Posts Tagged ‘Reputation’
Bitcoin started out as a fringe movement among crypto-anarchists in the open-source community, but has rapidly gained acceptance as a legitimate alternative to fiat money as it pertains to digital transactions. Accordingly, the volume and value of mined Bitcoin has seen exponential growth since this crypto-currency was first launched in 2009. As per available data, nearly 13.28 million Bitcoins have been mined so far . Meanwhile, the value of a single Bitcoin has increased from £4.25 in July 2012 to a high of £753 in November 2013 – an increase of roughly 17600% .
Bitcoin was originally developed as a fast, safe and cost-effective currency for digital transactions. Consequently, its earlier adopters were tech-forward users in the open-source community. Despite its growing clout in the mainstream, Bitcoin’s most aggressive proponents remain largely entrenched in this community.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, to learn that brand Bitcoin, as it exists today, has come to be associated with words like “underground”, “alternative”, and even “anarchic”. This lends it considerable weight as a branding tool for certain businesses. For others, the negative connotations of Bitcoin, along with its proliferation through underground marketplaces, can be largely detrimental to the business’ brand image. Adopting and accepting Bitcoin through online channels, therefore, is something a brand must consider carefully before making a decision.
Bitcoin as the “maverick” …
There are some obvious business arguments in favour of using Bitcoin, namely, the low transaction costs associated with the currency, emphasis on privacy, storage of coins in digital wallets, and speed of transactions. This has made the currency especially useful for digital-only transactions (i.e. purchasing digital products) where user privacy is important. For example, the popular website Reddit, which emphasises anonymity, accepts Bitcoin as a transactional medium largely because of its privacy features (Reddit’s community is also tech-oriented, which helps in higher adoption). Since Bitcoin is also decentralised and unregulated, it has earned the image of being a “pro-internet freedom” currency.
Integrating Bitcoin gives a brand the added advantage of aligning itself with Bitcoin’s brand associations. As noted earlier, Bitcoin has come to be associated with the “alternative”. In some ways, this is not dissimilar to the debate between open-source and closed-source software in the 1990’s, when some brands adopted open-source solutions such as Linux to position themselves as the “mavericks” who care about “community” and “digital freedom”.
Consider the example of the popular domain registrar, Namecheap. Namecheap has consistently positioned itself as the alternative to the more mainstream registrars (chiefly, Enom.com and GoDaddy.com). To this effect, it has aligned itself with pro-internet movements such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s legal fight against the SOPA (“Stop Online Piracy Act”) in the United States in 2011 . Namecheap later started accepting Bitcoin in 2013, noting in its release statement that the company considers itself the “pioneers in the space of innovation and online freedom” .
In fact, the top websites that accept Bitcoins is almost entirely composed of brands that identify themselves as the “alternative” . This includes Virgin Galaxy (space flights), OkCupid (the free alternative to Match.com), PirateBay.org (free, pirate alternative to file sharing), WordPress.com (free alternative to paid Content Management Systems), Reddit.com (alternative to Digg), Mega.com (alternative, restriction-free file sharing), and Overstock.com (online-only alternative retailer).
When a business adopts Bitcoin, it is signalling to its users that it is a “maverick” that cares about issues such as internet-freedom, user privacy and being tech-forward. Brands that self-identify with these qualities would benefit the most from adopting Bitcoin – at least in the form that it exists today.
… Bitcoin as the “criminal”
However, the privacy and anonymity of Bitcoin has also made it the favoured transaction medium in underground marketplaces known for trading illegal drugs and contraband. The volume of this trade is immense, although given the secretive nature of these marketplaces, the exact figure is hard to ascertain. By one estimate, roughly half of all Bitcoin transactions are to buy drugs online .
The large volume of these transactions, coupled with the recent closure of Silk Road  (the largest underground marketplace) and massive security breaches at popular exchanges like Mt. Gox  have affected Bitcoin’s image in the mainstream. Besides “alternative”, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that some have also started associating words like “illegal”, “scam” and “unsafe” with the currency (howsoever factually untrue it may be) . Naturally, this association rubs off on brands who choose to adopt the currency. For mainstream brands that don’t have tech-forward audiences that understand Bitcoin, this may even backfire.
The keyword, thus, is “alternative”.
Given the current state of Bitcoin, every brand should make careful considerations before aligning itself with the currency. While on the one hand, it can amplify the “maverick” image of a brand that identifies itself as tech-forward, pro-internet freedom and “alternative”, it can also harm the image of a brand with customers who don’t fully understand Bitcoin and other crypto-currencies.
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Over the past few decades, league tables have become part and parcel of the education sector in the United Kingdom. Whether academics like it or not, this includes higher education institutions, which are increasingly driven by their performance in various university rankings. This focus on reputation, however, can marginalise the equally vital imperative to work on the university’s overall brand.
Distinguishing Between Brand And Reputation
The concept of ‘branding’ is now so endemic within society that it has come to mean many different things to those who use the term. When understood from a professional viewpoint, however, it has a very specific meaning. A successful brand is one that communicates a set of overriding values from the institution to the consumer or customer. One of those values may well be ‘continued excellence’, but they may equally include ‘links with the business community’, or ‘superb social scene’. A brand is a complicated and interconnected nexus of messages, and cannot be reduced simply to academic performance.
In contrast, reputation can be viewed in the context of a higher education institution as reflecting continued performance on the academic stage. Regardless of their branding – which are equally successful in their various ways – Oxford’s academic reputation is clearly greater than University of East Anglia’s, for example. In other words, a university’s brand is not necessarily the same as its reputation, and is certainly not synonymous with its academic reputation. A careful branding strategy will not rest simply on reputation, but will be sculpted to the institution’s own strengths and weaknesses.
Performance Is Important…
Of course, it cannot be denied that academic reputation, symbolised by an institution’s position in league tables and similar rankings, is important. Many universities will have dedicated at least part of their branding efforts into communicating a message about their areas of academic strength, and a poor showing over an extended period of time will certainly undermine that message. HEFCE themselves, however, acknowledge that league table position tends to confirm institutional reputation, rather than forging it from scratch (cf Locke, Verbik et al, 2008).
Performance in league tables and other such rankings will, therefore, be significantly more important for those institutions which have invested much of their brand effort into their academic strengths. This is not always about strong reputation across the board, however, as many institutions will have identified an academic USP into which they will pour most of their reputation enhancing efforts. An institution which promotes itself as a significant leader in the area of legal studies, for example, may not be as concerned by a low rating in the sciences as it would be by a poor ranking in law.
…But It Isn’t Everything
Many academic studies have confirmed the finding that successful branding performs a role which affects the popular view of an institution over and above league table positions (cf Chapleo, 2011, for an example). This should hardly be surprising, as no prospective student or academic chooses an institution solely using the criteria of academic performance. If this were so, Cambridge would boast all of the best academics and students in the UK, to the detriment of every other institution. Whilst it cannot be denied that Cambridge’s reputation has had a significant impact on its recruitment and retention, the branding efforts of other universities have succeeded in attracting some talent away from the institution which, on the face of it, should surely be the obvious first choice for anyone making an academically orientated decision.
A strong brand communicates far more than a simple league table position can when it comes to a university’s strengths and USP, and a strong branding strategy can compensate for significant weaknesses in academic rankings. Indeed, Locke et al (2008) have found that league table position is predominantly used to ‘confirm a decision already made’ when it comes to students deliberating over whether to attend a specific university.
Effective Branding Improves Performance
That ‘decision already made’ is informed and guided largely by the success or failure of an institution’s branding strategy. Whilst academic reputation may be one plank of that strategy, the most successful universities weave in a host of different values to form a strong and coherent brand which attracts both students and academics, as well as research funding and benefactors. As covered in previous articles, this can create a ‘virtuous circle’, in which a strong brand feeds into academic reputation. Performance can be improved by a strong branding effort, whilst strong performance cannot make up for a weak brand.
This is clearly evident if one imagines a high achieving student, choosing between universities. Whilst clearly academic reputation will be a factor, it will not be the only influence on the ultimate decision. Certainly, if the reputation of the two institutions is finely balanced, the student will be making the decision based on the branding of the two universities, and what that says about the kind of institution to which they wish to belong. The university which ‘wins’ this branding competition will secure an excellent student, whilst the university which loses will miss out on the best talent. This will have repercussions for decades to come, particularly if such a decision is repeated over multiple years by multiple students. Before long, the reputation of the ‘losing’ university will be dipping, and the reputation of the ‘winning’ university will be rising – and all because of an emphasis, or lack of it, on branding.
Chapleo, C. (2011). Exploring rationales for branding a university: Should we be seeking to measure branding in UK universities&quest. Journal of Brand Management, 18(6), 411-422.
Locke, W. (2011). The Institutionalization of Rankings: Managing Status Anxiety in an Increasingly Marketized Environment. University Rankings, 201-228.
Locke, W., Verbik, L., Richardson, J. T., & King, R. (2008). Counting what is measured or measuring what counts? League tables and their impact on higher education institutions in England.
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The essence of social media is providing an avenue to connect with customers online. As a business owner, you will have the opportunity to present the features and benefits of the products that you are offering.
Your readers, in turn, will have the chance to review, purchase, or complain. At some point, you will experience a dissatisfied online customer who will complain about bad service or a broken promise.
It is your job to take this opportunity to convert an irate client to a satisfied and returning customer.
Here are some tips to consider:
Step One: Be Aware
You cannot address an issue that you do not know about. Listen to the concerns of your customers by allowing them to leave comments on your website. Keep watch of the activity on your Facebook page. Make sure to keep a regular check on Twitter hash tags or replies related to your business. Read forums and review sites that cater to the nature of your business. Knowing about the negative comments and feedback about your products and services in the soonest possible time will help avert a potentially disastrous outcome.
Step Two: Respond Immediately
Immediate action is required when dealing with customer complaints. The longer you take to make a statement, the harder it becomes to resolve the situation. On occasion, you will need intensive research and background checks before you can provide an acceptable explanation. In such situations, you can simply leave a message explaining the actions you need to take and a turn around time for a response.
Some offensive comments are not worth the response. If the criticism is made out of spite or bigotry, then it may be best to simply delete the post. Your other customers will ignore rude or discriminatory remarks especially if made without basis. Instead, you should focus on working on action items that are within your control.
Step Three: Connect With Your Customer
Avoid canned or scripted responses. Speak like an actual person and try to relate with how your customers must be feeling. Giving them a copy of your terms and conditions will only aggravate the situation. Acknowledge their concern and let them know that you understand what they are going through. Empathise with them and let them know that you will feel the same way if the situation happened to you. Reassure them and tell them that you will do everything in your power to resolve the situation.
Step Four: Make Things Right
A sincere apology may help appease an irate customer, but fixing the problem is the only way to win them over. Offer to make things right for the customer. Replace the broken product or give a refund for lost deliveries. You can also opt to provide discounts or freebies for future purchases. People make mistakes, but what is important is how we correct those errors.
Step Five: Do Not Get Emotional
As the business owner, you need to be the voice of reason. Customers are expected to complain, but business owners who get into an argument with their clients are seen in a bad light. Even if you know you are right, you need to be patient enough to clearly explain the logistics to the customer. Getting into a fight with them will not resolve the situation.
Step Six: Get Their Involvement
A negative comment is a great opportunity for learning and improvement. If a customer complains about a certain feature, ask him what changes need to be made to improve the product. Make them feel that their input is valuable. If you consider their suggestions, make sure to involve them during product testing or the product launch.
Step Seven: Make Sure the Discussion is Visible
It is tempting to keep the conversation offline, but providing solutions in plain sight will let the world know that you are serious about providing excellent service. You also make other people aware that you are constantly working on improving your products. If you provide a clear solution for a specific issue, there will be no need for other customers to send in similar complaints.
Unhappy customers will always be a part of your business. There will always be something to complain about. Dissatisfied customers tend to spread the word around so it is essential to change their mind about your company. Use the negative feedback to your advantage and turn a bad situation into a learning opportunity.
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Unless you have been living in a bubble for the last year, chances are good that you have heard about the success of social media superstar site Pinterest. While brands and marketers have flocked to the site in an effort to build brand awareness, many Pinterest users neglect to connect their social media dots. Rather than relying on individual efforts on sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Google+, savvy social marketers are using Pinterest as a way of driving traffic to each of their brand building endeavors. Whether it is the company blog on Tumblr or your corporate videos on YouTube, using Pinterest as a hub for your social media efforts is essential to brand building. By being aware of the strengths of each social media platform, you can pin appropriate content to Pinterest in order to increase engagement.
Facebook Focus – Sharing Stories and Images Works Well
An excellent way to increase engagement on Facebook is to ask your fans to post images of themselves using your product or service. Each picture and accompanying blurb can then be pinned to a fan board on your Pinterest page. Seeing other customers pictured on your Pinterest pages encourages users to join the party and submit their own shots. In no time at all, your Facebook following will likely have grown. Encourage your Facebook fans to be creative and use humor in the images they post on your wall.
Twitter Tips – Best of Tweets Gain Attention
When posting tweets to your Pinterest boards, be selective in the tweets you include. Rather than pinning every single Twitter post to your boards, choose only the most insightful gems. Not only does this encourage your Twitter followers to engage with your company on a truly meaningful level, it gives Pinterest users a deeper look into the personality of your business. The tweets you choose to include on your Pinterest pages shows users whether your company has a sense of humor, whether your company engages in charitable activities, or even whether you divulge special deals to your followers.
Tumblr Temptations – Images Win Hands Down
If your company uses Tumblr to brand build, chances are you already know how well images work on Tumblr. (If you are not using Tumblr, what are you waiting for?) Save long posts of written text for your company website. The best way to build a following on Tumblr is to post plenty of images that offer a glimpse inside your business. From your latest product release to an insider’s view of your corporate lunchroom, for Tumblr users it is all about the pretty pictures. As another highly visual social media site, these images work extremely well on Pinterest. Just be careful not to pin everything from your Tumblr account to your Pinterest account. Leave users wanting more, so that they proceed to your Tumblr account to see what they might have missed. Engaging titles and tempting tidbits in your Pinterest descriptions will further drive viewers to your Tumblr account.
Circle Success on Google+
Encourage users in your Google+ circles to post insightful comments on your Google+ page. As with Twitter, be selective as to which of these interactions you pin to your Pinterest boards. Google+ works well with corporate connections, so pinning strategically can build your business’ reputation as well as that of your chosen Google+ followers.
YouTube Tip – Creative Comments Can Catapult Your Efforts
When pinning company YouTube videos to Pinterest, pay close attention to comments made on your YouTube videos. Pin YouTube clips that help to fortify your brand’s reputation. Each time your firm posts a new video to YouTube, share the link to your social media network and encourage fans to post their insights on your YouTube page. Not only is this viewer engagement seen as a sign of quality by Google, it offers your business yet another way to interact with your user base. A negative comment need not discourage you from posting a particular video to Pinterest. Taking the opportunity to interact with a user in a thoughtful manner only serves to build your brand’s reputation in a positive way.
By paying attention to the strengths of social media websites, your business can make the most of Pinterest by pinning appropriate content from each site. Be sure to identify your Pinterest link clearly on each social media website so that users fully understand their posts could potentially end up on your Pinterest boards. With ongoing effort, you can grow your following on each social media site you participate in while building your Pinterest reputation at the same time. Each social media site offers its own rewards; tying them all together in one spot furthers your business’ reputation as a socially savvy company.
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Many businesses make the mistake of believing social media are tools to win new customers. It’s certainly possible to win new business and new accounts with social media, but the focus of their use should be on building customer loyalty and engagement.
If you carry out some simple analysis in relation to a customer and the business they give you, you may be surprised at what you learn. For most businesses, the cost of acquiring a new customer is far greater than that of retaining an existing one. A term some marketers use is the ‘lifetime value’ of a customer. Their initial order may only be worth a hundred pounds to you, but if you look after them and develop a relationship with them, they could be worth thousands of pounds to you. Social media are the perfect way to build relationships with your customers. They are also great tools to keep competitors at bay.
If a customer trusts you and is happy with your products and services they are likely to stat with you. The only possible exception is the type of customer who is constantly looking for a better deal, and will move to a new supplier for a cheaper price. In the long run, these customers may not be worth the effort or cost of dealing with.
Using social media to communicate with and engage your customers is an efficient and cost effective way to build loyalty. In certain industries, you can establish yourself as an expert by using social media. If you can achieve this, customers won’t even consider looking elsewhere. In other industries, the fast pace of change means you need a constant dialogue with your customers, and the likes of Twitter and Facebook are perfect for this.
The following are three example of different types of businesses and how they might build customer loyalty using social media.
An Insurance Broker.
Using Facebook and a customer email database, the broker could communicate news and updates relevant to customers’ insurances. For example, as winter approaches there are precautions a customer should take to protect their home. A change in the law could mean the customer needs to update their auto insurance. The broker’s Facebook page would become a source of advice and expertise the customer returns to. When it comes to renewal of their policies, the customer is less likely to move away from this broker offering free advice throughout the year.
A Specialist Cycling Shop.
The shop owner could use Twitter to send news about cycling events around the world, such as The Tour De France. In between these messages, the owner could send brief updates on new products of interest to cycling enthusiasts. As well as building customer loyalty, the shop could attract additional sales by this regular customer contact.
A Pizza Restaurant.
Facebook could be used to offer discount coupons to customers. Flyers in the restaurant could entice customers to sign up to the restaurant’s Facebook page to hear about these offers. There are many different ways this could work in practice, but a very simple way would be to communicate a word the customers must say when placing an order. This simple system could be used to attract customers back to the restaurant over and over again.
Using social media for marketing doesn’t have to be complicated. Think about the ideas above and how they might be used to build customer loyalty in your own business.
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It costs more to attract new customers than to retain old ones. Customer loyalty is also beneficial for the company because repeat customers have a tendency to spend more and to promote your business to their contacts. It is therefore a good marketing plan to devote a substantial chunk of the company’s resources on ensuring that existing customers remain happy and satisfied. A happy customer tends to spend more. Fortunately, there are various social media tools available to make this task easier and more cost-efficient.
First, it is essential to provide customer service assistance through various social media channels. Facebook, Twitter and other similar services are accessible venues for airing out concerns and raising questions about the company’s products and services. Responding through these channels make interaction more convenient for the customers, and it also provides you the opportunity to make your presence known online. Good customer service always translates to customer satisfaction and higher revenue.
Social media tools also add value to the customer experience. Engaging them in constant dialogue fosters and promotes a more personal relationship with them. An open line of communication empowers them to provide positive feedback or even suggestions on how to make your company stronger and better. Customers are more comfortable with spending money on companies that they feel comfortable with.
Here are other great suggestions on how to boost revenue from existing clients using social media connectivity:
Have Them Spend More
Providing your social media followers and subscribers with exclusive promotional deals will help make them spend more. For instance, you can issue vouchers that will give a 10% discount for an accumulated one-time purchase of £100. This tactic encourages the customers to spend a total of £100 instead of the usual amount that they spend on your products or services.
Incentives for Frequent Purchases
Another method of encouraging repeat purchases is by offering freebies or incentives to followers who make frequent purchases. For example, you can give a 20% discount on the fourth purchase of the same product. You can also allow customers to accumulate points from every purchase and use these points to redeem interesting prizes. Customers love a good deal and are often willing to spend more in order to save more.
Introduce Other Products
Social media tools are great avenues for introducing other products and services to existing customers. All it takes is a simple photo or an interesting link. Without resorting to too much spam, you can use your tools to highlight certain services that would appeal to your client base. Start with products or services that complement the usual items that they purchase. The posts need to be relevant to the readers and should provide benefits that would interest them.
The Customer is at the Core
In any social media promotion that you will engage in, you must always remember that the customer should be the primary focus. Posts and promotions should always have the best interest of the customer at heart. They should always find value in what you are asking them to read or they will lose interest and simply move on. Resist the temptation of giving too much information about your company or the product you are selling. It is your responsibility to find a good balance between showing them what you want them to see and keeping them interested.
Businesses thrive because of the support of satisfied customers who keep coming back for more. Owners should learn to appreciate these repeat customers and give them more reasons to continue their patronage. Giving exclusive privileges through social media channels is a good way of making them feel valued.
Contrary to popular belief, being able to take control of your online reputation is much easier that you might have previously expected. By following the simple tips provided in this article you can easily create a consistent brand message and online reputation.
Follow these 5 simple steps to staking your online reputation claim:
Step 1: Find Out Where You Stand Today
Before jumping in with both feet, you need to be sure of your current online reputation situation. Take an honest assessment of where you are at. You may have serious damage that you need to repair, or you may not have any reputation at all. Either way, you will need to find out where you are before you can begin to build on your reputation.
Conduct several searches for the various names that you might use. Search for your business name, your personal name or any other names that might be associated with your brand. You will want to focus on the first 2 or 3 pages of Google when conducting these searches. Most people who search online never look beyond the third page, so you won’t need to worry yourself about any results past that.
Compile the results of this search into some sort of spreadsheet or other tracking device. You will want to refer back to this information as you begin repairing, restoring or working on your online brand message.
Step 2: Decide What To Change
Take the time to look over the information that you have just gathered. Identify any of the negative results and mark those your highest priority. Second to that, mark those incidents of positive feedback as potential promotional material. One of the easiest ways to build a solid brand message is to simply promote the good information that is being shared about you by other people.
Step 3: Find Out Where You Shine
Of the results that you found, what sites were providing the most information? For example, of the sites that ranked the highest, were they social media sites or were they sites found within the blogosphere? Are you getting a lot of attention on Youtube?
Find out where the majority of the information about you is being shared. You will want to focus your own efforts in these areas.
Step 4: Strategise
Failing to plan is planning to fail. Be sure that you take the time to craft a strategy that works with the information that you have gathered thus far. If you have received negative reviews within the social network Facebook, then spending too much time on Youtube would be a strategy to avoid.
Build your strategy based around your areas of need. You might need to create more blog posts, press releases, videos or articles for directories. Whatever it is that you need to do, plan it out first.
Step 5: Execution
Planning is nice, but execution is everything. By now you should have a solid plan in place to take control of your brand message. If you feel that executing your plan is something that you are unable to do, then it is time to call in the hired guns. A reputation management company will help you to create content, promote it via the various search engines and help take control of your online brand messaging.
Taking control of your online reputation is a critical part of doing business in the 21st century. By following the 5 simple steps outlined in this article, you will be well on your way to taking charge of your reputation and building a lasting, professional image.
If you have a blog, a Facebook profile, a Twitter account or online presence of any kind, you are a brand, whether you like it or not. No matter what your field of choice, you need to leverage the internet to build your personal brand if you want to get noticed in this fast paced world of up to the minute updates and blogs. If you don’t have the first clue about how to build it so they will come, use these five tips to help guide you on your way.
What do you want your brand to say?
You are unique, just like everyone else. Most people gain understanding of who and what their fellow human beings are all about by categorising them using different labels. For example, if your online persona is fun and upbeat, you are labelled as, “the funny one,” if your updates and blogs are motivational in nature, you become “the positive one.” You have to think about what you want your personal brand to say about you, and then go with it.
Be you, all the time.
Consistency is key to building your brand, no matter who you are. That isn’t to say that just because you are labelled as the “funny one” you cannot post updates that are serious or well thought out in nature, but you need to be aware of your audience and why they keep coming back, especially if you are working social media angles. Above all, be yourself. If you are fake, you will be found out eventually.
Building a brand is like building Rome, and Rome was not built in a day. Building a brand takes time. How much time, however, is in your hands. You are in control of your exposure. It could take weeks, months or years; it all depends on you.
Network, meet new people online and don’t be afraid to interact with them and ask questions. Remember, you are new at this and you don’t know everything. The more you put in to your brand, the more you get out of it.
Your first few posts or blogs probably won’t get much attention. It isn’t until your audience feels as if they know you that you become familiar, and eventually graduate into becoming a household name. Don’t give up. Be patient.
Photos can hurt (Obama smoking pot) or help.
Pictures are worth a thousand words and they say a lot about who and what your brand is all about. Be mindful of the photos you share or are tagged in online, because they are all absorbed as part of your brand.
Choose your words carefully.
Less is more. When blogging or even when updating a Twitter status, keep it short, sweet and to the point. The more superfluous and wordy your updates and blogs, the less likely you will be to hold the attention of a busy, bustling audience. Say as much as possible using as few words as conceivable. Summarise, don’t eulogise.
Be smart, be savvy, be consistent and you will find your brand is not only successful, but built as a labor of love as you blog from the heart.