Would I Recognize Your Blog In A Dark Alley?


twins[Caution: This post comes with a slight aftertaste of unicorns and rainbows. And babies.]

Matt McGee had a post that really hit home with me earlier this week. The post was on his HyperlocalBlogger blog which deals with blogging and real town communities. He asked his audience if their blogs accurately represented the towns that they live in. If someone who didn’t live in that community stumbled across the blog, what impression would they take of the town based on what was featured? Would it be accurate?

The post caught my eye because I realized I’ve basically been asking myself the same question for years now: Do the blogs I write represent the “towns” I’m writing for? Do they look, sound and feel like the communities I want to be a part of? If not, how do I change that?

At WordCamp in 2007, Lorelle VanFossen said something that really stuck with me. She said that a successful blog is one that a reader will land on and immediately recognize and feel safe with. They’ll instantly see their tribe and themselves. The blog will, essentially, look like them.

That’s what I want to accomplish in my blogging. I want to create homes for my communities. And I think it’s something other bloggers should be paying attention to, as well.

Your blog is not yours. It belongs to your community. You should build it to look and resemble them so that it becomes home. You want an insider coming in to immediately be able to identify what’s important to your community. You should bleed it. It’s a little Field of Dreams-ish. You build it, but they’re the ones playing the game and making it interesting. You just house the action.

If you want people to care about your blog, make it feel like them or at least who they want to be. It’s not about you or whatever company logo you’re trying to get out there. It’s about building a safe place for your people so that they have somewhere to go to talk, to discuss and to make “theirs”. That is the goal of your blog.

Take some time to sit down and evaluate your own blog. What does it look and feel like? Have you created a home you’ll community will recognize? If not, go rent Field of Dreams. Then go fix it.

Your Comments

  • john andrews

    [It’s about building a safe place for your people so that they have somewhere to go to talk, to discuss and to make “theirs”]

    sounds just like conversion optimization advice

  • Joe Mescher


    Will people feel safe with a painted camouflage face staring at them? If not, Social Media Commando is in deep trouble.

    Seriously though this is a terrific post, written using the highly customizable Thesis Theme for WordPress (so you can change the look of your blog to fit your “Town”).

    Taking the ‘Your Blog is not Yours’ statement a step further, your blog is a conversation starter. When people feel comfortable enough to comment and engage you, then you’re no longer shooting messages into space.

    That’s the whole point of blogging, right? Sharing ideas, conversations, and taking action?

  • David Mihm

    Totally agree, Lisa, both in terms of look-and-feel and in terms of tone! Excellent post. At their best, blogs encourage conversation and discussion & it’s tough to do that if they’re not at least somewhat reflective of your community.

  • Kim Krause Berg

    Interesting perspective and way of looking at blogs. I think that some blogs will be exceptions to “Your blog is not yours. It belongs to your community”, however, since not all blogs are community oriented. Rather, they’re information outflow.
    “Ownership” is a slippery ethical slope. If the content comes from the community, it is not your’s other than in name only, according to some people I’ve spoken with. The same goes for forums and “ownership”. That whole debate aside, I’m now in serious doubt about whether my blogs “pass” :)

  • Lisa Barone

    Kim: Unless it’s a personal blog where you’re writing about your life, I think blogs typically belong to the community. Perhaps not in the true “ownership” sense, but in the sense that *they* make your blog. You’re writing for the people reading it and for the community you’re trying to be part of. Even if a blog is being used for information outflow, you’re still targeting that info at a certain community. You’re not just releasing info into the atmosphere for no reason. :)

  • Steve Averill

    I named my blog after the community I live in but I sometimes err in making it too much about me. This is a great take on what really work. If you just think about how you visit other blogs and what goes through your mind you come to the same conclusion. Great title too, drew me in.

  • Matt Cheuvront

    I can’t tell you how much I agree with this. Just wrote a blog about this same exact concept – that you are only as good as your community. It’s not all about you – those bloggers who neglect their community of readers will never be as successful as those who develop and nurture that community atmosphere.

    That’s how I’m building a name for myself and Life Without Pants. It’s not ME dictating to my readers, it’s all of us sharing ideas and actively engaging in conversation with one another. Great stuff Lisa!

  • graywolf

    I disagree (shocking I know) expect my counterpoint in the AM

  • Yawn Webmaster!

    A blog is simply what you want it to be.

    1. An attempt to build links
    2. An attempt to build themes
    3. An attempt to sell (under the guise of independence)
    4. An attempt to engage (community) for the purpose of selling, friendship.
    5. An attempt to express (personal).

    Writing an effective blog is a also something open to differences of opinion, because all of the above styles throw a different measurement metric into the mix. (point 1, Yahoo backlins, point 2, revenues, point three, completely variable, point 4, self gratification).

    So, I think your post is, a little simplistic.

  • Yura

    Why can’t you be yourself (as you written earlier), write about what interests you, partly, and partly about what interests the community?

    Why make such blanket statements, anyway? Controversy?

  • Lisa Barone

    Yura: I think the best bloggers naturally reflect their community. That’s why they’re in that community. And i don’t even know how to respond to the controversial remark. If you found this post controversial…well, then the world must be a scary, scary place for you. ;)