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by Keith

How and When To Blog About Yourself

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How often do you talk about yourself when writing for your site?

I ask because we’re getting mixed messages out there.

First you’re told; “Don’t talk about yourself, focus primarily on the needs of your readers and what’s on their minds.”

Then you hear; “You need to tell your story, share more about yourself and your life so you can build rapport with your readers.”

So which is it?

Building an online business is all about finding a hungry crowd and serving up what they’re searching for. And it’s also about reaching out and making personal connections and building relationships. That requires a liberal dose of you, or in this case, me.

So how do the socially awkward connect online? How much do we have to talk about ourselves, really?

And what about the socially adept among us? Can these folks talk about themselves too much?

Are there any rules for this sort of thing?

The Rules for Talking About Yourself Online

Most of us doing business online have two main tasks: write short, regular blasts for the social media like Twitter and Facebook; and write blog posts and articles for our sites and others.

Let’s look at the requirements for communicating successfully in both forums.

Social Media – Talking ‘As’ Yourself

I think of your site as home base, the place you bring friends for intimate chats around the fireplace. If your site is the front room of your home, then social media is the back yard, where you entertain friends.

You may be your product, or your topic may reflect your interests and passions.

But when posting on the social media, what you write about is not about you.

Instead, you focus on your reader’s needs.

Social Media “Scientist” Dan Zarella believes so strongly in this philosophy, he sells a t-shirt that reads: “Stop talking about yourself.”

Dan sums it up beautifully in a blog post:

Imagine yourself at a networking event or cocktail party. You’re talking to a handful of people, and one guy is only talking about himself. Is he your favorite person to converse with? On the other hand there’s another guy who’s talking about you, your needs and your experiences. Which would you rather talk to?

Social media is a cocktail party, nobody wants to listen to you talk about yourself all day.

So stop talking about yourself, it’s boring and nobody wants to hear it. But start talking as yourself and show us how the world looks through your eyes.

Dan is writing about social marketing sites like Facebook. He suggests you talk not “about” yourself, but talk “as” yourself. What about your own website, where you are tasked to develop a personal relationship while serving your readers?

Are the “rules” different for your own web site?

Blog Writing – Talking ‘About’ Yourself

This is where it can get tricky.

“Talk about yourself,” the experts tell you. “You have to forge a relationship with your readers, tell stories, relate common, universal truths by relating your own life stories.”

Yet in official marketing school it was pounded into me that you always focus on the primary needs of your audience: “you” disappear.

How do you connect and personalize your writing while also engaging your readers?

To help keep me focused in my writing, I made up a rule for this, See what you think:

If your story intersects with your reader’s most pressing needs, then tell it.
If your knowledge intersects with their needs, then share it.

When I talk about myself in some of my posts, my stories most likely rarely intersect with your most pressing needs – and yet I share those stories in an effort to become more “three dimensional” to those of you who don’t know me.

I guess that would be a third rule.

And when you’re writing in a more personal medium, that’s one of the keys. You’ve got to connect, as long as you surround those personal stories with information the reader wants and needs to know.

Now, in other formats, obviously, some of the more personal stories might not be as appropriate. Like say on a Fortune 500 blog for lawyers or something.

The You to Me Ratio

Perry Marshall has a great formula he calls the “You to Me ratio.” He writes:

In copy, you should always talk about your reader (“You” – “Your”) more than you talk about yourself (“I” – “me” – “my” – “we” ). 1.5:1 is good. More is even better.

It’s much easier to listen to somebody who’s talking about YOU than somebody who constantly talks about themselves. It’s more fun and it’s less work.

Over to You . . .

Do you find it easy – or difficult – to talk about yourself in your writing?

Does this come naturally to you, or has it been a struggle?

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{ 17 comments }

Connie Lee @ The Power To Live November 22, 2011 at 11:08 pm

Hi, Keith,

Once again, you shine a light on another important writing element. Or, for those of us who are a little Type A, another blogging detail to obsess over! :~)

I believe I share the ‘me’ with the ‘thee’ in the appropriately percentages on my blog. It would be interesting to get input from my readers on the topic, though.

My site, http://ThePowerToLive.com, is about personal transformation. I share how I went about re-creating my Life using techniques I developed when my own life went off the rails, so to speak. Therefore, it makes sense that I’d be sharing ‘me’ stories, as examples.

Having said that, I do make a concerted effort to include my readers perspective into my writing. I know the challenges I’ve faced are things others can relate to. The techniques I’ve created are transferable to situations my followers may face.

I believe my balance is a good one. It’s something I’ll pay more attention to, after reading your insightful post.

Connie

Keith November 22, 2011 at 11:54 pm

Hi Connie,
As a regular reader of your blog, I can assure you that you strike a very nice “you-me” balance.
Thanks for your thoughtful comment!
Keith

Craig November 22, 2011 at 11:44 pm

So those are the rules!
I never even thought about this, being the “socially adept” person I am. But heck, it makes sense, thanks for pointing this out.
And man, I’m glad I don’t have to eat Thanksgiving dinner with you – you don’t sound like the best conversationalist :-)

Keith November 22, 2011 at 11:56 pm

Craig,
Well, as long as you don’t ask me any personal questions, I can be quite the sparkling conversationalist :-)
Besides, every Thanksgiving table needs at least one highly-social connector — and at your table, that would be you – making it perfectly acceptable for the less socially adept to hang around because you’ll handle the social needs of the group just fine….

Craig November 23, 2011 at 12:01 am

… that and a good bottle of wine. I find that helps anyone around our family table become infinitely more interesting . . .

Keith November 23, 2011 at 12:02 am

…cheers!

Connie Lee @ The Power To Live November 25, 2011 at 7:33 pm

Craig,

I have to ask…does your family become more interesting when you drink the wine or when they drink the wine? :~)

Connie

Keith November 25, 2011 at 9:04 pm

Connie-
I’ve discovered that it’s not the wine ratio that always tells the tale- as long as no one at the table drinks the koolaid, there’s a chance…

Craig November 25, 2011 at 9:30 pm

Connie,
… and I’ve found, after many a Thanksgiving, it’s not the wine I mind so much as the whine!

Karol November 22, 2011 at 11:48 pm

I found your blog a few weeks ago while doing a search for info about the Genesis theme — good stuff here — themes on blogging and online business I’m not finding anywhere else.
This one really resonates with me, I’m struggling to find my voice as a blogger. Being an “older gentleman” I remember when blogs were only personality-centric. Now they seem to have gone in the completely opposite direction.

Keith November 22, 2011 at 11:58 pm

Welcome Karol,
Thanks for reading, and I appreciate your comment.
I ain’t no spring chicken myself, I too remember the bad old days of blogging. Aren’t you glad blogs have evolved.
Hang in there: practice makes perfect. The more you write, the more your own voice emerges.
Keep us posted here at TN.
Thanks again,
Keith

Anne November 23, 2011 at 7:49 am

Keith:

Beautiful comments and thoughts which are right on. Your personal story is an excellent example. I’m so sick of the mass marketing guru’s who talk about my program and here’s how you can fill up the seats for my event…not too much about the “you” being me! I like your formula for using “you” and “I”.

Keith November 23, 2011 at 9:52 am

Hi Anne,
Good to hear from you – and I couldn’t agree with you more about the mass marketing gurus – that style is so over.
Here’s to a new era of personal marketing!
Thanks for your comment.
Keith

Gregory Forman November 23, 2011 at 9:49 am

Good article, really timely for us. I’m in the process of *attempting* to hire a copywriter for our projects and so far, every one of them massively failed our copy test. Most were able to pull in something about our product, the old features v. benefits thing – but not one of them seem capable of making a personal connection.
I was frustrated and couldn’t figure out what was missing – until I read your piece.
Thanks for filling in the blanks.
So, got any tips for a good writer for our blogs?
Gregory

Keith November 23, 2011 at 9:55 am

Hi Gregory,
Ah – you’ve discovered they don’t teach this in official writing school.
If you’re looking for a writer for your blogs, good luck with that!
I’m not saying it can’t be done – and it really depends on your industry.
Typically, the more “corporate” your blog, the more you can successfully use a team of writers – as long as they know the subject and can write with authority.
However, if your blog is more of a personal brand, it’s really difficult for anyone to write it but you. Only you can make that connection and build that relationship.
You just can’t hire that out.
So, my recommendation: Fill the other spots so you can carve out time to write your own blog.
Thanks for commenting,
Keith

Diana Schneidman November 27, 2011 at 10:24 am

The “secret” of blogging is to be interesting. Some writing about ourselves tells something interesting—either self revealing or more objective—and some writing doesn’t.

You can play around with the wording by using passive sentences and “you” in the generic sense to improve the ratio, but that doesn’t make the writing more sticky.

There’s bazillions of blogs out there so it’s impossible to generalize about what makes an effective blog. It depends on your purpose. Some blogs are like diaries shared with others. Lots of “I” increases the intimacy.

Other blogs are strictly marketing. For all the chitchat about how big companies like Zappos are using social networking to drive consumer relationships and sales, I’d guess that lots of the effectiveness derives from discount coupon$. (I only guess—I’m not a shoe person and have never studied Zappos marketing.)

By the way, Gregory, I’m a freelance writer. Please contact me if you’d like to talk. My writing-business website is at http://www.DianaWrites.com

-Diana

Diana Schneidman | Chicago / Bolingbrook, IL | dianalink AT netzero.com
Author of Start Freelancing And Consulting: How to take control of your life and make great money quickly as a solopro

Keith November 27, 2011 at 1:42 pm

Hi Diana,
Thanks for adding to the conversation. Your points are well-taken. I can think of two bloggers off the top of my head I read often, who write almost exclusively from a highly personal perspective: Johnny B. Truant and James Lileks. It’s an art, I think, being able to talk about oneself and keep it interesting – and in these two writer’s cases, keep it fascinating.
Our readers here at TN are entrepreneurs blogging for commerce, I think that would be a good modifier for my rather broad headline.
I’m not writing about blogging for its own sake, but business technique, if you will.
I think there’s an important distinction between interesting writing and what I’ll call engaging commerce writing.
Poetry, op-eds, and documentaries can be interesting, but none of them engage a person in a way that promotes commerce.
That said, I don’t think anyone reading this believes switching out a few ‘I’s” with “You’s” is going to suddenly make their writing interesting or sticky.
Yes, the “You-Me Ratio” is a technique, and here’s why I think this can be important:
In my experience as a marketer and personal brander, I’ve found the biggest problem any small biz has is being unable to see themselves from anyone else’s perspective. It’s all “I, I, I’, not always literally, but what they write about is exclusively interesting to them, with a heavy focus on their business processes, features, and even personal lives — over the things that really matter most to their readers/buyers.
My job has always been to help the biz owner discover and write about what their customer most cares about. And one of the best ways to achieve this is to use “you,” because you have to think about the other person.
Thanks for thinking enough of us to offer your perspective, Diana..
Keith

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