Are You Walking or Crossing the Personal Line on Your Blog?

lineinthesandThere are a lot of people talking online these days about the importance of injecting personal information into your blog. Although I completely agree that you have to show who you are as a person to your readership in order make a connection and create loyal readers, I think the level of personal exposure completely depends on the type of blog you have and where you draw your line personally.

If it’s a business related blog and it’s connected to a business of providing professional services or products, then I think there’s a line that shouldn’t be crossed. Your business blog should offer your personality through occasional anecdotes and snippets of personal experiences as they are relevant to your viewpoint. On the other hand, if it’s a blog about a personal journey as a parent, cancer survivor, traveler or any other “journal” type blog, then revealing more intimate information would be appropriate and relevant.

In both cases it’s important to establish boundaries that are right for you. It’s also important to remember that anyone with a computer has the potential to read what you write, which on one level is an exciting thought and on another is kind of a creepy thought. I think some people tend to reveal a bit too much information, almost forgetting that, although they may have a core group of readers that may “know” them, they are also revealing themselves to the entire blogosphere, including the good, the bad, and the creepy. We all know this to be true, but sometimes tend to forget while we are interacting with our circle of blogging friends. You wouldn’t hang your underwear out to dry on the sidewalk in front of your house or set up a speaker system so everyone in the neighborhood can hear the personal discussions you have inside your own home. The same should be true of your blog.

On the other side, a blog is not a white paper. Factual information is a good thing on a business related blog, but the person behind the blog needs to be revealed at least to some extent. Readers want to know that there is a real person behind a words, not just a machine or committee producing a factual, well researched report or crafted corporate speak. I think it’s important to know the difference between walking the line and crossing the line and being able find that magic spot that works for you.

On this blog, I do reveal things about my life to my readers, but only when it’s relevant to what I am writing about. I think most of my regular readers know about my right brain tendencies and my creative entrepreneurial approach to looking at things. They know that I am married to a designer and know we have an 11-year-old son. They know that I go to the flea market on Sundays looking for cool old stuff. They know that I used to watch the Jetsons when I was a kid and that I’m a huge fan of Dr. Seuss. But more importantly, I think they get to know me through my perspective on the various topics I write about. Your personal qualities should show through when you write, even some of your more imperfect human ones. Being a human is a good thing.

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8 comments so far. Leave a comment.

  1. TerryR

    wrote on October 28, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    Yes, being human is a GOOD thing on a blog. This “getting personal” thing has probably been the hardest line for me to cross in all my years as a designer. I still find myself hiding behind generically described situations and sharing only the happier moments on my own blog. Yet, one of the most memorable blogs I’ve read in the past year is the one in which one of the members of a happy family of three went into shock, then coma, then passed away after long weeks in hospital! It felt as though I was a neighbor or office-mate watching the drama play out in real time. It was heart-wrenching to the n-th degree, and yet so heartwarming to see how the survivors were lifted up and supported by all the blog readers and friends! What a community this person had built, and what strength she gained from having to write to her readers every day. I couldn’t even imagine doing that myself–yet, I saw the impact this person had on her readers and on me!
    While this may not be the style every blogger wishes to take, (certainly not on a professional-business blog) I can see that the right mix of authenticity and personal soul-baring has it’s place in building a strong presence. The emotionally charged reality of that blog certainly got my attention! (I still shed tears when I think about it.)

  2. Cheryl Andonian aka Momblebee

    wrote on October 28, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    I think the thing with having businesses based online is that it can easily be impersonal. The way business is done in the modern world is often without any direct human contact. Sometimes, depending on the business, work can be done without even talking on the phone and often businesses never even meet their clients face to face. I think that’s why it’s important to keep online interactions human – Almost to compensate for the lack of real human interaction. One of my pet peeves is on Twitter when companies just have their brand name as their ID without identifying the human behind the tweets in the profile. I want to know who I’m talking with online. I think the key is to just find the balance for yourself as to what you feel comfortable with while letting people know that there really is a person behind the blog or the business. Personal anecdotes that can illustrate a point are always good to throw in every now and then. But I agree, I’m not comfortable with telling too much about my personal life. I guess the trick is to figure out just how much is too much or too little for you. Thanks for your thoughts on the subject.

  3. Mocha Dad

    wrote on October 28, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    You must engage your readers and revealing things about yourself is one way to do that. However, setting those boundaries are important. Before anything else, you must protect yourself, your reputation and your family.

  4. Cheryl Andonian aka Momblebee

    wrote on October 28, 2009 at 5:39 pm

    Mocha Dad,
    I agree with you on that 100%. Thanks for stopping by.

  5. Kim @ What's That Smell?

    wrote on October 29, 2009 at 7:13 am

    I definitely think there is a different formula for everyone but I also believe that a blog by its very nature thrives on having the author’s personality shine through to some extent.

    There is a balance not only for finding what works for your readers but for yourself as well, how much you want to reveal to the world.

    Great article!

  6. Cheryl Andonian aka Momblebee

    wrote on October 29, 2009 at 8:01 am

    Absolutely! Thanks for sharing your insights.

  7. Mark Levitt

    wrote on October 29, 2009 at 8:17 am

    I agree 100% that the blogger needs to draw a line based on the specific goals for the blog. Readers will decide whether the line is in the right place by choosing whether to continue to follow the blog. Both the subject matter of the blog and the personality of the blogger should determine the location of the line. Subject matter may invite personal experience such as consumer devices and health care or discourage it such as corporate financing and national politics. Personality may permit and even welcome personal stories to connect the blogger with readers. I’ve observed business presentations that include personal or family examples and stories which make the speaker look and sound authentic and accessible to the audience. The risk is interjecting too much irrelevant personal material and losing readers who primarily care about the subject matter.

    Twitter demonstrates this well because it serves many purposes including microblog, news ticker, personal tracker, social networking, customer service, marketing etc. It is usually clear where a Twitter account falls on the personal and business spectrum. Most accounts tweet either about personal activities (cooking, travel, entertainment etc.) or non-personal subjects (stocks, business, companies, politics, technology, policies etc.). While some mix the two on a regular basis, that is usually when I stop following.

  8. Cheryl Andonian aka Momblebee

    wrote on October 29, 2009 at 9:16 am

    I do agree with you on your comments about blogging and finding that line, but I disagree about Twitter. I actually find Twitter to be a freer place to reveal personal content while utilizing it as a great resource and vehicle for business as well. It’s quick and chatty, while offering a great opportunity to spread the word about your business. I actually have the opposite response…those that use Twitter strictly to chit chat about lunch and silly stuff as well as those that strictly use it for promotion or disseminating pure business information, lose my interest pretty quickly. I would argue that in the use of all social media vehicles, a mix of personal and professional content is the most effective. Thanks for weighing in on this….

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