What's your virtual personality? Blogging as a digital archive.

If you happened to catch yesterday's post, I mentioned that my daughter's birthday is coming up this week. I also included a couple of photos of her enjoying a little pre-birthday celebration. In these pics, she looks happy, relaxed, and (in my admittedly biased opinion) beautiful. I love being a mom and feel fortunate that I have been able to spend the last eleven years at home raising my children.

However, once this post was published, I immediately had regrets. You see, I make conscious efforts to avoid mentioning personal details about my children and husband on this blog. First of all, keeping the focus on fashion, beauty, and body image leaves little room for charming anecdotes and tedious whining about my life as a mom and wife. Secondly, I enjoy the idea that this blog focuses on topics that I truly enjoy writing, that challenge me and encourage intelligent debate.

But even more crucially, I don't want to categorize myself as a "mommy blogger." (Edited to add: Not that there's anything wrong with being one, of course!) Before I even started blogging, I thought about what my target audience would be, and decided that leaving my family life out would be the most consistent method to both defining my focus and drawing in the kind of readers I wanted to reach. This unfortunately meant that some prospective readers might be excluded. This is not the place to find recipes, or advice on parenting, or crafty DIY's, and potential readers looking for posts on those topics might be disappointed not to find them here.

It's more important that ever for bloggers to become aware of their social media footprint and view their online presence as an archive. At the end of this year, there will be over one billion people on social networking sites. Forty eight hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. Two hundred million Tweets are sent out every minute. And the average Facebook user posts 90 pieces of content each month. In years past, our parents took photos and left then to collect dust in a storage box or wilt in albums. Today, when we maintain an active social media presence, we are creating a veritable digital archive that is going to exist in the internet "cloud" indefinitely. Our virtual personality, comprised of status updates, check-in on Foursquare, tweets and connections, is one that has infinite reach.

I was watching a Ted talk from Adam Ostrow on this very topic, and it got me thinking about my own virtual personality. How do I want people to think of me? What archive do I want to create? While Adam goes one step further and discusses how people will judge us after we die, based on the social media presence we created while alive, I'm curious as to the effects my virtual personality has on the immediate future.

Tomorrow I am headed to NYC, to attend the Independent Fashion Bloggers Evolving Influence Conference. Frankly, I'm scared to death. While I might appear confident and strong in these posts, large social gatherings really aren't in my comfort zone. I'll be meeting people I've only "met" online - people I consider both friends and role models. There's also added pressure to look my best (a lot of pressure.) But I take some relief in the knowledge that I have a consistent social media personality that is a true snapshot of who I really am, and what's important to me as a blogger.

How can you develop an accurate social media snapshot of who you are, and an archive that best represents you? Here are some suggestions:

  • Be consistent: There are few things more confusing to followers that seeing you behave one way on your blog, and another on Facebook and Twitter. Being snide, gossipy and confrontational on Twitter, but kind and generous on your blog, can damage your virtual reputation and cause you to alienate the followers you do have.
  • Know your target audience: Defining who your target audience not only helps you stay focused on the topics you most want to blog about, but also assists in the creation of the virtual personality you want to present. When people do a search for both you and your blog, what do you want them to see? Who do you want to reach? 
  • View your social media presence as a virtual resume: Keep profanity, highly personal matters, confrontations, and political or religious rants (unless you are running a political or religious blog) off your social networks. Twitter is not the place to vent about your abusive parents, or that your roommate enjoys clipping her toenails in bed. In addition, complaining or being rude online makes you look petty.
Now I ask you: How much attention do you pay to your social media presence? What do you believe your social archive says about you? What target audience are you looking to reach? What do you consider social media no-no's? Are there things you purposely keep off your blog?

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    1. I'm sorry Elissa but I firmly disagree. The strategy you described in your post reeks of entrepreneurial behaviour. Yes it's important that one's posts be consistent to a point. Deliberately excluding certain aspects of one's life or interests and hobbies not because one wishes to keep them private, but because the blogger is honing his/hers on-line presence is a philosophy I cannot support.
      To that end, have you considered that some readers might like your blog just because of your unique voice and lifestyle as a fashion blogger/thrifter/SAHM. Don't loose your individuality and diversity, it will only make your blog generic.

    2. Dannngg I hope you don't have any mommy bloggers reading your post. A little brutal with your desire to not be one of them. As for the rest, I don't use my real name on anything I do. I have no social media footprint. Its really not hard to do. I typically go through and delete old stuff too. This is not my real life and I don't want it to be. I prefer the real one to leave my footprint in.

    3. Thank you so much for your feedback - you've given me a lot to think about. I suppose I choose to leave my kids and husband off this blog so as to prevent my readers from thinking my only interests are them. I like that I have a place just for me, absent of the goings-on of my kids and husband and housework. That's not so easy to have as a stay-at-home mom. But I will take your words to heart. I really never thought that people *wanted* to hear more details of my personal life. That's something to consider.

      However, I don't think there's anything wrong with being conscious of your social media profile. With potential employers looking more closely at our virtual footprint, being consistent and behaving in a mature manner are extremely important. And it's just smart.

    4. Have fun in NYC! I have given a lot of thought to my online presence. I visit Facebook just once a week and rarely offer a quip on Twitter. Until my professional life ends (I'm an academic), I feel somewhat constrained. I work harder on my blog to protect my workplace than I do my family members, but they are only ever referred to by initials. I am very conscious of the internet as an archive, but touches of personality in a blog are everything to me. Too much "professionalism" can kill a blog.

    5. I'd like to believe that I pretty much act the same on all social media sites and in 'real life.' Then again, my blog is a lifestyle blog and I hope to convey all aspects of my life on it, so really, it just depends on what one's blog is about. For me, it makes sense to show photos of people and personal stuff because that's what I've decided to focus on in my blog! :) I totally understand that you want to leave out certain things and focus on others... otherwise your blog would be confusing (to readers and also to yourself while you're trying to keep up with it...) Also, PS, if someone has abusive parents they should probably see a therapist instead of posting about it online. :( Anyway, super thought-provoking post... I think we all need to take some time to decide what our blogs should focus on.

    6. I cannot express how much I've been loving your blog. I've been reading for the past 2 weeks and find myself inspired every time.


    7. I definitely try to be consistent in terms of what I put on my blog versus other forms of social media. I think that just ties into how real you are as a person. I do however, talk about personal aspects of my life (sans names) because that's how people really get to know me...and to be quite honest no one wants to read a whole research laden editorial each time they visit ya know. So I try to keep things fun and interesting while remembering to be genuine. I prefer blogs that share a little bit about their personal lives but to each his own!

      Good luck at the IFB Con. I wish I could make it!


    8. That is an interesting question, I never really thought about till a couple of months ago when my online world (Mode Plus) became more visible to my off-line world. I never expected my blog to be on any radar really, so when I did get noticed, it had me thinking about how much of my offline life would I let in. I'm in the process of figuring that out. I will share personal sides of me, but never go to deep in to details. I also have double accounts for my online platforms, in one I'm Mode Plus, where the focus is on fashion and self acceptance. On others I use my real name, where I basically interact with friends and family. It gets challenging when bloggers become friends. Anyway, hope you enjoyed IFBCon yesterday, I really did (through livestream). So much good stuff was interchanged.


    I love my readers! Comments are welcomed and appreciated.