Reader Discussion: Finding Your Blog’s Persona (Know Your Role)

written by BlogEx on April 25, 2008 in Blogging and Reader Discussion with 4 comments

Very often when you first start blogging, people will tell you that you need to find your voice. They’re of course talking about your style of writing and the personality you want to portray but I’ve recently been thinking quite a bit about the different rolls or persona’s bloggers use. Obviously every blogger has their own style and I certainly think it’s important to find your “voice”, but I think deciding on, or finding your blog’s persona is just as critical and often will help you discover the voice of your blog.

You may have noticed I said the voice of your blog, not your voice. When you first begin blogging most of the information out there makes it seem like you have this inner voice that once you discover it will begin spewing forth great blog posts. Once you’ve been at it a while, you begin to realize that’s not quite how it works. However, as I said earlier, finding your blogging persona will often make it much easier to establish your writing style, and even that elusive “voice”.

So what do I mean by persona? It’s a bit like a role in a play. You are assigned to play a certain character and that role carries with it certain qualities and characteristics. Is the character arrogant, are they shy, are they confident, do they feel trapped, etc etc. In much the same way, your blog needs to establish a role for itself in the eyes of the audience, and then fill said role. Many times this role will help your audience relate to you and may explain why they should listen to what you have to say. What’s great about blogging is that unlike a play or a movie, you get to choose what your role will be. The list you have to choose from is really only limited by your imagination but here are 5 of the most common roles or persona’s in blogging.

The Researcher

As the name suggests, this person has found their expertise through hours and hours of endless research. They’ve left no stone un-turned and no book on their topic un-read. A great example of this persona in the SEO industry would be Bill Slawski of SEO by the Sea. Bill has spent who knows how many hours and days learning about how search engines work, studying research papers, and pouring over patent filings. His posts are often quite lengthy and discuss the topic in great depth and detail.

Obviously this is a single example but the characteristics of the persona are the same across any niche. If your blog were about your favorite sport the Researcher persona would analyze as many statistics as he or she could get their hands on. They’d compare players’ performances against the games all time greats and be able to tell you the difference in success rate of a field goal from 45 yards out vs 47 yards away. If your blog is about parenting, you’d be well versed in all the child psychology books and discuss parenting theory.

The examples are endless but I think you’re probably getting the point. The Researcher is aiming to be the most knowledgeable person in the industry and their posts are often cited as the authority on a subject.

The Consumer Advocate

Another very popular persona is that of the Consumer Advocate (CA). Once again, as the name suggests, the CA is constantly looking out for the “regular guys” of the industry. The CA might very well be an authority or an “A-lister” but their main purpose and driving ambition is to make sure the “little guy” is provided the best information, and never taken advantage of. When a new product comes out, the Consumer Advocate will test it out and provide a fair and balanced review. If someone tries to take advantage of their customers, the CA will be the first one going to bat for the person who was wronged. The Consumer Advocate acts almost like a shepherd or teacher, and will jealously protect their flock.

Using the persona of the Consumer Advocate is very attractive because they often garner their readers trust very quickly and are then held in very high esteem. However, you have to truly have the consumers’ best interest at heart or a simple mistake could lead to a “fall from grace” and the loss of that carefully built trust. Whether this is the persona Max will be using for this blog, his recent post about the new test business contained language that was very indicative of a Consumer Advocate.

You’ll notice I don’t promote a bunch of affiliate offers on this site. In fact I haven’t promoted any affiliate products since I took over this blog. The reason for this is, I will never promote a product or service unless I fully test it first, AND am able to get the results the product says I will get.

With just a few sentences, Max has established a level of trust and built in accountability with his readers and that’s exactly what the Consumer Advocate seeks.

The Contrarian

The dictionary defines a Contrarian as:

someone who frequently takes a contrary or opposing position or attitude

Quite simply, the Contrarian disagrees with most conventional wisdom in the industry or niche. If most people tell you one thing, the Contrarian will probably tell you the opposite. A great example of this persona within the make money online niche, would be Vic from BloggerUnleashed. While his language and style is often very harsh and rarely safe for work, believe it or not he’s fulfilling a role or persona within the niche. He argues that the biggest names in the industry, Darren Rowse, John Chow, Shoemoney, etc are scammers and simply taking advantage of the masses.

This persona has several benefits, not the least of which is that controversy and negative press will almost constantly follow you (which, as I’ve discussed before is rarely a bad thing). By being willing to take on the big dogs of your particular niche, you immediately establish a fearless and relentless reputation. Also, by so tirelessly defending or arguing your position, you’ll often convert people that agree with you into incredibly loyal followers.

This persona also capitalizes on the 80/20 rule. The rule, as I’m sure you know states that 80% of the results or successes are generated by 20% of the people. By extension, that leaves only 20% of the results for the rest of the 80% which often times will leave people disappointed, disillusioned, and possibly frustrated. By attacking the commonly held beliefs and conventional wisdom, you’re essentially telling the 80% that don’t produce that it’s in fact, not their fault.

The Braggart

The Braggart is another persona that many people will have some negative feelings towards. Quite simply, the Braggart boasts and brags about how great they are. They’re amazing, just ask them, they’ll tell you… and because they’re so great, you should follow them and listen to what they say. The most obvious example of this persona would be the Rich Jerk. While I haven’t heard much from the Jerk in a while, I’m sure all of us remember being told that he was better than us because he was rich. Or was it he was rich because he was better than us? In any case, the point remains, the Braggart blows their own horn about their accomplishments.

While this persona may not seem successful, the fact of the matter is that people want to follow winners. The New York Yankees have the biggest fan base in baseball not just because they’re from New York, but because they have won more than any other team. John Chow (which I would say is another good example of this persona) is constantly criticized by bloggers (including myself) for not providing value, but as his subscription and income numbers illustrate, people don’t much care. The key to being able to pull this persona off is having something impressive to brag about and of course being able to give yourself multiple pats on the back.

The Newbie

And last but not least, we have the Newbie persona. This persona is probably the easiest to use and in fact, is what I used when writing this blog. The concept is simple, you’re entering a niche or an industry without much knowledge but you want to share what you learn with others along the way. As I said, this is the easiest to use because you don’t have to have any prior knowledge on the subject and you can flip any mistakes you make into lessons for others that are following you. By being new and admitting your lack of knowledge, you give your audience something they can relate to and will often endear yourself to your readers who want you to succeed.

This persona does have a couple of downsides, however. First and foremost, it’s been used, especially in the make money online niche, by many many people. Also, by openly stating that you’re a Newbie, it can be difficult to establish yourself as an authority as you grow.

While you certainly don’t have to pick one of these 5 persona’s (or only one for that matter), these are the most common roles I see bloggers using. Once you establish what persona you’d like your blog to have, that will often guide your content and help your audience to know what to expect from you. While finding your writing voice is important, I’d argue that your voice, your content, and your audience will all be determined by the persona(s) you choose for your blog.

What persona(s) do you use for your blog? Do you have other persona’s you’d like to add to the list? Which do you think is more important to “find”, your voice, or your persona? I look forward to reading your thoughts in the comments below.