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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. Walt says:

    Darren,
    I couldn’t help but smile as I read along. The blog that I am most known for (and my only one aside from a personal blog) has a lot of video content. In those videos we tend to let our personalities out even more then when we type something up.

    While I’ve never experienced something as extreme as your account, I’ve had people come up to me at conventions and shake my hand vigorously. They then launch into conversation about the Blog and about me.

    The whole time this is going on I keep wondering if I know this person, because they seem to know a ton about me. Some of the conversations have felt extremely awkward because I know nothing about the person I’m speaking with. At times it just feels really strange, but fun at the same time.

    All in all, I don’t think I would want it any other way. The personal connection between the authors at Stogie Review and the readers makes for a very dedicated following.

    Thanks for the article

  2. Liz says:

    I’m learning that “getting personal” on my blog generates more traffic and comments than any other single thing I do. I blog about traveling with hidden disabilities and chronic pain, so my experiences inform much of my content. But still…it’s the truly personal stories I write that get the most response. My readers are in pain, literally, and I think it helps to know that they’re not alone. (I know it helps me!)

    Great site, btw. I’m a new reader, and I’m really enjoying your take on professional blogging. Thanks so much for all your work and advice!

  3. Calandra says:

    Hi! I love your blog. I visit here on a regular basis. Appreciate all of the useful information you share. I have a blog in which I sell mostly vintage sewing patterns. But, I really attempt to practice many of the suggestions you have here…and I like David Airey’s site. At present, I’m only receiving minimal visits (I hope it’s because I’m so new)..but in recent months I’m begun to see quite an increase in regular daily traffic or at least a “holding steady”. Here’s my question, hopefully I’ve receive honest feedback and opinions. In an effort to be transparent and personal (building relationships) I decided to include video posts of myself. On the initial day-visits leaped…but since I’m seeing a decline. I never receive many comments although I believe I have alot of useful information on the site. Here goes…do you believe my race could be a factor in the wane in visits…or just the videos? Or just paranoia. One of the benefits of selling on line without total transparency is not being subjected to many social ills otherwise possibly faced…I haven’t removed the videos, but they are no longer on my front page. So…can too much transparency be bad for business? Thanks!

  4. Didn’t know your blog 2 weeks ago, and im loving it already !
    Congratulations! Great information.
    Oh and convinced me to be even more personal !

  5. It’s interesting that a lot of blogging advice focuses on being useful and providing useful content that help readers. Bloggers are warned not to ramble on about themselves because no one is interested in them.

    But of course, even if you’re looking for specific info you want to know who’s giving it. You want to know they know what they’re talking about, and that they are reliable and interesting.

    So that’s the bloggers challenge – to be useful but share enough to add value to your content by revealing something of your true self.

  6. Deano says:

    OMG! I am going to give you such a bear hug the next time I see you!!!!!!

  7. jan geronimo says:

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

    Television does that, too. Bring celebrities, shows, coverage of great events right into our homes, making us feel participants. It’s the same with blogging. The constancy of reading your favorite bloggers right in your own home, access on-demand, and the all too-real online persona you’ve developed over the years contribute to hitherto perfect strangers into instant friends.

    That personal voice we get to read every so often, strengthened with video clips and pictures, peels away the layers of space. Makes us feel we’ve an intimate knowledge of you as a person and friend.

    She’s very open and enthusiastic, your overjoyed reader. Some of us may just wave, and smile, or nod in silent recognition and from a distance yet. But that doesn’t take away the sense of intimacy we might have felt had we the grace or luck to stumble into you personally.

  8. Great Darren Nice to know about it

  9. Hello Darren.

    I do most of the things you listed at the end there, and have started doing videos as well(my 2nd one is going up tomorrow). It’s nice because it’s me anyway, and there’s no reason not to provide more relevance through valid contextual examples.

    To continued personable-ness~

  10. I think being personal is especially important for the female readership. I felt connected to “the problogger site” soon after the birth of your first son (who is the same age as my girl) and even more so after son # 2 (as I have two boys a couple years apart as well).

    I stuck around because of the content but it was the personal side that got me hooked.

  11. I think the power of blogging comes through somehow identifying with the blogger and trusting him/her. So yes, I try to be personal.

  12. se7en says:

    Even though ours is a mom-blog I don’t get very personal about us… it is all about our projects, outings etc – the stuff we do… In the year and a half of blogging I think I have posted my face twice!!! And every time I do something personal our comments literally treble and our rss subscriptions double…I know it works to build readers but I feel like I am cheating to do it other than for a huge personal event!!!

  13. Akila says:

    For a new blogger, I think this is one of the toughest questions to answer. How personal should you be on your blog? Ours is a travel and food site so we are personal and share our own stories but I try to guard our privacy, too. It’s a tough call to make but I think that using a real name and talking about the trials and tribulations that a person naturally has makes reading the blog more fun and interesting. It is wonderful that this reader felt so close to you after just reading your blog.

  14. adin says:

    great blog…this is my first time visiting here…..in my blog, I’m not giving my personal information or something like that, but I have another blog that I dedicated to my girl….hahaha…don’t you know what I’m talking about….

    sorry for my bad english…nice to see you (at this blog)

  15. Yevgeniy says:

    Well I think that people will buy firs of all from companies rather than from a single person. If you will present yourself as a leading company in indastry you are working its gonna give a huge plus.

  16. Bryant says:

    Being personal is vital to the success of a blog. I have two blogs, one which is very personal and revealing (within reason) and a second which is written under an anonymous name. The personal blog probably has 20 times the readership. To be honest, I have worked that blog more but I still think the personal side helps.

    Early on we are striving for that “critical mass” of readers that will help us grow exponentially and thrive. I think it’s easier for them to promote our work if they feel like they know us. Instead of asking a friend to just check out some article they find themselves thinking of us as a friend. Friend-helping-friend is always a plus.

    Thanks,
    Bryant

  17. David Airey says:

    To Calandra (who commented before me) thanks for the kind words about my blog. To answer your question, I don’t think you can be too transparent, but I do think you can talk too much about personal issues. There’s a line between publishing personal posts and publishing posts that relate to your chosen niche or passion. It’s quite a wide line, however, and differs depending on the person the the blog.

  18. wii games says:

    I agree completely. I have a few blogs, and the one I find it easiest to write for is my own personal blog, where I share personal experiences each time. As you’ve said, this makes it much easier and more fun to do, so my number of posts is higher and (I think) better quality. People seem to remember them better too.

  19. Cool, live streaming? Hmm, I think I can’t do that (as of now). :P

  20. I have 7 year old twin girls and I occasionally share pictures of them in tutorials, and also they do the random draws for my contests, etc. So people not only feel they know me but also know my family.

    We have gone on vacation and had people asking if they could please meet me….

    Jodi
    http://mcpactions.com/blog

  21. work at home says:

    Your advice is really nice Sir, I am a blogger who like to be professional. Although blogging is my hobby, I think being professional help us for grow our blog business.

  22. Venkat says:

    Darren:

    I’d like to see you expand on the last ‘privacy’ theme. Its importance was hammered home for me recently. My blog has recently been growing really fast, and I’ve been getting a fair number of these people I suspect will want to hug me if they see me in person.

    But there is a very scary side to ““It’s just that I feel like I know you.” There are people (sometimes, I think, with actual mental health issues) who don’t realize they are NOT a family member or personal friend, and I’ve had a couple of people go postal on me (down to email threats) when I’ve drawn a boundary.

    My reaction has been to gradually tighten up privacy boundaries and what I share as you suggest (though in my case with hindsight rather than foresight). But there is still the overall issue here of conveying clearly: “I may write informally and conversationally, and you may really resonate wildly with what I said, but I am NOT speaking to you personally and you are not my personal friend.”

    What tactics have you found (digital and physical) that work, besides the basic “do not feed the troll” tactic?

    It is sinking in for me that blogging is a game where you get to pay the price of fame (digital stalking etc.) before you win the prizes of fame. My blog is fun and a good hobby and I make some decent coffee money with it, but I sometimes wonder if it is worth dealing with this stuff for it.

    Venkat

  23. My blog started off as a blog to keep track of and relate the everyday happenings in my life. Now it has blossomed into more than that and I’ve taken the approach of using personal experiences to add to what I’m writing about instead of relating everyday happenings.

    I know that I learn more when people relate their experiences to strengthen what they are saying so it made sense for me to do it that way.

  24. Jamie says:

    I think I’ve learned something important today. I’ve always thought of presenting my experience and knowledge in my blog but I never thought of trying to establish relationship with my readers. Good point indeed.

    Jamie

  25. Although I completely agree that you have to show who you are to your readership to make a connection, I think the level of personal exposure completely depends on the type of blog you have. If it’s a business, writing, blogging, marketing related blog (such as mine) and it’s connected to your business of providing professional services, I think there’s a line that shouldn’t be crossed. If it’s a blog about your personal journey as a mother, cancer survivor, traveler or any other “journal” type blog, then more intimate information would be appropriate. I do reveal things about my life to my readers when it’s relevant to what I am writing about. They know about my entrepreneurial background, they know that I am married to a designer, they know we have an 11 year old son, but more importantly I think they get to know me through my viewpoints on the various topics I write about. Who you are as a person can show through clearly in your philosophy and ideas that you write about. Are you honest, outspoken, clear, ethical, giving, generous, arrogant, insecure, etc? Your personal qualities should show through in how you write and your attitude in your writing. A blog is not a white paper. For me, Twitter is a place where I reveal a little bit more personally than in my blog.

  26. This REALY DEPENDS !!!!!

  27. Robin Cannon says:

    Some really interesting insight there. I think that it’s vital to inject some of yourself into your blog, to be personal even if you’re writing about an impersonal subject.

    That doesn’t mean that you need to give away loads of secrets and insights about your non-work life, but you do need to demonstrate a genuine interest and passion in what you’re doing, and engage with your audience on a personal level.

    Same goes for a lot of social media. If it’s too dry, then even if it’s informative and on message then it’s going to put a lot of people off. We’re social animals, we like to think that there’s a real person writing that blog, with opinions and personality. It doesn’t matter what you’re writing about, you should be demonstrating that personality (Gary Vaynerchuck writes really well about this in his book “Crush It”).

  28. Karen says:

    I do not post personal pictures on my blog – just pictures of things and my observations but no family photos. I am paranoid about that, I guess.

    But I do talk about my family, a little, but use initials as their names. I do publish my real name though (ecokaren, kinda gives it away too).

    People do like personal stuff though. We are human, after all, and I think people like reading about our personal journeys, ups and downs of life, and the emotions related to words on screen.

  29. cjwright says:

    This is so timely for me because (just yesterday) I was thinking about the difference between blogs that present facts and those that are experiential/personal. The personal always touches because it evokes empathy. It touches lives.

    Thanks for your insights, as always.

  30. Galvahaha 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.

  31. Madeleine says:

    Thank you, Darren, for the thought-provoking post and all you commenters for your thoughtful responses.

    I came to blogging with years of experience in Toastmasters where I learned that using personal stories is a very powerful way to engage and persuade an audience. As they say, “Facts tell, stories sell.”

    I blog about myths and realities of growing old, and I use a lot of personal stories–in part to debunk some of the myths and in part to add interest and credibility to a post.

    For example, a post about how to be really healthy even with Type 2 diabetes would be dry as dust without my personal story. My story is also meant to inspire the reader. If I can do this, you can do it too and here’s how.

    And yes, respecting the bountaries is so important. No one who reads my blog know that my BF actually has a name.

  32. Michelle Cox says:

    I took over Lipstick to Crayons (an established blog) last summer and the previous owner told me that she felt that the “personal angle” was a missing ingredient on the site. I’m slowly trying to add that personal touch, while also keeping up with the product reviews, giveaways, and articles on topics of interest to Moms. I have noticed that the “personal” posts get more traffic, so I know I will be doing it more and more as my comfort level increases.

    I read your blog all the time, and like your “hugger” — I’ve never commented. So, I thought I’d do so today. Now, I need to go buy some of your resources. It sounds like they might make the difference for me.

  33. “Personal” has to do with being honest, though it doesn’t mean COMPLETE honesty, as in, “I work at such-and-such and I take three dumps a day.” I’ve developed a moniker for myself so that I can be personal without divulging too much. I think my readers feel as if they know me, and they do. They know the REAL Naked Redhead, but they don’t know all about every detail of my life, and they’re ok with that.

    I’m ok with only knowing parts of other bloggers, too, as long as something true comes out.

  34. will says:

    Your post has given me a few more ideas on how I can push my blog even further. The approach I’m taking to my blog is exactly what your post is saying. I’m putting myself out there in hopes people can connect better with me that way and see that I’m not some company. Being personal and showing people that I’m human, I think is going to differentiate myself from other blogs and websites in my niche. Thanks for giving me a few more ideas on how I can extend the personal factor.

    Will

  35. Oleg Mokhov says:

    Hey Darren,

    People want to connect with those that are remarkable. Be remarkable by being an amplified version of yourself.

    Look at your unique traits and quirks and take them to an extreme in what you write. People will naturally discover more about you, since you’re not hiding your true self.

    When you amplify yourself and go to the edge with it, you’re naturally becoming personal without becoming too much so. Since you’re representing yourself in what you do, people see you, not just ideas and articles from some person.

    But because you’re not forcing it, any private details that fall outside of your personality you won’t share. You’re not trying to be personal when you amplify yourself – you just are. So you share yourself while keeping private the important things around you (relationships, for example).

    Be remarkable. Amplify yourself. Naturally become personal while filtering details that should remain private.

    Nice reminder that we can know (and become known) by people all over the world via blogs,
    Oleg

  36. Ryan says:

    That’s a neat story Darren.

    I am semi-personal. I write about personal development and cash gifting, so I tend to recount examples from my life. Beyond that I don’t get into too many casual instances. By nature I’m a pretty private dude. I disclose enough so that people can connect but beyond that you have to be in the inner circle to get the rest.

  37. Kat Rice says:

    Its so true about being personal online. I speak about blogging occassionally and when I do I often say I know this person or that person, it wasn’t until someone pointed out to me later that I realized how good bloggers connect online. He said, “Its funny how you say you “know” someone whether you’ve met them in person or not.” He called it a generational difference, but I think its part of the time we live in. But there are certainly bloggers I read who I don’t “know”, so there is a line.

  38. Tim says:

    I used to be personal in my old LiveJournal blog from the late 90′s that is until a good friend of mine lost his job due to his LJ blog. He was a teacher and girls volley ball coach and one of his students found the blog. They found a picture of him driving his jeep across a river with the dog in the back in shorts during a camping trip, harmless fun right?

    The kid thought it was cool and forwarded it to everyone in the class, everyone liked it except for one who complained to their parents. The parents complained to the school board who launched an investigation into it and went over his 5 years worth of posts and friends blogs, mine included with a fine tooth comb.

    After years worth of personal writing a few f-bombs and swear words are going to slip through and any large volume of text can have a few sentences pulled out of context to make it sound bad. In the end the school board decided that it was inappropriate for a teacher to be blogging but that he’d done nothing wrong and had him change the content to private. However, after a one sided newspaper story blew things out of proportion and stirred up lots of controversy with the local public he was forced to resign.

    Something as harmless as a shirtless photo of you having fun that you put up today could potentially come back to bite you later.

    So consequently my current personal blog isnt all that personal. I purposely dont use real names or full names for myself and others I write about and with all my posts about the various motorcycles I own I’m also careful to not put up pictures that could be used to track down my house. My blog is still personal but it would be tough connect down to one human being.

  39. That is so true about being personal on your blog. The blogs that I have been successful with are the ones that connect with personally.

  40. Thanks for sharing your experience. I will need to think about being personal or not while blogging or implement it partially.

  41. Kitchen Therapy is about living gluten free. It has to be personal. I blog about converting recipes and have pictures of the dish we made. And how the dish fit into our lives. Was is a clebration, or simple lunch on Tuesday? I write about our garden, growing much of our food, with pictures of us occasionaly.

    I share only things that I am comfortable with my mom, or kids, or neighbors reading. Ocassionally I write about clients that are not identified.

    People search for recipes. But they subscribe to get to know us better. The most personal posts have gotten the most comments.

  42. Hey Darren:

    Good point. People absolutely love to connect to something that they feel they know. Uncertainty and unknown scares them. By being personal you make them feel welcome and at home.

    However, being personal is not enough. I believe it’s more about sincerity and honesty than anything. People want to trust others, we just need to give them a reason to do so.

    Also, by sharing your own life you are creating moments with readers to which they can relate or think: “Hey! I remember doing that too!”

    I wish I had an experience like yours one day too, that ‘s when you know you really made an impact.

    Best of luck,
    Tomas

  43. Bra Queen says:

    When you state”You write in a similiar way as to how you speak” I agree. I know many people who don’t.
    Online it can be very impersonal so I know when I read or buy online I want to feel that I am talking to the person, so that what I try to inject into my blog.
    I HATE when sites/blogs try to use words that they wouldn’t usually say however all they are doing is providing a ‘wank factor’ to what they are trying to say. It doesn’t sound real.
    Some people like that, I personally don’t.

    As always food for thought.

    Renee xx

  44. Enjoying this post. I tend to worry that I talk too much about myself sometimes when I get personal. But it’s also the best way to add a little flavor to a blog. How else are you really going to pull people into your posts?

  45. Tammy says:

    What a timely article! I just published a similar article this morning on my blog and went back to edit in a link to your article. It was a perfect way to expand on my recent observations! I think you nailed how to be personal without being too personal.

    Tammy

  46. KimC says:

    I’ve had similar experiences with readers who feel like my best friends even though I’ve never met them, and I love it!
    There is a downside, though. You’ve heard the phrase, “a face made for radio”? Some of us have a personality made for blogging.
    I’m mouthy, outspoken, and often funny on my blog, but very quiet in person. I think some people are a little disappointed when they meet me in real life.
    I even managed to severely offend one reader who thought I was snubbing her because I didn’t make sparkling and witty conversation.
    C’est la vie.

  47. Reader usually want to read from the real person, so personal blog is really good and reader like to read the post.

  48. magnesium says:

    Thank you very much, I have produced a couple of other posts in the series but I didn’t explicitly name them as such, as they could be articles read in their own right and I didn’t want to alienate people who didn’t read into the ego article.

  49. Casey says:

    I love that story Darren. You being personal and me feeling like you genuinely want us to succeed has drawn me to read everyone of your daily posts since I started subscribing. You are also the first blog I ever subscribed to. Thanks.

  50. Great post, people love people, it’s not just about websites and the next big thing, people want people they can connect with in some way that relate to them. Just like it is said in marketing, people buy from people they know, like and trust ;)