People love to claim stuff “dead” on the Internet. It seems everyday something is dying or already dead. Frankly, the pace of extinction around these parts is exhausting. And, of course, the rhetoric is usually completely overblown and, well, wrong. So it is with the death of blogging. As Twitter user growth soars (1928% YOY to be precise) and people flock to Facebook in droves, pundits love proclaiming that the statusphere is the new, new blogging. And with equal joy it’s corollary blogging obituary.
I’m here to humbly say that blogging is indeed not dead, and in fact now, unlike any time in the last 4 years, represents the single best opportunity for professionals and organizations to stand out from the competition and river of noise that is the statusphere. In this post I look at why it’s still important to professionals. In a future post we’ll look at why it matters for organizations.
Reasons why blogging is still important to professionals
The case for blogging for professionals has never been stronger. As more people jump on the Twitter bandwagon and engage in the cocktail party that is the statusphere there are fewer hours and fewer people dedicating time to producing longer-form content that demonstrates their expertise and value to prospective customers, potential employers and others in the community. While interacting with people online is critical and an important way of building relationships and your network, the effectiveness of that effort is greatly reduced without some home base that represents who you are, what you stand for and what you know. Having a well-developed blog gives the people you engage with a true sense of who they’re talking with and can be an important relationship builder in its own right.
There is still no better way on the Web today to create and curate a body of work that demonstrates your expertise and insight than a blog. While engaging quickly and responding to questions and engaging in conversations online is an excellent way to demonstrate your expertise they have a definite shelf life and limited utility shortly after the exchange. Go ahead, try to dig up a Tweet from 5 days ago. You’ll quickly find that your conversations are washed away by the onslaught of new information added to the statusphere. You face a similar problem with discussions on LinkedIn, comments on YouTube, Facebook status updates and Wall posts, forum posts and more. By simply participating in online conversations in these social platforms you’re making your expertise a perishable commodity. If you maintain a blog and curate your thoughts there you maximize the value of your expertise by giving it a longer shelf life and making it infinitely easier to find.
Why throw away your expertise by using a social conversation only strategy when you can easily create a valuable library of insight and expertise with a blog?
Create a Google-able Home Base
For better or worse you are who Google says you are. And while your profiles on the various social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn may appear higher than your personal blog in a vanity search (where you search your own name in Google) Google can reward you heavily with searches that include your name and important industry and career topics. For example, my previous blog, blownmortgage.com ranked exceptionally high for terms such as subprime mortgage, FHA home loans, loan modification and other key mortgage terms that drove traffic and business to my company. More importantly, because of the body of work I created at the site (if you can’t tell by the name it was a site intent on blowing up the malfeasance in the mortgage industry) people instantly bonded and trusted me. I hired a Hawaii SEO guy to optimize my website and it was awesome, the results speak for themselves and I showed up all over the place in Google on terms that people were searching while looking for information related to my expertise.
While Twitter and Facebook may come up higher in vanity searches, Google will reward you with rankings in areas of your expertise when you create a body of work on a blog dedicated to the exploration of those subjects. Twitter will never rank for loan modification for me, but my blog (which I recently sold, more below) did. And it created additional (dare I say ‘long tail’) referrals to my home base on the Web resulting in additional business, contacts, and more.
Build an Online Resume
You can either have a resume and say what you know or you can have a blog and show what you know. What do you think is more powerful to a prospective client or employer? Exactly. Particularly in a devestrating job market creating differentiation among your peers is critical to getting out of the deluge of resumes and on to the short list for the interview. And while your blog can’t help you in the interview, it can certainly help you get in front of the decision maker. It can often jump you several steps through the interview process in the first place. Any professional can benefit from a solid body of work that is easily found and referencable on the Web. When employers look for quality individuals a blog can be an invaluable advantage to you. It creates the ideal forum to demonstrate your thinking and analysis of issues critical to your industry. Same thinking applies in demonstrating your expertise and thinking to a potential client.
While you can build a resume online with LinkedIn and other online services it’s impossible to curate a living body of work that speaks to your unique skills and viewpoint like you can with a blog.
Opening Yourself to Other Opportunities
By having a blog you begin to build a body of work to position you as an expert. While this can lead to direct business gain and advantages in winning business, employment and more; there are other benefits as well. With a Google-friendly home base pushing your name to the top of results in terms critical to your industry you’ll find inquiries from journalists looking for front-line insight into breaking stories. You’ll get random interview and speaking requests. You’ll receive product review requests and feedback on business samples. And you’ll find more people looking to engage and connect with you than ever before. These benefits can often lead to new experiences and opportunities that were never visible to you previously. And while journalists search and monitor Twitter for breaking news you can create more press opportunities by creating a body of work that positions you as a credible source for stories that they may be working on.
My old blog resulted in mentions for me in The Wall Street Journal, The LA Times, The Orange County Register, Better Homes and Gardens, The Village Voice, Inman News and many, many more. Those mentions would never have come from my LinkedIn profile, Twitter or Facebook conversations alone. I also received several speaking opportunities and won awards based on my work with my blog. It was the body of work and the easily-found nature of my blog that led to those opportunities.
Crafting Your Personal Brand
Your blog is your home. You get to decorate it and furnish it in any manner you see fit. It’s your personal self-expression online and the single best, most consistent opportunity to build and curate the personal brand that you want to project online. On any number of other social sites you’re dealing with the vagaries of the shifting conversation, newest shiny objects and limitations of the platform. There is rarely the perfect opportunity to express the ideal position for you as it relates to your personal brand. Your blog represents that safe harbor in the malestrom where you can talk about the things that are important to you, you can demonstrate your personal brand, and you can work at, improve and refine your voice and brand online.
While your blog can be your online resume it can also be your online batting cage (or putting green if you don’t like the baseball analogy). It can be a place where you can find your voice and refine it. Where you can test out hypotheses and construct arguments. You can analyze problems that are interesting to you and work through your thinking on issues that are important to you. This is often difficult to do in social conversation platforms. The flow of the conversation rarely affords that type of introspective learning. A blogging platform can open up that opportunity like no other platform.
Making Your Blog Matter to You
In an age of 140 characters blogging is hard. Creating content that people want to read, engage with and share is difficult and the payoff is often not seen immediately. You can spend hours creating content that is barely read when it is initially published. But it’s important to remember that social media is a marathon, not a sprint (and the same goes for blogging) and that the effort is a long term investment in your online personae. It is my firm belief that you cannot extract the maximum value from your social media endeavors without a blog as a home base for your efforts.
So how do you make your blog matter to you? Here is a quick list of things that I did to make my blog matter to me (and what I’m doing with this new blog as we speak.) These are obvious but if you’re struggling with a way to get started try these out.
- If you can, register your name as a domain name. It allows you to make your blog the home base for your online activities for the rest of your life. It gives you flexibility in topics and allows your blog to grow with you as your life changes. It also helps with the aforementioned Google love. (To wit, imagine if Scoble’s first blog was Microsoft Insights instead of Scobleizer.)
- Blog about something you’re passionate about. Pick a topic you have an opinion about and start with that. And don’t be afraid to have an opinion and express it.
- Don’t be afraid to put something out there. Start writing and start publishing. Don’t let perfection or how you think other people might respond deter you from putting content out there.
- Get insight and inspiration from other blogs, Twitter and the news. Just like new writers can often get past writers block by taking the opening of an existing story and spinning their own tale, so can you leverage an existing story line and add your own perspective as a way to get started.
- Don’t try to write like a journalist or a marketer. You’re not writing the cover story of the New York Times and you’re not writing the corporate brochure. Write from the heart and with passion and don’t worry about the formalities when you first start.
- Be a good online citizen. Don’t steal content. Be sure to link and provide attribution to ideas and give credit where credit is due.
- Experiment. Try a video blog. Try a long post. Try short posts. Try thought pieces. Try news pieces. Do an email interview. Do a podcast interview. Just do, over and over until you begin to get your blogging legs under you.
Blogging and ‘Winning on the Uphills’
Seth Godin recently wrote about using challenge as a differentiator between you and your competitors. The idea of winning on the uphills is that everyone succeeds and goes fast on the downside of the mountain. In a good economy everyone is profiting. It is in a difficult environment where the good companies and professionals have an opportunity to stand out from the crowd and move forward, ahead of the pack. The same can be said for blogging. While everyone is proclaiming blogging dead and lamenting how “hard” it is compared to Twitter you can win on the uphill and begin to carve out your own little portion of the online conversation. And before you know it you’ll have created an online presence that will serve you professionally and personally for the rest of your life (if you let it) and will help you stand out from the noise of social conversation by creating a clear signal that resonates with readers.
Flickr photo by Mexicanwave.