So I would like to start off saying that these last couple weeks have been hard for me to sit down and start writing again. I am not sure why I have felt like there has been less motivation for me and I have been finding more time for the gym or activities out in …
Self-branding and online identities have become a common topic in everyday conversations in recent years, especially with the omnipresence of popular social media sites like Instagram. Despite this topic even being a common theme over the course of my Communications degree, I had never honestly considered the benefits that I myself could have by constructing a strong online brand in this digital age. “Many people think that personal branding is just for celebrities such as Paris Hilton or Britney Spears, yet each and every one of us is a brand. Personal branding, by definition, is the process by which we market ourselves to others” (Schawbel, 2009). Publishing 101 served as a strong pedagogical narrative by which I learned not only about the changes in the world of publishing, but also about the ways in which we can now publish ourselves, and the benefits (or even downfalls, when done incorrectly) that may arise from these online publications. Throughout the course of this essay, I will first address the ways in which this course has shifted the way in which I think about publishing, and further, how these new ways of publishing have worked their way into my online presence over the course of this semester. Following this, I intend to specifically address my online self and publication, not only referencing my blog but also my social media platforms. Lastly, I acknowledge my goals going forward, including what I aim to take with me beyond the confines of this course.
It would be erroneous to claim that I hadn’t considered online works to count as publishing prior to the start of this semester. Of course, tangible books are the obvious thing that comes to mind when someone mentions “publishing,” but it goes far beyond that. Having said this, I didn’t the extent of which publishing expanded to. Publishing is not only online works and articles as well as tangible books; it is further embodied by anything that gets put out to the public, including social media posts and – of course – blogs. “Publishing” is has many definitions, but has come to be best defined as “the dissemination of literature, music, or information—the activity of making information available to the general public” (Wikipedia). While Wikipedia is generally not the best source for correct information, other acclaimed dictionaries are still stuck in the ways of defining publishing as being limited to formal publications that are for sale, which we have come to know is simply not the case.
As mentioned above, publishing encompasses any online works that we “publish” or make available to the public, including any blog posts or social media posts. As Alive Marwick states, “the logic of marketing and advertising embedded in social software has infiltrated the ways in which we relate to ourselves and to others,” and that we “[use] social media as a neoliberal technology of subjectivity that produces social status as the ultimate commodity” (Marwick, 2013). In other words, we live in a world where we have technologies at our fingertips that allow us to market ourselves, our products, and how we ultimately wish others to view us. Throughout the course, we learned of how wide the span of publishing is now, and how we can use these new technologies tour advantage. Though I am nowhere near the status of being a “micro-celebrity” or Instagram celebrity (nor do I aim to be), I can now recognize that our online presence can be extremely useful one way or another. Even if you’re not trying to become famous in one way or another, marketing yourself as a brand online can be a valiant tool in this digital age.
With regards to both my social media presence as well as my blog, I found the focus throughout the semester on the importance of identifying an audience and a brand to be largely advantageous. In the early weeks of the semester, I decided my blog was going to be a foodie blog which what chronicle my adventures to various restaurants around Metro Vancouver and write about my experiences. Identifying my audience, I learned, was one of the first major steps I had to take. In a process post I wrote, I identified my intended target audience to be foodies in the Vancouver area. I added that I don’t necessarily imagine there to be a specific age demographic, but likely people out of high school, perhaps young adults in general. This is mainly because high school students may not be interested in food blogs, cooking, and so forth, and may not have the means to go to far-out restaurants. In “Publics and Counterpublics” (2002), Michael Warner addresses that if you are reading his essay, “you are part of its public.” Warner goes on to say that there is a difference between thepublic and apublic (Warner, 2002). Warner describes the public as a ‘totality’: an all-inclusive description of the general amount of people, whereas a public is more specific, like an audience. Therefore, the people frequenting my blog would be a specific public or audience, likely visiting to check out restaurants they may be interested in.
It is important to recognize your audience and public in order to market it to those specific people and thus further your success and your clout. “Any technology gradually creates a totally new human environment. Environments are not passive wrappings but active processes” (Campbell, 2009); each platform or domain may have a different audience and environment, and must me marketed as such. How I market and design my online self and presence on my Instagram page differs in the way in which I design my blog, as I have identified different audiences for the two. My personal Instagram features more artistic photos of self-exploitation, encompassing the best parts of my ‘self.’ Conversely, my blog markets itself to my (assumingly) foodie audience, and thus my posts tempt to embody food, Vancouver culture, and often an attempted humor. Furthermore, more online publications look to provide a service to their audience in one way or another. Ensuring that the basic service functions of one’s website or publication is an important element to consider because your audience will likely not return if they aren’t able to find what they are looking for. As I briefly touched on in the previous paragraph, my blog seeks to satisfy the service of reviewing restaurants (as well as local food and beverage in general) in the Greater Vancouver area.
Through an immense and tedious 10-week-long trial and error process, I finally settled on a simplistic layout, removing the (apparently) tacky carousel-style photos on my home page. Gone with this was all of the numerous background images I tested out that just didn’t work. I created a logo that I felt embodied my blog in a clean and crisp way, keeping in mind the design elements that our guest speaker Mauve Pagé taught us at the start of the semester. I attempted to link colours together by bringing the gold found in the logo into other elements of the pages, such as titles and links. Travis Gertz had an interesting take on design elements and layout as well in his work, “Design Machines: How to survive in the digital apocalypse” (2015). Gertz’s main argument is based on the premise that all websites have started to look the same in an attempt to “look sexy” and appeal to the masses, but by appealing to the masses many actually become lost among the massesof other sites (2015). Unfortunately, I found it difficult to break free of most of the stereotypical constraints of which Gertz spoke about due to the confines of this course, being both the short timeframe as well as the resources made available to us. Nevertheless, these are useful pieces of information to consider when we inevitably use online mediums in our future professional lives.
In summation, these four months have shaped the way in which I view publishing. Although I understood publishing to go beyond physical books, I didn’t understand the broad span that the term encompassed. Not only is it books and online articles, but also virtually anything that disseminates products and information to the general public. This includes social media presence as well as forum posts and, of course, blogging. Through the combination of the creation of my food blog with various guest speakers, tutorials, and online readings over the last 12 weeks, I have learned that identifying an audience and marketing yourself is a useful tool at any level of this digital world be live in. Despite my blog not gaining a large enough following to truly be able to use applications like Google Analytics or AdSense to my advantage, I can now realize these as important tools that help to compliment ones persona and identify important information. Going forward, I can confidently say that although I may not become a blogger, I have gained important and useful tools to brand myself, whatever that ‘self’ may be.
Campbell, W. G. (2009). A Personal Cyber Infrastructure. New Horizons, 44(5), p. 58-59
Gertz, Travis. (2015). “Design Machines. How to survive in the digital Apocalypse.” Louder Than 10.Retrieved on 12 April 2018 from: https://louderthanten.com/articles/story/design-machines
Marwick, A. (2013). Status Update: Celebrity, Publicity, and Branding in the Social Media Age. Canadian Journal of Communication, 40(1), p. 143-146.
Schawbel, D. (2009). Personal Branding 101: How to Discover and Create Your Brand. Mashable. Retrieved on 10 April 2018 from: https://mashable.com/2009/02/05/personal-branding-101/#ge_SBxPsZEq4
Warner, M. (2002). Knowledge and Public Works, 88(4), p. 413-425.
An Overview of Pub 101
This semester, I took a course called The Publication of Self in everyday life (or Pub 101 for short). The main purpose of the class was to develop a website using WordPress. I chose to make mine a lifestyle blog, with content ranging from advice videos to travel diaries to rants about my everyday life. Overall, the course taught me a lot about WordPress, Google Analytics, and how to develop and create content for a specific audience. It has also allowed me to develop my voice and an online persona.
My Experience with WordPress & Google Analytics
Going in to the first lecture, I had no experience with WordPress. This, in addition to high ambitions for my website, made me nervous. However, with help from guest speakers, my peers, and an article about WordPress, I was able to learn quickly. I also spent a lot of time outside of class playing with different features of the site. Although I am happy with the amount of information I have learned in just a few months, I would like to continue to learn more about WordPress in the future.
Another platform I had never used before this course is Google Analytics. However, it has proven to be helpful in defining and tracking my audience.
Developing an Audience
While creating content is fun, if you want it to go anywhere you need to have an audience in mind. Early in the semester, we were asked to develop a persona for our audience. In my week three process post, I outlined my readers as having these characteristics:
* Young adult (High School or University)
* North American
* Urban & suburban location
* Active online presence
However, in my week five process post, I added that I would like the age of my audience to increase as I get older, and for it to include males.
In reality, I do not yet have data on the age or gender of my readers. However, according to Google Analytics, most of the people accessing my site are from North America. Specifically, they are accessing it from Vancouver, BC and Seattle, Washington – the two cities I grew up in. This makes sense because I have promoted my website on my personal social media accounts, which are followed by friends and family in these areas.
With these real and imagined audiences in mind, I have tried hard to create content relevant to them. One of the ways I have done this is by posting content that I find funny or interesting. I do this because I have many of the characteristics I want my audience to have. If I enjoy my content, people similar to me are more likely to enjoy it as well. This idea comes from a process post on the website MultiMonica. In addition to this, I also try to incorporate different kinds of media in to my posts. For example, some of my posts are videos, others are all words, and some have lots of pictures and/or gifs. I do this to help keep my audience engaged. I started doing this because of some advice I got on a peer review done by Shazia Nanji. When I implemented the change, I saw my bounce rate drop and my session duration increase on Google Analytics. Finally, I try to post ‘relatable’ content. What this means is content that focuses on current pop culture and ‘main stream’ information. I hope that by posting content related to stuff that is popular with my audience, my content will become popular as well.
Over the course of the semester, my blog has changed a lot. At the beginning, I was using a theme called Twenty Seventeen. While this theme was simple and allowed me to present myself through a large header photo, it also was weird to navigate and very stark. So, about halfway through the semester, after reviewing the website MultiMonica, I decided to change my theme to Kale. At first, I had some issues with the template. I wasn’t sure how to remove the sliding banner of photos at the top, I didn’t have a logo, and none of my posts had featured pictures attached to them. However, once I fixed these issues, I was extremely pleased with the results. My site now had lots of color, photos, and personality – overall, it just felt like a better representation of me.
Another part of my blog that has changed a lot over the course of the semester is my content. At the beginning of the class, I didn’t put a lot of effort into what I was posting, and because of this I ended up deleting a lot of my posts. However, once I engaged more with the content of the class and learned how to use WordPress effectively, I started to create content I was more proud of. With this confidence, I was able to finally restart my YouTube channel – something I had wanted to do for a long time.
Overall, I have really enjoyed my time in Pub 101, and I’m excited to take more publishing classes (I am even hoping to major in publishing!). Even though the class is ending, I hope to continue to develop my website. It has been a very helpful tool for me in these past 3 months, I hope to continue to use it as a creative outlet.
Note: Sources are linked throughout the post. I chose to take a more unconventional route by giving credit to the sources that helped me throughout my semester, rather than sources that helped me write this essay.
For this week’s process post, we are supposed to discuss how we plan to integrate more transmedia into our online publication.
Over the last few months, I have been building my online voice, and as a result, I have started to represent myself on many different platforms. Currently, my website allows people to follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Spotify and YouTube. Since I am trying to create the same type of persona on all of them, I would consider this one of the ways I am making use of transmedia.
Moving forward, I want to dive into a persona that I have been developing for awhile. I want to talk and share about my experience growing up in both America and Canada. This is what I like to call my “americanadian” persona. This is a unique story that I wish to tell people about on multiple platforms. From posting about my daily struggles of bouncing between the two countries, to writing about culture and reverse culture shock, to comparing the two nations. I plan to do these things on Facebook, YouTube, and my website. I want to use these platforms because I think they are all different, and will allow me to tell my story in different ways.
This week, I was assigned Monica Alves’ website, Multi Monica, to review. The main goal of this review was to assess her site’s marketability to her intended audience. According to one of Monica’s process posts, she would describe her reader’s as having these characteristics:
- Young women in her early twenties
- University student
- Travel, photography and music lover
- Living in North America
- Has a steady part time job or internship
- Is in a committed relationship
My first thought was that this is a very specific audience. However, Monica further explains in this process post that this is essentially a description of herself, so it only makes sense that her audience has similar qualities. However, she made sure to mention that she is not closed off to other types of readers, and she hopes to grow her blog so that it relates to all kinds of demographics.
For the purpose of this review, though, I am going to use her description of her audience’s persona to determine whether her site is marketable. Lucky for her, I fit 6 out of the 7 characteristics that she described her audience as having.
Upon arriving at the home page of Monica’s website, it is clear that she is doing a good job of catering to her audience. She has both a music page and a travel page, which are two of the interests her intended audience should have. She also mentions her audience as liking photography, and sure enough, her travel page features some of her own photos. In addition, she has a footer where she features her photography (titled “Through my Lens”), and it can be accessed through any page of her website. Seeing as photography, music and travel are the three main interests she described her audience as having, I appreciated that there were easy-to-access pages devoted to each of them. This makes it easy for her readers to find the content that best relates to them.
Another thing I noticed was that Monica included a lot of photos in her posts. This made the website more colorful, and her posts more interesting to read. In class, we have been talking about bounce rate and session duration, or how long people spend on our websites. I found that because of the pictures, I stayed on her website longer. They lured me in and made me want to read her content, which is something that is hard to do. So props to you, Mon.
Overall, I think Monica’s website has great marketability. As someone in her audience demographic, I thoroughly enjoyed her content, and was very impressed with the layout of her website (she has a great balance of white space and color). Out of all of my classmates websites, hers has resonated with me the most.
If she were to add advertisements to her website, I would suggest that she put them on the right hand side of her home page, because there is white space, but the ads would not clutter the page. She mentioned in another process post that she tried putting ads in already, but that it messed up the layout of her website. I think that if she fix that issue and increase the number of users on her site, she will have an easy time monetizing her website.