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How You Can Fine-Tune Your Blogger Personality Perception

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.

Blogger-Personality-Perception-1
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.”

Or…

“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.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. great post. I have found that it is my controversial posts that have gained the most visitors. I think this is because people are sick of every blogger promoting a product just to make money that they want someone who is willing to tell the truth about a product.

    You would think it would be easy to work on your blogger personality but it is something that you have to always remind yourself to keep in mind.

  2. Shawn Farner says:

    I’m a Seinfeld fan – you just turned me off forever.

    I’m kidding (about the turned off part, I do like Seinfeld). I agree, though, voice has a huge effect on whether a reader sticks around and not all readers have the same taste.

    I like that happy medium between being serious and humorous. Some blogs are way too stern while others try to make a joke out of everything. Those blogs are the ones I tend to skip.

  3. Ivy says:

    This is such a coincidence… I just finished my post about how important web design is to building a brand for your blog! Mine takes a slightly different angle, and I am demonstrating the simple things that bloggers can do to their site design that can have far reaching branding effects.

    I do agree that the most difficult thing to change is writing style. There are times when I am tired or feeing a little negative, and I find myself having to go through my copy again and again just to be careful I am coming across clearly, and without bias.

  4. Coop says:

    I’m glad you put voice over design.

    Design may be important in attracting visitors initially, but with the use of feed readers, it is arguably unimportant after that fact. I don’t even know what most of the blogs I read look like. The only time I see the design is if I click through to leave a comment.

    That being said, I am in the process of hiring a designer & graphic artist to create a new blogger template and new logos ;)

  5. Martin says:

    I used to worry so much about my voice. It was difficult to know how I was coming across to my readers.

    In time, I decided not to think about it so much. I may make lots of mistakes because of that, but I try to get my points across with good examples and without waffling too much. I try to find a balance so that I don’t turn people away with harsh statements and arrogance, but I try not to come across as wishy-washy while I’m offering advice either. That would defeat the point of the posts!

    I hope my tone works for what I write about, but I’ll probably take your advice and ask an honest friend or two to tell me how they perceive the voice. It’s a starter for ten.

  6. I disagree with Shawn…Seinfield does whine and I’ve never managed to watch a whole episode! (I agree with the rest he says though…)

    I find it very offputting when bloggers are very cynical or over critical and personal. The blogs I carry on reading are ones like ProBlogger where any critisism is done constructively (a bit like your iPod example). This has a big impact on the quality of comments you get too (i.e. helpful vs argumentative and point scoring.)

  7. Darknight says:

    Design and Voice…We have to tweak it both, but voice is more important for me because it’s the whole ‘personality’.

    Design is just Persona. Persona is the root of Personality word (in Psychology) which has the meaning ‘Mask’. In Blog, Mask is Design. We have make a good mask but don’t forget with the real Personality (content), because the life of Blog is on the content.

  8. Whilst agree that the voice is perhaps one of the most important aspects of your blog, I don’t necessarily think that you should try to change your voice.

    Your voice is your own and I believe that honesty, integrity and ‘being real’ are far more important than trying to speak in a certain way.

    See everybody is different. You assume people will be turned off by the way in which a certain phrase is written. Maybe. But other people will love it. What is a turn off for one person is a turn off for another.

    There are several wildly successful bloggers that I cannot stand but their sheer popularity means that there are plenty of people who resonate with them.

    I think that if you speak in your own voice and keep it real, you will attract those people who resonate with you, which at the end of the day, is what you want.

  9. Mike Goad says:

    I, too, have never watched a complete episode of Seinfeld – I’ve seen bits and pieces of it over the years – enough to inform an opinion.

    Perception:

    If you have music or other audio of video that starts up when I land on your site, I’m gone from there before I can form any perception except, “get me out’a here!”

    If the blog design is too garish or outlandish, my perception of the site will be adversely affected. I probably won’t stay long enough to find out if the content is worth reading.

    If I land on a blog that has a Seinfeld kind of voice, I’ll leave and not come back.

    I will be more likely to visit a blog again and again if the content is interesting and engaging.

  10. Joe says:

    It can be really difficult to determine what kind of tone someone will like and someone won’t. Unfortunately you have all of about 2 seconds before you can gain a reader forever, or lose one forever. I think it’s this short attention span of people who read blogs that make some people give up.

    You’ve just got to keep trying to develop your own brand, and develop a loyal base of readers. I’m working on trying to get people to read, then make it look nice :-)

  11. All good tips to think over. I write how I talk and think every blogger has their own unique writing voice. Trying to write differently than what comes out naturally would become obvious to me and would take away the unique personality a blogger has.

    I don’t see how I could pull off writing different from my normal voice without it being noticed. I couldn’t fake a different style very well and why would should I anyway?

    If I can’t succeed with my natural personality infused into my blog, it would seem like torture for me to try and change. You are who you are, and hopefully you will build up a readership that relates to your writing personality.

    If not, then you’re in trouble and could be forced to change your personality and writing style whether you like it or not.

  12. Starfeeder says:

    Great article, definitely going to bookmark this one… will serve me as a good reminder on postings

  13. Ryan Paul says:

    Hating to be negative, and not doing it on purpose… but I’ve a couple of questions.

    1. Why is it that people are so often saying ‘great article’ or I agree’ or some other sycophantic lines such as that? Shouldn’t comments serve a purpose?

    2. If everyone agrees with so many of your posts, how come all 33,713 rss subscribers aren’t generating six figure incomes too?

  14. I think this is the one issue that separates the best blogs from the “other” blogs. Take the ever famous John Chow for example. His blog is often useless, I mean photos of his dinner? Yet I read it every day and so do 100,000 other people (not a real number, just making a point) What does he have? A strong personality.

  15. WBnewbie says:

    Hi Darren, could you assure us widgetbucks is no online scammer. They seem not achieve what they promised. The monthly earnings have not been posted yet by now and it seems they have suspended a number of WB accounts randomly. This could adversely affect your reputation as you help propmote their program and a referal button of WB is on the top spot of your blog!!

    Thanks in advance

  16. I have no problem with cynical writing, as long it’s not just for the sake cynicism.

    That is why so many people read blogs like Gawker.

  17. The point about authority is an interesting one – especially if your blog is designed to position you as a perceived ‘expert’ in a specific field. I think there’s a fine line however between being “too” authoritative (arrogant) so as not to invite/encourage comments and some bloggers get this very wrong.

    I’ve noticed something about when I write – and that’s the mood I’m in and the tone of voice I use (in my head) when I’m writing. Sometimes I’ll notice that it sounds preachy (kind of higher pitched) and I then try and adjust this. I know this might sound a little odd – but most of us do it…talk to ourselves as we write.

    Next time, try noticing the tone of voice you use when you write…see if it reflects the “voice” or message you want it to convey through your written words.

  18. @ Ryan Paul – probably because saying and doing are two completely different things!

  19. Caroline, I agree with you and I’m not suggesting one change the very root of their voice. However, writing is a craft; some people can write a novel, most can’t.

    While blogging is accessible to a much wider range of people, it is still important to hone that craft to a point where your writing feels and reads as credible, because no matter what other elements comprise one’s voice, people won’t read writing that isn’t credible (or more accurately, doesn’t seem credible – even if it really is).

    Seriously enjoyed your recent Twitter series, by the way. Came in handy for a little project I’m working on ;)

  20. Brad V. says:

    Great post! I have to be very careful with my “voice” on my blog because it’s about literature, and when getting into things like theory and breaking down literature into its parts can get boring. Therefore work hard to keep things light and entertaining, otherwise no one would read my blog.

    As far as design goes, I think simple is better. Nothing turns me off more to a blog (or any other website) than having to work at navigating, straining my eyes to read the content, and be constantly interrupted with annoying pop-ups and flash animations that make the site load slower.

  21. Evan Hadkins says:

    Thanks Joel.

    I too like the emphasis on voice (partly because I don’t have the money to do much about blog design – so mine are pretty much standard designs).

    My major struggle with voice is to ‘put myself in’ and not sound self indulgent while doing it. I hope by adding personal examples I can stay focussed on content and also give people something more personal to feel connected to. I think it is probably a feeling of connection that brings people back to our blogs.

    The tone that attracts me is direct and personal. Authoritative because they know their stuff and can talk about the specifics. This is different to trying to sound authoritative just by giving judgements and opinions. So I don’t think that using ‘I think’ is always a bad idea. It sits better with me (and curiously helps build people’s authority for me) when they show they are giving their personal view or opinion.

    Hi Ryan,

    Well, the number of comments people leave is often an attempt to just do a kind of spam advertising. Just putting a comment on as many blogs as possible so they get noticed.

    I do think some blogs that are unsuccessful do pretty much the same things as those that are successful. There may be things like being the first into a particular niche, or maybe even just luck.

  22. I understand you are taking about the tone of a writers/bloggers voice, but you also talk about branding and perception. Shouldn’t you create your own personal brand and become yourself through your blogging voice?
    Trying to change your voice to suit readers is something that I don’t agree with, as you’re in essence changing your personality and approach – maybe tweaking this is needed once in a while, but to totally re-focus your voice isn’t good – you are your brand, and if your voice isn’t there your brand doesn’t exist.
    Even though I disagree with a few points I do agree in practice, practice, practice – if you don’t evaluate and et your voice grow, you’ll struggle in the long run.

  23. David says:

    Another great post lands on ProBlogger. I have really learned a lot from reading posts on ProBlogger, so thank you.

    Being more confident and paying more attention to the way that people perceive me on my blog is something that I have not been doing enough of. I am going to work on making more of a point to do so.

  24. Great article. Developing a voice is one the hardest task of a writer. As a blogger the task is made harder by the constant need to post new material. Your suggestion about reading the work of people you admire, is a good idea. If necessary at first, while you are developing your own style you might want to copy the style. This gives you insight into why the style works and how you can adapt it to your own unique expression.

    Nick

  25. MJ Ray says:

    So that’s fine-tuning, but what about re-tuning?

    How do you repair a broken perception? Can you repair it, or is it time to delete the blog and start again at a new address? Can you start again, or does web.archive mean past mistakes will hurt you forever?

    I know I’ve a few challenges with my voice: first, I’m English and have a “typical English” slightly-sarcastic/sharp sense of humour that doesn’t always translate; secondly, I’m pretty blunt, for various reasons – sugar-coating isn’t natural for me and sometimes I forget to add it; and finally, I’m working for social change on a few axes, which of course means that I’m dissatisfied with the current mainstream.

    In the past I’ve tried asking a few readers who have sent critical comments “how would you have done it?” but I’ve not had a positive response. Any suggestions how else to do this?

  26. Kelly DuMar says:

    Joel, I’m not sure what you have against the use of adjectives? “The tried and tested rules for writers apply to bloggers: remove adjectives and especially adverbs where possible. . . ” I love adjectives. I think they are helpful, insightful, descriptive, colorful, lovely, lively, cool, simple, smart, sexy. . .I can’t imagine writing without them.

  27. Margie says:

    Good post, and great point about “I think.”

    “I think” is such a powerful phrase, instantly diluting whatever comes after it. They really pounded this into us in law school, the value of leaving “I think” out of your statements. Its a hard habit to break, but for someone trying to build an authoritative voice the effort is worth it.

  28. CB says:

    I think the most important thing is to be authentic. It sounds easy to do but so many people are looking to please others on levels they don’t even realise.

    Be completely honest, some people will hate you, some will love you.

  29. The tone of the blog I think is fairly evident after one has written a few posts … and those readers that recognize and appreciate that will be back, if it’s to their liking. If not, they move on. I used to worry a bit about how things came across, but now I have decided to just be me. Sarcasm, a bit of humor maybe injected into a really bad story, whatever. The beauty of blogging is in letting your personality come through for what it is.

  30. 66tx says:

    I’m glad you put voice over design.