Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Give Your Content a Face

I'm a bit of a peculiarity. I follow baseball in general and the Seattle Mariners in particular, but I'd say I'm no more than a casual fan of the game. Still, I am an avid reader of two Mariners blogs: U.S.S. Mariner and Lookout Landing. This morning it occurred to me why I'm more interested in the blogs than I am in the team on which the blogs report: the blogs are more personal to me than the team is.

Off the top of my head, I can name the blog writers. Jeff writes for Lookout Landing, Dave and Derek write for U.S.S. Mariner. I know a little bit about them, but I've never met them. I'd say there's a good chance that I never will meet them, though I could if I tried. But the fact that I know their names is a critical part of their appeal. I've been reading Jeff's posts for two or three years now, and I identify that material with the person generating it. I come to Lookout Landing, in short, to check in on Jeff and see what he's been thinking.

Too many websites lack this personal face. They publish site content without bylines or under a general heading like "Editor". This is a mistake. Web 2.0 is about connecting with people, and content is no exception. Even if you don't send off email or an IM message, reading something that a person has written feels like a connection with that person -- but only if there's a person to connect to. The content needs a name, or else it will feel impersonal. Content that lacks personality is likely to lack appeal. A site that lacks appeal is unlikely to build community.

So remember, give your content a face. Attach bylines to every piece of content, so people can identify with this writer or that. Allow them to feel like they know you or your writers, if only a little bit. Like a grain of sand in an oyster shell, that might be the seed around which a pearl forms.