You may have noticed that we went a little broad with our topic.
But the whole idea was that we wanted to be able to give information that would be relevant to both beginner and veteran bloggers, so a sixty-minute session on the finer points of search engine optimization might not have been very relevant to everyone in our audience.
Not to mention that what I know about search engine optimization wouldn’t fill up a thimble. So leading a session on that particular topic would be approximately as successful as if I decided to teach an advanced algebra class.
Which is to say: not at all.
So my part of the What Works and What Doesn’t presentation was about Finding Your Voice, but before I jumped into the particulars of that topic, I asked three general questions that I think all bloggers need to consider – no matter how long you’ve been blogging.
1. Why do I want to do this? – If you start a blog because you’re hoping to get a book deal or because you want to make some money from ads, you’re probably going to be disappointed. So if blogging isn’t fun for you, if you don’t enjoy the process of writing and posting and commenting, then this probably isn’t your ideal writing outlet.
And another thing – which I didn’t mention at the conference but I wish I had – is that ultimately, blogging shouldn’t be some extended exercise in networking. It’s about community, at least in this little corner of the web (and it’s NOT a replacement for real-life community, by the way). If you’re not interested in community, then you’d do just as well to type out your thoughts in Word and call it a day.
I’m just sayin’.
2. What’s my blog’s purpose? – It’s good to know this and be consistent with it. Are you trying to interact with an audience you’ve gained through books or speaking? Do you want to document your family’s life? Entertain? Encourage? Inspire? Exhort? Advise?
Think about it this way: if you started visiting here and finding posts about the best brands of car parts, you would be puzzled. Ditto for if you clicked over and found me talking about a critical piece of legislation that’s up for a vote in Iowa.
It’s not that you can’t go off-topic every once in awhile, but I think there do need to be some common threads that run throughout your blog, and if the purpose of your blog is constantly shifting, then those threads get broken.
LOOK, MAMA! I MADE A METAPHOR!
3. What’s my blog’s personality? Every blog has a personality, and ideally that personality is a reflection of the person who writes it. Authenticity is the thing that results in bloggers meeting face-to-face and saying, “She’s the same in real life as she is on her blog.”
Plus, a blog is easier to read if it has a reliable tone. People like to know what to expect when they click over. And if you’re happy one day, frustrated the next, manic the next, etc., people will get tired of the bloggy whiplash and quit reading.
This, of course, is just my opinion. There may be a large contingent of blog readers who enjoy moody.
So with all that established, there are three things I think you can do to help establish your bloggy identity:
1. You need one online identity. Be consistent with it. – It’s easier for people to get to know you if you comment under the same name as your blog, and if your blog name matches your URL.
For example, I comment as BooMama, the name of my blog is BooMama, and you can find my blog at http://boomama.net.
See how it all matches?
It gets confusing for people – and makes it difficult for them to keep up with you online – if you comment as Nancy, write a blog called I Love Corn More Than You’ll Ever Know, and your blog is located at http://youwillnotbelievehowtirediambecauseofthesekids.bloghost.com.
There’s a lack of consistency in Nancy’s approach.
When it’s possible, keep your blog name and your URL short and sweet. If you like using your real name in comments, then try using something like Nancy @ I Love Corn to help people remember where it is that you blog.
2. The look of your blog should reflect its purpose and personality.
THINK ABOUT the colors and the graphics and the photography you use on the masthead of your blog. Think about how much of “you” is on the front page (if you’re a published author or a speaker, you might have one of those cute little pictures where you’re crossing your arms and tilting your head at the top of your blog so people will realize that Hey, she’s the woman who spoke at my church).
But if you’re like me and want something a little more title-focused, then really think about if your font and your colors reflect the personality of your blog.
And for heaven’s sake, don’t go spending any money to personalize your blog until you know you’re going to stick with it. That would be like buying a car when you’re not really sure if you’re going to take to the whole driving thing.
Also: a general rule, readers prefer light backgrounds with black type. They like frequent breaks in paragraphs. They like fonts that don’t require magnifying glasses. And they typically don’t like music that plays automatically, nor do they care for things that blink.
3. The writing on your blog should reflect its purpose and personality.
This is the biggie, my friends.
Here’s the way I look at it.
There is only one you. There is only one person in the whole wide world who has your background, your experiences, your perspective. You have the ability to articulate the events of your life like no one else can.
So. Given all that, WHY IN THE WORLD would you try to sound like someone else? Why in the world wouldn’t you use the UNIQUE voice that God’s given you?
And your voice doesn’t have to be perfect. It just needs to be yours.
The best way in the world to develop that voice is to write regularly. Your voice will get stronger and better the more you use it, and you’re shortchanging yourself and your readers if you’re content to imitate someone else’s.
That being said, it’s only natural that certain phrases are going to get passed around the blogosphere. I believe that’s what we call slang. And I think using a little bloggy slang every now and again is perfectly fine and normal.
What I object to is the notion of sitting down to write and thinking, “I want to sound like Veronica in this post. Or “I want to sound like Shaun.” Or “I want to sound like [some-other-blogger-whose-style-you-enjoy.]”
Bottom line: there’s only one you, sister.
So get after it.
The last thing I did in my little presentation was to show some screenshots of a few blogs that do a great job of keeping their look and voice consistent with their personality and purpose (I found MANY blogs that do this well). You can find that list here.
And I’m sure I said lots of stuff besides this stuff because, well, I RAMBLE, but this is the gist of it.
So there you have it. I believe I’ve fulfilled my advice-giving quota for the next, you know, forever.
Thank you and have a lovely afternoon.