As a follow-up to probing how ‘social’ social media should be, let’s talk about blogging. Or, in this context, the question of personal and/or professional blogs, and how (or if) they intersect.
The road to professional blogging was in large part paved by e-zines showing the power of the written word to inform and incidentally build online communities. The late, lamented Suck.com blazed a trail of cultural criticism with a kick that flowed so easily and looked so fun that everyone wanted to do it. Getting published (and skewered) in its letter section, The Fish, was the ultimate 1990s achievement in social media, before anyone ever paired those words. Sibling publication Feed (page not found) brought a democratic feature where those who posted comments had them displayed right next to the article, as if we were just as smart as the author!
Personal blogs often had a lonelier — literally — path to daylight. The perception that early bloggers were guys who couldn’t get dates and angsty teenage girls, while overstated, implied that people blogged for lack of another social outlet. I started blogging (before it was called blogging) because it seemed an interesting creative medium. The community angle — rings of friends and strangers alike coming to offer comments and support — appeared as an almost unintended consequence. Yet those connections were the fuel wherein blogging would really take off.
We can’t forget these roots as we ponder personal vs. professional blogging. I know many who blog for only personal reasons: to connect with others, to keep loved ones informed and to vent. I also know others who blog for professional reasons: to share their insights with others, solicit feedback from colleagues and promote their expertise.
But what about those of us who do both? I think it’s hard to be overly personal in a professional blog or overly professional in a personal blog. If you seek those two audiences, a one-size-fits-all blog where you talk about last night’s bad date one day and social-media strategy the next will likely regularly disinterest some readers. Yet our personal and professional lives will always be of interest to someone somewhere.
I’m not saying to leave the personal entirely out of professional blogs. Little details of our lives revealing our humanity make any blog better and allow readers to more easily connect; professional blogs with all the warmth of a cyborg professing to have all the answers grow as tiresome as a self-righteous sermon. Yet I also see real experts with spotless, spectacular professional blogs reveal their innermost fears, secrets and concerns in their Twitter streams. Which is, to me, just fine and makes them all the more identifiable and credible.
Showing different parts of our analog life reflects the beauty of a 360-degree view of social media: We can focus our messages in one sphere, yet round ourselves out as much as we want in different corners. I don’t promote my personal blog through this blog or through Facebook; not that it’s secretive (or all that interesting), it just gives me a feeling of distance and separation. This blog I promote everywhere because it concerns all those social media outlets. Your approach may differ, and your mileage may vary, but ultimately it is the author’s decision.