If you’ve been following me for any time, you have probably noticed that I talk about both personal and professional ideas and activities on my blog and social media accounts. The newest part of my business is my Birth Your Knitting Book mentoring program, where I am helping newer designers build their businesses and get ready to write and publish their first (or firth) book. In this post, I have some advice for designers and authors trying to build an online personality that fits with their business and personal values and goals. If you’re a new designer or author, perhaps this information will help you make some decisions about who you want to be in your professional life. If you’re not a professional in the knitting world, I hope you’ll enjoy this behind the scenes look at a knitting designer’s life.
Who Am I?
I have several personalities. One of them I call “Teacher Donna.” Teacher Donna is my public face to my knitting students and readers. In public in the real world and in some of my social media arenas, I am always Teacher Donna. In other social media arenas, I am a combination of Home Donna and Teacher Donna. I also have a Euro Donna alter-ego who takes over the blog and my social media accounts when I am traveling in Europe.
Why do I have a mixture like that? For me, the different parts of my persona are all part of who I am in my business, but I don’t think all of those parts are appropriate to come out in every situation or environment. For example, I don’t talk about politics in my workshops or on my business Facebook page, but I do sometimes if I’m out to dinner with knitter friends or on my Twitter account. You’ll have to find the mix that works for you. Some people keep their personal ideas and opinions completely out of their public persona. That’s part of what you’ll have to decide as you begin to create your platform.
What do I mean by personal?
Your readers are following you because they want to hear from you. So write in your own voice and be familiar and friendly. Don’t feel like all of your posts need to be perfectly edited (although avoid ugly typos), or that you must sound like a business executive to be respected. You need to sound like yourself! As an author or designer, we need to exude the feeling that we are a human being, not a corporation (even if your business is incorporated). Unless you are writing specifically as an employee of a company and have a corporate style guide to follow, the best style of writing is your own. But be comfortable with the style you chose and don’t pretend to be something you are not. Your readers will see right through that guise.
What I don’t mean is that you need to talk about your kids, your pets, or your dinner plans. If you want to share a little bit of that kind of information with your readers, that’s fine, but keep it short and somehow tie it in to the main topic of your newsletter: your books or designs and your art. The level of personal information you want to reveal is your choice.
What do I mean by professional?
Although the tone can be informal and you can give a few peeks into your personal life, your platform is essentially part of your business. Your platform has a purpose, which is to communicate what’s in your business and industry to your readers, and to let them know what you’re working on that they will want to buy from you in the future! Your platform activities will also help you establish and maintain credibility with your readers, and that requires a professional touch. Remember that you are doing business, even if you love your readers, students, and clients, they are still your business associates.
One of the worst ways to lose your professional credibility in newsletters is to rant about your competitors or others in your industry such as magazine publishers, book publishers, clothing manufacturers, or yarn manufacturers. You can give your opinion about the quality of tools and supplies that you use, but do so in an objective way that does not entail name calling. Don’t burn your bridges! This may seem obvious, but I’ve seen this rule broken a lot.
So be personal AND professional at the same time and you’ll make your readers happy.
I like Wil Wheaton’s rule, “Don’t be a dick.” But you may have a different guideline that suits you better.