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How to Share Your Work with a Targeted Audience

Sometimes it makes complete sense to add different layers of privacy to your content.

Image by Kristian Bjornard (CC BY-SA 2.0)

We’ve touched on similar topics in the past, from creating boundaries between your blog persona and real-life one, to keeping your daily life safe from online intrusions.

The great thing about having your own site is that with one click of the Publish button, you can reach the entire world. Or at least that subset of the world with an internet connection, a bit of free time, and a keen interest in knitting / vegan brownies / attachment parenting / haiku writing / [insert your favorite topic(s) here].

What do you do, though, when you want to keep that public stage open — but also share some of your work in a more discreet way? Sometimes you might feel like writing a more personal post than you do usually. Or you might want to get feedback on a work in progress you’re not entirely happy about yet. There are all kinds of situations where putting yourself out there in the public sphere might be a bit daunting.

It’s important to note that even the strictest privacy settings can’t provide 100% hermetic protection once you’ve shared anything with someone else online. Always ask yourself: “Am I okay with this potentially becoming public?”

The good news is that you can eat your cake and have it, too. There are several ways to add layers of privacy to your content without sacrificing the warm welcome you otherwise extend to your readers. Here are some ideas to consider.

Password, please!

Did you know you can password-protect any of your posts? I saw this feature used to great effect in a recent Blogging U. course on poetry. Some participants felt uncomfortable posting poems for the whole world to see, and others thought they would clash with their normal style of blogging. Instead, they published their work in password-protected posts, sharing the password with a specific audience — others who were taking the same course.

If you use password protection and want to give engaged readers a way to ask for the password, make sure you’ve specified a way they can reach you — for example, by inserting a contact form into your About page (or a designated Contact page).

Password, take two.

Password-protected posts are useful in many contexts, but some bloggers might be concerned about having them visible in their feed. That’s a reasonable reservation if you publish a lot of these: you probably don’t want to give off a secretive, over-protective vibe, especially for first-time visitors.

This is where password-protected pages can save the day (confused about the differences between posts and pages? You’re not the first one! Here’s a cheat sheet created especially for you). Since pages — the static content on your site — aren’t part of your ever-updated stream of posts, your readers are less likely to look for them. You can update them as often as you want without the risk of alienating those without access.

Club members only!

Password protection is a good idea for separating public and non-public content on your site. In some cases, though, your best solution might just be starting another blog entirely — you can add as many blogs as you wish for free — and set it as a private site. You can then invite others to read, contribute, or administer the site (read more on user roles here).

We’ve been using private blogs with great success at Blogging U., where each course has its own private Commons site. Likewise, many bloggers have started private communities for a variety of reasons — from authors wishing to give each other feedback discreetly, to people looking to discuss sensitive topics without the added pressure of (potential) public scrutiny.

Blogging is still a form of publishing — of making someting publicly accessible. But that doesn’t mean that every single word, in every single blog, needs to be available to everyone, all the time.

How do you approach privacy on your blog? Have you ever been in a situation where you considered limiting access to some of your posts?

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  1. As some one new to blogging, I really needed to understand this! There are times when I just want to VENT… and other times, when I want to be specific in what I am sharing. This was really helpful. Nicole

    Liked by 4 people

  2. What a useful post this is! FYI, I was part of Poetry 201 and it never occurred to me to use a password, I would not have wanted to for my poetry. However, I have also created websites for two non-profit local community organizations. One is still Private, as the group needs to approve. The otherother was private. I followed the users guidance to invite comment and approval, and after getting that went public. I was going to explore how to keep some part of the site for the ‘member group’ while letting the main part, that is for the public, be public – you have just told me how, use protected pages. On another note, I did not expect the wide world to be interested in this very local site, but was delighted to share it with someone from far away whom I met on Poetry201 and they may start something in their own community. Links indeed. We are connected in caring/sharing/living and all sorts of ways. Thank you.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. I use my blogs extensively with my college students–I even post the midterm and the final on one! (Saves paper and other reasons). I make them password protected and then make them private after the tests. I have also had specific content just for them that I have made password protected and I have a few posts that are private that I make public or password protected for my students as they need access to that content.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. That’s a great use I haven’t thought about — I’m guessing it also helps in cases where you’re allowed to share materials with students electronically, but are concerned about copyright and fair use if it’s available to the public.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You got it–exactly. For example, I had an author ask me to take an essay off my site so I made it private. It’s an essay that is in the students’ anthology but in the test it gives me a back-up and makes it easier for students to correctly copy a quote if they can cut and paste from the blog post. I teach my students to blog and they use blogs for presenting group projects too and they all love the idea of making certain posts private or password protected; makes them feel safer about the process of putting their writing out there!

        Liked by 6 people

  4. Before anything, let me clarify that what I’m about to say is based on my personal opinion only and nowhere near generalizing the topic, and I want to add that I respect others point of view about this.

    I find that if you want your writings to be private, keep a bedside journal instead of blogging online. If you don’t want the public to see what you’re up to, put your thoughts in documents till you’re ready to show them out there. I for one will never waste my time gaining access on something someone is trying to hide, what’s the use? If the person wants people to read his/her work, s/he will put it out there.
    If one is scared to be scrutinize, to be judge, and wants to be safe, then maybe that person isn’t supposed to be blogging online.

    Liked by 10 people

  5. awesomely great (and helpful) timing, ben. i’m starting something with a few bloggers and i decided on publishing private posts because it made me feel more comfortable with the copyright issue.

    but i wanted to know if privately published posts also allow for private comments too (just between those bloggers with the password)?

    also, after reading this post i’m curious to know how do private posts look in our blog’s feed?

    lastly, i’m thinking about a private page as a way for us to post links and passwords to whichever posts we keep private, without having to email each other. can a private page work that way?

    thanks for your help. – i.m.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. update: i read some stuff in the wordpress.com help forums about comments and password protected posts (sorry for interchanging private and password protected above) and felt these three were informative threads.

      https://en.forums.wordpress.com/topic/comments-not-showing-for-password-protected-posts

      https://en.forums.wordpress.com/topic/password-protected-post-shows-up-in-topics

      https://en.forums.wordpress.com/topic/comment-in-a-password-protected-post

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you for sharing this information! Having spent a big chunk of my life in the public eye, I created this blog to share my thoughts, network with others, etc., but NOT to make it a personal display of my name. I value privacy, and with these tips I feel like I can share more personal content with other readers. Thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I struggled, too, with this dilemma of private vs. public. If the writing is strong and worth sharing then is there really still an issue?

    Liked by 3 people

  8. You just have to know where to draw the line. Privacy is really a thing of the past, anyway. If that little voice “tmi” calls out it’s probably too much for the blog. But I cross the line anyway sometimes.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I wasn’t aware that you can make individual posts private until I read this. Thanks, it could come in useful. I have found that having more than one blog to separate and target potential audiences works very well, but this adds another string to my blogging bow.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. In the song “Fox’s Dream of the Log Flume” by Me Without You, one line goes “it’s still dark at the deck of our boat… Broken bows, our aimless arrow words don’t mean a thing”- I like the play with words, you should check it out on YouTube.

        Liked by 2 people

  10. A most interesting post. I don’t believe I considered any of this (for better or worse) before I pushed my first (or any) publish button. My blog is personal, and it contains my name, so I’m arriving a bit late to this party. However, I can certainly see the relevance of having layers of privacy. Thanks, Ben, for sharing this information with us!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Yup, I do have 1 blog post I switch off and on for public access. I get unusually high traffic which I can’t help but get suspicious why on earth are interested in it.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I like the idea of having more than one blog site, I do have. Although for me most of my blogs are about refining my skills as a writer and sharing my own viewpoint on different topics. I don’t tend to share anything I would like to keep private. I do see the need though and welcome the information.

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  13. This is really helpful info. I had thought about starting a separate blog to participate in challenges, since my blog is very focused–but a private page with a password might be the key! Thanks!

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  14. As a blogger, I have a really large separation from my actual persona and my blogging one, as I post specifically about movies, but I can see how people who run more personal blog posts, privacy can be an issue. I think its just being comfortable and smart about what you’re willing to put out there.

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