Bowling for Business: Back to Basics—Five Reasons You Should Blog

Blog to Basics

(This column first appeared on RIMOFTHEWORLD.net on September 26, 2011.)

While we were in junior high school, my best friend Susan and I loved to bake. Unfortunately, we usually pursued culinary odysseys at my house instead of hers. And, because my mother was single and almost always at work, we were often out of staples like flour, sugar and eggs. So you can imagine our lack of success relative to producing actual, edible pies, brownies and cakes.

When I first started managing social media for clients, I let many of them talk me into tweeting and posting status updates while foregoing the pricier blog-post component of full-service public relations campaigns. However, experience has since taught that blogs are as central to successful marketing as chocolate chips are to chocolate chip cookies. You can try to skip the main ingredient. But, then why bother baking at all?

As blogs first started popping up on electronic radar, few of us understood the medium, let alone the messengers. Bloggers seemed an odd lot of whiners who never left their keyboards. Without the endorsement of major metropolitan newspapers or book publishers, they were easy to discount, mock or ignore. But it didn’t take long for blogging to go mainstream.

In the late 1990s, blogs were set up and maintained by programmers who understood the strange computer language known as HTML code. Later, developers built WYSIWYG editing systems on platforms like Blogger and WordPress, which brought blogging to the masses. The more people were able to develop and manage their own blogs, the more they started reading other bloggers’ posts. The rest, as they say, is history.

Today, blogging is big business. According to Technorati, the five most popular blogs are:

  1. Huffington Post—54,000,000 estimated unique monthly visitors
  2. TMZ—19,000,000 estimated unique monthly visitors
  3. Business Insider—12,100,000 estimated unique monthly visitors
  4. EndGadget—11,500,000 estimated unique monthly visitors
  5. PerezHilton—10,200,000 estimated unique monthly visitors

With millions of hits each day, blogs are fast replacing newspapers, magazines and television news programs as the number one source of consumer information. The reason for the shift? Instead of wasting time wading through extraneous information, Internet users can quickly click directly to the stories they want to read.

5 Reasons You Should Blog

1. Turn yourself into a publisher. Instead of waiting around for editors and writers to deem your content worthy of publication, when you set up your own blog and post original content on a regular basis, you put yourself in the publisher’s place.

2. Position yourself as an expert in the field. If you fancy yourself an expert in your field, show television producers and magazine editors your chops by publishing so much content that they can’t help but contact you for expert opinion. Once you’ve emerged as the preeminent authority in your field, your market share will grow exponentially.

3. Capitalize on market segmentation by blogging about topics that are relevant to your target market. After you post a blog, use social media channels like Facebook and Twitter to alert people about the information available in your posts.

4. Share tips and best practices. Use your blog to evangelize the ideas you care about. One of the great things about blogging is that it’s interactive. Any blog worth its salt provides opportunity for plenty of commenting back-and-forth. Don’t be afraid to post your honest opinion and ask readers to share theirs. You don’t have to agree with everyone in your target market. You just have to demonstrate that you care what they have to say.

5. Develop a hub you can control. If you hired someone to build and maintain your company website, you effectively handed them control over your corporate voice. Take back that power by setting up and maintaining your own blog, as the hub of your professional activity. Building a user-friendly blog to post to on your own is tantamount to claiming the power seat in your office. And that’s as important as buying chocolate chips before trying to bake a fresh batch of cookies.

Until next time, I’ll be Bowling for Business.

The Good, the Blog and the Ugly

This column originally appeared on RIMOFTHEWORLD.net on Sunday, September 13, 2009

blogWhenever I’m tempted to drone on in blogs and columns, I remember a particularly disturbing episode of the Twilight Zone called The Living Doll. In it, a talking doll named Tina has it out for her owner’s father, played by Telly Savalas.

Maybe her hatred is due to the fact he is bald. Or maybe it’s because he has a hideous mole on his face. Or perhaps it’s because he’s the only one who can hear her deliver eerie lines that are not a part of her programmed vocabulary. No one knows for sure.

Whatever the reason, Talky Tina spends the entire episode making Telly angry. In fact, by the end of the show, in a desperate attempt to shut her up, he forces her tiny plastic head into a vice grip and cranks away.

If nothing else, the show serves to remind me to stick to the script when it comes to writing or speaking in public. After all, the inspiration for the doll was Chatty Cathy.

But it’s hard to find the balance in blogging. The word “blog” sounds a lot like “blah, blah, blah.” And that generally communicates the idea that you should keep talking regardless of whether you have anything valuable to say.

In the early days of the blog, pioneers staked their claims with long, verbose diatribes. At the time, only a few writers were contributing to the blogosphere. Content was scarce. So people were patient.

In the intervening years, an era most social media pundits refer to as Web 2.0, the blog has became the quintessential tool for personal and business communication.

According to Wikipedia, in December 2007, the blog search engine Technorati was tracking more than 112 million blogs. At the speed of web, that number is probably into the billions by now. So how have the rules changed? Is it still important to blog? Why bother? How can that many people have so much to say?

When it comes to electronic communication in 2009, it all boils down to this:

The Good, the Blog and the Ugly

The Good

I believe it’s still important to maintain a blog in today’s business climate. Where business owners once hired professional website developers and designers to create state-of-the-art electronic brochures of their companies, and allowed those six-figure sites to rot in Cyberspace, the new order of the day is to slap something together and post it before the URL has time to rank.

Good is no longer measured in terms of a pleasant aesthetic. Today, most people are comfortable surfing the web. In fact, World Internet Usage Statistics puts the number of active Internet users at 1,668,870,408.

True, it may have taken most of us awhile to catch up with the early adapters. But we learned. And, now, we recognize that highlighted words are hyperlinks and widgets are click-able windows that whisk us from one world to another. So, we are no longer content to spend time on a single site. I call it Digital ADD.

The solution? If you can’t beat them, tweet them. Set up a website or blog as the hub of all of your information. And then, create several smaller sites that point back to the hub. In our advertising and public relations agency, Mountain Marketing Group, we explain the strategy like this.

Your blog should serve as a large body of information, like a lake. Social networking sites are like tributaries and streams that ebb and flow back to the lake, which is the source of your information. Since people want to click, let them spend their time clicking inside your site. And while they’re there, the best way to share your point of view is with a well-constructed blog.

The Blog

How do you write a blog that people will actually read? When she first started blogging her way through Julia Child’s cookbook, now acclaimed author Julie Powell said that it felt as if she was sending her initial posts into a giant abyss. Was anyone reading? Did anyone care?

This is the litmus test for whether or not you have anything worthwhile to say. Is your heart beating? If so, then you have what it takes to create content. You are uniquely you. Only you can tell your story. Only you can sell your product.

So be bold. Blog. Be short and sweet. Talk to your readers as though they were sitting across the table from you. Tell them what you would if you were chatting in person. My clients hear this charge, often.

Be who you are in the real world. Just do it in Cyberspace.

The Ugly

Now that I’ve (hopefully) emboldened you to blog, let me touch on what not to do.

  • Don’t pretend to know everything. You don’t. And everyone knows it. When they read your blog online, they are only a click away from checking every detail that you share. So be authentic.
  • Don’t write long narratives without breaking up the copy with images, videos, hyperlinks and bullet points. If all your readers see is a sea of copy, they will quickly click away.
  • Don’t forget that your words will live on in infamy. One of the authors of groundswell, equates trying to remove something from the Internet with attempting to retrieve pee from a swimming pool.

Don’t ignore your readers. Provide a place for comments. And when readers write, give the courtesy of a reply.

Whatever you do (and this is probably the most important tip of all), don’t irritate Talky Tina.

Until next time, I’ll be Bowling for Business.