following @best_tools may be following to strictly know about my biz and may not appreciate my sense of humor. I’m cool with people knowing I own Best Tools for Schools but I think people appreciate the separation between personal and business. As @seemummyjuggle I am still very community minded though so I love that I can tweet out I was going to buy a $50 dollar sweater but changed my mind and donated it to World Vision. It’s true and it might inspire just one other person to do the same. Social media should always be used for good in my opinion. If you have any “Klout” or sway at all, I think you’re failing if you don’t promote worthy causes.
On another note, I’m still not comfortable with “brand”. It seems so silly to me. I’m me, that’s it, that’s all. To develop myself as a “brand” means I’m trying to present me with a marketing plan attached. I have no plan. I’m feeling my way through this and some may suggest it’s wrong because I’m not being aggressive enough, but then that wouldn’t be me anymore. Does that make sense?
I just finished working with Hamilton Beach on Life in Pleasantville, and I have an upcoming trip with Jamaica Tourism for Yummy Mummy Club.
I began building my brand even before American Muslim Mom was officially launched. I conducted detailed keyword research, surveyed the needs of my niche market, determined their needs and desires, and compared them to my own personal and professional needs and desires. When I was confident that I can0 service my community’s needs by simply sharing the resources, tips, lessons, tools, etc. in my every day life, I knew my “brand” would attract my target market easily. By taking these strategic steps, within the first month of my launch in July 2009, I was interviewed by Associated Press and was covered in dozens of mainstream media outlets, such as Washington Post, Chicago Tribune and FoxNews online.
I am constantly astute to the needs of my community, by actively reviewing my website’s analytics, statistics, comments, emails, etc. I analyze daily, weekly, monthly and annual records, noticing which individual posts or articles do well, what gets a Twitter RT (retweet) or Facebook Like, how do different social media communities react to anything I publish. Therefore, in December 2010, I hired a development team to completely re-brand American Muslim Mom.
In addition to the business-end of re-branding, I underwent a deep analysis of my own personal desires and religious goals, since my site is a Muslim Mom blog. My development team and I spent 6-weeks to relaunch it with a new logo, mission statement, look and more.
To succeed in your personal or business branding efforts, I think one must continuously evaluate one’s efforts to stay true to your mission statement, and keeping your message consistent in all of your online and offline efforts.
When the American Muslim Mom brand was launched in 2009, I always knew we’d evolve into a trusted resource for Muslim moms in America, and in turn would be a profitable business entity. After our rebranding in February 2011, we four-times our traffic, once even crashing our server when I did a week-long social media campaign with CNN for their debut “Muslims in America” documentary.
In July 2011, I unveiled 6 new contributor, and just Sunday American Muslim Mom is now officially a blog network with a homeschool channel. We invested heavily in our time, finances and resources over the past couple years, and as a result we are the #1 ranked online community for Muslim moms and dads in the world. We have over 4-times as much traffic as the #2 ranked blog (which is also mine), and 5-times the #3. #4-#50 Muslim mom blogs average a small 2-50 unique per day, so we clearly have a captured audience and market. I’ve launched a few other spin-off blogs which have been lucrative the day I launch because I am providing resources my audience needs and desires.
While I thought I had huge ambitious in 2011, having far-exceeded my humble goals, I already hired a business mentor to determine our 2012 goals, and plan of action. By having an experienced advisor committed to our brand’s success, I have a critical outsider making sure I’m staying focused on my Mission Statement. I learned that during dramatic growth periods (like we experienced this year), one could easily be stretched in many directions and stretch the very Mission Statement that made you successful in the first place. It’s absolutely critical that one always stays focused on the Mission Statement that you worked hard to become well-known, trusted and respected for, otherwise you weaken your brand and reputation.
Collectively, since I am a member of over two dozen blogger networks, I work with dozens of brands each day across all 3 of my brands. I’m blessed that my ranking causes brands to seek me and my audiences out, so I am not pitching brands like I used too. Major brands that sought me out include CNN, Verizon Thinkfinity, Western Union. Major brands with long-standing relationships include Disney, Hasbro, Knowledge Adventure.