Write From the Heart: Does Authenticity Really Work?

"Write From the Heart"

Write from the Heart

Be authentic. Take chances. Write from the heart.

That’s what you have do to if you want people to engage with you, right? If you want them to comment and share, then you’ve got to bare your soul.

That kind of advice is all over the internet. But does it work? Is it really effective to write from the heart? Does it help people to connect with you on a deeper level? Or does it just bore and annoy them?

Sometimes, writing from the heart and sharing a personal story will help your audience to connect with you, and sometimes it won’t.

Let’s consider five case studies:

Case Studies: Five Authentic Blog Posts

By way of illustration, let me share with you five “from-the-heart” posts that were published on my blog. I think they’re all good posts, and they were all written from the heart.

Three of these posts performed very well in terms of traffic, comments, and engagement, and two didn’t. Of the two that didn’t, one was still very successful, and the other was a flop. Here is a quick re-cap of the five posts. Can you guess which did well and which didn’t?

(By all means, click through, read the posts, share them, and leave comments, but don’t check their performance until after you’ve guessed which did well and which didn’t!

Late Nights and Limping: About How Accountability Pushes You Farther Than You Thought You Could Go. This post is about my experiences working late with my fiancée, and running (well, running/walking/limping/crawling) the Montreal Marathon with her, and what that taught me about how accountability can push you so much farther than you thought you could go.

4 Customer Service Lessons from Delta. After getting stranded in Atlanta and dealing with unbelievably unhelpful Delta airline staffers, I wrote this post that was half rant and half lessons about marketing and customer service.

Confessions of a Starbucks Addict. This post was going to be a rant about something that bothered me at Starbucks (read the post to see what it was), but as I was writing it, it turned into a post about how they’re doing everything else right, and what can be learned from them.

Entrepreneurs in Never Never Land: Leadership Lessons from Peter Pan. This post is about Peter Pan, one of my heroes, and what entrepreneurs can learn from him about leadership, taking risks, and following their dreams.

Pricing for Outcome, not Budget: My Moment of Revelation. This post, by my partner and Firepole Marketing co-founder Peter Vogopoulos, is about the moment when he realized that he should be pricing his coaching packages in a way that fit with the value he wanted to offer, rather than what he thought the target market could easily afford.

So, can you guess how they performed? Let’s find out?

Which of these things is not like the other?

Like I said, three of these performed very well, and two didn’t, and of the two that didn’t, we still consider one to be a success, whereas the second was just a flop. Let’s look at how each of these posts performed:

Late Nights and Limping was the fourth post ever to go up on the blog, back in October 2010, when we were getting about 10 unique visitors per day. Despite the low traffic numbers, there were 2 independent comments, 3 Facebook shares, and 2 Facebook likes. For a blog in that stage, that’s a home run.

4 Customer Service Lessons from Delta went up at the end of November 2010, by which time our traffic had roughly doubled. Despite that, there were no comments, no tweets, and no activity on Facebook. Interestingly, it did get Stumbled 5 times. This was the flop!

Starbucks on Briggate

Image via Wikipedia

Confessions of a Starbucks Addict went up just a week later, and got 4 lengthy independent comments, and 8 tweets. I also received several personal emails from people telling me how much they enjoyed the post. Another success.

Entrepreneurs in Never Never Land went up mid-December, and got 14 independent comments, 9 tweets, 21 Facebook shares and likes, and 9 Stumbles. Another success.

Pricing for Outcome, not Budget went up just recently at the end of March 2011, by which time our traffic had grown to about 50 unique visitors per day. It got 4 independent comments, 1 tweet, 3 Facebook shares and likes, and 1 Stumble. The performance wasn’t fantastic in terms of numbers, but it was definitely a success as the comments were lengthy and detailed, including comments from Laura White-Ritchie from Brainy Feet and Tristan Higbee from Blogging Bookshelf.

So there you have it — four great successes, and one flop. What is the pattern behind it? Does authenticity work? Was that one flop just a fluke, or is there a lesson to be learned there? Should you write from the heart, or not?

So, does authenticity work?

Here is the detailed answer: writing from the heart works, as long as it connects with something in the audience’s heart. It isn’t enough for it to be compelling to you, it’s got to be compelling to them, too. Late Nights and Limping did well because everyone can relate to having a partner who keeps him going.

Confessions of a Starbucks Addict did well because so many people out there are Starbucks addicts, just like me. Entrepreneurs in Never Never Land was a bit of a stretch, but our audience is mostly entrepreneurs, and even if they don’t connect with Peter Pan, they do connect with being entrepreneurial and following their dreams.

The real lessons lie with the other two posts. 4 Customer Service Lessons from Delta didn’t do well because most people don’t travel enough to have recently had a frustrating experience with an airline, and customer service isn’t a subject that gets people’s hearts racing. Maybe the post was good, but would it have played better if I had titled the post “Lessons from Delta on Following Your Dreams,” or something to that effect?

The most interesting case is Pricing for Outcome, not Budget. This one really illustrates the point that for a post to work, it has to connect with your audience — they have to relate to it. In this case, a smaller sub-set of the audience related, but it related powerfully.

The Moral of the Story

The lesson in all of this is that yes, you should write from the heart. People may want good information, but they connect with personal experiences and stories — that’s just how we’re wired. Remember, for it to work, it has to connect not just with your heart, but with your reader’s heart, as well.

So now I’ll turn the floor over to you. Do you have an example of a “from the heart” post that performed well? Or, in contrast, a “from the heart” post that did poorly? Leave a comment and tell me about it. And include a link. I’d love to read it!

Danny Iny is an author, strategist, serial entrepreneur, and proud co-founder of Firepole Marketing, the definitive marketing training program for small businesses, entrepreneurs, and non-marketers. Visit his site today for a free cheat sheet about Why Guru Strategies for Blog Growth DON’T WORK and What Does!

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  1. I really enjoyed this blog post, Jeannette, because it addresses so many of the intricacies that go into writing a blog post from the heart. It helps clarify what works and what doesn’t.
    Thank you for always providing valuable content..

  2. Leslie — how lovely that you actually have a category for writing from the heart. Glad that you’ve decided to blog for yourself — why not!?