Anonymous blogging is an actively discussed topic within the personal financial space. Many bloggers in the personal finance niche typically have established successful professional careers, many of which do not allow them the freedom to openly express their views on a sophisticated and sometimes complex topic such as personal finance.
In my previous life in Corporate America, I was working for a multi-billion dollar Fortune 100 financial institution. In this organization, as it is in many others, employees are not permitted to publicly speak about their views on topics that may overlap with what their companies do, particularly those in an upper management role.
Those that attempt to obtain permission have a lifelong task of navigating through the minutiae of bureaucracy, from the risk management to the legal and then compliance departments, and breaking through layers of the red tape, often leaving them frustrated and causing them to stop pursuing. Given my background and some ties, when I started blogging, I too was facing this predicament.
If you tune into successful bloggers like Pat Flynn from the Smart Passive Income and Yaro Starak from the Entrepreneur’s Journey (two of my inspirations), they say those that achieve success quicker and in larger heaps are those who are fully transparent about who they are. Their identities are reflected on their blog. There is no difference between their personal and cyber lives, a difference that many personal finance bloggers have to maintain.
Note: Many times this is a necessity and thus a have to rather than a want to.
So why do bloggers like Pat put themselves out there? It’s not because they think they are prettier than Zeus and want the world to see them. Rather, it is because these guys truly believe and preach that your blog is your cyber home, and that you should not treat a cyber visitor any different than a physical visitor who drops by your home.
As impersonal as the internet can be, successful bloggers have succeeded at narrowing the impersonal gap by putting their personalities at the forefront, which often starts by having their photos up to build that instant connection with their readers. A picture is truly worth a thousand words, and successful bloggers have proved this over and over again.
I am certainly not advocating you completely take off your kimono and expose everything you’ve got to your readers, but injecting a dose of yourself in what you do subtly but consistently is what I am referring to when I say transparency and personality.
For example, is your About page about your blog, or is it about YOU? Is your style of writing on your blog or email newsletter generic and speaks from a “corporate perspective” to a mass audience, or is it a personable message written from a first person’s perspective in active voice? People develop relationships with people, not a blog, not a name and certainly not an auto responder.
Subtle acts of attempting to show personality gives you credibility and builds rapport between you and your readership. Remember that your reader doesn’t know who you are and what you look like, so you need to do your best to hone a relationship where your reader can continue to get to know you may it be only through your words (perhaps your voice in a later Podcast or Video voice over series) As the authors of our blogs, we are the main brand behind our blog. We need to work toward continuing to build that brand.
Well then what about magazine subscription type blogs? I understand that many bloggers consciously design their blogs anonymously, with a business like brand and approach keeping in mind the exit strategy in the end. I am not saying this is a wrong approach, but it’s not the approach I personally prefer.
There are many blogs that have managed to successful execute their exit strategies such as the Huffington Post and Get Rich Slowly, but what happens to those blogs when they exit? I suppose this depends on who you ask, but if you ask me, in my opinion these blogs lose a lot of their “flavor”.
Sure, it makes the owners rich overnight upon exit, and there are several such success stories out there, but I feel that the loyal readership is left behind, only to scour the web to find another blogger that resonates with them which they can start to follow. I know that I don’t read either of those two anymore.
If a multi-million dollar payout is what you are going for, then the message of this article may or may not resonate with you, and that is fine if that’s the route you want to take. A more preferred route for me however is one in which I am the voice and brand of my blog, one that is more personable in nature and one that develops lasting relationships with its readership base.
Yes you can, but it does take a lot more time, effort and perseverance. Because some bloggers just cannot put themselves out there for various reasons, it doesn’t mean that it cannot be done. Anything is possible if you are willing to work for it right?
I will provide some examples of things I have done different in the recent months, which have translated to expedited success, one which appeared a bit too far-fetched last year. As you will be able to tell, each action I took required getting out of my comfort zone, taking baby steps toward more transparency and personality with the intent that it shows through typed words without a face associated with them.
There are a few things I have been doing different in the last few months. Though I’ve pondered taking these actions for a while, I finally took the leap and took action with the intention of monitoring each’s performance and tweaking it until the desired outcome is achieved. I also understand that not everything will work, but the worst case scenario is not too bad. I know that if I fail in one initiative, I can simply move on to another action and continue to monitor its results. The key is to keep trying something new and then sticking to what works.
What did I do different?
I expanded my About page to an extra ordinarily long one, hoping to compensate for the lack of a photo. In my about page, I wrote about my background, my family and some details unique and very personal to me.
What was the result?
A flurry of personal email introductions from readers and other bloggers expressing their appreciation for the attempt / effort. At the same time, the page itself started to fetch comments, including comments from one very high profile and successful blogger in the personal finance space who I have been following ever since he got started. This I am sure caught the eye of several readers.
What did I do different?
I started to blend in subtle small doses of personality in my posts, showing my personal side and how what I blogged about in the post applied to me and my family (when applicable) on a practical basis. Everyone appreciates information that is practical and actionable.
What was the result?
More reader engagement and interaction through comments. Reader interaction clearly demonstrated the reader knew ME, thus encouraging others to also jump into the discussion.
What did I do different?
I responded to each and every comment left by every reader. In fact, I went back to the archives and responded to older comments. This was a serious undertaking.
What was the result?
Readers were notified of a response to their earlier comments and as a result came back for more discussion, often reviving older posts and giving them new life. I started seeing more pingbacks / trackbacks to these posts as well. I started noticing my posts tweeted and re tweeted more than in the past. The results were well worth the effort.
What did I do different?
I reached out to each commenter by emailing them personally to introduce myself and offering my help. This task also took several days and countless hours.
What was the result?
Tremendous appreciation, a shoot up in subscribership and more reader interaction in comments. More tweets, more Facebook likes, more active discussions and more self-satisfaction knowing that I made a connection with each reader. I know that I can afford to do this while my readership is still manageable.
What did I do different?
Announced my first big promotion, giving away $2,000+ in cash and prizes including $1,500 cash and an Apple iPad to celebrate surpassing 5,000 readers. In this giveaway, I foreshadowed developments under works, giving the readership preview of what’s to come as well as soliciting reader feedback to incorporate in future posts.
What was the result?
More participation than I’ve received in the past, with some genuine, sincere comments with a lot of value that will help shape the direction of this blog going forward. On a blog like mine where historically readers have silently read and devoured the content, this has been by far one of my more interactive and engaging posts. While readers want something useful, practical and actionable, I learned that every once in a while sharing personal success stories and interacting for the sake of interacting and connecting pays off.
The momentum helped the post go viral and carried me well over 6,000 readers in a blink of an eye since publishing the post. I also feel that I have really gotten to know my readers more.
What did I do different?
Because my email list is a blog update mechanism, I previously never provided explicit content and a reason to stay subscribed. I announced that I will host contests and announce giveaway winners through my email lists. In addition, I extensively surveyed my email list, giving away several gift cards on several occasions.
What was the result?
This helped me gather in depth feedback about what my readers want to read more about, what challenges they are facing and how I can step in to help them meet their objectives. This resulted in longer, more in depth and comprehensive posts that I am seeing the readership appreciate very much. Because I blog on three core pillars (personal finance, entrepreneurship and internet marketing), the survey results help me cater to each audience in specifically the way they want.
Overall, these actions have paid off huge dividends and I am very pleased with what I have been able to accomplish by trying new things and monitoring how each has performed. My total comments are up almost 30% in just the last few months. Page views are up, Tweets and Retweets are up, Facebook likes are up and the interaction on the blog is definitely a lot more robust.
Another point that I’d like to touch on for someone blogging anonymously is the utilization of “social proof”. Social proof is very powerful, something I feel not very many leverage to the best of its capabilities. When used appropriately, social proof can expedite your success exponentially.
For example, the Feedburner “chicklet” on the top of this blog is more likely to encourage new visitors to sign up. The robust discussions in the comments section following each post also more likely encourages one to drop by and participate. Similarly, images of payments received from online vendors in my payment proof section and readers discussing and promoting my content outside my blog is also very powerful stuff.
It is one thing when you are tooting your own horn, but when others do it for you, the horn sounds much louder and reaches more ears and sentiments.
It’s easy to get complacent and be content in some of the recent wins and successes, but that’s not enough. I feel my work is just now getting started. What’s next to come?
Perhaps a photo for my readership to put a face with the name. Perhaps a personal Facebook profile and a Twitter account? One that I have long ignored now. Maybe a link to Picasa with some of my personal pix? A podcast or a video series on YouTube? Maybe even income reports as I also blog about generating passive and residual income online.
More transparency and personality is definitely in the works. There is quite a bit to get done, and step by step I hope to get there.
A big upcoming step is certainly the $1,500 giveaway as well as an Apple iPad 2 and an Amazon gift card, a string of giveaways I have been long pondering over in celebration of surpassing the 6,000 readership mark!
The crux of this article really comes down to the fact that while blogging transparency is critical to one’s success, and by far a more effective approach to establishing authority online, anonymous bloggers too can carve out their space by consistently delivering value and incorporating their personalities into their blogs, thus attempting to show transparency whenever possible.
The biggest lessons I have personally learned over the last few months is not to be afraid to try something new and experiment. Often times we get too complacent and comfortable in our own ways that it takes a radical form of action to burst out of it.
Taking action to try something new certainly requires overcoming that inertia, and more so the fear of the unknown. But if you think about the success you’ve had in the past, think how you felt right before taking that one action that led to your success. I bet you felt very uncertain, a bit nervous about the outcome?
Pursuing things that are truly worthwhile gives us those jitters. That’s how you know you are making progress. Just think about this – what’s the worst thing that can happen to you? Your actions may not produce results right? That’s not at all a big deal. Simply take another new action, try something new, continue to experiment, monitor results and tweak it along the way, so as long as you are trying something.
Readers: If you are an anonymous blogger, do you consider yourself successful? If so, what do you think has led to your success? If not, what do you think you need to do in order to succeed? Do you agree or disagree that anonymous blogging hurts your chances to succeed? Why or why not?
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I blog semi anonymously and I am somewhat careful to avoid revealing very personal information. My rule of thumb is it something I would tell my friends then I would publish it. If I would not share it with friends, I certainly would not publish it.
but do you feel that has slowed down your success? how do you think things would be (different) if you did not blog anonymously?
Great to hear the updates on your site, and for the increase of readerships to 6k, nice. With regards to your question, do you think you’re successfully blogging anonymously? Is it something you wish you could change?
I blog with my name, face and personality in both websites an businesses in nigelchua.com and urban-rehab.org, with everything upfront for all to see. The transparency helps me to be honest with myself, and with people around me. I had lost one associate before, because she took offence at that I wrote following a conversation with her, but I don’t regret writing personally.
glad to know transparency has been good for you. do you think you would have achieved just as much success in the same amount of time had you blogged anonymously?
I’m sorry but I don’t think I’ll be able to answer that from an experiential perspective, as I’ve always built my businesses and services around a personable/personal perspective.
But upon reflection, if I imagine it, given two companies providing the same services, same products, same price, but one has a personal/personable approach and another more corporate/faceless, I would prefer the one with a face behind the name.
I think all in all, in the end, we like to do business or trade with people we know and like, regardless of how much personality we infuse into our products/services. But then again, I think there are instances and markets where people do enjoy the facelessness ie in penpals but then again people still want to meet face to face in the end.
What do you think?
I agree with you. nothing replaces the personal, human touch
Well written post and true in every way as I think if a blogger show who he is and speak to you in a way that build a relationship it helps to communicate and builld trust.
Just yesterday i tweeted pat for advice on a plugin and we chatted on tweeter the best solution. I like blogger who are friends and trustworthly and not just out for the quick buck like osme of these super affiliate like john chow there is something about him i dont like and he just dont sit right with me as he alwasy pushing some product.
I hope to follow in yaro and path as I learned alot from yaro blog mastermind and path flynn on a daily basis. Yaro was the first course i paid for bases on his material and commitment to helping.
Looking forward to learning from you as well
Akil, you are right there is a lot of weight in relationship building through the tools you talked about. I plan on becoming more active on social media as well soon!
Have the giveaways translated into increased traffic since the give away, or do you see a spike, and a return to normal levels after the promotion?
they have sustained a good amount. I have a $1,500 cash giveaway coming up in the next post. stay tuned!
I hope to reach that point when I can give away 1500 but to be honest I would probably rather learn from you then take the money lol that is more valuable then the 1500
it’s just a way to give back and attract some eyes. I agree with you, I’d rather learn how to fish than be given a fish
Great post! I think it would be great to put a face to the name like Pat does. He’s even so good as to put a picture of him with is son (sure worked for me).
On the issue of being fully transparent as Pat likes to state, well I think it can come at a cost as well. You probably already know my professional experience is dictating why I feel that way.
I don’t think I would ever want someone being able to figure out where I live and so forth. Once you reach a certain “celebrity” status, you may find you have a few “weird” followers. I think that’s a risk I’m not willing to take.
With social media (Facebook, twitter) and blog transparency, you can easily find out all sorts of personal information on someone. I think it is still possible to have your voice heard and build followers without revealing critical information.
So you’re thinking of incorporating the income reports huh…well that’s a huge success for Pat as I go to his site just to check out his monthly reports, so I think it is a great idea! 🙂
Taline, you make a great point, and that is why exactly many do not disclose even if they want to. Think high net worth individuals / professionals in relatively high / executive / board of director type positions in large corporations. I personally have several such ties which I cannot compromise. Similarly, many others do as well.
Great post. I do suspect that anonymous blogging will slow down success, but I’m new enough that I don’t really know for sure. I just know that most of the very successful bloggers have their full names and faces out there, like Chris Guillebeau and Pat Flynn.
there are many obvious reasons why what you said is true, and I agree. however, I hope this post had shed light on the other side of the fence. it is possible 🙂
welcome to the blog W2
I read your e-guide on “How to go from 0 to 1000 in 180 days” and I absolutely loved the clear manner in which you write. I have opened a business myself offering language translation and proofreading services.
I appreciate your comment. would love to learn more about your business. what is the model?
It’s sad that bloggers and people in general have to decide between going anonymous or openly.
Each have their good and bad, but thankfully, both can work!
sometimes the situation just calls for it. a good friend of mine sits on the board of a publicly traded company that is highly regulated. no way she can openly voice her thoughts online. she does have a blog and she blogs anonymously.
Yes, that is exactly what I meant. We are “forced” to play roles and hide other parts of ourselves.
We are human. We make mistakes, our lives aren’t perfect, our opinions differ – it would be nice if regardless of which company we worked for / regardless of our job title, we could be accepted for the imperfect humans we are instead of having to decide what we can reveal about ourselves openly for fear of ruining our self image and business.
Wishful thinking, huh? But that’s just me. When doing business with others, I focus on the product / service. I’m not concerned with the rest.
interesting thoughts Alexa. lots of sad realities at play here 🙂 but, we have to do the best we can in the circumstances we are in right?
Ah, it may not be as sad as it seems to be – i think in a way, it’s a good thing as one gets more options to choose to focus on personal branding, or branding from a distance i.e. Apple vs Steve Jobs. If we can improve both, great! If we have to choose one, great too! Work and experiment and experience, see what works.
It’s a good time. =D
nice reinforcement on options Nigel
Hi Sunil, I stumbled across your post when I was reading Pat Flynn’s blog.
Whilst I do like those blogs that have pictures and names to them, I can still never be sure that the picture and name are the same person. For instance, I’ve written articles on line for various marketing companies where I add my name and a short bio. At times I’ve been shocked to discover those same articles popping up on websites with a photograph of the “author” that clearly isn’t me!
So, how can we ever be certain that the person we see in the picture is the person we are talking to? We can’t; and so we have to trust our instincts. I’d go so far as to say that if I suddenly learned that Pat Flynn was not the guy I was seeing in the pictures on his blog, then I wouldn’t be disappointed; nor would I suddenly find myself affected by that fact because the advice he has put together in his blog has been so helpful and illuminating to me, that it simply doesn’t really matter. I would simply think that he (quite understandably) has chosen to remain anonymous because the internet can be a little bit scary in that regard.
To sum up, if you know what you’re talking about, your advice makes good sound sense, and your product is viable and worthwhile, then you can be as public or anonymous as you wish – I won’t judge you for it.
good to hear your thoughts and welcome to the blog. I am glad you are not letting the anonymity impact your relationship with the blog’s material.