As I look back on the posts that have connected most with my readers it is often posts in which I’ve shared something of my own personal story and experience that seem to draw readers into a deeper engagement.
Sometimes it’s not what you write but who you are and the stories that you tell that seem to make content compelling.
Many readers don’t just want information – they want an emotional connection and they want to know that someone real is on the other end of what they’re writing.
To put it another way – Compelling content often is produced by compelling people.
Unfortunately many blogs can be faceless and anonymous ‘pages of content’ that fail to go beyond the conveying of information to creating connections.
This doesn’t mean you necessarily have to be the most interesting person in the world – just be real – just be authentic. Tell your readers about your experiences, share your successes and failures, give them a glimpse into who you are when you’re not doing what they normally see you do, consider using photos and video of you that help you tell your stories.
Of course you don’t want to throw in personal stories just for the sake of it – work at finding ways to share yourself in your content in ways that are relevant to the topic you’re writing about. Tell about your experiences and opinions on your topic rather than just reporting on the topic in a detached kind of way.
1. The Master Himself – If you’re looking for a good example of someone who does this – check out Chris Brogan. He’s compelling because he writes smart stuff and useful content – but it’s taken to another level because he shares so transparently about who he is and how he’s growing and developing in the things he’s writing about. He’s constantly sharing his stories, feelings and experiences but also writing (and creating video and pictorial) content in a very personable way.
2. A Personal Example – Let me share a quick video (3.39 min) now that is both an example of how I’ve previously (a year ago) injected something of myself (and my family) into my blog but also examines some basic principles of getting personal on a blog:
Here’s a link to the series of posts on getting personal on your blogs that I mentioned in the video. It contains 11 ways to get more personal that I think would make great reading if you’re interested in exploring this topic further.
A Note for Anonymous Bloggers
Keep in mind that this series of posts on creating compelling content contains a series of ‘principles’ that won’t all apply to every blog.
I’m very aware that each blogger has their own style and that some choose to blog anonymously or don’t want to strongly tie their own personal brand to their blog. However even an anonymous blogger can develop a ‘personal’ voice and share experiences/stories from their lives that don’t reveal who they are or present them as an egomaniac.
Your Homework for Today
Today’s task is simple – post something on your blog with a personal flavor. Do keep it on topic for your blog but share a story, shoot a video, post a picture, recount an experience that you’ve had, link to where people can connect with you in a more personal setting (perhaps it’s about sharing your Twitter account), share a failure or success you’ve had, share something humorous. It doesn’t really matter what it is – the key is to find a way to do it so that it remains on topic but creates a ‘connection’ with readers. Please do share what you do in comments below – I’d love to hear how it goes and check it out!
What You Said on the Topic
When I asked readers to share what makes compelling content to them one of the strongest themes that came out of the 114 comments was that compelling content is personal. Many people talked about how it’s about touching emotions and telling stories. Here’s just a handful of the many comments that picked up this theme:
- “When the content tells a story I feel compelled to read it. The story could be about a mistake or a benefit the writer has experienced. For me, it makes it more compelling if I can relate to the story as well. Perhaps I have experienced something similar.” – Andrew
- “I like to see contents that are written in the casual-style. I also like to see some humor and personal experiences in the content.” – Bash Bosh
- “I like it when it’s personal and it’s directed at me. It makes me pay attention to it more. It also makes me feel that the author isn’t just some kind of robot.” – The Man Revolution
- “The bloggers that reveal more about themselves, and get intimate with their readers is what I appreciate the most.” – Beth
- “Content that is personable, true from the blogger’s heart, sincere, genuine, unadulterated and unfiltered will really draw me in. – Celes
- “an honest and authentic style always grabs the readers attention. Whether an exciting adventure, a funny retelling of a story, some new angle or intro to new topic, tutorial or just plain informational, it’s most important if the author writes w/o an agenda, is open minded, honest and here’s that word again, authentic.” – XO
- “Apart from content that has utility (i.e., something i can use related to the blog subject matter), I think I’m looking for a connection. It boils down to creating an organic appeal via stories, humor, self-disclosure, oops!, self-reflection, etc.” – Jed
- “I look for a personal voice in a web site. One of the things I like about problogger, and Darren’s writing in particular, is the “I” we are all warned so heavily to stay away from. “I’ve identified 7 principles”; what do YOU have to say? Now we’re in a conversation instead of me just dumbly nodding my head and shelling out dough for a magic bullet that only does my business collateral damage and never helps.” – Laurie
Wow… its a imotional post…
I will try to complete my home work.
Hahaha you remind me there with my 10 month old boy. You do have a point in saying that you can connect emotionally with human beings with personal stories when one is off the computer.
I just don’t want to upset the Mrs if I told the whole world that she can be miserable cow sometimes…oops, too late!
As I said before and you listed – stories make a huge difference to what I read. I must admit I am guilty of not doing it enough in my own blog posts.
How did you keep Henry so quiet for so long? Brings back so many fond memories of when my kids were that age.
Now they are adults and harder to control!
good one ! should look for something personal to post :)
You are right in speaking about being personal in blog . Also truthful , I have noticed in just 3 months readers can tell some times that you are just making some stories and some times you are saying it truthfully .
Thanks for sharing this article
25 male, single and tall as a house.
I love brining myself into a blog post or an interview, but I am concerned about determining when it is apropriate. A few weeks ago I interviewed an anthropologist who works in a Gem mine in Brazil. Brian Brazeal is a fasinating person and a top shelf interview.
One problem: he’s my brother.
I am concerned that peice of info makes my blog less compelling to a casual listener. At the same time I think you are right in suggesting that adding a personal touch helps others connect with the blog. The question remains, when should I let myself show through in my blog?
Great food for thought in my case. I’ve been debating posting a series of fun-yet-instructive videos. I want to ensure that my site stays content-centered primarily, and personality-centered secondarily (at best). Thanks for the post.
Very timely. My article for tomorrow (already written and scheduled) is about my development as a fiction writer :)
I have been struggling with what “voice” and perspective to use in my blog. I think in the end, to do what this post is saying, I do need to use my own. I think that genuineness will translate into my writing.
Thanks for the tip.
Great point, Darren. I’ve been trying more personal touches lately and have discovered an overwhelming response from my readers. I never I imagined I could be so interesting to people!
On a side note, are you still using FeedBurner? How did you get the video to appear in the RSS feed like that?
I can’t help but talk about myself in my articles!
All of my topics are presented in relation to a story or situation in my life, and my readers seems to appreciate it. Nobody reads my blog without learning a fair bit about the guy who writes it.
I guess I write about myself because it’s the only topic I can speak about with total authority :)
IMO personality is absolutely essential to blogging success. Even the super-successful newsy blogs (mashable, techcrunch, etc.) post personal stuff or share opinions on a regular basis.
Blogs are an interactive medium. They should be used as such. Great post!
I have taken it for granted from the beginning, that your personal voice has to come through.
I disagree with this:
“Sometimes it’s not what you write but who you are and the stories that you tell that seem to make content compelling.”
There’s no “sometimes.”
Who you are – and the stories you tell – trump the “what you write” every time.
I know this to be true as I have at least 175,000 words of content posted now… and I should have more traffic. Not complaining here, it just means I need to more work on the “who” and less on the “what.” A definite challenge for me, given my academic training.
Actually, my traffic is pretty good considering when I started taking it seriously. (Just a few months ago)
I can say that I definitely messed this up on my first blog. It was all about fundraising for disease research (our daughter has cystic fibrosis), but I made it only professional, at least until now. I’m seeing the light though. In fact, my new blog is about fatherhood, Christianity, and the Navy…all things that make me who I am. While I get serious about the topics, I am more easily able to insert me into them.
Very interesting tip. This is also true in pet blogging. From the personal interjections, friendships and communities are formed.
hey, nice think you gave me. thanks
Great video Darren. Your son Henry looks a lot like his dad. Maybe he’ll be a babe blogger someday too :)
All the very best,
Hi Darren, I’ve been struggling with with the concept of personal interjection on my blog for a while now. I’ve been blogging for about three months on my niche blog but for years on my personal blog; I haven’t yet decided if I want to tie the brands together or remain anonymous/semi-anonymous on my niche blog.
I’m going to read through your archives on the topic of blogging on a more personal basis but I’d be interested to know where I can find topics specific to blogging anonymously yet personally… and frankly whether it’s worth it to do so. I’m not sure if there’s a down side to merging my personal “brand” with my niche blog brand.
my readers always tell me they love my stories whenever I feel the need to add a personal story into my posts. Thanks for the reminder.
I’ve had a lot of success with injecting my personality and personal stories/pics/videos into my blog that support my topic.
Just some of the comments my readers have made include; how they enjoy my use of humour, they like to see how someone else lives, they enjoy hearing about the lessons I’ve learnt from various situations, they appreciate my honesty and genuineness and I even had a reader comment on my last post that the personal story I used brought tears to her eyes.
Likewise, I tend to prefer and follow personable blogs and as you’ve mentioned, we’ve made contact with each other. We often comment on how weird it is to have friends you’ve never “met”!
I always try and interact with my readers by mentioning personal experiences and stories. Readers appreciate you sharing something they can relate to. It always helps to share a personal experience in each post to engage the reader.
I’m so glad you posted this today. i blog about kitchen efficiency and economics, and I just posted about why I had to throw out a whole bunch of food.
I started doing this sometime ago with good and growing results. I’m going to try and alternate a text post with a video post and maybe other media such as audio only. My latest post talks about contact management. Sort of off the cuff.
Thanks for this post :-)
Great minds must be thinking alike – meaning that I did my homework before I knew what it was.
Becoming more ‘real’ is something that I’ve been thinking about for a while. When I read my oldest posts and compare them to my most recent ones I can see that I’m making progress – but I need to make more.
My most recent post (my home work!) was one in which I took a poke at myself for forgetting a basic WordPress trouble shooting step.
I look forward to seeing what reaction it gets. (So far it’s only the spam bots – but they’ve always loved me!).
But being too personal— mentioning I’m female, that I have an autism spectrum disorder, that I hope to write a novel— sometimes invites the wrong sort of attention, either hostile or creepy.
I’ve tried a blog under a pseudonym where I didn’t admit anything about myself, but that didn’t work well.
Honestly, I think your blog works despite your personal sharing, not because of it.
Thanks so much for posting this article. I have only had my blog up for a few weeks and I have had over 2,000 visits and I have 11 followers. I believe this is due to sharing my personal getting out of debt story before getting married. Instead of just giving tips I am giving the real life story.
I love reading your blog. It is so helpful! Thanks so much.
I generally go for self-deprecating humor and my readers (mostly my friends for now) tend to enjoy it. Here’s one i just did:
It doesn’t get much more self-deprecating than posting pictures of yourself attempting to dance.
Its so true that if you want your readers to listen to you, you must share from your experience. This will connect the both of you together.
A study shows that if you are able to relate to another person who has almost the same experience, the two will click almost instantly.
In our case as a blogger, we had to share from our experience with words to reach our readers.
Thanks for featuring my comment Darren! I definitely agree the personal touch is a key anchor points for content. Without that, it’s like the content has no soul. Value-added content can be found in so many different places – books, other blogs, other sites, etc. In order to ensure our readers stay on, we need to connect with them as people.
This is a great idea! In fact just today I was thinking I might write a post with the family dog in it.
The original idea for this comes from my mom, who did a post as though it were our dog (Alladin) himself writing the post!
So that’s another useful tool to add to the toolbox; do it from the perspective of a pet (only if it’s relevant of course!) :D
I completely agree with you on this. Even while reading blogs, I like reading posts with a personal touch.
I can’t talk about myself in my articles, DARREN! Because they are not so personal! I HAVE a blog & newspaper in one site! Check out if you don’t believe:
I love using personal examples on my blog.
In my niche, it is very important to be genuine. I use personal examples and stories to emphasis that I know what I am talking about because I’ve done it myself.
I also think that is good to keep a personal blog if your main blog is not one. I do this so that my readers have a choice. If they want to read helpful information they can stay on the main blog, if they want to read about me they can go to the personal. It really works well for me.
Great tips. Looking forward to the next installment.
This is so true. Feedback I’ve received from my readers suggests that the sporadic dip into the more personal is a good thing. I don’t want to focus on pregnancy loss and infertility on my knitting blog, but when something major happens, like a loss, I share the story, hoping that injecting some of my own experience will reach out to women like me and explain what it’s like for those who don’t understand. It seems to people. I got over 70 comments last time I wrote about it. I don’t do it often but I find value when I do do it.
Thanks for the tips i will be printing this blog post out and implementing it when i return from my one month break.
Adding a personal touch to your blog can be great – but there IS a danger in letting your readers get TOO close to you.
I totally agree and it is so nice to hear that you find it valuable.
It is so true that you don’t have to share too much and in an inappropriate way. People have a basic need to connect and it really does add to the experience of reading a blog – I think it makes the difference as to whether I will keep returning or not. Actually some blogs I subscribe too I keep up with for professional reasons but never get excited about going. Now that I think about it there isn’t a single thing I could tell you about the blogger – isn’t that interesting!
I just have to say I LOVED watching the You Tube clip complete with rocking action!
I recently really honed in on the niche for my blog and was worried that my personal content or the thread of my story wouldn’t emerge in the blog. I’ve since found that that hasn’t been the case at all and my posts (profiles on moms who are entrepreneurs) frequently call for my own personal stories to create relevance and context.
Congrats on your new family member!
Great advice Darren! I agree with you that it’s really really important to give your blog a more personal touch. Whether it be sharing personal experiences, making videos, or anything…giving it a personal touch can go a long way in connecting with your readers.
I’ve recently ventured into video blogging on my SEO Tips blog, and I think it has made a huge difference. I’ve already gotten tons of positive feedback and so many people like it mostly because they feel like they’re actually talking to someone.
I’ll admit, it has taken me a while to find my own voice and to move into a more social realm to create more of a personal outreach (rather than just being a robot). So far, it has been well worth it!
I just don’t like doing vidoes. That is my problem. I know it brings alot of traffic, but I do like to talk about myself on my blogs so maybe I have a chance lol!
Is not how you write that sets the personal touch, but what you write about that really give the personal emotional feel. I have use internet tools as a mean of technology to drive personal touch and emotional feel to my readers.
For example, when someone commented on my blog, I uses a very powerful pugin which actually send he or she an email telling he or she how I wanted to connect to them and giving away valuable information to them for free and also to tell them how they can actually be my friend.
Coincidentally I published an article today on my National Internet Business Examiner column about the personal touch — http://budurl.com/personaltouch .
In fact, one of the things that I love about writing for Examiner.com is how personal I can be. Every time I submit an article to ezinearticles.com I have to strip the article of everything personal, and I feel the articles are so cold.
Phyllis Zimbler Miller
That is so true. Real life can be stranger than fiction. The great stories are all around you. My last weekend, for example, a tornado touched down 3/4 miles from my house, a friend was diagnosed with Lyme disease, and my niece had a baby. Make a good post about adaptability?
It seems that my best blogs are the ones where I bring in personal connections to the posts
I know I enjoy getting to know the person who I am interacting with myself. Face it the world wide web is all about interaction, personal interaction.
Great post. I do, and my readers seem to enjoy it. I think it’s pretty important to be comfortable enough to be yourself on your own blog. Otherwise, what’s the point?