FOR HEALTH, IT PAYS TO BE A JOINER
As a health blogger for the past three years, Kerri Morrone can definitely attest that when it comes to online communities, it pays be a joiner. With the launch of her blog Six Until Me (SUM) in 2005, Morrone helped create a niche in the blogging world that has not only proved to be beneficial in her own life, but also in the lives of her devoted readers.
When Morrone began blogging, she was one of four or five who wrote about diabetes from a personal point of view. Diagnosed with the chronic disease when she was six years old, Morrone started SUM after one Google search after another for “diabetes” brought up clinical websites and faceless diabetes organizations.
“I started blogging because I felt alone,” says Morrone. “Sure, I had the unflagging support of my family, my friends, and my now-fiancé, but they all knew diabetes through a peripheral lens. They saw me test my blood sugar every few hours, but they never felt the sting of that needle. Diabetes, to me, is as much emotional as it is physical, and I needed to better nurture that emotional side of my disease.”
Morrone’s first readers were other diabetes bloggers who were looking for the same sense of community.
“The general response was ‘Me too!’ and I realized in an instant that I wasn’t alone,” says Morrone. “Over the last three years, I’ve gone from a voice on the Internet to a strong member of the diabetes advocacy community.”
Not only has SUM created a sense of identity for Morrone, but her efforts, combined with a writing style that educates with a sense of humor and humility, got her noticed in the field of diabetes advocacy and the blogging world. Over the past three years, Morrone has been featured in US News and World Report, The Lancet, Yahoo! Health, About.com, AOL, MedScape and CNBC. HealthCentral noted SUM as one of its Top 10 Diabetes Sites and the medical blogosphere as a whole listed SUM as a leading patient blog. Morrone was also hired as an editor and columnist for the diabetes media company, dLife, and is currently finishing her first book.
BE A FEARLESS BLOGGER
To start your own blog or online community, Morrone suggests visiting different blogs and joining a social network to read up on fellow bloggers in the community to see what it has to offer. If you like what you see, take advantage of the free blogging sites like Blogspot and Wordpress. But most of all, Morrone says to be fearless.
“Write how you feel, be honest with your emotions, and don’t be afraid to be a little silly,” says Morrone. “You may be surprised to see how your writing helps you to better manage your life – and how much of a difference it can make in someone else’s.”
TAKE AN ACTIVE PART IN THE BLOGGING COMMUNITY
Morrone found that most people were looking for an honest and credible blogger, and so traffic generated itself to her blog through word of mouth. She also made a concerted effort as an active reader on fellow health blogs. “I spend a lot of time reading and commenting on other health blogs – really investing myself in this community and enjoying the relationships I’ve fostered,” said Morrone. “The health blogging community is tremendously supportive and rawly honest, which creates real connections between the writers.”
APPRECIATE YOUR READERS
Morrone makes sure that she responds to every email she receives through her blog, even if it takes her several weeks to write back.
“These people who take the time to write to me change my life with every email,” says Morrone. “They tell me that I’ve made them feel better and hopeful but don’t they know what they’ve done for me? They confirm, with every email and every letter, that I am not alone with this disease. These people thank me for changing their lives – but they need to know how much they’ve truly changed mine.”
STAY TRUE TO YOUR BLOGGING PURPOSE
Morrone’s goal was to find others to connect to, but also to raise awareness and to find answers to questions. One major question she had for diabetes advocates had to do with the ways in which diabetes was displayed in the media. She found that many Type I diabetes advocacy organizations focus their imagery heavily upon the smiling faces of the young children with diabetes and the families that are affected by this disease, but little about what happens when these children grow up.
“I was once one of those smiling little kids, and my family was deeply affected by my disease,” says Morrone. “I’m now 29 years old, a woman on the verge of being married, enjoying a successful career, and a loving network of friends and family – all of whom are still deeply affected by my disease. The children with diabetes grow up to be adults with diabetes, and our disease still waits for a cure. People need to understand that, despite my healthy appearance and optimistic attitude, I live every day with a disease that requires significant maintenance and affects every moment of my life. My future may hold diabetes complications that may limit my life. My future deserves to hold a cure.”
Due to Morrone’s blogging, she says she has had experiences and opportunities that she never dreamed possible. “I am no longer ‘the only diabetic I know in real life,’” says Morrone. “The community that I have come to know and respect means more to me than any accolade or employment opportunity. This supportive and honest community makes the burden of diabetes so much lighter.”
See what sharing your experiences can do for you. If you have diabetes, visit the Diabetes SheKnows.com Message Board to connect to other SheKnows readers with diabetes or visit the general SheKnows.com Message Board and find other boards to join. Register and you can even create your own blog.
FOR HEALTH, IT PAYS TO BE A JOINER