Social Media Branding for Multi-Hyphenates
Since launching Going Places Media in December of 2018, I’ve been struggling to figure out how all my content fits together.
Because honestly... it doesn’t.
My Journey to Find the Right Blog Niche
When I first started blogging back in 2012, I went way too narrow with my niche. I was writing a blog about millennials from a millennial’s perspective, and I wasn’t doing too bad for a novice blogger. But about a year into my millennial blog experiment, I ran out of things to write about. After all, there are only so many responses you can write to those articles blaming millennials for literally everything that is wrong with the world before you get very bored.
So, I overcorrected.
The second blog I established was under my own name, and I wrote about literally anything and everything I wanted to write about. I learned two important lessons from that blog. First, it is difficult to build a blog audience when your readers don’t know what to expect. Second, having unlimited topics available to write about can make writing posts just as difficult as finding yourself in a niche that is too narrow.
Finally, in 2016, I started my travel blog Sarah Going. The travel niche proved to be just right for me: not so narrow that I ran out of things to write about or got bored, and not so wide that I become completely overwhelmed and froze. Since I’m still writing Sarah Going three and a half years later (and still loving it), I guess we could call that a happy ending to my blogging journey.
But that was just the beginning.
Being a Multi-Hyphenate in Real Life Isn’t Always Fun
I’m one of those creators that the trendy Instagram influencers have recently started referring to as “multi-hyphenates”. The term “multi-hyphenate” makes my particular issue sound a lot cooler than it is, because being decent at a lot of things but not world-class at anything isn’t always fun in real life. It’s difficult to figure out what you are supposed to be creating at any given time, and it’s difficult to build an audience for your work (because your work - like you - is all over the place). Sounds exciting, right? I mean maybe... but being a multi-hyphenate is also a branding nightmare.
While I’m happy with Sarah Going, I write a lot of content that I can’t post there. Because for one reason or another, it doesn’t fit. For example, in addition to travel I like to write about blogging, branding, marketing, social media, business and side hustles. After a few years of never sharing my posts on these topics, I launched this blog – Going Places Media – so I could share that content. Like any good blogger, I also started a Pinterest account and an Instagram account to market the new blog.
Then, my master plan ran into a bit of a snag.
First, as a blogger with a full-time job, I can’t manage that many social media accounts. To be honest, I was barely keeping up with the social media accounts I had before adding the new Going Places Media accounts to the mix. Second, the branding on my Going Places Media accounts was wrong for the content I was creating and wanted to create.
It took me almost nine months, but I finally figured out how to address these issues and create a manageable social media presence that works for ALL the content I’m creating.
Here’s what I’ve learned along the way, and how I ultimately made the multi-hyphenate chaos work for me.
Lesson #1: Social Media Takes Just as Much Time as Blogging
If you have a niche blog you are loving and don’t want to mess with, and you have content on another topic you want to share, starting a second blog for that other content might seem like an obvious solution. I get it, because I just did the exact same thing when I started this blog. It may also seem obvious to start social media accounts for the new blog: you have social media accounts for your existing blog to market your content, so why not?
One reason: you may not be able to manage that many accounts. If you already manage a blog, you know how long social media takes. For most of us, it takes just as much time as blogging... if not more. If you’re starting a new blog on a topic you love to write about, think about how that writing time will fit into your existing schedule. Do you ALSO have time to double your social media workload?
I didn’t. I learned this the hard way (by doubling my social media workload THEN realizing I didn’t have time to do anything well), so I want to save you the trouble if possible. Do a reality check first, before starting social media accounts on every platform for your new blog.
In the future, you and I may have social media teams that can manage a social media presence on every platform for every blog we write. But until then, we need to be strategic about which social media platforms offer the best return on our time investment based on the topic or topics we are writing about. We also need to be realistic about how many accounts we can actually manage.
Compromise is always a tough pill to swallow, but 3 or 4 social media accounts with regular content and engagement are better than 6 or 7 social media accounts that stagnate (and ultimately don’t serve any purpose).
Lesson #2: “It Looks Cool” Is Not A Branding Strategy
If you've been around the blog before, you know that I'm generally a fan of just getting started and figuring things out as you go. But a large part of “figuring things out as you go” is making mistakes and learning from them... and I made my fair share with this blog. Aside from going overboard with my social media accounts, the biggest mistake I made with Going Places Media was my branding.
Early on I wasn’t sure exactly what direction I should go with this blog and brand, but no matter what, I knew that I needed to build an audience. I had an existing travel-related Instagram account for Sarah Going, so I wanted the Going Places Media account to look different than that one and stand out. As a lifetime fan of black and white photography, I randomly decided to make the Going Places Media Instagram 100% black and white. I started sharing a mix of photos (primarily travel photos, since travel photos make up most of my photo library) and quotes in black and white. In the interest of consistency, I also applied the black and white theme to this website and to my Pinterest account. And I’m not going to lie, it looked cool.
But “it looks cool” is not a branding strategy.
I quickly began running into issues with my 100% black and white theme. First, the black and white travel photos I was sharing on Instagram and on this site as blog post thumbnail images didn’t really fit what I was writing. While a black and white photo of the Trevi Fountain may make the photography nerd in me happy, it just doesn’t have anything to do with blogging, business, goals or anything else I was actually writing about on this blog. Second, a strictly black and white theme doesn’t make sense for Pinterest. While my black and white Instagram feed looked cool, Pinterest was built to share or “Pin” content from other sources. I need and want to share blogging and business content from both this blog and other blogs – but finding 100% black and white content on Pinterest is difficult. To maintain my strictly black and white theme, I had to primarily share my own content and Pins that I created and not share content from other sources... which ultimately defeats the purpose of Pinterest.
My Solution: Embracing the Multi-Hyphenate Chaos
I don’t think that there is one right answer to the multi-hyphenate branding problem, but this is how I finally solved it for myself.
I’m Giving Up Social Media Niches in Favor of Blog Niches
While I’ve learned through my blogging experience why some level of blog niche is important, over the course of this year I’ve also learned that I don’t have the capacity to have both blog niches and social media niches (a separate social media account for each blog on every platform). Having multiple blogs is more important to me than having multiple social media accounts for every topic I write about and every type of content I create, so I rebranded all my social media accounts to my name: @sarahdsimp. I’m also keeping my travel blog page on Instagram @sarahgoing, because that account is a long-established social media presence that works for me and for Sarah Going’s content specifically.
On my general @sarahdsimp accounts on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook, I’ll share everything I’m creating and writing (drawings, photos, blog posts and whatever else I get up to). I like this option because it works for my current situation, but it also gives me room to grow. If I decide to start another blog or project in the future, I won’t be faced with the same problem I ran into this year (the need to start a whole new collection of social media accounts).
I’m not arguing that this is a perfect solution, because there may be some people who want to follow my travel blog posts but don’t want to see any content about other topics (and vice versa). But this solution feels manageable and authentic to me. As a multi-hyphenate, I know I don’t categorize well... but not categorizing well is also a part of who I am. Sharing some of everything I’m interested in and working on feels right, so that's what I intend to do on social media going forward.
I’m Leaving Room in My Branding to Grow and Experiment
Looking back, I can see that I made the same mistake with my branding that I originally made when I started blogging. A strict black and white theme across all platforms was too narrow. Don’t get me wrong, I still love black and white photography (and likely always will), but I want to be able to interact with and share content from other bloggers that don’t have the same branding color scheme as me. I also want to share Instagram images and pins that better fit the content I’m actually creating here at Going Places Media.
Ultimately, this site is still too new to commit to a narrow color scheme or type of content: I want to keep my options open. Now that I’ll be sharing content from this blog on my general @sarahdsimp social media accounts, it makes more sense to keep things flexible so that all my content works together (and looks good together). The fact that 90% of my photo library is travel-related is something I still need to address, but for now, I’m keeping my blog thumbnail images and Going Places Media social media content general enough that it will fit with whatever direction I decide to go in the future.
Stay tuned for my next multi-hyphenate crisis (because I’m sure there will be one soon).
Until then, I’d love to hear how you are handling social media and your overall brand if you create content on a variety of different topics. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!