To truly connect with your readers and build a community around your blog, you’ll need to do it with your own voice, your own style, in your own way…and with your readers in mind.
If you’ve been blogging for awhile, chances are, your writing has taken lots of twists and turns. But now is the best time to refocus your writing and build a solid foundation for the long-term growth of your blog.
In this post, I’ll share how you can start blogging your passion with clarity, purpose, and your own blogging voice.
A Question for You
If you were blogging for just one person, who would it be?
Now, don’t say, “for myself!” If you were honestly writing “just for you,” you wouldn’t be concerned about growing your blog, and you wouldn’t be reading my blog.
So let’s say you’re writing for just one non-self person. Who is she?
Take a minute and write it down. No, you won’t be graded. But this is an exercise in developing a mission for your blog. Because once you have this “ideal reader” in mind, you’ll be able to come to your blog each day with a purpose, and you won’t waste so much time figuring out what you’re trying to say or what you want to sound like. Here are a few questions to get you started:
- Is your ideal reader male or female? What age? Give her a name. (yes, really)
- What is your ideal reader’s age? Marital status? Does she have kids?
- Does she have free time? If so, what does she do with it?
- What is this reader’s biggest challenge in life?
- What are her goals and desires?
Are you starting to develop a picture here? This process can take you from something generic like “My audience is women between 25 and 40 years old with kids” to “I know who I’m writing to. I know what matters to her. And here she is.”
When you know your one reader, you can write with her in mind.
Here. I’ll give you an example of my ideal reader:
Sarah is a 30 year old mom with two young children and a two-year-old blog (which she’s starting to feel is more like a third child). She loves how her blog connects her to other people, but she’s worried that her blog is going nowhere…because after the first six months of blogging, she hasn’t gotten many new readers. She doesn’t have much time to devote to blogging but wants to make the most of her time when she does. Her husband appreciates the creative outlet Sarah has through blogging, but he wishes it would do something to help the family out financially – since it takes up so much of her time.
Now, you may be reading this and think, “Well, I’m not Jeni’s ideal reader, but I still read her blog!” And honestly, as far as I can tell from the emails I get, the comments people leave, and the statistics Quantcast delivers for me, only about 40% of my readership actually looks like Sarah, my “ideal” reader.
But the purpose of this exercise isn’t to weed out people who aren’t your “ideal”; it’s to help you focus on a single message and deliver it with clarity…so all the people who read your blog can sense some actual purpose in your writing and connect to the person behind the blog.
But this brings us to another point: who are you, the writer-in-residence at your blog?
Be an Original.
If you sit down to write a post and you leave your personality at the door, you’re selling yourself – and your readers – short. But there’s also a danger in trying to have a certain blogging voice: if you focus too much on what you sound like, you’ll end up trying to sound like someone else. Case in point:
I’ve been reading A Holy Experience for about three years now. I read every grace-muddled word. Ann (without an e) encourages me, inspires me, and reminds me to look to God in a continuous breath-cycle of thanksgiving. I love it.
But since she took the Christian community by storm with her book One Thousand Gifts, there have been hundreds – thousands, even – of bloggers who have started to sound…just like Ann. (and if you’ve read Ann’s work, you know just how unique her voice is.) It’s not a bad thing to sound like Ann, but
Why would I read those bloggers, when I can read the original?
If you’re going to develop your own style – your own blogging voice – you can’t just take another person’s voice. You have to take everything, everyone that influences you and filter it through your own personality.
So how do I find my blogging voice?
Now, there’s not just one way to write a blog post, but here’s what I do:
Pretend you’re writing an email instead of a post. And you’re not writing to the world at large – you’re writing to just your one ideal reader. Don’t try to sound like the person you want to be – sound like who you are, right now.
That’s it. No magic formula, just “be yourself” and write to a single person. By doing this, you’ll cut out all the pretense (because people can see straight through someone who’s faking it) and find authenticity for your writing.
- Sit down for 5 minutes and describe your one ideal reader.
- In your next blog post, whether you’re teaching people how to tie a sailor’s knot or describing your day in Romper Room, do it as yourself. Write to your one ideal reader and let your true voice shine through.
Because as Dr. Seuss so aptly put it,