A blog is nothing without the stories and images that fill its pages. Whether your blog is for your small business or a personal chronicle of your life and love of Pez dispensers, it is essential to know and set your blogging boundaries.
In an effort to gain more traffic or readers, it can be tempting to share a “juicy” story, but sometimes going into gory detail about a situation is just too much, with consequences that can affect your business or you personally.
Should you share the story about how you sourced the beads for your jewelry shop from a remote village in Thailand and met the artisan’s entire family? Yes! Should you share the story about how you also drank too much wine on said trip? No!
Should you share a blog post about your children’s first day of school? Sure. Should you write a story about your tween’s social anxiety and name the mean girls at school? No! Imagine the crazy for both you AND your child that will ensue at your child’s school once you hit “post.” Yikes!
Here are a few guidelines to help you set your blogging boundaries:
Be clear about your blog’s goals.
Once you’ve decided to launch your blog, then it’s time to think about your its goals. Blogging is often personal, so deciding how much of you that you want to put in your posts upfront can save you a lot of heartache and time.
Setting overall blogging goals helps you establish a consistent voice and writing point of view, so readers know what to expect and where you are coming from. On a more practical level, it clarifies your content strategy (the types of posts you will create) and makes it easier to create a content calendar (when you will post).
Did you set up the blog to expand your business? Perhaps you are looking for new business leads or need a place to write long-form product descriptions, tell customer stories, or even share the backstory on your products themselves. If you’ve got a personal blog, are you looking to position yourself as a subject matter expert to pick up speaking opportunities and consulting gigs? Or do you simply need a place to collect your travel memories?
It’s important to be clear about why you started the blog, how much time you have to dedicate to it, and whether or not you expect it to contribute to your business or personal bottom line.
Blogging can take a lot of time and effort. Setting realistic expectations sets you up for blogging success by letting you say no to a post, helping you prioritize, and providing a framework for possible post ideas. It may help you politely decline your co-worker’s suggestion to write a post about him winning the office ping-pong tournament. (As if you really needed any help with that decision…)
If you’re blogging as part of your business, then setting goals about the exact type of content is key – success stories, product highlights, top 10 tip lists, upcoming events and even profiles of your employees are easy posts that can highlight what you are doing and provide some insight on the inner workings of your business without giving away trade secrets. Creating thought pieces within your field, such as “Why Buying Local is Better for the Environment” can help to establish your company’s reputation, position you as a subject matter expert, and be great for SEO.
Truth or dare?
This is your blog; you get to curate your story. Obviously, transparency builds trust with your readers and future customers — but you don’t have to share everything.
Think of your content holistically. Know that there are times when there just might be TOO much information and that editing it down helps readers find the most valuable nuggets. You don’t want to bury the lead by trying to capture everything. Instead, focus on what you want your customers to learn from the blog post. If you’re writing for your business blog, a good rule of thumb is to emphasize solutions and benefits. If every blog post talks about how great you or your business is — without giving readers anything of real substance — they won’t stick around for long.
With respect to a personal blog, only you know how much is too much to share with your readers. Keep in mind that there is no rule that you have to divulge your entire life online. It’s OK to share only certain aspects — like your crafting prowess, homeschooling challenges or movie reviews. We all know that there is more to you than your daily posts. In this case, less is more.
Choose images wisely.
Images are powerful. In a blog post, they speak volumes to readers — giving insight into both the subject-at-hand and your brand as a whole. That’s why it’s vital to choose images judiciously. A few things to consider:
- Is the image an accurate reflection of you/your business?
- Does it give the right impression?
- Would you show it to your mother?
- Would you share it with your best client?
Next, consider if you own the rights to an image. If you didn’t create the image yourself (i.e. snap the photo or make the infographic), you can find great images on a multitude of image sites online. In most cases, you need to purchase the image and/or give proper credit to the creator. (Check out this post to learn more about how Creative Commons licensing works.) If you’re going for a professional image, you’ll want to avoid cheesy clip art. And just because an image comes up in a Google search, that doesn’t mean you can use it on your blog. Brush up on copyright guidelines.
If you choose to use your own images, make sure everyone in the shot approves. Unfortunately, sometimes blog post images are scraped (Use watermarks, people!), so imagine if your photo was taken out of context — it could be ugly. This is especially dicey when the photo includes children and or private locations.
Crafting an inspired story is no easy task. It is easy to get overly descriptive, forget about your original goals and lay it on a bit thick to gain a few readers. But it’s rarely worth the effort. Blogging is fun! It’s YOUR space on the web to tell YOUR story. Make sure what you put out there is you — just not TOO much you.