How do your blog’s readers perceive you and your personality? Joel Falconer from Blog News Watch explores….
Perception and personality play an important role in our friendships and relationships with the people around us – and in our relationship with readers.
Bloggers’ perception is all about two things: design and voice.
Your design is important. If it’s attractive, usable, and the navigation is clear, then you win points on having a good perception. The aesthetics of that design start to determine what type of perception that is: is your blog academic? Fun? Are you an instructor, a friend, or some kind of guru at the end of the pilgrimage?
Simple cues in the design will let your reader know.
If this is what your readers look like, you
might not be meeting their expectations!
Your Voice Is Your Most Valuable Asset
More important is voice. Your voice is the way you write each word of each post. It’s the difference between how John and Mary write essentially the same content in a completely different way.
John’s article gets read, and Mary’s doesn’t.
Or Mary becomes well known for her down-to-earth instructional style while John is seen as a bit of a negative creep.
It’s all in the voice.
You can say anything you want to say and completely change the way its perceived, taken in and absorbed by readers, just by the way you say it.
“The iPod touch is just a scam to rip money away from those who can’t afford a phone contract.”
“Does the iPod touch really offer any value over the iPod classic? It certainly is an iPod classic in an iPhone’s clothing.”
The first phrase will put a lot of people – iPod users and Mac fanboys – off your blog forever. The second will get even the biggest fanboy agreeing with you.
I lied. Very few Mac fanboys will take any kind of criticism for their religion! But in niches of the internet where members tend to have a great deal more mental stability (before you flame me for that one, I’m a Mac user!), the second kind of voice will gain you interested readers who come from both sides of the story, whereas the first will polarize the readership and drive away a large section of it.
Maintain Authority, But Write Conversationally
It may even drive away some of the readers who agree with your statement, but find your tone too smarmy-like the compulsion to switch Seinfeld off when he starts whining.
A tried and true voice technique is removing uncertainty. Be certain, know what you’re talking about, and use find & replace at every turn. Remove “I think” and all variants that make it look like you don’t know what you’re talking about. Develop a voice of authority.
Perception is branding. Branding is marketing. Marketing builds readership.
Every reader you have ever had, have now, or will have comes from your marketing efforts, even if you haven’t actually made any.
Because perception is branding, branding is marketing and marketing builds readership. The second someone visits your blog, they’re building first impressions based on the perception your design and voice are giving them. Content is also a factor in those first impressions, but it falls under a slightly different category than perception.
How To Pick Out Perception Busters
Have an honest friend review your website-reminding them to be openly critical-and ask them what their first impressions are. These are obviously tainted by their previous impressions of you, but if you can’t afford focus groups or professional reviews, this is the method you’ll end up using. You should also refrain from telling them it’s your blog if you’re using a pen name or it’s not plastered everywhere.
The friend you choose should preferably be a member of the target market you’re seeking, or their responses won’t be as relevant as they need to be and any changes you make based on their advice may actually hurt your perception-and hence your subscriber base.
What they say is important, but what is more important is their instant reaction; the minutiae of their facial twitches and body language. If you watch this carefully, you’ll know whether they’re sugarcoating any negative responses later.
You can then question them: how do you perceive the writer of these articles? Is it good? Bad? What kind of personality does he or she have?
And then you can determine which elements of their first impression perception are informed by the voice and which are informed by the design.
Compare your friend’s answers and reactions with the perception you’re working toward. How big is the gap between the reality and the desired result? Have I missed the mark or made it?
Then you need to divide both the friend’s perceptions and the desired perception into two categories, based on your discussion with the reviewer: Design and Voice.
Tweak, optimize, rinse and repeat
If the navigation was difficult to use and put the reader off, you need to fix it.
If it was the tone and voice of your writing, you’ve got a longer journey ahead of you, but a worthwhile one. It takes time to change your voice because it embodies the way you have learned to communicate over years.
There are simple rules that you can work with. The tried and tested rules for writers apply to bloggers: remove adjectives and especially adverbs where possible, write in active voice-never passive-and use conversational tone.
Harder still is working on the personality that your voice puts across, and you can learn to change this through comparing your own work with the work of writers who you admire and employing the technique of ‘practice, practice, practice’ until you’re coming across the way you need to.
The review technique is a simple technique, but by putting it into action you can reap significant benefits. By listening to advice and implementing changes you’ll notice a huge difference in the way people communicate with you and the respect they have for you-and that means more subscribers for the long run.
Joel Falconer brings insight and experience to readers through his blogs about blog news and musician career development, and uses blogging as a tool to promote his own music. He is also Editor-in-Chief of the Free Articulator.