New York Times best-selling author, slow cooking expert, mom of three
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Figuring Out Your Internet Voice

June 16, 2009 by  

how to figure out your internet voice (part of The Business of Blogging series)

 

 

The Business (Bidness!) of Blogging, Part 2.

read Part 1: My Story

What Do You Mean, My Voice?

Your voice is how you appear to your readers when they “hear”  you in their head while they read your work. If you are self-publishing to the Internet via a blog, through comments on a blog, or through interaction on a message board, you are creating a public persona that other people will begin to recognize when they read your name, or internet handle.

Your Internet voice is not who you are.

it is how others perceive you.

You need to choose this voice, this persona, VERY (veddy? lol, I took it too far there…) carefully, because unlike a phone call or a face-to-face meeting, what you put up on the Internet will follow you around. Forever. Even if you think something has been deleted, you have no idea who has copied and pasted your words or protected your email, your tweet, or your gmail chat from being deleted on their end.

This does not mean that you can’t be genuine, and it doesn’t mean that you can’t share your opinion. But you need to be prepared for your words to come back to you someday.

Are You Telling Me to Lie? To Not Be Myself?

Oh gosh no. Instead, I’m asking you to treat your online writing as a professional would. The title of this blog series is “The Business of Blogging”–not “how to par-tay like a rock star with reckless abandon and just figure people will like you for who you are and if they don’t, well screw them.” That would be a different series of blog posts.

Let’s just pretend that you are a grown-up, and you have information that you would like to share with other grown-ups through written word. You have decided to do so on the Internet. You have an interest in becoming a professional blogger, or a traditional journalist. Or you are working on a book. Or you’re interested in starting your own company. Or you might run for politics one day. Or you are interested in teaming up with sponsors to “get free stuff”—-all good ideas, and the Internet can definitely help. BUT. There is no need to share every last detail of every single thought that passes through your brain. Don’t start a blog post with “ohmygawd, I’m so drunk, but this is so funny so I have to tell you just this one thing…” unless you’re okay with a future employer looking at it in a boardroom blownup during a powerpoint presentation. If your story is drop-dead funny, it still will be in the morning.

Make sense?

How Much is Too Much?

This is a very personal question, and one that you will have to answer for yourself, before you begin writing online. Are you going to use your real name? Your last name? Are you going to post pictures of yourself, your children, your spouse? Are you going to share intimate details about your relationships? Discuss interactions you have with “real-life” people/friends/acquaintances? Are you going to share your opinions on controversial subjects? Politics? Religion? Mommy/Parenting war topics?

I’m going again to use the slow cooker blog as an example, because 1) it’s really the only thing I know about, and 2) it was such an easy business plan model to stick to.

I decided when I scrawled out my business plan, that I was going to not post my kids’ names, or their photos. I did let them get filmed for TV, though, which many would not agree with. I promised to not use my friends’ names without their permission (most said “no” by the way…), and I would only speak about my husband in a positive way. (I really want to crack a joke about this right now, but I’m going to be good and bite my tongue. my fingers. whatever.)

Although it was election year, I made a conscious decision to not write about the election other than to mention that we ate our food watching the debates, etc. I made a rather large mistake and posted on Inauguration Day that I was an emotional basket case, and was feeling weepy. I got a dozen or so emails alerting me to my mistake—I angered people. I didn’t stick to my plan. My plan was to not talk about it, and I ventured off course. I took the post down a few hours later, although I’m sure it lives on somewhere in somebody’s RSS (another example of how things NEVER EVER FOR REALS go away on the Internet!)

Deciding to not post pictures of my kids was easy for me, but it’s not so cut-and-dry for many. It’s a very personal decision, and I do not judge anyone who decides differently—-most of my daily reading is on mommy and personal blogs, and I love looking at cute kids. Many people have opted to turn their FlikR streams private, or watermark their photos to keep people from snatching them. Recently, the Associated Press ran a story about a private family holiday photo ending up in an ad in the Czech Republic.{this link is no longer valid. you’ll have to google it yourself!}

Decide How You Will Handle Criticism

Once you get a handful or more people who click on your site to read your words, you will receive some naysayers. Some blogs attract more than others. I have been super fortunate to not have had very many, but some of my friends are plagued with nasty commenters or trolls on a daily or weekly basis. It’s not pretty.

Decide up front (before it happens) what your strategy is going to be. Are you going to leave the comment up? Delete it? Respond to the writer directly? Are you going to reprint nasty emails and respond to the reader in a post, and allow your fellow readers to “rip them a new one?”

The reason to decide beforehand what you are going to do when this situation arises is so you are calm. So you don’t do anything stupid. So you aren’t reactive. Remember, NOTHING disappears in the Internet. If you crank out a nasty reply, you will have done 3 things: you will have egged the person on, you will have put “icky words” that may come back to haunt you out there, and you will have created bad karma. Never underestimate the power of karma.

The best way, I’ve found, and through speaking with others, is to moderate comments. Delete the icky ones, the spam, and the people who are obviously just having a bad day. It is not a reflection on you, but a reflection on who that writer was at the time he/she decided to lash out. Keep your head high and move on. Vent to a friend, if need be, but my advice would be to let it go.

Some people completely disagree with me, and welcome the trolls, and the nasty commenters. They egg them on. They LOVE it when controversy occurs on their blogs, or in their comment sections because they drum up more readers who will see how they will react, and they get people “buzzing.” That is fine, if that’s what you have decided is important for your future goals and professional work, both on and offline. But you can’t do both. Stick to a plan.

Get Involved In Your Community

Blogging is about community. If you aren’t interested in talking to other people, or in hearing other thoughts, don’t start a blog. Start an old-fashioned paper journal. Even if you truly think “noone’s going to read it anyway,” someone is. Blogging is definitely an egocentric activity, but it works the best when you engage the community you’re building. Answer questions left in comments. Visit other people’s blogs. Link freely and without “rules” about whether or not that person has linked to you. If you like something, link to it. If someone takes the time out of their busy day to ask you a question or send an email, answer it.

We all understand that life is busy, that there are jobs, kids, pets, and households to run. But it still feels like a let down when you write to someone and she doesn’t write back. If you happen to be completely overwhelmed with life and are bogged down with unanswered email, put up an auto-response. Something. I hate emailing people to never ever hear back. Even Oprah has an auto-response, and I’ll tell you, it feels great to see a message from Oprah in your inbox.

coming up soon: Part 3: Writing for Search Engines Doesn’t Mean Selling Your Soul


 

This is part of the Business of Blogging series.

 

Part 1: The Business of Blogging

 

Part 2: Figuring Out Your Internet Voice

 

Part 3: Writing for Search Engines Doesn’t Mean Selling Your Soul

 

Part 4: Is Self-Esteem Tied into Sitemeter?

 

Part 5: Patience, and Other Blogging Virtues

 

and other stuff:

 

10 Best Business-y Books

 

Creating a (non-cheesy) Vision Board

 

Working from Home with Small Children in the House



Post a comment · 15 Comments »

Comments

15 Responses to “Figuring Out Your Internet Voice”

  1. Jamie on June 16th, 2009 9:18 pm
    1

    Thanks for another great post. Just wanted to let you know that I think you have a great voice- it’s one of the things that made reading the slow cooker blog so much fun. You were not afraid to laugh at yourself and that came through in what you were writing. It was not only informative, but entertaining too! I hope that cancels out a nasty comment from someone who was having a bad day and I’ll take a helping of that good Karma too! Seriously though, thanks for writing about this.

  2. stephanie on June 16th, 2009 9:29 pm
    2

    thanks, Jamie, for your sweet comment. I had an absolute ball with that project. oxxo steph

  3. Leann I Am on June 17th, 2009 11:08 am
    3

    I really love this post! I’ve sort of had my own rules about blogging. I may change some of them as I learn new things. Being the boss of my own blog has its perks! That being said, I do post pictures of my kids, but do not use their names. When they turn 18 and IF they want to be mentioned in my blog, then so be it.

    I’ve only had one ‘troll’ come to my blog…so far! They criticized my overuse of ITALICS, believe it or not! I did happen to use a lot of italics in that post…but I actually do talk that way!

    People having a bad day will pick on ANYTHING! This post has been very informative and would be a great general guideline for someone who wants to start a blog! THANKS! If more people did this, the internet might be a much more peaceful place!

  4. gfe--gluten free easily on June 17th, 2009 5:43 pm
    4

    Another great post, Stephanie! Some people have a hard time finding their voice I’ve been told and many people say my blog sounds just like me, which I consider a terrific compliment. But some of the other things you mention here are things I’ve had to consider and not all of them I had figured out ahead of time. I haven’t had mean trolls, but I’ve had rude people come who are clearly just looking to take other people to their blog. It’s only been one person and he/she did not even bother commenting on my posts. Finally, I just started deleting the comments, but still I felt guilty about it. He/she also emailed me asking for “link love.” The irony is I am very big on networking with others, alwasy linking to fellow bloggers when I can in my posts. The whole blog etiquette thing seems like common sense to me, but apparently not for some. As far as rules I’ve set in my mind, like Leanne said, I’m considering changing some of my rules a bit.

    Anyway, thanks very much, Stephanie. I agree that the “you” came through loud and clear in your crockpot blog and comes through here, too. Now that I’ve seen you twice in appearances, your sense of humor and upbeat attitude is exactly the same as what’s shown in your blogs. :-)

    Shirley

  5. Rachel on June 20th, 2009 10:42 am
    5

    I am considering starting a blog and this information is so helpful. Thank you for your clear, informative, well written words!

  6. Lisa on June 22nd, 2009 10:21 am
    6

    Hi Stephanie,

    Thank you so much for putting your thoughts about blogging into words. I think everyone who writes a blog or uses any social networking site should read this. I have seen many people (unfortunately, usually young adults) post comments and pictures that may come back to haunt them as adults.

    I hope you don’t mind, I have posted a link to this post on Facebook this morning.

    Thanks again for your wonderful blog!

    Lisa

  7. Sandy Cooper on June 25th, 2009 11:46 pm
    7

    I love your series and this post. I just recently discovered I had created a blog “voice” and it actually helps me write, knowing what my readers expect.

    I have posted many pictures of my family. I know it’s WAY too late to delete them. Do you have any idea how to watermark them?

    And just to let you know, I posted a funny story about an old friend today, and after I read this post, went back and deleted her name. I never asked her for permission to use her name, and it never occured to me that she may not want her name used.

    I totally agree about the response and community aspect of blogging. There’s nothing more disheartening than to go to leave a comment, only to see a message in the comment box that says something like, “I’m so busy, I cannot be expected to respond to your comment.”

    I try to respond to each and every one in some way. Thanks for affirming that.

    Thou Rocketh,
    Sandy

  8. stephanie on June 26th, 2009 11:41 am
    8

    Hi Sandy,

    I’m so happy to be of some help. I have heard wonderful things about the free picnik software for watermarking, although I haven’t personally used it.

    xoxo steph

  9. Amy on August 10th, 2010 5:58 am
    9

    Great post! I just started a blog as sort of an “online journal” where I could hash out the thoughts in my head and hopefully start a dialogue about topics of interest to me. I started out using my husband and children’s initials and am glad that I did so after reading your pointers.

    I also liked your advice about builidng a community. I want people to read my blog and the best way to accomplish that is to read others, leave comments and link to them.

    A post I have swirling around my head is about my love of cooking and some of the great sites out there that I’ve used (yours is one of them..I ♥ your slow cooker cookbook!!!). Great idea to link to them to get them exposure and to do the same.

  10. Cheryl K on March 30th, 2014 5:31 am
    10

    Excellent! I think limited personal info is a good plan.

  11. Stephanie on June 18th, 2009 12:38 pm
    10.1

    thanks, Leann! It’s hard, sometimes, to remember that everyone is human, and you don’t know their experiences when they’re spitting out venom, but it certainly is a valuable lesson. xoxo steph

  12. Stephanie on June 18th, 2009 12:40 pm
    10.1

    Hi Shirley, the blog etiquette seems pretty straight-forward to me, too, but I think sometimes people get swayed easily by the “easy way out” sometimes and resort to spam, when really they just want/need to network.
    xoxo steph

  13. Sandy Cooper on June 27th, 2009 8:29 am
    10.1

    Great…thanks Steph. I’ll check it out.

    Sandy

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