Beware! A generic tone might doom your blog

Not sure how personal to get in your posts and social media updates? This communications pro offers his perspective to help you decide.

Too many personal blogs have an impersonal feel.

For example, one reader recently asked for advice. After blogging for several months, he had made no progress with subscriptions, comments or shares.

First, there was no indication of who was writing the blog—not a name nor a smiling face. The blogger wrote posts in a clinical style, and the headlines—”Marketing automation mistakes,” “New research is here,” “A social media development”—left me cold.

The world doesn’t need another post titled, “Common Twitter mistakes.” People do want to read:

  • “Five things I want to destroy on Twitter”
  • “The five strangest tweets I’ve ever seen”
  • “How Twitter saved my marriage”
  • “The 20 stupidest things you can do on Twitter”

To stand out, you have to be original. You must be courageous enough to add your own narrative to the mix. There’s only one you. Never publish content that someone else can create.

How authentic should you be?

Your goal should be to build an emotional connection between you and your audience. Genuinely human content leads to awareness, which leads to trust, which leads to loyalty.

So, how much “humanity” is best for your personal brand?

Human content is:

  • Vulnerable
  • Personal
  • Bold
  • Unguarded
  • Generous
  • Confident

You don’t have to spill your guts to demonstrate honesty and openness. Human content builds empathy and connection by offering a glimpse into your personality.

For example, a Swedish blogger posted a photo of his office with the caption, “Today, I thought I would show you where I work.” The post was simple, but it revealed something personal and created intimacy with his audience.

When Facebook Live debuted, Mark Zuckerberg was one of the first to demonstrate it. By attaching a face and voice to the company through a live video, Zuckerberg provided human content that was much more effective than any press release.

Others, like Jenni Prokopy, have become well-known by sharing intimate information. When Prokopy worked in the construction industry, she started a blog called “ChronicBabe” to help women who live with chronic illness, as she does.

This personal brand has become her full-time business. Prokopy is known for her transparency and acceptance of imperfection, but she has struggled to balance intimate details with her public persona, such as when she went through a divorce. Was she revealing too much, or would she have become irrelevant if she had painted a carefully curated picture of herself? Ultimately, Prokopy discovered that when she had the courage to be vulnerable, her audience respected and trusted her more.

The power of being you

There is undeniable power in making your content personal, but don’t feel guilty or phony if you don’t share everything. All of us edit our public personas to some extent, and that’s OK. You have a personal brand; you’re not a Snickers bar ready to be plucked from a shelf. Those two types of brands are different.

I’m a private person, and I have to push myself to publicly disclose aspects of my personal life. Yet, each time I open up, I’m greatly rewarded by reader feedback. I’ve become more open, because my audience wants me to be. Rock star Pete Townshend once said: “I would have enjoyed keeping my private pain out of my work. But I was changed by my audience who said your private pain, which you have unwittingly shown us in your songs, is also ours.”

I’m transparent in my writing to reinforce that we’re all equal in our human condition. We all stumble through life at times. I also reveal details of my life to demonstrate my values. My audience should know what I stand for.

Ultimately, maintaining your personal brand shouldn’t feel like putting on an act. Don’t be fake. You get to decide what is and isn’t part of your professional persona. You don’t have to follow someone else’s path or the expectations social media tends to set for us. Your audience—the right one, anyway—won’t judge you for your choices.

A version of this article originally appeared on Mark Schaefer’s blog.

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