Written by: Mimmi Sjögren
Internet and the social media has taken it to the next level. Approximately 75 % of the adult internet users are active on different social media sites on Web 2.0 (Kleppinger & Cain, 2015). Personal branding through blogs is a phenomenon that has risen due to social media, and is rapidly growing (Chen, 2013). Today, there is many private persons how try to build their own personal brand in social media. These people run their personal blogs to share all kinds of things that happens in their daily lives (Chau & Xu, 2012). An interesting aspect is what actually happens from the point where an unknown person takes the decision to start a blog until they one day wake up and realize that they have become of the famous bloggers in their country, with a strong personal brand. Previous literature on how to build a personal brand, has focused on different strategies in order to become successful. But in this paper, the reader’s perspective will be discussed in terms of how they contribute to the success. That lead us to the question:
How do followers contribute to a blogger’s successful personal brand?
Personal branding in blogs
By running a blog, the Web 2.0 now offer you to post content on the Web more easily than before and it is one of the popular ways of connecting with the world. As a blogger, you can write anything you want, such as personal stories, ideas, feelings, emotions. It’s all up to the blogger (Chau & Xu, 2012).
Personal brands by individuals, was first developed and became popular in the late 1990s and due to social media the phenomenon is now digitized (Kleppinger & Cain, 2015). Today, there is a lot of amateur individuals in social media, trying to build their own brand. Personal branding is very important as a business concept since it represent a sense of individuality and self-performance that can differentiate you, as a personal brand, from the other bloggers (Chen, 2013).
The bloggers, mostly blog about their everyday life in terms of e.g. what they wear, cook, work out. They invite the readers to their personal life and according to Kleppinger and Chain (2015) it’s important for the blogger to “be yourself, since everyone is already taken”. The message needs to be true, otherwise the readers will discover that you are a fake, and the personal brand will need to be rebuild.
Let me introduce you to Kenza
In this paper, we will follow Kenza Zouiten, who went from being an unknown blogger to become successful in both blogging and personal branding. Circa 10 years ago, Kenza started her blog only 15 years old, and she fast became one of the most discussed persons in her generation. Kenza once said that she would not be able to make a living of her blog her entire life and that she might do something else in 10 years (SvD, 2011). Today, 10 years later, it shown out to be wrong. She still runs one of the most popular blogs in Sweden with 54 246 unique visitors a day, and 175 625 total unique visitors a week (Tailsweep, 2016). Kenza says that her target group is women from the age range 13-30 years (Aftonbladet, 2014). In 2012 she received the blog price “The international blog of the year” on Bloglovin Awards in New York. She was also named “Most influential Fashion Blog” at Styylight Fashion Blogger Awards under the Mercedes-Bens Fashion Week in Berlin (Expressen, 2014).
It has also been proven that since she became such a successful blogger, many doors have opened to her business life, and her personal brand has expanded. For instance, she has been a host for a TV-show, model for the company Nelly, collaborated with the company Glitter, and she has her own clothing company Ivyrevel (SvD, 2011; Resumé, 2014; Resumé, 2015; Ivyrevel, 2016). Still interested in Kenza? Read her blog here.
Picture: Kenza Zouiten in ”Nelly’s” Christmas campaign (Resumé, 2015).
Kenza’s own clothing company Ivyrevel (Ivyrevel, 2016).
The roll model and the fan club
In order to become a successful blogger, it highly depends on the readers – the followers. The need of having a great number of followers is crucial. You need to build a fan club. In order to fulfil that, you need to interact with your followers. In today’s social media, consumers want the brand to reach out to them, and make them feel special (Byrne & Gallagher, 2015).
Engagement – I like you
The phenomenon “fan engagement” is a crucial factor in social media. Many companies use social media to create engagement among their fans, and strive to make the engagement permanent. According to Karpinska-Krakowiak (2014) there is four different sub-constructs in customer engagement. In blogs like Kenza’s, dedication or vigor would be the most suitable engagements. Dedication, is when the follower has an emotional attachment to the blogger. Since Kenza’s followers are women between 13-30 years, most of them are probably looking up to her and see her as an idol. Since Kenza shares her personal life it’s more likely for the followers to start to know her, or at least create a feeling that they do. One reaction in terms of “social influence” is that the desire to become like someone else, someone you like or know, will make you identify yourself with this person. The identification can lead to adaption, which means that the followers will start to copy the blogger’s behavior and opinions (Aronson, 2011). Kenza is writing directly to her followers, making hearts, and telling them how much she cares for them (Kenza, 2016a). The followers could feel that she does care about them, and that she likes them on a personal level. This could be a way for them to start liking the blogger even more since the reciprocity rule says that “if you are nice to me, I’m nice to you” (Cialdini, 2005).
This lead on to the other sub-construct in engagement, vigor. Vigor is when the follower is willing to invest in the blog in time and energy (Karpinska-Krakowiak, 2014). Kenza’s followers would in this case be more likely to create a vigor engagement if they like her. According to King et al. (2014), engagement is one of the keys to gaining loyalty.
Involvement – Here is a question for you
The best way for bloggers is to ask the followers if there is anything they can do for them. Sharing your life and advising people through the blog helps to build the personal brand and awareness which later can lead to credibility and trust among the followers (Byrne & Gallagher, 2015). Interact with the followers by asking them something will get the followers involved in the content. When the individual follower gets involved they perceive some sort of important stimulus (Karpinska-Krakowiak, 2014).
In Kenza’s blog, she is diligent in asking questions to her followers and interact them in the conversation. In the comment field of each blog post, followers ask Kenza a question. Most of the time, Kenza answers, and always with a “hug” in the end (Kenza, 2016a). The fact that Kenza answer her fans could be the perceived important stimulus that involve the followers even more. The affective involvement, is much like the dedication in engagement. If you start developing feelings for Kenza as a person, everything she does will somehow involve you in a personal way (Karpinska-Krakowiak, 2014). If the engagement lead to adaption the follower will also share Kenza’s opinions (Aronson, 2011). For instance, if Kenza is mad at something or someone, the follower will probably agree with her, which could lead to a higher involvement in her discussions on the blog.
The Brand Community – all fans united
Affinity is defined as “a strong connection or relationship between people or things”. Those who have a sense of belonging within the social network are more likely to feel an affinity towards it. Therefore, it is important to encourage members to feel that they are part of the community (Krishen et al., 2015). The communities offer discussions and share mutual interest which strengthen the bound of the community, this is done by electronic Word-of-Mouth (Fournier & Avery, 2011; King et al., 2014). According to Krishen et al. (2015) online social network affinity is a strong indication of member loyalty and loyal followers are equal to a successful personal brand within blogging.
Discussions on the blog have also given people more opportunities to make an impression, which can be both positive and negative (Byrne & Gallagher, 2015). Many blogs are seen as forums for people to vent their frustration (King et al., 2014). Since bloggers like Kenza are personal, they are also becoming an easy target for people who abuse the anonymity on the Web. According to Kenza there will always be someone who is angry at something (SvD, 2011).
Kenza mentioned on the blog that someone was using her picture and pretending to be her. By looking in the comment field, most of the comments where supporting, and they felt sorry for Kenza, but not all. For instance, some followers wrote: “You have chosen your job, live with it”, “Stop complaining”, “If you want to be a public person, this is what comes with it”, “Your choice of life, live with it”. This was absolutely a trigger for the rest of the followers, a discussion started and they started to protect Kenza in many ways. Watch the discussion here (Kenza, 2016b).
This could be seen as something negative, but also something positive. It could make the community of brand lovers more dedicated and loyal to the blogger in terms of getting involved and defend the blogger since they are likely to agree with Kenza. They will support other fan’s argument online in the comment field and there is even a chance that the fan club will rise even stronger after peoples’ negative comments.
Finally, the successful personal brand!
With Kenza, as an example, it has shown that by sharing your personal life, your personal brand has the opportunities to expand enormously. The followers develop a strong relationship to her. They feel that she like them and that they know her personally which make them share her opinions and behavior, care for her even more and identity themselves with her. Through important stimulus the followers create an involvement and put time and energy in following the blog. When the follower starts to develop feelings for Kenza as a person, everything she does will somehow involve them in a personal way. Once the followers are engaged and involved, they will have much in common with other followers, which emerge communities. Triggers, such as negative comments could develop affinity even more. They become loyal to Kenza and will protect her as a friend and roll model no matter what, and that’s how the followers contribute to a blogger’s successful personal brand.
Because when the fan club exist, the base is set. If the blogger has many loyal followers, the door is open for new opportunities in order to build a strong personal brand. Simply because the companies know about the loyal followers. Sponsoring and campaigns are a genius move for the companies since they know the followers will support anything the blogger do. The brand awareness will be stronger and attract more readers to the blog and the circle starts over again. When Kenza said that she wouldn’t be able to make a living of her blog her entire life and that she might do something else in 10 years, she was wrong. It’s the blog and her fan club that make her a living.
For further discussions it would be interesting to discuss what the large brands can learn from the personal bloggers like Kenza. If there are big differences in how the consumer behave and interact with individual blogger or bigger brands.
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