Finding Your Bloggy Identity

The first session that Mel, Shannon and I led at SheSpeaks was called “Blogging: What Works and What Doesn’t.”

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.

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Comments

  1. I’ll keep that in mind. Thanks!

  2. De-lurking to say I love your blog.
    I also wanted to say that your tip about being consistent with the name, web persona, and url is very good. I’d never thought of it like that before.

    Your craziness makes me laugh because I can so see myself in it. (I don’t think that last sentence made much sense but I’m going with it.) Keep up the great writing!

  3. Love your voice, ma’am. Makes me laugh, inspires me, as if you were sitting at the table across from me. Thanks for some great tips. See, I already followed one: FishMama@LifeasMOM ;)

  4. Thanks for the advice Boomama. You do a good job of keeping your voice real. I enjoy visiting your little piece of the planet.

  5. Thanks darlin’ for all that advice!

  6. Is Nancy real? Cause she sounds fascinating.

  7. When I clicked, the first three links on your examples page were faulty.

    I think the part I have the most trouble with is consistency. I think it’s probably the biggest reason I have trouble building an audience – I flit from topic to topic, some serious, some fluffy. The heavy posts bore some of my mom readers and the mom posts bore my non-mom readers. When I think about redefining my focus and sticking to only one sort of post, blogging begins to feel like an exhausting burden. But I’m kinda having a blog identity crisis about it.

  8. Thanks for the tips!

  9. Good stuff, sister. Good stuff.

  10. Hey! I certainly enjoyed being in your session. And I have applied the advice about putting my blog name in part of my signature.

    Thanks for sharing these tips on here so I can pass them along to other friends.

    Blessings to you!

  11. Wow, amazing how so many questions can be answered in such a short space! I wish I’d been there to here your presentation in person.

  12. I love, love, love this!! My favorite part (and I quote): “And your voice doesn’t have to be perfect. It just needs to be yours.”

    THANK YOU!! : )

  13. You did this so well.

  14. I remember you saying that first part, or at least my scattered brain does! =) I am so glad you put this up here for everyone else today! I hope you’ll do the same for the rest of your sessions. This was the only I got to attend. You did a great job though!

  15. Oh my, oh my, oh my. Thanks Boomama. I feel a little bit like I turned in a paper I worked hard on and got it back with red ink all over it. My blogging is definately schizophrenic…light and fluffy one minute, frustrated and venting the next with a healthy dose of sentimental angst thrown in the mix. While I don’t obsess too much about how many readers I have, I have wondered why I don’t seem to be keeping them. You may be on to something. “Free therapy” may not be the best choice for my blogs purpose. ~grin~

    Which is to say, thank you for writing this. It gave me a lot to think about. And, I must confess that after I come here often I have to make a conscious effort NOT to imitate you. Your voice is so distinct it’s like being around someone with an adorable accent. Before you know it you are walking around saying “Cheerio” because it’s just so fun.

  16. I’ve been unknowingly following these rules for a while now. The hardest for me is to continue writing using my own voice. Some bloggers have this off-the-cuff style or use cute regional words like y’all that I want to try and imitate. But then it wouldn’t be me and I’d have to change my blog to Not Really T with Honey.

  17. Oooh. I just read Veronica’s comment and she said what I meant. More articulately…AS USUAL.

  18. Thank you so much for sharing this with us lowly bloggers who could not attend. I really appreciate all the advise and encouragment as a rather newbie blogger!! You are great.

  19. One more question…how do you make your comment name change???

  20. Thanks for sharing your advice with those of us who weren’t there.

  21. Boo Mama,

    Just soaked in everyword.

    I have a question:
    If you have a moment will you please swing on over to my blog and tell me if my dark back ground works? I chose it because I made my personal pics in sepia which look better w/ a darker back ground. Now I am second guessing. Help. If I need to redo my blog I will but Id rather not if not needed.

    R. Kristina @ http://www.sharingnotes.blogspot.com

  22. love, love, LOVE practical tips. keep ’em coming!!
    thanks :)

  23. Thanks for the great advice. Just wish I could have heard it in person.

    Did I hear/read a rumor there may be a podcast? That would be wonderful :)

  24. Much like Nancy, I also love corn.

    Just sayin’.

  25. enjoyed that! i bet the presentation was wonderful.
    now that i’ve read all your advice i’m thinking of using corn somewhere in my blog title. it’s kind of catchy, or corny.

  26. I can’t thank you enough for the great workshops this past weekend. You helped me to really think about what the purpose for my blog is. I also appreciate the importance you put on how it’s about “community.” I’ve been scared to comment, so here it goes!
    Thanks, so much!

  27. Boomama,

    I have been reading your blog for many months now, but generally don’t comment. I wanted to let you know what a blessing you have been to me, and what a ministry you have through your blog.

    Thanks for your humorous stories, your down to earth voice and for your clear love of the Lord. I would love to meet you in person one day and have a nice long chat over some fried chicken and iced tea.

    Xandra

  28. so…in a year and a half, will i move to the cool “30 somethings” ?? :)

    thanks for the link lovin!

  29. Yes, my name is Nancy. Yes, I am real. Yes, you were talking about me (although I’m not sure you realized it!).

    Like a bunch of others that commented here, I too have just been using my name with no reference to the blog name. Just never occured to me when I was stumbling around getting started (still doing some of that). I think I have a lot more work to do.

    Gee, Boomama, you make this whole blog thing so simple and easy! Thanks for sharing your wisdom and common sense.

    Oh, and I do love corn, especially the popped kind. And as long as there’s lots of butter and salt.

  30. I know I should be saying thank you for the link love, but what I’d really like to say is THANK YOU FOR CALLING ME COOL.

    Adding that to my resume right now.

  31. Great advice, BooMama. I only regret that I couldn’t hear you give it in person. ;-)

  32. Those are great tips! Thanks for sharing!

  33. LOOK! I took your advice :) Very good advice, too.

    I started calling myself Holly instead of crownlaiddown for a little change that is happening with the Martha cooking blog this summer. But I never thought about Nancy and corn. You crack me up!

    Prayin’ for more things and stuff.
    holly

  34. Hi Boo! I didn’t make it to the conference so I REALLY enjoyed reading what you all (or y’all where you come from) had to say. Thanks for repeating it for those of us who were not there!

  35. Thanks so much for sharing this. I’m learning, I’m learning! Your terrific at this here bloggin’ thing BTW!

    Blessings.

  36. Nicely done. I believe you would have held my attention for 60 minutes. When I wasn’t distracted by the fact that I need to change the polish on my toes… Seriously, it’s good stuff. thanks for cluing us non-attendees in.

  37. Is it stupid to write that I do not understand HOW to get in sync the Blog name and the URL thing?
    I am so basic, but I have no idea how to do that. Your thimble of info. looks like the Grand Canyon from where I am starting!
    I also wondered if you could explain HOW you play with the fonts and stuff on the design page.
    I feel so exhilarated, because I started my little blog last week.
    Now I’m scared to death I have broken all the rules I did not even know!
    Lord, Have Mercy!
    Please tell me it gets easier!
    I wish I could have gone to She Speaks to find all of this out BEFORE I started!

  38. Wait, I don’t think that comment came out. I meant to imply that I have a touch of “the ADD” as you would put it, rather than that my toenails are more gripping than your lovely presentation. Two hours at the pool with four kids who can’t swim will make me a babbling idiot. My apologies.

  39. You like me. You really LIKE me!!!

    Well, maybe I’m taking it too far but, I am so thrilled to know that I am at least doing something right. OR almost right or at least right enough to be fine. What a huge compliment to be on that list of fanwonderful blogs with fantabulous designs that show who they are.

    My sister was at the conference and in the room when you spoke and called me right afterwards hyperventilating because we are so cool calm and collected and all. I immediately emailed my blog designer and told her.

    Look at your great power, woman.
    You’ve got it goin’ on.

  40. HI!! Good advive and well said

  41. “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 know of several women who started blogs and then freaked out when PEOPLE THEY DIDN’T EVEN KNOW!!! started reading them and (gasp! heart palpitations!) left comments! I gently suggested that perhaps blogging was not for them.

  42. Coming out of the Alaskan wilderness to let you know how much I enjoy reading your blog. This was a rockin’ post! Thanks so much for providing bloggers this entry full of wisdom!

    ~Jaime
    http://www.ChaseNKids.com

  43. Thanks for all the blogging tips on your site today. Super informative and quite helpful. Reading all you gals’ stories about this SheSpeaks conference totally makes me wish I could go to something like that. I have only been in the blogging world since late last year and I am completely addicted to the community that it brings. I enjoy your blog very much and frequent your site every week. Thanks for such an informative read today!

  44. OK, I’m guessing that every Nancy is now going to comment and say, “Oh my, you’re right, I HAVE been being inconsistent.” Because that is the way we Nancy’s are.

    See when I started blogging, I didn’t know the difference between my email address, username, & url. And now that I know better, I’m just kind of afraid to go swapping things. I love all that you shared though. I definitely have LOTS and LOTS to learn!

  45. Yeah, like you know anything about blogging.

    Just kidding. This was an awesome post. I liked it because you talked about matters of substance -and- style. Both are very important.

    Also, I’m humbled to be on your Examples list. Thanks so much!

  46. Great advice, thanks for bringing part of the conference right to our desktops. xoox

  47. Gasp, I even think I left a comment wrong. My hubby thinks I am so weirdo for blogging. What do you say to all the neigh-sayers?
    I just am sooooo glad that other people are struggling out there with blog questions, too.
    You are doing a public service. Thank ya!

  48. I have been reading your posts about the conference and was just wishing I could have been there. Thank you ever so much for re-doing you talk for us. I am really pondering my next post and my true voice!

  49. I needed this. THANK YOU. I feel like I’m having a little bloggy identity crisis… I’m sure you’ve had those? Well, maybe not. But I’m much encouraged by your suggestions. Thank you. :)

  50. ChristyCate says:

    Hi!

    Just one, umm, small thing. You know that thing your blog was doing a long time ago? That thing where I have to scroll WAY DOWN on the page to see the entry? It’s doing it again as of last post. Was it a fix on my side or yours?

  51. Thank you so much for recapping what you talked on this weekend for all of us who missed it.

    I’ve been thinking about that consistent online identity thing…bc mine isn’t. I’m Pajama Mama on the comments but my blog has a diff name. That’s bc we didn’t know what we were doing when we started it. I wonder if I can move my archives over to a new blog with new name???

    Anyway, thx for sharing with us!!

    Jeannie

  52. Thank you for the advice and the list of blogs to look at. I love blogging and love blogging advice.

  53. Oh, Lawsie, I’m typing really, really fast here to tell you that I am not a plagiarist! It’s just that, since you asked us some questions a few days ago and I commented that any writing first needs purpose, I’ve been thinking about it, and today I wrote about it on my blog. I did not copy you. I did not copy you. I did not copy you.

    As if I could.

    Anyway, you said it much better, and as always, I enjoyed reading your post. Wish I could have heard you in person, too.

    Come and visit. Every once in a while, I’ll try to write something original. ;-)

  54. I’m having podcast withdrawals…

  55. ….is Travis holding y’all back from a new podcast? Hee hee!

  56. Well said, Kimosabe. xxxooogretchen

  57. Great advice. Like some above, I started blogging for one reason and it changed when real people started reading, and I have no idea how to change my url thingy. I am highly technical as you can see. I am scared it will implode and eat my blog. Sigh.
    I love the bit about community. I can’t imagine not being a part of this little corner.

  58. Great advice! It was good to hear what we missed at this conference. Wish I could’ve been there to meet you in person!

  59. Thanks for the advice! And no, you have not yet fulfilled your advice giving quota . . .

    I’ve been cleaning up my google reader subscriptions and thinking about what makes me unsubscribe – helps me to decide what to put on my own blog . . .

  60. I didn’t see begging people to look at your blog as an option lol! Personally I think it could work hee hee! Great tips. Thank you!
    Now will you come look at my blog, please please please…….is it working? Please please!Have a great day!
    Blessings,
    Kim

  61. Great info – thanks for sharing!

  62. I enjoyed this post; lots of great info. I am new to the bloggy world – only been doing this since April, but I’m loving it and it still blows my mind that people I don’t even know actually read what I write!!!

  63. I wasn’t able to attend SheSpeaks so I am very grateful for the sharing!! I need all the help I can get!

  64. Seriously helpful stuff. Thanks. I’ve learned a lot from reading the same blogs consistently, yours being one of them. That voice thing is a big deal. Thanks for sharing and for being so dang funny!

  65. Once again you helped me! Keep the voice the same is HARD because I am that moody.

  66. Sophie, I did have a question…as I pondered what you suggested about making your blog identity consistent, I wondered how to do that. I mean, if I already have a blog and it doesn’t have the unity that you talked about “boomama, boomama.net, etc” how do I change everything to make it flow without changing my site and all? Does that make sense? Ok. thanks. Just wondering.

  67. It was so nice to meet you. I was speaking when your workshop was in progress-and it was packed so I couldn’t have got in anyway–but this is excellent advice. Thanks for blogging. Thanks for sharing. : )

    Love the name boomama. Makes mine seem ordinary. Snuz? Snuzometer? Snuzomama? Suzinator? I’ve got to keep brainstorming!

  68. Awesome and so well put BooMama! Thanks for sharing. And to think I actually wrote about “Finding My Blogging Voice” this weekend while you all were sharing yours. I could have just saved that post/attempt :) This is well said. And it pretty much covers the whole plagarism thing too. ;) You’re a phenomenon.

  69. Thanks for sharing your presentation with us! Now I’m wondering if I give readers whiplash….I’m teaching my 15 yr-old to drive and I hope I don’t write the way he brakes! Chrissy

  70. BooMama,
    Thank you so much for the great teaching this past weekend at She Speaks. It is amazing to hear you confess a case of nerves. You ladies were as smooth a silk and full of so much good blog info. My head was spinning and still is! Thanks for restating some of it for us so that I can hit PRINT!! and try to get more as I go.
    You are precious and a blessing to learn from!
    Pat

  71. You did such a great job with this! Someone should PAY you, you’re so good at it. :)

    I hear you give great hugs. I figured that was the case.

  72. Mmmmm…so much good advice for a new blogger like myself! Thank you!

  73. Thank you for sharing this! I was sorry to miss out, but am glad that y’all are all sharing the highlights.

    And, yes, after the 3rd time that my comment was the 2nd or 3rd or 5th Jennifer (out of only 6 comments), I began commenting as Jennifer, Snapshot and I’m glad for it :)

  74. Oh, thank you for posting this. I missed Friday nights session. I loved hearing from you ladies on Saturday!

    Very valuable information. It feels so great to be encouraged to blog because of community and fun.

    Thanks again for sharing so much at She Speaks – it was a great session!

  75. Great advice!

    I have a question though, if anyone out there can help me. I’m kind of clueless. :)

    So when I started my blog, I used one URL and title because at the time, that fit what I was writing about (namely, myself). But I changed the title last fall to Unexpectedly Expecting because the focus of my blog changed. I’ve often wondered if I should somehow change the URL to match it… but have no idea how. Would I have to entirely move the entire blog to do so?

  76. First time I popped over here. I like your site. It made me chuckle on more than one occassion. Will have to stop by more often.

  77. Wow! Thank you so much for sharing all of this great advice. I’ve been blogging almost 3 months, but I feel like I “get” everything that you said.

    And I do think that the more you write on your blog, the more you start to fully realize your purpose and your voice.

  78. Excellent post. I’m saving it for future reference. So glad you guys are following up for those of us who couldn’t be at She Speaks.

  79. Fabulous!!!!!!!!! Excellent advice – and all taught in that wonderful BooMama voice. So fantastic. :)

  80. Wonderful post filled with lots of great advice. I especially like the idea of community. Some communities seem a bit clicky though, but I think that is just human nature.

    I also love what you wrote about finding your purpose. I had a distinct purpose for my blog when I started and then seemed to get a little muddled, so I wrote down a mission statement and am even encouraging others to do so.

    Thanks for being you.

  81. Oh I will say that sometimes by accident I find myself “talking” like other bloggers only when I comment on their posts and only sometimes. I’m not a particularly funny or sarcastic person, although sometimes I can be a bit of both. But I notice that if I am commenting on a really funny post, I tend to be wittier. I honestly do not think I am copying…I think it is just that that side of me was brought out by that particular post. Make sense or do I sound like a complete nut job?

  82. Sophie – so well said. Great job and I love all the points that you make. Everyone blogger should read this!
    From the get-go I really tried to stay within the theme/mission of my blog. And I didn’t even know what I was doing – LOL!
    I do think people come back because they know what you are about …
    Thanks for the tips! Sandy

  83. You done did good, girl. Real good.

  84. Great bloggin tips. I am a newbie blogger so I found your post helpful!

    A

  85. Thanks for the great advice. Very helpful.

  86. I just added a post about this post on my blog. I hope that’s ok! Thanks!

  87. Brilliant!