Is Blogging Still Useful?


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“What’s a Web Log”?
Once upon a time there was a Blog (web log). It was a place where you would go to read pithy insights, long form articles, and think pieces by people whose writing you respected. Over time this term was replaced and superceded by the simpler “blog”, which came to mean lots of things from “share a photo”, “create a domain name just to make a point”, and still “share interesting writing so that other people who care might have a good place to read it”.

Anachronisms happen fast.
The concept of blogging now seems quaint, like the rotary dial, a long-playing record, or a black and white tv did when I was a teen growing up in the early days of the Internet and computers. “Blogging” meaning “writing with the express purpose of placing your work in one place and finding an audience so that you can compete with other established publishers” now seems to be an outdated concept. The Blog is Dead.

The Conversation is Alive.
Yet there is this curious thing that’s happened to “blogging” or the activity we used to call blogging. Everyone who writes has turned into a syndication network of sorts, sharing almost everything almost all of the time. When was the last time you met someone who writes for a living and then learned that you could find their writing only in one place? In the same way that long form writing became “share photos in one place” and “share articles in another place” and “share random 140 character blasts” in a third, blogging no longer really exists.

There’s a paradox here. We’re both here having this conversation. It looks a little bit like a blog – having medium form content shared on a specific subdomain – and also has social features that allow you to upvote it (please do), share it, and comment about it. The blog has evolved from being an essay with comments to an almost constant conversation. To me this is a good change because it feels more like talking to other people.

What’s the use in blogging?
You might then ask, why write? There are lots of reasons to write every day (Dear Founders, Startups are Easier if You Write Every Day) and the most salient ones include:

  1. Get better at explaining your ideas to others – if you can’t form a few sentences that make sense to other people, you won’t be able to explain these same ideas in person.
  2. Explore a long-form idea over a series of posts. In the same way that you have a conversation with people over an extended length of time, your thoughts on a topic may change. Write about it – the results may surprise you.
  3. You never know who you will meet. Amazing people will find you because they read what you write. The possibilities are endless.

Your Next 10 social media posts: 5 industry-related, 3-business-related, and 2 about you

“For every 10 posts, make 5 about your industry, 3 about your business, and 2 about you”

@TAMcCann at the Agent Reboot conference in Bellevue, WA.

On Wednesday, I attended the Agent Reboot conference in Bellevue, WA.  During his panel discussion, Gist CEO T.A. McCann (disclosure: I work for him) suggested the following axiom, which I think is a great rule to keep in mind when you’re posting online.  I wanted to take a minute to share the way I interpret that quote and how I think about posting online.

Industry Posts (50%)

I work for a company in the tech space (software), and our users are in many different verticals.  So that makes for an interesting discussion of “Industry.”  I think the larger industry we’re in looks like Customer Relationship Management, Loyalty, and Marketing.  But it’s also Customer Support, Market Intelligence, and research.

I maintain lists that help me to track the thought leaders in different spaces: for example, I make sure that I read CRM posts by Brent Leary, Mitch Lieberman, Paul Greenberg, and others.  My goal is to provide thought-provoking, relevant content and to engage with the interesting questions in the larger software (and business field).  It also helps to contribute, either by adding thoughts in the comments or by asking your peers what they think.

Posts about your business (30%)

This category of posts is relatively obvious (help other people learn about your business) but there’s an important point to be gleaned here.  If you answer questions that people have by showing them how your product or service can help them solve that problem, it’s a much more effective message than simply sending out the same marketing message over and over again.  Make the post about your business, but share a relevant point of view that people can use today, and add to the conversation (you can’t control it, but you can shape it.)

Posts about You (20%)

Finally, don’t forget to share some of you in your social media posts.  If you’re a sports fan, tell us what you think.  If you believe in a cause, welcome people to join you.  And if you want to tell someone that you had a particularly good meal and where to find it, don’t shy from that either.

The 5 Things You Need To Know to Get Started in Social Media in 2010

As this is a “list” time of the year, I thought I would take a minute and share my thoughts about how to get started in Social Media in 2010.  I’ve been talking to a lot of people about this topic recently and there’s a lot of information out there about what to do and what not to do to gain credibility, make friends, and contribute meaningfully in the space.  Let me start by saying that I definitely don’t have all the answers, but I do have opinions gleaned from talking to lots of smart people who are making headway at communicating with customers, communicating brand value, and being authentic online.

So here we go:

The #1 Thing You Need To Know To Get Started in Social Media in 2010 is: Be there and be there authentically.

It’s very easy to think that Social Media is a pat list of tasks to do, people to talk to, and products to Tweet about.  The reality that I’ve found is that there is no one answer to resolve this list.  In fact, the list doesn’t exist and is changing constantly.  Out there in the world is a wonderful combination of people who love your product, people who can’t stand your product, people who are curious about you because you shared something weird and interesting today, and people who found you accidentally.  So be yourself.  No bot can take the place of you sharing information and contributing in the way that you do best.

#2: Focus your Social Media energy and be consistent in each channel.

It’s tempting to think that when you maintain multiple social media presences (Facebook, multiple Twitter accounts, blog, and other) that all of your readers want to hear the same thing from you.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  While there is some crossover between, for example, my @GregAtGist account and my @grmeyer personal account on Twitter, you can bet that the people who want to learn about my employer Gist don’t necessarily care about my childhood obsession with Legos or my current interest in taking pictures of old signs.  I try to use the same avatar to ensure brand consistency and to keep my business tweets on business, and personal tweets on whatever I’d like to share with my personal followers.

#3: Social Media can be a self-reinforcing loop: Don’t Spend All Your Time There

It’s easy (and seductive) to spend all day dipping in the Twitter river, confusing the activity of posting constantly with the accomplishment of creating, communicating, and delivering unique value through social media.  So be careful: think about what you’re going to say and plan how you’re going to say it.  You can always spend more time on Social Media, but make sure that it isn’t getting in the way of more important work that you also need to do personally or professionally.  A suggestion: try to spend a few sessions a day in Social Media, responding to fans, questions, dms, and @ replies, and leave the rest of the day for other tasks.  If you need to keep an eye on the Twitterverse, using tools like CoTweet can help you to monitor important hash tags or other handles without constantly keeping your thumb on the Twitter trigger.

#4: Focus some of your time on searching and Meet New People

This may contradict my suggestion in #3, but it’s important to spend some of your time in Social Media just looking around, reaching out to new people, and generally making friends.  I find that some time reading blogs (use Google Reader to find some good ones) or simply reading the Tweetstreams that other people reference (I use Gist for this purpose frequently) opens up new relationships that I would otherwise have never made.  Be fearless: Twitter gives you a channel to talk to people all around the world, and many of them want to talk to you!

#5: Above all, have fun!

The 5th, and most important thing you need to get started in Social Media in 2010, is to remember to have fun.  The social media scene is a giant cocktail party, information bazaar, water cooler and secret information trove all wrapped into a river of information that you can dip into anytime and anywhere.  The kid in you should remember that this is about the coolest thing ever.  Now you need to make it work for you, your company, and your interests.  Are you having fun yet?

“Good Enough” gets you going

As I’m now in a hybrid marketing/customer support/product support/all hands on deck position, I think a lot about the best way to spend my time (at work, and at home).  Inevitably, the thinking goes like this:  “I don’t have enough time, so where should I direct my energy so that it can do the most good in the time that I have?”  The best answer I’ve found lately is “Good Enough.”

“Good Enough” means doing the best job you can in the time that you have available.  If you think about this it makes sense and follows a Pareto distribution: roughly 20% of your effort produces 80% of the output.  But output alone isn’t meaningful if the output you produce means a lot to you and not to the other people in your life who matter.  I try to make lists to be able to churn through my tasks as efficiently as possible.

“Good Enough” also means a bias for action, so that thinking about the best way to do a task is trumped by the low cost experiment of trying that task, seeing what works and what doesn’t, and then refining and trying it again.  It’s probably a stretch to call this Agile Marketing, but perhaps there’s something to be learned here. Your customers will tell you what’s important, whether they are internal, external, or in your own family.

Finally, “Good Enough” means not beating yourself up for the tasks you’re not able to get done if you get other valuable work done.  If the tasks you needed to get done are trumped by their high-sugar equivalents, maybe you need to procrastinate for a while to get it out of your system.  I used to think that writing, like many other tasks, required contemplation, endless revision, and inspiration.  Now I think that writing requires all of those things, but perhaps not at the same time as when the writing occurs.  “Good enough” allows me to get going when I’m not sure of what I’m doing, and encourages me to get to a point where I can make the words not just talk, but sing.

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