What I love about owning a forum and being on social media is that it makes it easy to zero in on common mistakes or issues that arise with newbies.
They also provide ideas for my blog posts. So thanks everyone for all the participation and questions you pose. They inspire much of my content here.
The “All About Me” Focus
There’s a member on Website Babble who was posting ideas about their upcoming website. The site was going to be based on the person’s life and activities they often partake in.
The reason these are often go-to ideas because it’s much easier to write about things that are currently going on in our lives.
When people struggle with topics, they often start with material that’s closest to them.
Where the Problem Lies
One reason I don’t suggest people go the personal/about-me route with their new websites is it’s often difficult to draw people into your site if you’re only talking about yourself and your life.
Remember, no one knows who you are and when’s the last time you became grossly engaged in a random, personal website authored by someone you didn’t even know?
Aside from well-known, branded sites you follow (the ESPN’s and CNN.com’s of the world), you typically begin following a website by a person you don’t know because the site has educated you in some way, solved your problems or taught you a new skill.
That is why I tend to take the same approach with all of my websites. I’ve discovered the incredible power of fulfilling needs and being able to teach people how to do various things.
Problem-solving/tutorial websites build trust and loyalty because you are focusing on the needs of your visitors. After all, most people searching the net are looking for answers to questions, solutions to problems and tutorials for how to do something.
So I’ve found that creating these kinds of sites draw people in much better than personal/about-me websites.
Success From Sheer Randomness
Now, I can’t publish a post like this without talking about the exceptions. Of course there are many people who own successful websites or YouTube channels by keeping it personal or completely random.
Let’s face it. Some people are just brilliant at drawing people in.
Look at Ray William Johnson on YouTube. This has got to be one of the most random channels ever, yet it has 5 million subscribers, over 1 billion views and he has earned millions of dollars in YouTube partner revenue.
Yes, millions of dollars. Shall I pause and give you time to pick up your bottom lip?
His videos are about as random as they come, but Ray has an uncanny ability to draw people in through the presentation, entertainment, comedy and creativity.
Love it or hate it, he knows how to capture an audience.
And I’m sure you could probably list a handful of other people you follow who have become successful just from chronicling their personal lives or creating random videos on YouTube.
So when you see success like this, it’s natural to want to emulate that same strategy with either a blog or YouTube channel.
For The Rest of Us
People like Ray Williams Johnson are the exception more than the rule.
If you don’t have the ability to draw people in through your writing, storytelling, comedy, video effects, etc. then it can be a real uphill battle trying to become successful just writing or talking about personal/random things in your life.
The exceptions make it seem so easy and effortless, that we often forget how much creativity and talent goes into sites that you may consider random or fun.
When to Get Personal
Now of course, once you have the success from your first website, then it’s a lot easier to get people interested in more personal or random topics because you now have an audience that may be more interested in you as a person.
As Ken Evoy said in one of his books, No one cares about you until they figure out how you can help them. That quote has stuck with me since I read it, and I think it’s so incredibly true when it comes to building websites and engagement.
A friend of mind put it even more bluntly and said, Most people don’t find you as interesting as you think you are. Yikes! As mean as that may sound, there is a lot of truth to it.
So what’s the right approach to sites that are more personal?
One example I often use is Whitney (aka Naptural85) from YouTube. She has a very popular natural hair channel that is chock-full of tutorials and great styling tips.
After her first channel gained so much success, she branched out and created a more personal/fun channel where she chronicles completely random events with her loving hubby, Felipe. Her hair channel helped fuel the success of the personal one.
Had I not learned so much from her first channel, I wouldn’t have been so inclined to watch as many of the random, personal videos about her life. But now that she has engaged me with her tutorials, I’m more interested in the person behind the camera.
Of course, this example just happened to be a vlogger, but this could also apply to websites as well.
For the record, I’m not saying you should completely avoid the personal route. All I’m saying is for the average person, it’s usually better to start with a more niche topic that educates and focuses on the needs of an audience rather than going the about-me/personal route right away.
Once your site becomes successful and builds interest, credibility, etc. that gives you more of a license to go the personal route because now you have an audience that will be more receptive to content that is of the “all-about-me” variety.
And you can still have personal information on your niche site — in fact, I encourage it! The key is knowing how to balance personal/helpful and keeping your visitor’s needs in mind instead of just focusing on yourself all the time.
You should always be asking yourself, How will my audience benefit from this? When you keep that question in mind, it helps you keep your site benefit-rich — which is a better way to draw people in when you have no brand awareness/notoriety.
So what do you think? Have you ever tried to build a more personal site without having an audience? Perhaps you are one of the exceptions I spoke about above? Share your experiences and lessons below!
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