Marketing strategist and blogging mentor Lynn Serafinn challenges the belief that talking about ourselves on our blogs brings our readers closer to us.
In Chapter 6 of my upcoming book, The Social Entrepreneur’s Guide to Successful Blogging, I discuss five of the typical assumptions about blogging that I believe can be damaging to blogging success. What I mean by ‘assumptions’ in this particular context are the unconscious beliefs we might have about blogging, our readers and ourselves, which colour the way we write and influence the effect we have on our readers.
Assumptions are not the same as what some people refer to as ‘limiting beliefs’. A limiting belief is a belief we hold about ourselves that holds us back and keeps us from achieving what we want. In contrast:
An assumption is something we believe to be true about life.
‘Life’ refers to the world in general – especially other people, including our readers, clients, colleagues, etc. Our assumptions are projections of what we believe other people think, feel or do. They may hold a grain of truth, or they may be distorted by our personal, limiting beliefs. Thus, our assumptions can be informed by our limiting beliefs, but they are not the same thing.
While I’m not going to discuss here all five of the assumptions I talk about in the book, I did want to share the first of these assumptions with you, as I feel it is one of the most damaging to our rapport with our audience.
I have to confess: I have a prickly feeling on the back of my neck that my take on this particular assumption might hit a few nerves and spark reactions from some of our readers. If that’s the case, please do share your thoughts in the comments after you’ve read the article. It should make for a lively debate.
So (I say as I hold my breath), here we go….
Damaging Assumption #1: ‘People will connect with me more if I talk about myself.’
Those of you who have read my other books will know that ‘Transparency’ is one of the 7 Graces of Marketing. As I have defined it, Transparency is the practice of allowing the ‘light’ of who you are to shine through your marketing – your values, your personality, etc.
However, there is a fine line between the Grace of Transparency and using your blog (or social network) as a public confessional. These authors have allowed their blogs (and books) to become predominantly anecdotal, permeated with stories about their personal hardships with relationships, health, addictions, money, etc. I have most frequently seen this kind of writing show up on blogs in the spirituality and personal development fields. Many of these authors are operating on the assumption that if they are open and honest about their imperfections, it will break down the barrier between them and their audience and bring them closer. While, in theory, this is absolutely true, it does not necessarily mean your approach is creating the impact you desire.
For example, have you ever had a friend in the past who seemed to be perpetually caught up in one drama after another, and whenever you got together for a chat you had to sit and listen to his/her latest episode? How long did it take you to realise this person wasn’t listening to you when you were speaking? When you finally realised this, how long did it take you to stop meeting this friend for lunch or calling them on the phone because you were just too worn out by them? In much the same way, while personal anecdotes can be great teaching tools, used incorrectly they can make your audience switch off. Unless framed correctly, using too many personal anecdotes turns the spotlight away from your audience, because you’re too busy shining it on yourself. If you want to use anecdotes to connect to your audience, you need to create a clear and direct line of relevance between your story and their immediate needs and concerns. Use anecdotes as vehicles to illustrate specific and clearly defined points; otherwise, they have no place in your blog.
Let me be clear: when I say ‘to illustrate a point’, I don’t mean something along the lines of, ‘I am telling you this story to show you how great I am.’ For example, I know a woman whose blogs are almost always made up of stories about how her coaching resulted in one of her clients succeeding in x, y, z. To me, there is nothing inherently valuable in such a blog article. It’s all about the author and nothing about me, the reader. Keep putting yourself in your audience’s shoes, and ask yourself what they want from you, not what you want to get from them.
You might also believe that showing your failings and vulnerabilities to the world will make you seem more approachable and human. Again, while there is an element of truth in this, if done incorrectly, it can also come across as apologetic and needy. Thus, instead of showing your readers that you care for them, you are making them feel like they need to take care of you. That is not the relationship you want to have with them; nor is it the one they want to have with you.
At the opposite extreme, talking too much about all the obstacles you have overcome can sound sanctimonious, condescending or even desperate. When readers feel they are being preached at or spoken down to, they will switch off, click away from your blog and never return. Yes, there will be the few who will be happy to be in your ‘fan club’. But to create a successful business you don’t want fans; you want intelligent, informed, loyal customers.
Unfortunately, using a blog as a public confessional (or pulpit) can be a hard habit for many authors to break. This is where limiting beliefs play a part. If an author harbours private beliefs about him/herself such as ‘I am flawed’ and ‘People will see through me anyway’, it is likely they will unconsciously use their blog as a vehicle for their own personal emotional purging. If the author is filled with insecurities that create an overwhelming need to be liked, their articles are likely to be more for (and about) themselves than their readers.
One of the editors on our 7 Graces team commented on this topic when I was writing it. Her advice was to go through your last blog article and count how many times you used the words ‘I’, ‘me’ or ‘my’ in it. Take a good look at those sections and honestly assess whether they are providing genuine value to your readers. If not, DELETE them. Looking at what remains should give you a good idea of how substantive (or not) your content actually is.
The bottom line is this: while it’s always a good thing to let your readers know the real you, it is crucial to be aware of your underlying motivations when you talk about yourself. If you are inwardly seeking some sort of personal or professional validation from your audience, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. Your words will create the impression that you are trying to ‘prove yourself’ to your readers. If, however, you are able to set aside your emotional needs and craft your anecdotal content into something that delivers genuine insight, information and value to your readers, then by all means use it.
You may or may not agree with my viewpoint on this particular assumption. Nonetheless, if you do a little self-reflection, I am sure you will be able to determine whether or not you hold this assumption yourself, and how it might be influencing the way you write.
Leaving any assumption buried in your unconscious has the potential to do great damage. It is crucial for any writer – whether blogger, journalist or book author – to bring unconscious assumptions into the conscious and recognise how we allow them to infiltrate what we write. Only then can we actively wean ourselves away from self-defeating habits we may not have realised we had, which are creating disconnection between our audience and us.
Again, I welcome your responses to my viewpoint, and look forward to your comments below.
If you’re intrigued to find out more about The Social Entrepreneur’s Guide to Successful Blogging, I invite you to request a reminder when the book comes out in late 2015 at http://the7gracesofmarketing.com/blogging-book. When you do, you will also receive a free blogging template based on ideas from the book. This is the same model we use with our own blogging clients here at the 7 Graces Project.
And, of course, if you’re interested to find out more about how we help clients build their platform through blogging, social media and product development, do take a look at our service offers on our ‘Work With US’ page, or contact us for a free 30-minute consultation via the contact form on this site.
5 May 2015
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Find out more about how changing the paradigm can help make the world a better place:
The 7 Graces of Marketing: how to heal humanity and the planet by changing the way we sell, by Lynn Serafinn, where you can learn how the 7 Deadly Sins and the 7 Graces impact the world through media and marketing. Brit Writers Awards Finalist eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian & Ecological Social Issues
Tweep-e-licious: 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market Their Business Ethically by Lynn Serafinn, which can help you learn how to create meaningful collaborations through Twitter and other social media. eLit Book Awards Bronze Medal in Business and Sales.
Get instant access to a free 90-minute Twitter marketing class at http://tweepelicious.com
The Social Entrepreneur’s Guide to Successful Blogging: An Effective, Creative & Ethical Way of Marketing for Visionaries & New Paradigm Business Leaders. To receive an update when that book is available, just click here. As a thank-you gift for showing your interest, you’ll get instant access to an exclusive, free 5-page PDF revealing the exact same blogging template we use with our clients and we teach to participants on the ethical marketing training courses at the 7 Graces Project.
LYNN SERAFINN, MAED, CPCC is a certified, award-winning coach, teacher, marketing strategist, social media expert, speaker and author of the number one bestseller The 7 Graces of Marketing — How to Heal Humanity and the Planet by Changing the Way We Sell and Tweep-e-licious! 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market their Business Ethically. She is listed in the Top 20 of the Top Marketing Authors on Twitter by Social Media Magazine and was a finalist for the prestigious Brit Writers Awards. She also received the eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian and Ecological Social Affairs, as well as the Bronze Medal in Business and Sales. Lynn’s eclectic approach to marketing incorporates her vast professional experience in the music industry and the educational sector along with more than two decades of study and practice of the spirituality of India. Her innovative marketing campaigns have produced a long list of bestselling non-fiction authors through her company Spirit Authors.
Lynn is also the Founder of the 7 Graces Project, created to train, support, mentor and inspire independent business owners to market their business ethically, serve society and planet, and restore all that is best about humanity.