Now It’s Getting Personal: Building Blog Community Through Personalization

build blog community personalizationDo you wear your blog like a shield?

You know something about the topic that you blog about – or at least, I hope you do. You may be an expert, or you may be a learner who likes to share what you’ve learned. Either way, you’ve definitely got some knowledge to share.

But is that all you share? Do your blog posts read like a textbook? Or do you also put some of “you” into your posts?

Let me give you an example:

According to a recent study, 114 million people in the United States alone own a smartphone. It’s no wonder that responsive websites – sites that are designed to be viewed on a mobile phone – are a fast-growing trend. In fact, they’re becoming a necessity.

It’s not bad, really. It has a reasonably interesting statistic, it introduces the topic (responsive websites), and it at least hints at why the topic is important to the reader.

It’s a perfectly good opening paragraph. But who wrote it?

Here’s another opening paragraph(s) on the same topic:

For Valentine’s Day, my husband surprised me with an iPhone. Since my phone before that didn’t have Internet access, this was a huge change.

 

I love the thing. I can do everything from find out the weather to kill zombies with plants. I’ve taken a bazillion baby pictures and post them to Facebook. It’s awesome.

 

It also got me thinking about how my blog looked on a mobile phone. Turned out it didn’t look too terrible. Then I visited a few blogs that had been optimized for mobile phones and “not too terrible” just wasn’t enough anymore.

The person who wrote these paragraphs is a wife with a husband who gets her cool Valentines Day gifts. She’s a proud mother. She’s excited about having a new smartphone, and she plays Plants vs. Zombies. She’s also a blogger with a mission: to get her blog spruced up for mobile visits.

Those are two different starts to the same blog post. I went with the second one because it accomplished two goals that were important to me: introducing the idea of a responsive website and working toward that sense of community that I want for this blog.

People in a community know each other. They share their experiences and knowledge and some of the ups and downs of their lives. When it’s a blog community, a lot of the sharing has to originate from the owner of the blog. If she’s not willing to step out from behind her blog posts and share some of herself, her readers won’t feel comfortable sharing any part of their lives, either.

building blog communityThere are very successful blogs that are run without any sense of community. They may have a culture, where certain personalities and traditions and ways of doing things have become established. They just don’t have the sense of support and encouragement that a true community has.

If you’re not looking for a community on your blog, that’s fine. It’s your blog. Run it however you’re most comfortable.

On the other hand, if you value the benefits that a community can bring to you and to your readers, you’re going to have to be willing to put yourself out there to a certain extent.

How Do You Make Your Posts Personal?

  • Add little personal bits to your blog posts or emails, like the Valentines’ Day gift I got or my obsession with killing zombies with little¬†pixel-plants.
  • Give your honest opinion about news, products, or trends related to your blog’s topic.
  • Go off-topic a bit from time to time and just share what’s going on with you.
  • Stick yourself in front of a video camera and do a verbal blog post.
  • Talk about problems or struggles you’re having related to your blog’s topic, and ask for suggestions on how your readers have handled similar situations.
  • Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself, to admit when you’re wrong or don’t know something, or to let your readers know if you’re nervous about trying something new.

When I first started teaching, I was 20 years old. I was teaching juniors and one class of seniors – kids who were anywhere from 17 to 19 years old. I spent the first few years scared that the kids would find out my age and completely lose respect for my authority as a teacher.

In fact, I spent the first few years trying my hardest to have authority. As a result, I don’t think I had much personality. I was all business, all the time.

Be YourselfAfter a while, I moved from high school to middle school. There was a greater focus on personal writing in middle school. I was asking 12 year-olds to write about some pretty personal topics – and then critiquing them.

I handled that fun task by making myself vulnerable. I told them personal stories from my life. I wrote in front of them, messing up as you do when you’re writing rough drafts. I laughed at myself when I wrote something silly or spelled something wrong.

And you know what? The kids relaxed and wrote with me. Some of them shared very personal stories. Some wrote about more surface matters. But they were all more comfortable sharing what they wrote because I’d shared first.

Do you get personal on your blog, or do you keep it more professional? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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photos by: mikecogh & fotologic

10 thoughts on “Now It’s Getting Personal: Building Blog Community Through Personalization

  1. This is great, Katie. I look for your blog posts now because I know that I’ll learn something amazing every time I read one. And I love to learn. Sometimes (on this topic) I wonder if I share too much. What are your thoughts on that??
    Amy recently posted…Weekend WishesMy Profile

    • That’s funny, Amy. I look for your posts because they’re always interesting and make me smile :-).

      As for sharing, I try to follow these guidelines:

      1) Nothing on the Internet ever really goes away. If I don’t want it coming back to bite me in the rear in 10 years, I don’t share it.

      2) Other people in my life have a right to their own privacy. I don’t post things about them that they don’t want shared, even if I’m involved. At most, I might say something vague like “things are going on with my son that are kind of stressful” without getting into details.

      3) If it’s about me and I don’t care if it’s on the Internet forever, it’s fair game.

      I should possibly add a “if it’s too boring, don’t post it” criteria to that list.
      Katie recently posted…Now It’s Getting Personal: Building Blog Community Through PersonalizationMy Profile

  2. Ha ha. I tend to be a ‘just the facts jack’ kind of girl when writing. I sometimes write more personally on my personal development blog but have not yet written that way on my business blog. I suppose my posts read more like a textbook because I actually wrote textbooks for years. I’ll have to take a look at that :)
    Rachel Lavern recently posted…6 Ways To Create Flagship Content On Your BlogMy Profile

    • You know, Rachel, it might be interesting to try a few posts that are more personal and see what kind of reaction you get. Do an experiment :-). If your readers like it, great! If not, also great! You’ll know which way to go in the future.

  3. Great thoughts. I seem to go between…personal and then just getting a blog post out there. And then I worry about “off-topic” but my life is kind of like that! I just posted about trying to nail down a brand. I guess that could be ongoing for awhile!
    Thanks!
    Anne
    Anne Dovel recently posted…Branding is such a tricky businessMy Profile

    • Finding the balance that fits you can be a challenge. You can get personal just by sharing your opinions – if your topic is widgets, you can talk about how you hate it when widgets make noise, but you love it when they flash different colors because it reminds you of your Christmas tree (example obviously off the top of my head).

      I’m interested in branding, too – off to read your blog!

  4. I love how you are telling us to put some of our personality into our blog posts. This is so important sometimes I am so busy giving reasons and then stats to back the reasons up that it takes some of me out of it. Great reminder thanks.
    Shawn recently posted…Free No Obligation Strategy SessionMy Profile

    • Stats are good, too, Shawn. I’ve read some posts and articles where the author is telling me to do something, but never backs up their instructions with the “why” component. The trick is finding a balance that appeals to both heads and hearts.

  5. I have two blogs–one is my author blog linked to here, where I have been very personal. My other blog I do with my husband on building strong marriages (http://theromanticvineyard.com). It’s true, the posts where we are more vulnerable and share our honest struggles receive more comments than the ones where we’re sharing facts on the topic. Blogs are like living, breathing relationships that require personality to attract readers. Who wants to share a cup of coffee with an encyclopedia? Okay, there might be some who would find such a date divine. But we were made for community, to live life with knowing others and being known. Great post!
    Debi Gray Walter recently posted…Letting Go Of Temporary BlessingsMy Profile

    • Exactly, Debi! The Internet can be such an impersonal place. Adding some personality to it gives people a chance to feel comfortable, which often brings them back to visit again.

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