I came home from my first SNAP! Conference with so much information to digest and evaluate. One of the sessions that really hit a chord for me was the storytelling session led by Karianne of Thistlewood Farms, Vanessa of At the Picket Fence, and Vivienne of The V Spot. The session was a reminder to me that, while I am trying to run my blog as a business, my brand is dependant on sharing myself as well.
It is an incredibly tricky line to walk. How do we as personal bloggers balance the desire to establish ourselves as professional authorities in our field with the need to create a sense of community with our readers? If you lean too heavily one way or the other, you risk limiting business opportunities that may come your way. Throw in a healthy dash of concern for internet safety, and you have a recipe for one frustrating conundrum.
After discussing this very issue with bloggers on both sides of the debate, I have compiled a list of the pros and cons of personalization versus professionalism. I will also share a few suggestions for how to keep a healthy balance on your blog.
PRO: Sharing personal stories creates a connection with audience.
Whether you are sharing a funny thing your mom said or sharing your struggles with infertility, you are providing a way for your readers to connect with you on a personal level. Either they will have had a similar experience or felt a similar emotion, and BOOM now they feel like they have something in common with you.
PRO: Sharing unique experiences builds your personal brand.
Only you have your stories and experiences, so when you share them with your readers you are inevitably molding your personal brand.
PRO: Being open builds sense of community.
Often personal stories get better back and forth from readers in comments, whether on your blog or on social media. In the same way, taking a stand on an issue generally spurs readers to share their stances as well.
PRO: Relatable content = share-worthy contest.
I wrote a ridiculous tutorial sharing how my mom encased our family’s 25 year old cheese ball in resin. The story was so wild and humorous that it was picked up by Jen from Cake Wrecks, who shared it with her facebook fans. Instant virality. People share posts that strike a chord with them.
CON: You are more likely to get hurtful backlash when you share personal opinions.
When you wade out of neutral territory, you are more likely to get trolls or angry commenters. If you aren’t prepared to have strangers tell you that you are raising your children wrong or voting for the wrong candidate or worshiping in the wrong church, don’t share that information with the internet.
CON: Personal stories are harder to write.
Even for people who have no anxiety about sharing their stories publically, personal posts are, and SHOULD be, more difficult to produce.
PRO: Staying neutral frees you to work with more brands.
Avoiding personal opinions and experiences means that you are less likely to have content on your blog that a brand might find objectionable.
PRO: Remaining private keeps you safe.
I hadn’t been blogging for long when I heard a horror story from a fellow blogger. She had posted some of the professional photos that she’d had taken of her family, and those photos were stolen from her site and used in advertising in another state, without her knowledge. Another home blogger had a random reader show up at her doorstep asking for a home tour. We all know the safety and privacy concerns that come with sharing personal information on the internet.
PRO: Writing in a purely professional manner establishes authority.
Even in today’s populist society, we tend to think of professionals as stand-offish and business-like. Maintaining a professional tone on your blog establishes trust with your readers.
PRO: Straightforward reporting is better for SEO.
Lists, step out tutorials, and streamlined titles are better for SEO than punny titles or narratives.
CON: Overly professional blogs tend to come off as sterile or corporate.
As writers of creative content, our readers come to us for inspiration. Stiff, restrained writing doesn’t ignite imagination.
CON: Sparer writing is forgettable.
A tutorial written only as a series of steps will be easy to follow and easy to forget.
Set boundaries that make you feel comfortable.
Decide if you are going to use your family members’ names and faces, whether you will use a pen name, and if you will share where you live. By considering these issues and then coming to firm decision, you can reveal your personality without revealing information that makes you feel unsafe.
Make sure to always let your voice shine.
Even if you don’t share personal stories, use your personal blogging voice when you write. Both readers and brands respond positively to bloggers who have a strong sense of who they are. You can let your personality shine through without revealing personal information.
Consider writing shorter tutorials in a story format instead of step-out.
Simple 2-4 step tutorials can easily be written out in narrative form rather than step-by-step. Here is a fantastic example from Aunt Peaches. (NOTE: It’s even a sponsored post and it’s STILL a story!) Mixing and matching your tutorial structures will also keep your readers interested.
What are your thoughts and concerns about maintaining a good personal and professional balance on your blog? Sound off in the comments!
If you are looking for more writing tips and exercises, check out my e-book Mad Writing Skills: A Non-threatening Guide to Grammar and Writing for the Creative Blogger.