On authenticity in blogging

On authenticity in blogging

I don’t know about you, but I make a point to only read blogs that strike a chord with me.

I don’t comment on posts merely for the sake of it.

I don’t follow everyone back on Twitter.

I curate discerningly. If we interact online, you can be assured that it’s genuine and for a reason.

I (pretty selflessly) share link love every week and share posts from around the web that I think kick ass, and there are several blogs I read and comment on that don’t reciprocate. And that’s fine. That’s not what the end game is about for me.

These are blogs I enjoy on their own merit, and it doesn’t need to be two-way for me to continue to show my appreciation (though I tend not to comment on a few of the really huge blogs, because I just don’t know if the 100th or 200th comment actually ever gets read). Likewise, I try to always visit the blogs of new commenters – but if they’re not up my alley, I simply won’t subscribe.

I’m not saying that I never participate in marketing of any form. Commenting on other blogs and interacting with you guys on social networks is part of that – but it is NOT the primary reason I do it. As I said just the other week, I blog for love (and narcissism). I was a blog reader before I was a blogger, and participating is something I genuinely enjoy; when it starts to feel too much like a chore, I lay off for a bit.

I didn’t know the first thing about blogging four years ago, and I simply did what felt natural. Turns out it also brought readers, and behold, some of y’all are downright regulars here now. A happy, accidental surprise.

Work is where I worry about traffic, referrals, comments and time spent on site. This is for self expression.

I originally joined 20SB and Yakezie and got into blog carnivals without really knowing what it was all about, because all the cool kids seemed to be doing it. I do participate in carnivals semi-regularly, and when approached to host one for the first time, took up the offer. I see them as a way to discover new blogs I might like to read, and to hopefully spotlight some of my better posts (ones I think are deserving of being shared, rather than whoring posts out blindly). This is deliberate and selective on my part. It’d be an understatement to say I’ve been sporadic about participation over the past couple years, though I’ve been more active of late.  Suffice to say it’s not something that is hugely important to me; I don’t do it every week, and I definitely do not sit down to write posts with the mindset of creating something to submit to a carnival.

The blogs I love most, though? Generally, I don’t find them through networks like that. I discover them serendipitously and fall in love with them on my own. I’ve found bloggers gravitate toward networks when they’re chasing growth and monetisation rather than personal, heartfelt writing.

Getting to the point…

Even if you consider your blog a business … even if you started blogging with the sole intention of growing traffic and making money … you can still be real about it.

The best blogs rock because they have a voice. Nicole Is Better, Budgets Are Sexy, I Will Teach You To Be Rich, Seth Godin, Dooce, Redhead Writing, Yes and Yes, Healthy Tipping Point, Susannah Breslin, Penelope Trunk? They all have personality, and they got big by being themselves, being honest, being authentic. Not through lame link exchanges, pleading, or threats. When I see people resorting to these tactics, I’m embarrassed for them. Business on the social web is not like business 1.0. It’s about personality, engagement and transparency – without forcing mutual backscratching.

It’s about (corniness alert) heart. It’s about being unselfish; giving before taking; being genuine in all your interactions with others. If you’re not, people will see right through you.

Worry about doing good work. Create awesome content. As Matt from the Oatmeal says: Don’t ask for likes – make things that are likable. Make stuff worth sharing. For me, it’s not always the posts I spend the most time crafting that go off. In reality (corniness alert again!) it’s my straight-from-the-heart, honest, open posts that get the most shares and most responses. For you, maybe it means writing insanely helpful tutorials or insanely funny listicles. Whatever.

I am a writer. Not a salesperson. I know I can blog organically, authentically and with integrity, attracting likeminded readers who appreciate who I am as a person and all the different interests I have. Some have stuck with me as my writing changes; some haven’t. It’s all part of the journey.

My blog continues to evolve, and I don’t know where it will end up. But however long you stay for the ride, your company is welcomed and appreciated.

42 thoughts on “On authenticity in blogging

  • Reply Leigh May 10, 2012 at 12:48

    I completely agree with you. I blog as an outlet for me, not for business. I only comment if I really feel like I have something to say, if a post really strikes a chord with me (if I may borrow your phrasing).

    I see comments on blogs that really look like they’re just there for the sake of commenting and getting more traffic. I almost want to go through and remove their URL if they’re not adding anything to the conversation with their comment.

    I generally do try to “return” comments, but if I don’t see any posts that I can relate to, I just don’t.

    Interesting food for thought – thank you.

  • Reply fromshoppingtosaving May 10, 2012 at 13:30

    I enjoyed this post so much! I completely agree with what you are saying, and I remember in the very beginning… all PF blogs were like this. Now it has become a money making business for each blogger, and while I am trying to grow my blog, I do not set automatic posts and I only write exactly how I feel. I almost treat my blog like a diary, except I know people are reading it, and it makes me want to write even better. I think I’m exactly like you – I’ve been blogging since 2010 but it was more for myself and to keep myself accountable. Now I just try to blog about what I want to talk about, and if people like it that’s cool, but if not, hey that’s okay too. I never had time to blog and network and tweet, but now that I do, I’m enjoying it a lot. I’m not sure where this will take me either but when I leave comments on other people’s blogs, it’s something with actual content and opinion, rather than just for the sake of commenting.

    Anyway, loved this post! I retweeted it too on twitter 😛

  • Reply Financial Samurai (@financialsamura) May 10, 2012 at 13:31

    I’m a fan first, then a blogger. Tis why you’ll see me commenting around posts I enjoy every so often despite having so much of my own stuff on my plate.

    Something to think about: When was the last time the owners of one of the posts you mention have commented here?

    Hopefully they will all come out now! 🙂

    Blog on!



    • Reply eemusings May 10, 2012 at 17:54

      You mean the ones who don’t reciprocate? Haha, doubtful! They’re hardly going to start now. I’ve noticed a few don’t seem to comment anywhere really – but their content stands on its own and is strong enough to elicit readers and reaction. I did rebuff one who recently reached out with a lame tit for tat offer that just reeked of sleazy marketing. Hate to say it but my opinion of them really took a dip after that.

      FS is a dope example of building a great blog and audience with integrity. Can’t believe I didn’t think to mention you! Rock on.

      • Reply Yakezie (@Yakezie) May 10, 2012 at 18:14

        Ha! Don’t worry about not mentioning me at all. You’ve done so plenty of times before.

        I actually just had drinks w/ Adam from Man vs. Debt here in SF. He’s here finishing up his documentary. Small world.

  • Reply addvodka May 10, 2012 at 13:40

    I network – I’m not going to deny that and I don’t feel embarrassed about it, but I definitely don’t comment on posts (or blogs) that I don’t understand, don’t like, find boring, or seem spammy.

    I’m a novice when it comes to all things financial, and I love reading about self improvement, so I read a LOT of posts every single day and it helps me learn. I comment on lots of them – lots I don’t. I don’t stop reading a blog simply because they don’t comment on my posts (but I’m probably less likely to put in my input if it’s the 100th comment). I’ll almost always at least visit the blogs of my commenters.

    I’ve come across a whole bunch of blogs that monetize that are also worth reading, and I’ve monetized my blog but I try not to give up it’s authenticity – perhaps I’ve failed. I do have to admit to enjoying being linked to (if one of my posts is really good) and getting excited if I see that my traffic is awesome that day (who doesn’t want lots of readers?).

    My attitude about blogging is that it’s about making friends, learning, and sharing knowledge/ideas/inspiration. The money is a huge bonus but I do a lot of marketing, recently especially, if only because if nobody reads my writing, I might as well be writing in a paper journal. There are a lot of people that would blog without readers (or so they say – I don’t know that I believe all of them), but I’m definitely not one of those.

    • Reply eemusings May 10, 2012 at 14:10

      You definitely haven’t failed! WLGYL is still one of my top reads. And I won’t lie, I get thrills when a post does really well and gets linked to/picked up elsewhere.

      I would blog nonetheless, and did for a while (I probably have FEWER commenters now than I used to because so many bloggers have stopped blogging, which I talked about last week). I’d never go back to a print journal because handwriting is a pain in the ass.

      I guess I also have the privilege of writing for an audience on a daily basis for work already, so that may be an influence.

  • Reply paranoidasteroid May 10, 2012 at 14:01

    I went to a blogger happy hour (where I met J Money, who is just as awesome in real life as he is on his blog), and with the advice of the BNBs & for a brief two-month period, attempted to “market” my blog. I gave up because it felt completely fake, and it was also a lot of effort!

    Now, I usually don’t get around to reading blogs or checking Twitter. I’ll have 300 unread items in GoogleReader before I take a lazy day to read them all. I’ve given up on ever having a popular blog, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy reading my favorites or posting something every one in a while!

  • Reply Cassie May 10, 2012 at 16:30

    Oh my god THANK YOU! You put in print what I’ve been thinking for quite a while.

    I took up blogging because it was cathartic and I enjoyed writing. I’m not the best writer (my grammar frequently sucks), I just put whatever comes to mind on the page. It was exciting discovering the PF community, because I was meeting people I felt like I could relate to. Lately however it feels like everyone it chasing and competing for statistics and money. As much as I’d love to bring in money, that’s not what I’m here for. I’m just here to write.

    I don’t comment on posts nearly as often as I’d like to. I’m usually reading the posts either on my phone, or on my break at work. It’s impossible for me to comment on Blogger blogs at work, and it’s frustratingly difficult on my phone, so more often than not I just don’t. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy them. I tried a weekly link love, but I’m not nearly organized enough to do it. Instead I just link to a post I’ve enjoyed on the majority of my posts. I hope the other bloggers feel the love.

    • Reply eemusings May 10, 2012 at 16:32

      I like your way of doing it too! How long have you been doing it? (I only recently noticed it).

      I now read blogs a lot on my phone too, which also accounts for commenting less. I tend to star posts for commenting on later though if I feel compelled to.

  • Reply Kris @ BalancingMoneyandLife May 10, 2012 at 16:40

    What a great post – and oddly, you listed several blogs I too discovered on my own, but still read faithfully, because they have personality. I’m still trying to find my “voice” in the personal finance area. I also write a healthy living blog, and think I have about 10 followers… and you know what? That’s OK, because I’ve made some terrific friends, and over there, I know who I am. 🙂 I’m hoping my PF blog evolves the same way. I’m just not outgoing enough to network effectively, I guess!

  • Reply Cassie May 10, 2012 at 16:41

    I switched to WordPress about a year ago, but in total I’ve been blogging for just under 2 years (20 months or so). I had been starting and abandoning blogs after a couple posts for years, it just took a good subject and groove to make it stick.

    • Reply eemusings May 10, 2012 at 17:48

      Oh, I meant how long have you been doing the recommended reading thing? I wondered if I had been overlooking that for a while 🙂

  • Reply Links I Like Thursday! 5/10/12 « Below Her Means May 10, 2012 at 19:41

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  • Reply Liv May 10, 2012 at 23:56

    This is a wonderful post. I’m new to the world of (consistent) blogging and one of the best things about it is the way people reach out and connect. But it annoys me when I see people commenting and leaving links in their comments just to try to generate traffic. I’d much rather have people visit my blog because they’re interested or because they like what or how I write. Not sure that that is happening yet, but fingers crossed it will happen one day …!

  • Reply The Happy Homeowner May 11, 2012 at 07:13

    Absolutely great post. I began my blog as a hobby and a desperate attempt to keep myself accountable with my finances. Never in a million years would I have guessed that 2 years later I’d be feeling the love and support of so many incredible bloggers. For me, it’s all about the community. And while I do certainly monetize a bit here & there, it’s really more about being able to share my stories with others in hopes of inspiring them to do great things in their own lives.

  • Reply Melissa May 11, 2012 at 13:40

    I completely agree! I do the same, with regards to comments, links and Twitter, and I feel no guilt about not following someone back if they’re not really my thing. No disrespect, but I’m not going to spend time interacting with someone that I wouldn’t otherwise, just because they happen to follow my blog.

    That said, I’d like to say I don’t go and comment on and read every blog ever because I strive for authenticity, but the truth is probably that I’m just lazy.

  • Reply Melissa May 11, 2012 at 13:43

    Oh, and one more thing, about linking, it makes me really happy and giddy when someone links to my blog. In that sort of, Sally Field, “you really like me!” way. But that happiness would totally go away if someone was non-discriminantly plugging links into something in the hopes that I’d link back. What’s the point? I post links on my site because I want to share blogs and posts that I love and think are worth sharing. Anything else just feels phony.

  • Reply affordanything May 11, 2012 at 19:39

    That is — seriously — one of the best posts I’ve read in a long time, and a wonderful reminder. It’s easy to get caught up in all the self-promo and reciprocal back-scratching. it’s harder, but better, to focus on creating something epic.

  • Reply affordanything May 11, 2012 at 19:41

    That is one of the best posts I’ve read in a long time, and it was a reminder that I needed. It’s easy to get caught up in the self-promo and reciprocal back-scratching. It’s a lot tougher, but better, to focus your energy on creating something epic.

  • Reply Weekly Link Roundup – May 11, 2012 | Balancing Money and Life May 12, 2012 at 02:15

    […] posts, and I popped over and liked her blog, so I stayed. This week, she wrote a great piece about authenticity and blogging. I know I’m still struggling to find my “voice” here, and frankly, the marketing […]

  • Reply Andrea (@sooverdebt) May 13, 2012 at 17:15

    I love this post SO MUCH. Like many others who have commented, I started blogging because I had something to say – not because I wanted to spend my days trying to convince people to love me. Lately I’ve been feeling burned out and stressed, so I’ve slowed down on a lot of the extras and just focused on posting and reading. It’s been a real eye-opener! I’ve learned that there are a lot of blogs I subscribe to but never really read because the posts are BORING. Yet I felt pressured to subscribe and follow and like and all that stuff because that person did it for me. But that’s being fake and not who I was when I started out.

    I like your approach of linking and commenting and tweeting because I WANT to, not because I feel like I should. I’d like to get back to that. Thanks for the food for thought!

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  • Reply Bridget (@moneyaftergrad) May 14, 2012 at 04:21

    Fantastic post! I feel the same way… actually I’m a bit bad in the sense that I don’t even think I interact enough with the blogs I really love to show how much I appreciate them = …

    It really bothers me when people ask me to link one of their posts or promote them on my blog, it seems tacky. On the other hand I feel bad when I don’t interact as much as I feel I should with some of my really loyal and awesome readers. Balancing blogging and life is still something I’m trying to work out lol

  • Reply My Broken Coin (@MyBrokenCoin) May 14, 2012 at 04:29

    You said it all, my friend. My thoughts exactly! I am really tired of back scratching. Is it how you call it? lol I don’t have time to read blogs that bore me. I don’t have time to comment on blogs just because they commented on mine and waiting for me to reciprocate. I had to admit to myself (finally) that blogging can be enjoyable ONLY if I do enjoyable things. Thus, I put a lot of time into writing because I love writing. I read blogs that inspire me, provoke me and interest me. I comment ONLY when I have something to say. And I refuse to be a comment #200. 🙂 Now I REALLY enjoy blogging!

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  • Reply fabulouslyfrugirl May 14, 2012 at 14:42

    Thank you so much for writing this – this was a great post.

    Like many other commenters, I tend to look at my blog as an online diary with a focus on finance, that other people can read. I don’t think I will ever make any money off of it, and I am perfectly ok with that. Sadly, one of the things that I don’t do enough of, is interact more with the PF community, and it’s something that I hope to improve on in the future.

    I think you are a great writer, and I really enjoy your content, even when I don’t comment. Thanks so much for sharing your life with us 🙂

  • Reply Frugal Portland (@frugalportland) May 15, 2012 at 07:07

    Personally, I blog for the money, and when that 22 cents comes, you better believe I’m going to spend it all in one place! Just kidding, though if the money does show up, I won’t kick it out the door. I love the conversations, I love how open people are about their finances, I love this welcoming sphere. I used to just plain comment everywhere, before I had a blog, and it really is just a whole lot easier to continue a conversation (and not dominate someone else’s comments) when you have your own internet real estate.

  • Reply Michelle May 16, 2012 at 03:00

    I commented on this the other day, but WordPress must’ve ate my comment! ARG

    Anyways, I would like to think that my blog is authentic. Every post relates to me and almost all are personal. However, I am guilty of commenting on a lot of blogs. I honestly love the blogs I read though and try to leave a little bit of comment love.

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  • Reply Miss JJ May 16, 2012 at 18:07

    Thanks for sharing. I came to same conclusion a while ago. I have a very little read blog, and I am content with that. I just couldn’t see myself on Twitter and Facebook promoting my blog, nor commenting on blogs and posts that I have no interest in.

    I do realise sincere and well thought out comments are precious to everyone, and I try to comment in this manner where I can these days.

  • Reply Cait May 16, 2012 at 17:56

    This is one of the reasons I can’t even force myself to self-host and allow paid ads. Blogging can be a business but I feel like the minute I try to “sell” something, I’m a sellout. Is that weird? Or stupid? Maybe! But I don’t want BoaB to be a business. It’s my hobby and I love it.

  • Reply forest.parks@gmail.com May 17, 2012 at 15:35

    I’ve not been happy with my site for a while and had to face up to it. People are not reading because I have not been producing the content that interests people. I am going to change this because like you I want to write for my sake and interest again!

    I like your stand point on everything here. I really should comment more to show appreciation to all the posts I do read but I often don’t. It doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate them though :).

  • Reply So you want to be a writer… | Musings of an Abstract Aucklander May 17, 2012 at 22:02

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  • Reply Henry Stippich May 29, 2012 at 21:15

    I don’t even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was great. I don’t know who you are but definitely you’re going to a famous blogger if you aren’t already 😉 Cheers!

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  • Reply Budget & the Beach September 4, 2012 at 16:51

    Great post! I think this is one thing I have to remind myself daily. This, for me, is a hobby. There are no set rules and regulations I have to follow. There is no getting kicked out of the cool club if I don’t participate in certain things. I know my numbers go down if I don’t have as much time to blog, or I don’t have time to comment on someone else’s. It’s not for lack of wanting. It’s simply a matter of time. I do try and give everyone who visits my site reciprocation, but it’s not always possible, and that doesn’t mean I don’t think their blog is good. I think a lot of people lose perspective of that. One thing that really bothers me is when other bloggers called out in a very passive aggressive way, things that other bloggers post about, or aren’t as tech savvy about. My favorite expression is, “keep your side of the street clean.” If you are just doing your best at what you do, who cares what other people are doing and saying. It’s so high school!

  • Reply Turning Down the Noise | Budget & the Beach September 6, 2012 at 14:45

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  • Reply oliviafitzgerald November 23, 2012 at 14:23

    I wholeheartedly agree. If you are doing something, whether it is keeping a blog, building a business or living life, then thinking *and* acting authentically is key to one’s own happiness. When you try and be someone you’re not, you lose out. Not only from not knowing yourself but from others knowing you too. When you create boundaries, you keep stronger ties as a result. Quality, not quantity. If popularity ensues, then it is because people value who you really are and not some mask of a person you wear in the hope that others may like ‘you’. Shed the worry, keep the worth!

  • Reply The Luxe Strategist May 18, 2017 at 13:44

    I’m glad I found this post today. Authenticity is a core value for me. And for that reason I know that for me my audience will always be niche, and that’s OK. I’d rather fewer real fans than thousands of visitors who barely interact. With that said, I have a lot of opinions about the state of blogs nowadays, and want to write about them, but I ‘m scared of turning it into those ‘how to make money off blogging’ type of thing, which seems to be the trend lately.

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