I think many blogs and social networking attempts fail because the creator of the feed hasn’t found their voice. A Web developer or marketer will say to a client, “You must have a blog! You must Tweet! You must use a Facebook Page!” but never really goes any further than establishing pages and accounts and handing over the username and password. The blog and tweets, while informative, are dry and impersonal. There needs to be care in developing your personal brand.
First, start writing–and write often. I recently rediscovered this after a ten year hiatus. When I first started writing and sharing my “essays” via E-mail and the Web fifteen years ago, I made it a mission to write one 800 word article a week. Somehow, I fell in to my voice automatically writing humorous essays in the tone of an untrusting college age kid who loved to tell stories about absurd social practices, squirrels, weave light hearted conspiracy theories. It worked. My friends read my articles, urged me to self publish, and I did. The book tanked while my online community was growing. At one time I had over 120 subscribers to my E-mail newsletter. I would love to do it over again as I was blogging before blogging took shape.
Fast forward a decade. Writing took the back seat while I worked, got into a relationship and started a family. I no longer wrote my humor essays, though I started and restarted a short story 5 times, to no avail. While all this was happening, the world of blogging evolved. But I was busy documenting. I wrote and wrote and wrote lots of technical documentation. Dry, boring, couldn’t get anyone to read. I now know that’s because there was no voice within those words.
As I got a little free time I started blogging about my hobby: railroads and local history. Again, dry and boring facts. They were like Wikipedia entries. Yes, they were informative, but it wouldn’t hold a reader. There was nothing there to allow the reader to build a connection with me. People interact and pay attention to those that are like minded and share interests. There is a human emotional involvement that develops.
When I read a blog post I want to laugh, smile, and hope the writer succeeds. Though virtual, the writer is building a connection with me. This is done through story telling, humor, quirks, and compassion. I realized this after taking an inventory of all mediums I follow.
- My pastor who perfectly blends fishing, golf, hiking, and family stories into the message.
- The technical netcaster who doesn’t take himself seriously and has fun relaying technology news, tips and tricks.
- Friends who blog or podcast about their lives and thoughts.
I become engaged with their message because I develop a (healthy) emotional attachment with their message.
Once I realized this, I started inserting stories into my railroad blog. I began developing my personal brand as a railroad and history related story teller. Friends and family, including my wife, took notice. My wife even stated, “You really need to start writing again.” I corrected her as I had been writing for years. The only difference now was that I was writing with a voice and I needed to start writing with my voice again.
So, if you are starting a blog or social marketing campaign, explore writing with your own voice. Don’t fake it and be genuine.
WordPress has an article about writing which includes “voice” talk. Get it Done Guy Stever Robins also covered personal branding in one of his podcasts. It is not necessarily about discovering a voice that an audience wants, but, rather, a voice that a particular audience, with similar interests, will want (those like you!). The Web is HUGE and there are millions of people who want a new voice similar to theirs. Let them find it with your content.
While I don’t have the readership I used to, now that I have found my voice again I feel confident that I can regroup and begin writing for the public again.