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The Power of Being Personal on Your Blog

personal.pngOver the last few weeks I’ve been exploring principles that are evident in many successful blogs. So far we’ve looked at Listening, Trust, Usefulness and Community. Today I want to get personal with you and share a story with you.

The Day I Was Jumped On By a Reader

Last week while at Blog World Expo I was coming down off the stage after presenting on a panel when out of the corner of my eye I noticed someone moving towards me – fast.

Within a second of seeing the movement I was literally jumped upon and found myself in a tangle of arms, hair and tears – I was being hugged within an inch of my life.

I didn’t know what to do at first – I didn’t know who was hugging me but while a bit of a shock at first I could tell the person was genuine and so did the only thing I could think to do – I hugged back.

After a few seconds of hugging the person pulled away. I had expected it to be someone I knew but realised pretty quickly that this was a stranger (or at least she had been a moment or two before). She had tears in her eyes and was obviously emotional – I didn’t know why until she began to talk.

For the next 4-5 minutes my hugging assailant (a reader as it turns out) talked, almost without taking a breath. She told me about the first day she read my blog (she remembered the first post), she told me about how it had helped her, she told me about the ups and downs of her blogging, she told me about her family, she told me about my family, she told me that she’d bought my book, joined my community, bought my ebook, she just talked…..

She talked as if we’d known each other for years – I guess in a way we had…..

Gradually my new friend began to slow down (and breathe) she suddenly began to become a little more self conscious. She began to blush a little as she realised how what she’d just done. I assured her that it was totally fine and in her flustered state she said:

“It’s just that I feel like I know you.”

As we continued to speak I realised that here was someone who I had previously not known had existed (she’d never left a comment or said a word on my blog in over 3 years) who ‘knew’ me – at least to some degree.

Here was someone who’d not only read something that I’d written daily for years – but someone who had watched my videos, had noted when I’d become a Dad, had seen when I’d travelled, had observed my disappearances from the blog when I’d been unwell.

She didn’t know all this stuff because she was a crazy stalker (far from it) but because I’d allowed myself to blog in a way that was personal.

Not that ProBlogger is a ‘personal blog’ as such (not in the sense that I blog about the movies that I see, the things I eat or the everyday experiences that I have) – but I inject something of myself into this blog:

  • I use my real name
  • I share images of myself from time to time in posts and on key pages
  • I share videos where people can see my face and hear my voice
  • I include details of what’s happening in my life and family (usually in passing and by way of illustrating something)
  • I try to use personal language (I blog in the first person most of the time)
  • I write in a style that is similar to the way I would speak to a person face to face
  • I tell stories about my experiences as they relate to my topic
  • I use personal examples where I can to illustrate what I’m saying
  • I’ve done live streaming question and answer sessions via video

By no means am I the most personal blogger going around. Everyday I see opportunities to be more personal in fact – but I’ve made a concerted effort over the years to inject something of myself into what I do – and it’s paid off.

It’s paid off not just in terms of being jumped on by strangers when overseas but also in creating the kind of site that people want to come back to, the kind of site that people recommend to others and also the kind of site that people want to spend their money on (remember my friend has bought everything I’ve released – she said she did so because they were ‘mine’).

I know being personal on a blog is not something that everyone feels comfortable with and that is in everyone’s style – but it is one thing that I’ve seen exhibited in many successful blogs.

How about you? Do you take a personal approach with your blog?

PS: one piece of advice – when it comes to being personal I’d suggest bloggers think a little ahead about what they will and won’t reveal about themselves, their family and their lives. Having some boundaries in place for personal safety can be a worthwhile thing – this doesn’t mean you’re not being personal, just that you’re being smart and exhibiting some personal safety.

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. jon says:

    Stalker…..

  2. Mike says:

    It depends on the ‘venue’. I can take a personal but impersonal approach at the same time by acknowledging my readership doesn’t really know me. Only those that do get the deeper significance of some of my personal life. I like to be personal but still at arm’s length.

  3. Kelly Diels says:

    I strip textually naked on my site. It is not for everyone.

    But I find that everytime I write from the heart – really, truly, painfully, scarily – I am washed in love. Comments. Emails. Tweets. Marriage proposals. Traffic. Ahem.

    That being said, Darren is right: you need to think ahead. Employers will google you. So will dates. So will your inlaws and eventually your children.

    Also: I don’t value privacy, but that’s my choice. Other people in my life do. So I ask them before I write about them. My best friend keeps telling me not to write about her lazy eye, for example.

    You also have to think about what kind of blog you’re running and whether it needs you to write about sex and bad dates and insecurity. Mine does. That’s what mine IS – Life lessons learned by living life. It would be BS to take any other approach.

    But not every blogger needs to get naked with readers. If you do, do it consciously.

  4. The personal part about blogging is what makes it so exciting. Sharing the personal anecdotes and finding useful tips in the “things to avoid” that might make the reader smile, makes it very enjoyable.
    Thank you for the caution to draw the line. A good think of where that line needs to be seems appropriate for many bloggers. The spirit of Transparency is great for government, but there is a reason why we don’t all build our homes with glass walls…

  5. Writing from the heart is key for me – and I know no other way of writing.

    Since i write about topics such personal development, making a difference and creating your legacy, for me it would be difficult to write in a cold manner without revealing the “real” me.

    At the same time, I do not yet write about my own personal relationship situation as I feel that I do need some boundaries.

    At the same time, two of the most popular posts on my blog have been about my very personal grief when I suddenly lost my father.

    I have since got many emails about my loss and readers genuinely feel for you – they really want to share your ups and your downs – so just give them a chance to do so :-)

  6. Veronique says:

    I whole-heartedly agree with your postscript here. My blog is very personal, in that I share the crafts and activities that we do as a family. Yesterday I posted about a very difficult subject for me. Overall, I think it was one of the best decisions I’ve made for this particular forum. Unfortunately, what I didn’t take into consideration before posting was the reach my little blog has and a colleague of my husband’s commented (a positive thing in this instance), but it could have caused an uncomfortable situation for my husband.

    So yes, do be personal, do let people in within reason (my cat’s already out of the bag), but do also consider who else might be affected by what you share.

  7. Dan says:

    I admit, maybe too many times, my failings on my blog. It’s a way of asking for help from my readers as well as just being honest. I don’t want to mislead people into thinking I know everything when in fact I know little and I’m blogging to figure things out. That’s just the way it goes.

    Yet this reveals me to the readers, and I get the nicest comments when I do it. Great post!

  8. Keith says:

    Darren,

    I have been reading (commented on a few) your articles for a couple of years now too, and you never cease to amaze me with your topics.

    I find it difficult to get personal on my blog, as I try to keep my site about the products I offer.

    After reading this, maybe I should try to be a little more personal for my readers and maybe they will be more personal with me too!

    Thanks,
    Keith

  9. As newspapers, magazines, and other journalistic mediums get more involved with the social web, there’s obviously going to be a lot of content online – and quality content at that. But I have a feeling they’ll struggle to provide the personal touch independent bloggers dish.

    Hey Darren, what say you to exploring a few specific boundaries and examples that can help create a personal touch without risking personal safety? Where’s the line?

  10. Ms. Freeman says:

    That is quite the tale. I’m not sure I would want to be jumped by either fan or foe, but I am glad she was not a stalker.

  11. Mike Skel says:

    I have always been writing in first person. I think writing in first person has certain advantages. Like it gives an impression that you have actually experienced what ever you are writing. That may give a good impression on the reader.
    I think readers too like it when they feel they are being spoken to while reading a blog post.

  12. Jeffrey Tang says:

    It’s been kind of operating in reverse for me, because blogging is really teaching me how to be personal. That’s really the best way I can put it for now … that I’m learning to be authentic – openly authentic – by blogging.

    I’d go into more detail, but I haven’t yet reached the point at which I can detach myself and really look at what’s happened. But it feels good, whatever it is.

  13. Mal Keenan says:

    Fantastic post, Darren, and perfectly illustrated by your ‘hugging’ experience.

    My personal blogging journey has just begun but I have already planned in my mind how personal I will be. I’m a private person by nature as I’m sure are many other successful bloggers. I don’t think that should impact too much on my success.

    i think it’s important as you point out, to set a limit on how personal you are when blogging. I would also suggest that you NEVER share anything about a family member without their prior permission. What’s OK with you may not be with them.

    Mal Keenan

  14. Darren…I think that in order to draw people into a trust relationship…you have got to be personal in some ways. People see through the junk that inauthentic people post very easily.

    You can write specific posts that are of a personal nature or simply weave it into things that you do as you explain above.

    I happen to try to be personal while not giving away any information that would make anyone too vulnerable. For instance…people know that I have seven children but they don’t know their names and their ages (for the most part).

    My kids and our family life make for beautiful and wonderful stories that touch other people’s hearts…but I do not want to put them in any danger at the same time.

    Anyhow…thank you for a great experience at your blog!

  15. I have always thought, that what sets blogging apart from other media is the fact it is a dialog. I can’t really think of any kind of blog that would not benefit from an injection of the authors personality. Simply put, my personality is a large part of what sets my message apart.
    Being personal is also often a by product of sincerity of thought. Being personal is a great way of brand building as well as giving authority and context to controversial opinions. Every blogger should have personal boundaries but ideally they shouldn’t make for a sterile blog.

  16. Darren, that was a beautiful story, thank you for sharing.

    Everything I write on my site is personal, meaning it comes from heart, tears, experience. I think personal works when it can help the reader. :)

  17. This is what ” SUCCESS PERSONIFIED ” means…. Hats Off…

  18. Michelle says:

    I write work and personal blogs. I’ve been personal in both and I’ve noticed that more people are interested in reading (and commenting) when I share something of myself.

    At work we were told to be less personal. Writing impersonally has all but stopped the reader comments and I sometimes feel like I’m talking to myself. Part of the appeal of blogging is the instant connection with between reader and writer. I think the “less personal” might have been a mistake.

  19. Donny Gamble says:

    I think have a personal blog is one of the most important things that you need when trying to build any type of brand for yourself. It is called attraction marketing, having the ability to create an online brand for yourself by helping others people learn about you through the knowledge that you have on your subject

  20. InventingLiz says:

    Your blog is the only “make money blogging” blog that I read – I’ve tried others and I just don’t like them, I think your personal style has a lot to do with why I keep coming back here, just as you say.

    I have a personal blog, so I reveal a lot of myself in it, but I do have some ground rules. I don’t write anything in my blog about other people that I wouldn’t feel comfortable saying directly to their faces. If any of my non-blogging friends make an appearance in a blog post, I usually give them an alias instead of using their real names. I don’t blog at all about my day job (and I had to learn a lesson about that the hard way).

  21. ashok says:

    I’m definitely trying to learn how to take a more personal approach: I want to write more short entries about myself that convey something people might want to respond to, I want to interact with more in ways other than “I write something, they read it.” I didn’t get into blogging because I was anti-social, but sometimes the web feels lonely.

  22. Jake Easley says:

    This was a great read, as well a great reminder that being personal is just as important in online networking as it is in person. Thank you.

  23. Mathdelane says:

    Being personal on my blog is revealing my vulnerability like everyone else. I’m not perfect and I don’t try to be a know-it-all guru or something even though people may expect that when you run a tech blog, you have to be all that techie and geeky like everyone else.

    I’m just the average kind of blogger trying to make something out of blogging but I make it a point that everyday is a learning process.

    It’s right that you have to set some boundaries in revealing personally identifiable information for your own security. There are a lot of ways to show personality on a blog and I think it’s up to the blogger on how far he/she is willing to expose or share about it.

  24. Shane Hudson says:

    Ermm… Wow.

  25. George Angus says:

    Hey Darren,

    Much deserved hugs, I’m sure. We do need to remember that the words we write do impact others and we may not always see the fruits of our labor.

    I try to keep this in mind whenever I post.

    George

  26. Mike CJ says:

    When I first started my blog I remained anonymous, for a variety of reasons. But when I eventually decided to “come out” it enabled me to share my more of my life with readers.

    I can trace that back as the point my blog really took off and I was able to make a full time living from it.

  27. Hi Darren,

    Now that’s what I call a loyal fan.

    I share my name on my blog and some of my personal experiences, however I do not share names or personal stories of my family or friends. I feel if they want to share their life online, they can blog/tweet/facebook it themselves.

  28. Mary Lutz says:

    I have a “personal” blog, which is about me, my family, my life, my ministry, church, kids, the dog, going to the beach, being snowed in, and everything in between. So, its very natural for me to be personal there.

    I also have my business website which has a blog, plus I own 2 other blog sites; one for moms and one for wahms. I always add my personal touch to all of them, without giving out too much personal information.

    I think it’s important, as you said Darren, to be personal so your readers can get to know you, so they can relate to you and what you’re going through. That way when you do disappear for a few days and then come back and write what you were going through, your readers will understand. They trust you and know you’re not just some internet marketer trying to make a buck off of them.

  29. Hi Darren

    I wasn´t taking a personal approach with my blog because I didn´t knew that it was that powerful!

    The story is great. I believe that being personal builds your credibility because it is a good way to be a closer to your readers.

    The 9 ways to make your readers feel like they know you are really powerful and easy to start doing!

    I think that every serious blogger should start doing each of these things. By the way, I am from Mexico and I want to thank you the great advice you share every day.

    Have a nice day!

    Mario

  30. As I’m about to launch my blog next week I’ve been mulling over the articles my partner and I have written trying to figure out our style and what we need to have more of and what we need less of. We’re currently planning on doing a question a week to respond to reader questions and ones we pose to ourselves. The idea is so people can get to know us and the blog becomes more personal even though it’s for our company. Thinking back on the idea most of our posts written thus far lack the language that make it more personal. Considering it’s two of us talking and not a faceless corporation I’ll suggest to him we go back and insert more stories and ‘I’ and ‘we’ language.

    Thanks for the thoughts.

  31. Anita Nelson says:

    My blog is supposed to be about skin care, but I find myself all over the categories, writing about Twitter much of the time. I use a very personal voice and audio blogging from my radio show, too.

    Big question is whether it’s “professional or good for my business” to be so personal (and off-topic). I appreciate you saying it’s ok to be personal; at least I’m halfway alright ;-)
    Anita @ModelSupplies

  32. Trudy says:

    Wow. Thank you for this post. So many people are advocating against actions like this and cry and moan over people sharing themselves via twitter and blogs versus of becoming a one man impersonal corporation that I appreciate this post all the more. Keep doing what makes you happy…and apparently makes others happy.

  33. It’s funny because I just read a blog post where the blogger put a picture of his whole family.

    I’m not heavy on picture and videos. I must admit though.

    Franck

  34. DWJ says:

    I’m in the middle of collecting responses from a reader survey right now and what I’ve overwhelming heard that my readers want more of is me. I do a fashion blog, but they like my crazy stories and pictures of how I achieved the look I was going for. I stupidly tried to keep myself out of it (for fear of appearing vain) but clearly being personal are the posts that get the most hits and the most comment love.

  35. Christy says:

    I’ve realized recently that the more personal I get, the more people enjoy what I write. I haven’t done it as much on my blog, but I’ve experimented with my newsletter.

    In one issue, I told a story about me and my husband and having our anniversary. A few months later, we ran into a reader who I know personally, but who my husband never met. She gave him a big hug and said, “So great to see you!” and he looked at me, like, “Do I know her?” I later told him what happened. He found it amusing in the end.

  36. It is interesting you write this post today. I have a personal blog for over 1 year about inspiration and overcoming difficult situations by making a negative into a positive.

    It has been mainly about my life & work challenges. I barely talked about my son. Then this past week I had a difficult personal incident with my ex-husband relating to my son. I blogged about it carefully not revealing all the details so not to put my ex-husband down.
    This morning I have been thinking of deleting, but something kept telling me that I should leave it.
    My heart tells me there is a message, a lesson to share and that it is OK.
    So this week I felt very vulnerable putting it out there, but felt it was necessary. Thanks for the confirmation today.

    PS If I meet you one day, I’ll jump you too:)

  37. Showing and telling how things are done is one thing, but doing all that and more through a personal story (like on this post) is something more.. Putting a personal touch to your blog is definitely important, but like Darren warned at the end of the post, it’s important to think ahead on what you choose to reveal.

    Being personal doesn’t mean that your readers must know everything about you, but they can still relate to the stories you tell from your own experiences. With that said, I think everyone should go and write a post in the first person, just to see how it feels and what results it can bring.

  38. Scott Bowman says:

    I can be quite a private individual, but have slowly been letting go on my personal blog, while remembering to set boundaries. It’s not always easy, but I think it is part of the growing process. I plan to take what I learn on my personal blog, and use it when my company blog eventually launches :)

  39. Leto II says:

    What a changing world we live in. Nowadays, people are so open. You can call a person and before that person even picks up, you’ll know what they look like, the school they attended, the jobs they’ve had, an idea of how much money they make, the books they’re reading, etc. The web 2.0 world is great AND scary. A whole new form of etiquette is required. Should I make small talk about the Tar Heels since I know a complete stranger went to UNC? Is that creepy? Should I tell her she has a beautiful family because I saw pics of them on FB? Is that creepy too? I’ve often wondered that if a stranger post 200 photos on FB, is that an implied invitation for the world to look at them? If so, can I comment on them too? If I think a girl is pretty on FB, is it okay if I try to build a relationship with her? Is that really creepy? All these issues are created because of blogging, social media and the web 2.0 world. What if someone does not like what I have to say on my blog? Should I be scared someone will seek retribution since they know what I look like and know what city I live in and where I work? Personally, I don’t think people should be so open about their lives and thoughts to the whole world. You never know who you may offend. I hope it doesn’t take some crazy person committing a homicide over a blog posting to make people realize this. But I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened.

  40. I was afraid to be very personal with my blog at first. Eventually I realized that if I’m going to go where I want, I’m going to have to expose myself sooner or later. Plus, I’ve just seen so many people have success when they’re open and authentic.

  41. krissy knox says:

    Yes, I take a personal approach. I have personal blogs and niche blogs, and I take a personal approach in both. Some say “too personal.” But I’m sure I’ll find my balance soon.

    I definitely believe a blog must show the blogger’s personal voice. And I love your balance, Darren. You take both the personal approach as well as set good boundaries in your blogs!

    I want to say thanks for “giving us permission” to have a personal voice — take a personal approach — when we blog. I have encountered quite a few self-proclaimed “blogging experts” who say we should in no way show anything of ourselves in our blogs, or it will be the ultimate ruin of our blogs and our blogging careers.

    I do realize that we must have boundaries. However, I believe these “experts” go too far, stating we write our posts in a way in which our readers will know nothing about us. They also suggest a style of writing that I find very methodical and dry.

    I won’t read a blog that doesn’t have a personal approach, it just doesn’t sit right with me. And I don’t write that way either.

    Thanks for a great series so far!

    krissy knox :)
    http://twitter.com/iamkrissy

  42. Brian says:

    I have been blogging for about 6 months now, and I can see what you mean about being personal. I think it will help my following a great deal. Thanks for the advice and keep it coming everything I have read on your blog helps me greatly.

  43. Lisa Olinda says:

    What a powerful story. It is great to share information with our online community. Thank you for sharing yet another aspect of your life. Welcome to your “new” friend. I look forward to hearing from her. It sounds like she has a lot to share.

  44. kalyan says:

    You are here to make a difference in life’s of people and you are doing it exceptionally well and hope you will continue this good work forever.

  45. My humor blog is 100% personal and I think it’s the reason for my success. There is almost nothing I won’t share with my readers. If it’s funny, it gets written about. If I’m making fun of myself, all the better. My readers feel they know me and I’m glad for that. For me, my blog is all about connection and community.

  46. --Deb says:

    I have several blogs these days, with different levels of “personal” on each of them, but agree … I want my blogs to sound like they were written by a PERSON, not by a machine, or what’s the point?

  47. I love being personal in my blog. My blog is kind of about me anyway and imparting lessons I’ve learned or opinions I have.

    I’ve built some valuable friendships this way.

  48. Golf Clubs says:

    That’s the reason why you are so successful.I have been blogging for about 3 months now, and I can see what you mean about being personal. I think it will help my following a great deal. Thanks for the advice and keep it coming everything I have read on your blog helps me greatly.

  49. Runningmama says:

    I just did a major blog overhaul, including a domain change. Through the process I read many articles about shortening posts, focusing on reader takeaway, and not talking about yourself too much. Now I have lost the desire to write altogether.

    I really enjoyed this article. It makes me feel free to write as myself! For some blogs, the personal part IS the blog!

  50. I absolutely love this post, the truth.

    I love how you speak often from the first person, owning who you are, your perspective, opinion – truly owning ‘first position’.

    I am inspired by this post (;