Your Voice: Finding It and Fine-Tuning it
So, you’ve started a blog. Congrats! Now, if you want that blog to gain a loyal following, you’ll need to focus on establishing your voice—the unique tone, style and obsession that your readers can identify with and count on.
On American Idol, Randy is always reminding contestants that if they want to win over an audience, they have to avoid karaoke and bring their own sound to each song. To stand out among the rest, a contestant’s voice must be unique, memorable and consistently strong. The same is true for effective blog content.
After six years of industry blogging and nearly three years of Chic-Geeking, my voice is locked in. My purpose is motivational, my writing style is conversational, and my tone is enthusiastic yet authoritative. My focus is also set. On the Chic Geek blog, I write about technology and productivity. On my personal blog, FlackRabbit.com, you’ll find my take on the public relations profession, social media and careers. My audience keeps coming back because they know exactly what they are going to get.
My voice wasn’t always so clear. And until I found it, I didn’t have a consistent online following (or a print column!). If you’re a blogger interested in finding a relevant voice and generating a following, here are four observations that may help you out:
Obsession is key.
Pick a topic and make it the only thing you write on and rant about. For example: my FlackRabbit blog is about PR and geek stuff. When folks visit my site, they expect to read about those things and nothing else. I love hockey, but I don’t blog about it. I also love my husband, but never write about married life. When we have kids one day, I will not turn FlackRabbit into a journal about motherhood. If I did any of those things, I’d lose my audience. The plain truth is that hockey, hubby and kiddos aren’t what my readers signed up for and I respect that.
Your blog is not about you.
If you want your blog to be more than just a pixilated business card, you’ll have to offer folks something. Make them think, encourage them, scare them, anger them—whatever. Just give them something, so they’ll have an incentive to tell their friends about it and eventually return. In between that stuff, you can express your views and establish your creditability. My highest traffic comes from posts that offer tips on PR careers and the Internet. PR folks visit to get information that might make them better at what they do. No one comes to my blog to see what I ate for dinner or how my job is going. (Trust me, I tried that in 2007.) As long as my audience is willing to turn to me for teachable moments, it’s my responsibility and privilege to provide them.
Get to the point.
The headline and first paragraph of each post should clearly explain what your visitor is about to read. If she has to try too hard, you’ll lose her. Sound harsh? Think about your own Web-surfing strategy—you know what you want and the Instant Gratification Fairy on your shoulder says you deserve relevant information NOW. If you don’t find them within the first few seconds, you move on. Your audience is no different. Sure, they love you, but they are kind of busy. They’ll appreciate the fact that you don’t waste their time.
Monitor your metrics.
I found my voice—and blog(s) obsession—by trial and error. I’ve been monitoring my FlackRabbit blog traffic and audience preferences for about four years now and have tracked and analyzed everything from topics, use of video, word count, writing style and tone, and humorous vs. serious headlines.
This data will show you what your readers prefer, and I can tell you that mine love learning things about the Internet and PR, being encouraged, lists of three or four, career advice and posts that are no more than 400 words. This information is sole reason that I write the way I do; if I had not tracked what my audience liked and responded to, I’d probably still be blogging about nail polish, downtown living and my dog.
Some tools I used to help me figure this out—and still use to monitor what works—include Google Analytics, Clicky, Bit.ly, Twitter retweets and Facebook comments.
The good news: these data services are free and user-friendly. If you want to leave your mark on the Web, start measuring, get obsessed and listen to your audience. Eventually, you will find your voice!
“I dreamt my whole life about being a mother,” says Heidi Jellison. “I never dreamt about a big wedding, honestly never even dreamt about the husband part.” Jellison, a 35-year-old concert harpist and harp teacher, laughs at this last bit, but then her face settles into a quiet solemnity.
To read this and other Her Well-Being stories, click here.