There’s an online trend happening which makes me more than a little uncomfortable. It’s not the $5.4 million promised to me by the Nigerian banker just as soon as I send my bank account details. Nor is it the cheap ugg boots and Ray Ban sunnies that I’m constantly being offered through my blog comments.
It’s the growing number of (mostly) young women who are ‘bare and naked’ with their life stories online, and using this vulnerability to market their businesses through their blogs.
Why so personal
Particularly when you’re a one (wo)man band or a small business, some personal details are almost essential to your marketing. Why? Because personal details colour in your business story, your bio, and your raison d’etre.
Personal details make you human, relatable, likeable, understandable. Particularly if your modality is highly interpersonal, personal details and a good profile picture of you smiling into the camera are essential to reach through computer screens and connect with your prospects.
Once upon a time
Blogs are stories. Good business blogs are built on the three pillars of relevance, usefulness and value to your ideal clients. They educate prospects over time on your business and how it helps. They further inform and intrigue existing clients on all that you do, igniting their curiosity and keeping them interested and referring business.
Your blog needs to be somewhat personal. You can’t be writing your business blog as one promotion after another with a big loud buynoweverythingreduceduntilSunday-hurry!
Nobody wants to read that.
Your blog needs to read like true-life novellas with twists, turns, heros, villains, hooks and climaxes. It should be creative. It should be entertaining, as well as informative. Some personal detail is going to make it that much better.
People want to relate to people, not some faceless salesman selling steak-knifes. If you’re passionate about what you do, if your sector and its need for urgent reform keeps you up at night, if you have strong opinions – for and against – then showcase them.
Enthusiasm is a fine, fleeting, and rare thing – and it will translate into dollars when handled with skillful decorum.
What makes me cringe is the plethora of young women revealing the innermost workings of their minds online under the guise of their business. I’m not suggesting that these candid revelations are designed to sell more life coaching. I’m suggesting that these online outpourings are possibly naive and damaging to their professional reputations.
Revealing life stories online which are far more appropriate on a therapist’s couch or over several bottles of wine cocooned within the loving bosom of close friends is, I believe, problematic, for reasons I’ll outline below.
Dealing with the response
Many people express reservations about online and social media marketing because they think that people will respond negatively. In 99.9 per cent of cases, that’s just not likely – their online audiences are too small and their marketing messages are not strong enough to provoke a negative backlash.
For young women revealing trauma, a backlash – or at least, a misunderstanding – is highly likely. So how does that get handled? In the blog comments? At the therapists? With further explanatory, self-justifying blog posts?
Is a response wanted? Why does this need to be discussed so publicly?
Who are you attracting?
What you blog about will attract a certain ‘type’ of person. Who are you attracting when you’re blogging these things? People who are raw and hurting? People in crisis? People who have a similarly hazy view of boundaries? People who are attracted by an internet famous person?
Do you want fans and followers who hang on your every word? Or those who’ll think critically about your advice and who may even question your opinions?
And to the future?
Most of us will have four or five careers, and quite possibly more, in our lifetime. What happens when the put-it-all-out-there blogger decides to become a politician? Or a psychologist? Or a high school teacher?
We are pack animals. We respond to vulnerability. We are – for the most part – compassionate. Some may feel that they are helping their online audience and clients by being so vulnerable and truthful through their blog. I get that. I understand how Oprah and Dr Phil can be a cheap and effective form of therapy.
But I don’t value Dr Phil above a real-life therapist. And I don’t want to be Dr Phil. When you put yourself out there and garner some painful, real and raw responses in your comments, you then have a responsibility to deal with them.
People’s responses, through your blog comments, social media comments and emails, may push your buttons. They may be inexplicable. They may anger and outrage you. They may make you cry. You’ve provoked that. You need to negotiate it responsibly – for them and for you.
Defining your online boundaries
When we’re bringing details of ourselves into our business communications, particularly online, we need to make a judgment call on how much is perfect. Too little and we look like a lawyer’s website – stuffy and dry, with no lick of personality.
Your online boundaries will shift. As sure as I’m typing this now, you’ll get used to online communications the more you do it and find yourself revealing details that you didn’t used to think were appropriate, until they are. The skillful communicator draws a line between their stories, the stories of their reader, and their business offerings.
Your boundaries will shift. And you’ll adjust accordingly. I can’t tell you what you can and shouldn’t reveal online. That’s your decision to grapple with.
Just remember the pillars of relevance, usefulness and value to your ideal clients. And perhaps, in blogging, we should add responsibility – for your personal process dealing with your own raw traumas and the very human responses these provoke in your readers.