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Monday, January 21, 2013

Why You Should NOT Focus Your Blog Content


Some people think blogs are irrelevant in the age of super simple instant gratification visual type modes of interactive communication. Specifically:
  • Tumblr 
  • Pinterest 
  • Webstagram 
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
However your personal blog is actually more essential than ever - both for work and your personal life - and contrary to the conventional wisdom you should NOT focus it on any one particular thing. Because a serious blog functions like a recruiter, reference, publicist, friend and security tool all at once:
  • Recruiter: Establishes that you are "normal" - i.e. thinking, stable, relatively consistent personality
  • Reference: Tells us what kind of person you are - better than any phony application or profile essay
  • Publicist: Proves that you have the kind of skills you say you have - e.g. nobody can talk about the complexities of code for ten paragraphs unless they actually know something about writing it
  • Friend: As long as you are somewhat artful and avoid the TMI factor, you can confess your fears and insecurities (oh, please be careful about this!) and get a lot of respect in return for your self-confidence. Not to mention camaraderie. (Nothing like a good personal struggle.)
  • Security: This may sound a bit odd or extreme, but forgive me as I am a helicopter mom who has started to work more and more with rootless millenials. And it occurs to me that if you don't have many personal connections but do write a lot on the web, if anything should ever happen to you and you stop blogging, people will notice and ask about your whereabouts. (More so than in the world of microblogging, because it's easier to miss someone's silence amid the noise.)
Now to the question of why you should avoid trying to focus.

Recently I read an apparently popular article to the effect of "Why isn't anyone reading my blog?" and the author argued that for people to read you, you have to optimize the content by keeping it very narrow. The logic of this argument:

1. Your blog exists to promote your business
2. Your business is based around your personal brand
3. Your personal brand gains credence as you demonstrate a skill base
4. If you write things that distract from your skill base the reader will search for someone more focused
5. The more diffused your blog, the less clear what your brand is and the lower your value.

However, this is a fallacious argument, for all the reasons listed above, in the bullet points. You have to look at your social media story like a Facebook timeline. No matter what you say you specialize in today, people are going to find your entries online going back many years. To believe that you are trustworthy at any point in time, they need to see a consistent story.

Now consider that most people occupy multiple identities at the same time (e.g. myself - wife, mother, blogger, brand thinker, writer, sometime adjunct, communicator, government worker, American, Jewish, female, Gen Xer, geek) as well as over the span of their lifetimes (yeshiva graduate, sociologist, adjunct professor, feminist theorist, marketer, government worker, caregiver, retiree). 

That's quite a lot, right? 

If you never talk about anything other than computer code in your blog - there will come a time when you outgrow it. And you need to start a new blog to cover whatever you're working on now. Which means you will have a break in your timeline that is unclear, unexplained.

For this and for the simple reason that it's just easier to be yourself, I strongly argue that your blog should be as unfocused as most people normally are. You should write about what interests you at the moment, what you are passionate about. The only limit being the recognition that you are writing in a public space, and that whatever you put out there, lives forever.

I hope this has been helpful, I recognize it's a bit longer and more wordy than my usual spare style. But it's an important topic and I wanted to show you the logic of the advice rather than just throw it out there.

On a personal note, I just want to wish good luck to President Obama and the Administration on this historic day. May Inauguration Day be the start of a peaceful and productive four years.