Features

AT ONE POINT or another, most of us dream about making it big. Thanks to the Internet, becoming famous no longer requires theatrical or musical talent—all you need is a laptop, your winning personality, and a knowledge of all things social media. The Fulcrum gives you the low-down on using YouTube, Twitter, and blogging to help create your own online brand.

Vloggers, bloggers, and the culture of the weblebrity

The entertainment industry has been revolutionized since the dawn of YouTube, Twitter, and personal blogs—people everywhere are sounding off with their opinions, rants, and personal musings. While millions post, tweet, or hit record, few actually succeed in gaining an online following. These cyberstars—or “weblebrities”—have made businesses out of simply being themselves.

Darren Sharp is a University of Ottawa student, blogger, and creator of the successful YouTube channel AGayADay (AGAD). AGAD, made up of Sharp and four other Internet personalities, has over 11 million views and almost 50,000 subscribers. Each member of AGAD is assigned a day of the week to upload a video to the channel, in which he provides commentary on a predetermined topic.

Sharp believes the appeal of online self-branding lies in its accessibility.

“Anyone with an Internet connection can post content online and start building a brand,” he said.

Sharp began creating his online persona shortly before launching AGAD.

“I’d received a MacBook for my birthday, and with the new camera and editing technology available to me I decided to start making videos,” he said.

Although Sharp maintains a personal blog and Twitter separate from AGAD, he gives credit to his YouTube channel for the role it has played in the creation of his online prescence.

“Being a part of AGAD definitely accelerated the development of my online persona,” he said. “The more exposure I got, the more I began to use different social media strategies to brand myself and truly define myself on the Internet.”

Video is only one component in the building of an online persona. Sharp uses Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook in conjunction with the two YouTube channels he contributes to in order to brand himself, much like many YouTube personalities.

Tyler Oakley, online sensation and star of his eponymous YouTube channel, uploads videos in which he provides tongue-in-cheek commentary on a variety of different topics. More than 132,000 people subscribe to his channel, and Oakley says social media has been pivotal in building his brand.

“You never know who you can reach on different parts of the Internet, so I always try to branch out and join different sites to put myself out there,” he said in an email to the Fulcrum. “It’s nice, though, because I love social media so much—it doesn’t feel like work at all.”

So why do people choose to start online empires? While some seek fame and fortune, others just want to connect with like-minded people.

“First and foremost, it’s fun, and the moment that it’s not, I’ll stop,” said Oakley. “It’s always been a great hobby that has opened doors and helped pay bills, but at the end of the day, it’s an amazing outlet for me to be creative and express myself to an audience that could be impacted.”

Although Sharp shares Oakley’s love of creativity, he also brands himself to become more attractive to potential employers.

“I want to get a career in the media field,” he explained. “I believe being adept at online branding is a way to get my foot in the door by showing potential employers that I’m already good at what I do. I’m able to present myself to them in a way that others may not be able to. If someone in a position of power sees my content, I may be afforded opportunities that I wouldn’t have access to otherwise.”

It would appear Sharp’s theory is correct. A network of firms called PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), whose goal is to connect organizations with individuals, recently launched their first personal branding week in Toronto. PwC claims an applicant’s ability to use social media makes himself or herself appear more desirable to potential employers in certain fields. In other words, the ability to build a brand might be considered an asset when applying for a job.

Despite the many benefits of self-branding online, there are reasons to be wary of the practice. Some people claim the combination of accessible technology and an image-conscious generation of people has led to the creation of a whole new level of narcissism.

A study from San Diego State University reported 57 per cent of young people find their generation’s affinity for social media has made them self-involved and attention-seeking. The same study showed 92 per cent of students visited social media websites.

“I think anyone who actively promotes their online persona, whether they’ll admit to it or not, is doing it at least partly for the attention,” said Sharp. “Everybody wants to be famous. Internet fame offers a slice of this sort of lifestyle.”

If you’re considering trying to brand yourself online, Sharp and Oakley have some advice.

“Don’t do it for fame or money,” said Oakley. “If you enjoy what you’re doing, other things will fall into place, but if your priorities are to have an income or notoriety, it’s transparent and people won’t buy it.”

Sharp shared similar sentiments.

“Forget about being popular,” he said. “If you post high quality content that you love making, and if you continue doing this regardless of how many views you get at the outset, eventually people will start paying attention. But never go into it with the mindset of ‘I want to be famous.’ Put yourself out there and you’ll find people are more than willing to respond.”


Every website could use a little help. To make the most of your blog, be sure to check out…

Mashable

What is it? A blog that’s dedicated entirely to helping its users understand social media, business, and technology.

How will it help? Mashable contributors post articles about new techniques for driving website traffic up and self-branding online. The site also helps you check out trending topics on different social media websites, which will help you use each site effectively.

If you’re considering using new software or venturing into the world of apps, check out Mashable’s product reviews and instructional articles prior to making any purchases.

Mashable also features articles which discuss how topics such as business, entertainment, advertising, and design are being changed by social media and the Internet.

If you’re hoping to connect with others interested in social media, consider commenting on the site’s articles, following the company on Twitter, or joining its Facebook page. Mashable boasts over two million Twitter followers and 425,000 fans on Facebook, so you’re bound to meet tech-savvy people who may become potential visitors to your own website.

Google

What is it?  Yes, Google is a search engine, but it also provides services that can help you better understand and use your blog.

How will it help? Google will help you drive up your blog’s traffic. It can show you who’s visiting your website and how they’re arriving at it.

Start by checking out the Google Alert feature. Choose keywords that relate to your blog and you will receive daily, weekly, or monthly emails alerting you to media coverage about those topics, so you can be sure you’re covering relevant news on your blog.

Google Analytics tracks the traffic to your website. It will show you how many people are visiting your blog, how long people stay there before clicking away, what country your readers are in, and how much of your traffic comes from direct clicks rather than social media. This site is the be-all, end-all for spying on your readers.

If your blog becomes successful enough to make money, Google AdSense is a service that can help determine what kind of ads to put on the website, as well as how much you should be compensated for the ads.

Twitter

What is it? Micro-blogging social media tool.

How will it help? Use Twitter to gain followers and redirect traffic to your blog. First, find the community of readers you’re trying to attract.

If you’re blogging about carpentry, follow local hardware stores, fellow carpenters, and other bloggers who write about carpentry.

Be sure to engage with the community. Tweet at your target audience, retweet things you find interesting, and answer and ask questions to generate conversation. Use popular hashtags to increase the chance of your tweets being read.

Take advantage of other websites that work in conjuction with Twitter. Hootsuite is a website that allows you to send out tweets at preplanned intervals, which is helpful if you want to tweet regularly, but don’t have time. Other websites that can help with Twitter include Tweetdeck, a Twitter organizer that shows multiple interfaces at once, or Hashtags.org, a website that tests ideas and finds out what hashtags are already being used so that you can tweet accordingly.


Terminology for bloggers

Thinking about becoming a weblebrity? You’ll need to brush up on your online knowledge first. Here are words you should know if you want to become successful.

Blogroll: A list of blogs that you follow on a regular basis.

Blogware: Software designed to help run blogs.

Bounce rate: The rate at which viewers click on a link and then leave your site without browsing for more content.

Hashtag: A word or subject, with the # sign before it, inserted into a tweet to define it and make it more searchable.

Klog: A blog devoted only to sharing knowledge on a specialized topic.

Photoblog: A blog made up primarily of photos.

Reblog: To post something on your blog that’s been posted by another blog first (with credit).

RSS: Rich site syndication (RSS) lets readers know when your blog has new content by placing it in their “favourites” toolbar. Every new post will make the link appear bold.

SEO: Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of altering your blog to make your posts more searchable.

Spambots: Internet creatures that generate fake comments linking to product sites or pornography.

TLDR: Comment meaning your post is too long for the person to get through—stands for “too long, didn’t read.”

Vlog: A video blog entry, or a blog dedicated entirely to video entries.

Blogging tips

Regardless of whether you’ve just started blogging or are a seasoned professional, everyone could use a little advice. Here are our favourite tips.

Post often

Readers will come back to your blog on a regular basis if they know there will be new content.

Schedule your posts
Whether you’re posting once a week, twice a week, or every day, keep it consistent. Most Youtube stars post regularly, too. Viewers know to expect videos on certain days of the week.

Have a focus
Unless you’re blogging about your life, make sure your subject matter stays consistent. Whether your love is art, politics, or economics, pick a topic and write within it. You want your readers to view you as an authority on a certain subject.

Post original content
Keep reblogged content to a minimum—no one wants their blog to be an
amalgamation of other people’s thoughts, opinions, and art.

Comment on other blogs
When you come across content that’s similar to what you write about, post something in the comments section that links back to your blog. Don’t just post the URL—you’ll be flagged as a spammer—and make sure you also write a comment that relates to the post. Readers who are interested in what you have to say will check out your blog.

Don’t limit your blogging to your own website
Offer to write as a guest for other blogs with similar themes as yours. This will drive viewers to your website.

Be yourself
If you’re naturally funny, make jokes on your blog. If you’re more serious, post thought-provoking pieces. If you don’t like writing, feature pictures instead (many blogs consist only of photos). Stay true to what you want to write instead of what you’re hoping people want to read, and you’ll gain readers who really want to engage with you.

Bloggers who made it big

While some professionals start blogging after they make it big, others create blogs in order to make a name for themselves. The following people started lucrative careers and found fame through blogging.

Tavi Gevinson created her fashion blog, Style Rookie, while she was still a preteen. Despite her humble beginnings, Gevinson has sat front-row at couture fashion shows, managed to score guest editor positions at internationally acclaimed magazines such as Harper’s Bazaar, and now runs her own online magazine.

Perez Hilton. Who could forget the infamous celebrity blogger? Born Mario Lavandeira, Hilton started blog PageSixSixSix.com before changing his name—and that of his blog’s—to spoof socialite Paris Hilton. Since then, he’s made it big by reporting celebrity buzz before most news sources. Hilton has appeared on television shows such as The Sopranos, runs his own radio show, and has written a children’s book called The Boy With Pink Hair.

Julie Powell decided to cook all of the recipes in Julia Child’s book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and started a blog to chronicle her journey. One year and over 500 recipes later, Powell’s charming banter landed her a book deal. The film Julie & Julia, starring Amy Adams and Meryl Streep, is based on Powell’s experience.

 

—Charlotte Bailey