Branding pundits may think they have solid case studies in branding, but they’ll seldom find one as fascinating as the NecoleBitchie brand, and the woman behind it, Necole Kane. She’s the blogger that Cosmopolitan Magazine taps for a feature story for their hot Spring issue—something the publication rarely does. She’s the woman who built a brand sitting in front of borrowed computers in other people’s living rooms.
Want to be a blogger and have nothing but excuses to offer? You don’t have time. You don’t have a computer. You don’t know your way around technology. You have too many problems. Necole Kane had all sorts of problems and still managed to make things work for herself.
During her college days, she used to sit and fantasize about working in the marketing and publicity department of a record label, but resume submission after resume submission, interview followed by more interviews, no one would give her a chance at her dream job. But those same executives who gave her resume a blank stare or did not stare at all, are all wishing they could have her attention now. She’s that blogger…the one who can steer her very much engaged, mostly-female audience in favor of a brand, artist, or product. The one who can motivate her young and fun-minded readers who may not have read more than the words of a traffic stop sign, to curl up to 200+-paged books like The Giver, The Timekeeper and The Secret.
Kane isn’t just inspiring her readers to read books, she’s pushing them to live the life of their dreams—-the way she’s been doing from day one.
But just how did the girl who gave herself the moniker Necole Bitchie get to the upper echelon of the blogging world? Join in, as Gigberry.com examines some of the strategies she applied that have catapulted her to the top of the digital rock star game.
1. Know What’s Going In The World Around You
Blogging was just reaching the mainstream, when a college student named Necole Kane discovered the blogosphere. It was the newest trend. She thought it just might have potential. But imagine if she had never tried to read up on what the current trends making waves on the digital space!
2. Study the Terrain Before You Dip In
Discovering blogging was one thing, but knowing how to be an astute player in the blogosphere was another. Necole discovered that the king of blogging at the moment was a blogger named Perez Hilton. She studied his strategies, visited his website regularly. She also made note of posting times and frequency, not just on Hilton’s blog, but on others that were getting major tracking.
3. Once You Dip In, Give Your Target Audience What It Craves
From the beginning, Necole knew she wanted to target the 18-34 female urban audience. What that segment of the population wanted was content that couldn’t be gotten on mainstream sites: juicy, up-to-the-minute entertainment updates on their favorite stars. And Necole delivered, and delivered consistently. She lobbied for and got exclusive interviews that other outlets had no choice but to give major backlink love to. And lots of videos, and I-wanted-to-say-that content that readers could find nowhere else but on her blog.
4. Get Help. You Can’t Do It All, Though You Might Want To
Yes. Especially when you first realize that you can’t handle it all, hire capable people to assist you. Necole initially hired website designer Zillz to design her website, but her website wasn’t the only thing that needed managing. When it became apparent that she needed someone on hand to chronicle her appearances at industry events, she called on Los-Angeles based photographer Patrick Neree, who would also serve as a videographer…And Jasfly for lifestyle articles. And Kimmy, a budding social media maven, was also brought on board, along with some multi-city correspondents to handle assorted duties.
5. When Things Go Awry, Keep Believing
And keep believing some more. Necole battled homelessness, slept on friends’ couches, fended off the claws of mean bloggers, and never gave up, even when it seemed that she was chasing a dream that kept running away. Even at the apogee of her early success, she had to deal with private investigator visits, a photography agency lawsuit, loss of income from a website launch that got stalled. But she kept in mind that she didn’t get that far in her journey to get discouraged, so she kept on hustling.
6. Add a Personal Touch to Your Brand
To most, the NecoleBitchie brand really started when Ms. Kane put up her Derek Blanks-shot photographs on the header of her blog. Sure, there had been a little pic of Necole on the blog prior to that, but these Blanks-taken shots really communicated to readers and visitors that Necole was a trendsetter, a glamour queen, and one of the faces and tastemakers of the digital age. Added to this, was Necole’s continuous emergence from behind her computer…at radio stations for interviews and at events that she would recap for NecoleBitchie readers. A personal diary that gave readers a deep look into her past, and into her journey made readers feel that they really, really new her.
7. Crank Up Big Milestones to Get Even Bigger Ones
NecoleBitchie won the Best Entertainment Site Award from the Black WebLog Awards. This would eventually segue on to her blog being selected at the Soul Train Award for Best Soul Site and lead to her site being named as one of the best of the urban blogosphere by BET.
8. Prepare Your Audience For Brand Expansion
Quietly and little by little, NecoleBitchie started to prep the world for the idea that she was more than a blogging head. From the beginning she had taken a few baby steps here and there. She had sat on a panel at an Atlanta conference. Then it was the appearance on 106th and Park, where she made new media history by being the first blogger to appear on the show. In interviews, Necole also made sure to mention her dream of writing a book one day (book editors surely took note, because Ms. Kane eventually got a book deal). From time to time, she would sneak up inspiration posts in between the ones about so-and-so-celebrity to help inspire readers who were going through rough patches.
9. Look the Part
Necole covered celebrities, and did not hesitate to look like she covered celebrities. Nails did, splashy hair, cool and trendy clothes, hot shoe game, and plenty of model-caliber posing. And lots of postings of fashion-inspiration-filled glamour shots.
10. Embrace Emerging Technology ASAP
Necole was one of the first bloggers to have a presence on Tumblr, and one of the first to make use of Twitter. She would later admit that Twitter was one of the biggest traffic drivers to her site. As for the aforementioned Tumblr, it gave the blogger leverage on a new platform, while setting the stage for the stand-alone site IamNecole.com.
11. Try New Things, But Be Willing To Let Go
Ms. Kane had the brilliant idea for BitchieLife, a digital magazine extension of NecoleBitchie. After publishing a few issues, BitchieLife was folded. Necole still loved the idea, so she decided to tweak it a little and merge it with her other ideas. All this idea merging gave life to a subscription-based new media property XoNecole.com, that will be more self-sustainable than BitchieLife for sure.
12. Get Thee From Behind the Computer, and Network, Network, Network
Necole established a blog link exchange program in which she partnered with other sites that had equal or considerably more traffic than hers. She helped other bloggers get discovered, while some helped her site get discovered by new readers.
13. Have Purpose And An End Plan
A dream without a purpose has no basis for existence. Necole found that her purpose was to get this generation out of a mental rut and to lead them wholeheartedly after their dreams. She used to write screenplays and from the way she’s obsessed with doing her own editing, it’s a sure wager that she will one day be in the director’s chair, the way she used to imagine herself when she was sitting in film classes at Towson University. Blogging got the executives she was chasing with her resume at her feet. But, there is more to life than “putting on” other people. Inspiring others whether through a blog, a website, a book, or other means, will always be Necole Kane’s starting and ending point.
Kat is the founder of Gigberry.com.