Even a Personal Site Can Sell

I feel bad for Tim Berners Lee (best known as the inventor of the World Wide Web) who has said that one thing he did not anticipate was how quickly the World Wide Web would become a marketplace.

Tim (who is currently a professor of computer science at the University of Oxford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) reminds us that in those early days personal websites dominated.

But not everything on the web is commercial. Most blogs are personal, or at least not commercial. But some personal websites have become “commercial.”

I’m not thinking of ones that may have some Google or Amazon ads. I’m thinking of ones that contain personal thoughts and images but are also “selling” the owner as a brand.

This website is my personal website, but it does work to sell me. I have another sample blog that is really part of my web design business because it acts as an example of using a free site like Blogger to build an inexpensive website.

Blogs work well as websites because when you are consistently publishing on a blog you are likely to attract attention on social media and search engines and gain followers.

How often is consistent? I have read that commercial blogs that publish more than 16 posts per month get more than three times the traffic of blogs that published less than 4 posts per month. So, that’s a recommendation of about every other day or 4 times per week.

This is Melanie Daveid‘s portfolio features a selection of imagery from her best campaigns and apps. Is it personal? Yes. But it’s also commercial as it sells her, though not any actual product.

blog.hubspot.com has some best personal website samples and some best practices for personal, as in portfolio, websites. For example, using lots of visuals (even if your brand includes written work) including logos and other branding.

A personal site should be personal – i.e. it should show viewers your personality, style, maybe even your sense of humor, if that is part of what you are selling.

Simplicity should reign when it comes to organization. A main menu with just a few categories that perhaps subdivide into more granular pages after visitors land on the main page is a good navigation plan.

Brand Ambassadors

I received an offer recently to become a “brand ambassador” for a product line. The company is owned by someone who is an acquaintance and knew I had a background in social media marketing. Boosting brand awareness by using celebrities, customers and employees is becoming more and more common.

Though customers and employees may not have the audience and followers of a celebrity, they may have more believability as a spokesperson, especially if they are not being paid to endorse (which is what celebrities have been doing for a lot longer than there has been social media).

When you officially make some a brand ambassador, you should not just let them go on their own.

Most brands will create clear guidelines as to what they can post. A bad post can do a lot of damage.

You would need to create and curate relevant content for them. Images, logos, and text can be provided with guidelines how how much personalization and variation can be done.

I did this kind of campaign with a large national professional organization. The official but “unpaid” ambassadors who completed a series of campaign tasks around a national conference could get all or a portion of their conference stay covered. It was a good motivator.

Employers will often use a platform like Hootsuite or Smarp to facilitate employee engagement and advocacy by providing an internal content management system. Employees can access shareable content and schedule posts.

Customers – who are generally unpaid and unofficial ambassadors – can also be effective. As in my own experiences, when someone retweets or shares your official post they are endorsing (unless they make a negative comment along with that share!). That kind of 1:1 or 1:many word of mouth promotion is very powerful.

You’ll see offers made in this vein. For example, retweet this to your followers with a special hashtag and the company will select 10 retweets to win a product package.