I had a woman come talk to me about her travel site recently, wondering why no one was using her Expedia widget to book travel. First of all, why would they when people can book online on Expedia or the sites like it, where they have more trust that they will get the best rates out there. The next problem was that her site looked rather anonymous; her posts about these beautiful Island getaways were kind of blah since they did not have any trace of personality behind them. Even she had to admit that the site would not inspire trust and the followers that would come with connection.
To develop a following my travel blogger would need to decide just who she was talking to and what they wanted to know. She would need to tell these people things they couldn’t find elsewhere and put herself into the posts with her own take on secrets to making their trips amazing.
She got off course by wanting to present an upscale image like a glossy travel magazine. I hated to break the bad news to her but she is not an upscale magazine and even magazines have to have catch attention of a particular target market and develop their readership with consistent branding, authentic voice and articles that appeal to their readers.
Do you wonder why no one is reading what you write? So authenticity is the thing. When I talk about authenticity online, I mean that you or your company will have better results if you are willing to show up as who you are. Everyone has several different roles in life (child, parent, business person, coach, neighbor, leader, book club participant…), but in life the more you bring of your true self to each of these situations, the better rather than compartmentalizing to look better. In life, If you try to appear different than you are, it shows. You will either fade into the woodwork, or be weird in some way that is noticeable. This is also the case online. When you are honest and let people experience more of your unique perspective and knowledge, you take a stand and stand out and people with resonate with you or not. But you can’t be everything to everyone and if you try, you appeal to no one.
Real Details Make You More Real
Case in point: Brian Gardner, founder of StudioPress, loves Starbucks and Dave Matthews. I will always remember Brian Gardner because of this little known fact: for years I was in the Dave Matthews fan club so I could get up front tickets for his concerts. Brian and I are two specks in the big WordPress world, so knowing this about each other helps use create more common ground, more connection. The details that make each of us different are Velcro for everyone else’s memory. That’s how we can tell each other apart and a distinctive detail is something to remember you by.
Guarding and valuing what makes you special means that that you never have to try and look like someone else. You don’t need to write so people will think you are smarter than you are. Instead, when you explain things simply in the words and language you would use if you were talking to friends or clients, you become so much more effective and appreciated. If you do nothing else, writing simply and clearly on your website will help you reach and engage more people.
One morning, I was listening to an NPR interview with a woman from the local Department of Corrections. She was talking about a summer program in which at-risk kids got a chance to work for Fortune 100 companies, and she said that her program selected three “youths” as interns.
Who calls kids “youths” in real life? At least two people do, because after her comment, the interviewer started to referring to them the same way. “What have these youths said about the program so far?” the interviewer asked.
I about fell out. Really? Who would ever say, “ I am taking a carload of “youths” to the football game this weekend”? No one.
Please use honest, consistent language if you expect people to absorb who you are and what you have to say. People are so much more likely to remember you favorably if you use language that is understandable and in your natural voice.
But my point is bigger than word choice. It’s about claiming every aspect of your unique identity and putting that into your blog posts and marketing information.
Becoming integrated, claiming your authenticity, can be scary and require courage. A classic childhood story shows what I mean.
The Velveteen Rabbit
The Velveteen Rabbit is Margery Williams’ wonderful story about a beautiful stuffed bunny who was adored so much by a little boy that its fur got loved off, his eyes dropped out and he got loose in the joints and very shabby.
When all of the rabbit’s shininess dulled, the boy finally “moved on” as kids and people do. The rabbit was heartbroken. He felt so discarded and distraught that he cried a real tear. The magical tear summoned a fairy who made him real so he could run and hop with other rabbits.
The magic happened only because the rabbit allowed himself to be vulnerable and open to being loved so completely. That’s also why the devastation happened too. The rabbit’s openness gave the boy the power to hurt him.
The Velveteen Rabbit is about the hard, precious path to authenticity. One of the other characters in the book explains: “When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real…
‘It doesn’t happen all at once. You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept …. once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
When we claim our authentic selves, we are real and unique and beautiful.
And then, some people, your right people, will want to read what you write.