Stop Blogging – Start Thinking…

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Chances are if you’ve attended any seminars in the last few years on leveraging new technology, social media, and the mighty power of the Internet, you’ve been told that you and your business must blog. Chances are, you’ve also been told just how easy it is to start a blog and that a monkey can do it.

Throw up a page of some kind on any of the popular hosted blog platforms (WordPress, Tumbler, Posterous et. al.), or hire a broke youngster via some crowd-sourcing firm who’ll gladly hook you up with a self-hosted blog for a price of a cup of coffee a day, if only because where he happens to dwell, your money still has a ton of value.

Once you have secured your blogging space, you can now truly broadcast your message to millions of potential customers with a click of a button, so long as you syndicate, and almost anyone looking for whatever it is you are selling will undoubtedly see your blog come up in the first ten results of Google. If not, there are always adwords, or SEOs, either of which will get you some place reasonable on Google for a price of twice-weekly sushi dinner for two at a nice joint, or thereabouts, per month.

Here is what advice they don’t give you at those seminars or e-books on the magical power of business blogging and social media:They don’t tell you that blogging = content creation, i.e. writing (mostly), and for some photography, videography, illustration, etc.

That blogging per se is a meaningless word, thrown out there to make it less intimidating for the non-writers amongst us to throw our thoughts into the great wide world of the Internet. That the only differences between writing a blog or writing an article for a newspaper are that with a blog, you will be less likely to suffer public humiliation should it be lousy, and a small but important fact that there is no editor to guide you, help you fix it, or simply say that your content is not worthy of publication.

Here is why it’s important:

Few people in the world are born great writers, or photographers or anything else that requires a natural gift and the tenacity to hone it overtime. Numbers-wise, probably just as few as have a natural gift for music, painting, or architecture. Fewer, still, have the passion to pursue whatever gifts they are born with. The bloggers who have made their business successful by blogging had not just the gift, but the passion and tenacity to pursue it. You can’t learn how to blog effectively in a 20 minute webinar any more than you can learn to paint by taking those paint by numbers classes. And even more importantly, I am of the opinion that we won’t get good at something for which we lack a natural predisposition by repetition. Trying something may help you discover if you have a talent and passion for it though, but chances are, you already know what you are good at and what you enjoy. Most of us do, past middle school anyway.

So here is my sincere recommendation to anyone who is contemplating diving into the world of blogging for business. Take a step back and look at your style of communication, before you do anything else. How do you come across in your correspondence? Would you read you? And if yes, would you hire you to do whatever it is you are selling? If you don’t think you are good enough, do the smart thing. There are people who are good writers, photographers and online communicators. Find one of those close to you, if your place is a mom and pop type, or elsewhere if it’s not, and entrust that person with maintaining your blog and your social media presence. After all, if you are going to blog for business, your blogging and your social media efforts should be looked at as marketing. In simple terms, posting a half-baked blog online is akin to sending someone a postcard you manufactured on your 1990s Xerox. Your potential clients who see it won’t complain or comment. They’ll just file you into the irrelevant folder, and few ever manage to earn a comeback from that one.

Inna Hardison photo Today’s guest blog post was contributed by Inna Hardison, wife, mother to two kids and two adopted pups, marketer, writer and owner of HaMedia Group, a kick ass little ad agency.

Neal Schaffer
The Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Maximize Social Business, Neal Schaffer is a leader in helping businesses and professionals strategically maximize their use of social media. Neal is the author of three social media books, including the recently published definitive social media strategy book Maximize Your Social. Forbes lists him as a Top 35 Social Media Power Influencer and AdAge lists his blog, Maximize Social Business (formerly known as Windmill Networking), as a top 100 global marketing blog. Neal provides social media strategy consulting and coaching, having worked with Fortune 500 companies and a Grammy-award winning musician. He has presented worldwide on social media at more than 150 events and also teaches social media marketing at Rutgers University. +Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer

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Comments

  1. says

    I love how you think Inna. The term blogging is over used to be sure.  There are so many things that people repeat over and over to clients that could easily be created as a content page (aka blog post) to create a library of useful information on their website. If you think about many people spend a long time crafting the perfect email which in the end is similar to blogging. 

    I’m also a big fan of hiring an expert to do what you can’t. 

    Keep writing Inna, you have great things to share. 

    • says

      Linda – thanks, as always!  It’s hard for folks to see the value in hiring someone for tasks that they are repeatedly told “a monkey can do it”, so long as that monkey has access to AdWords keywords tool and a keyboard.  Hence, this post.

    • says

      Linda – thanks, as always!  It’s hard for folks to see the value in hiring someone for tasks that they are repeatedly told “a monkey can do it”, so long as that monkey has access to AdWords keywords tool and a keyboard.  Hence, this post.

  2. says

    Nice post, Inna.  I could not agree with you more.  Blogging is not for everyone and it’s not just as simple as getting a platform such as WordPress and throwing up a post once in a while.  It takes quite a bit of thought and preparation and an overall plan for where you’d like to take your blog.  I’ve had a love/hate relationship with writing my whole life and I wasn’t sure I would like blogging.  As it turns out, besides it being beneficial to my businesses, I find it therapeutic.  It’s the first thing I do each day, when I wake up in the wee hours, hopefully with inspiration.  That said, I guarantee that it’s not for everyone, as we don’t all process information and express ourselves in the same way.  For those who aren’t prone to it, writing can be an absolute grind.  Thanks again for a though-provoking post. Paul

    • says

      Well said, Paul:-) I always find it odd that blogging tends to be so far removed from the art of writing or the demands writing puts on the one practicing.  Too many “just do it” sales pitches out there, resulting, sadly, in a thousands of awful posts.  Can’t imagine that being good for anyone. Would be nice, indeed, if those who were endowed with the gift for writing stuck to it long enough to do something brilliant with it, and those who sucked at it, found other ways of developing an audience for their services, at least when it comes to businesses. :-)

  3. Anonymous says

    The good news is you’ve followed the advice of all the social media consultants and started a blog. The bad news is you suck at writing and every other form of generating compelling content. Time for a “Plan B”, yes?
    Nicely written.

    • says

      Darren – I don’t tend to edit much (a personal flaw of mine), but having worked as an editor for years, I’d agree with you, with one exception. I think good editing helps bring out the best in a particular writer (or a bit of content), but even the best editing can’t fix badly written material if it’s lacking on all fronts. :-)

  4. says

    I agree that blogging is not for everyone. However, I am not all that convinced that it should be outsourced. In fact, depending on the business you’re in, outsourcing your blogging and social media presence could be a tremendous mistake.

    I am most familiar with a B2B environment with a feature set that consists of investment goods, long sales cycles, individual sales of six, seven, or eight digits, and partnerships that last decades.

    At least in this type of environment, articles written by professional journalists are nice and smooth to read, but they tend to include multiple errors or just lack depth altogether. When the seller is an engineer and the buyer is an engineer, there may still be room for an English major to facilitate communications, but that English major needs to know the field very well.

    Furthermore, in large companies the pool of subject-matter experts (SME) is large as well. Sure, some of them have a hard time composing an intelligible email message, but others write quite well. In a business based on long-term partnerships, whose words would you like to read: a journalist who writes smooth marketing copy or an SME whose language skills are 80% there but who can provide a truly in-depth account of the issue at hand?

    Perhaps things are different if you sell products that are more based on aesthetics or are one-time things. I can totally see how selling fashion can benefit from a professional photographer (well, so can everything else, but not to the same extent). I can also see how creating certain feelings can result in sales.

    However, I’m still not sure blogs and social media are the correct media even if this is what you’re after. What about interaction? Conversation? How can someone who is not really familiar with the field handle these? These points apply even to small companies: in some cases, if you don’t have anyone at your company to handle social media, and don’t consider it important enough an investment to hire someone new, perhaps it is best not to jump in the bandwagon at all.

    Outsourcing your blog and social media presence is essentially treating it as you said it is, a marketing function. This in turn is underestimating the opportunities presented by social media and ignoring its potential use as a new tool in the customer relationship management, customer service, and R&D toolbox.

    One further comment on another part of the post. While you think that people need a natural predisposition to excel at something, that view is far from being established. Perhaps my view of mankind is more in Enlightenment style, because I think exactly the opposite: with sufficient practice, anyone can become good at anything. Not in 20 minutes, definitely, and perhaps not fast enough to start blogging if starting from scratch, but in sufficient time, yes. It all depends on work and motivation.

    • says

      Ville – I don’t believe all blogging should be outsourced, far from it.  You’ve astutely surmised that, at least, for the purposes of this piece, I am treating blogging as marketing, and there are all sorts of reasons for that.  So, naturally, this advice is general enough to not apply to highly specialized fields, such as engineering etc.

      I also don’t think everyone should blog (albeit I may not have made not blogging a clear alternative in this post).  So if we establish that for those businesses and business owners who would rely on blogging as one of their marketing channels, if the business owners are lousy communicators, their reputation and image would suffer, and for that, I don’t think there is anything wrong with outsourcing such parts of their marketing as they are ill-qualified to handle on their own.  If, on the other hand, a business is such that it demands tons of highly technical expertise or to establish a human connection to the ownership/brand, outsourcing will not work, for all the rather obvious reasons.  So, in essence, I don’t disagree with what you are saying.

      I will, however, disagree with sentiments you voiced in the latter portion of your comment.  Enlightenment was an inherently elitist movement.  The writings that came out of that era are by no means plebeian (in any discipline), which ought to remind us at the very least that those people were the intellectual elites, and while they advocated (rightfully) for the accessibility of knowledge, education etc. – I don’t recall any pitches for bad art, lousy music, crappy architecture et. al.  I believe Aristotle’s influences still held, to the extent that an acorn would never ever turn into a squirrel, no matter how much it wanted to.  And so it is with gifts (in my opinion), and writing is a gift, at least good writing is.  And I don’t think anyone can ever truly be passionate and enjoy something that they suck at, no matter how much they try.  Yes, with practice, we can all get better at anything, but as someone who is essentially tone-deaf, I assure you I’ll never be great at playing the piano, no matter how much I enjoy good music.  I can give the rest of my life to trying to turn myself into something I am not – and no one, not even me, would be the beneficiary or that investment.
      :-)
      PS: Thank you for your very thoughtful comment.

      • says

        Although this is getting far away from blogging, I must point out that I do not completely agree with your view on the Enlightenment. I think it was a strong movement against Aristotle, especially regarding the view of man, as it marked the beginning of the view of newborns as tabula rasa, capable of being formed into anything through education.

        I will grant that even though Locke introduced this view, he did not hold it consistently, i.e. he was never really interested in how the poor were educated and did not recognize women as equals to men.

        However, these things were more due to the social structures of the times, and had the theory of mind developed at that time been pursued thoroughly, the perceived elitism would have disappeared.

        I think this view of man reached its logical conclusion only in the work of John Stuart Mill, of which I would mention his Autobiography, On Liberty, and The Subjection of Women in particular. Mill is, of course, not an Enlightenment era thinker, nor is he a social contract theorist, but his view of man is a direct part of the tradition that began with Locke.

        I am slightly amused that you picked tone-deafness as your example, because most people who characterize themselves as tone-deaf are not, and could learn to identify tones given enough training. To be a superb pianist, I suppose you would have needed to start as a small child though. I am quite poor at identifying tones myself, but I can still play guitar and bass, and 15 years ago when I played more I improved a fair bit – I still remember the feeling when I learned my first tune by the ear after thinking myself almost tone-deaf. Nowadays, I am quite a poor player again, and my ears are poorer again as well, but that’s just lack of practice. :)

        • says

          My bad, Sir – my last philosophy class was longer ago than I realized.  That said, I suppose I was never one to side completely with any particular movement or idea, especially one that would state itself in absolutes (tabula rasa being one of those). I think human beings are far more interesting of a study if we don’t discount everything that came before us, and if we look at consciousness as not something that we only learn through experience – that consciousness is richer for it, not more limited.  While being tone-deaf may not have been the best example, I watch my highly talented kid play the piano and I know that no matter how much and how hard I worked at it, at the end of the day I could maybe produce a bunch of mathematically correct noise – but that would still not be music.  In much the same way, one can certainly practice the skill of writing but not the art, without innate predisposition (and, importantly, love) for words.  If we take the premise of tabula rasa to its logical conclusion, would we not then indeed all be equally capable and incapable of everything, thereby becoming a rather androgynous mass of people who are essentially the same (not to be confused with equal, of course)?  Good to “meet you” btw:-)

          • says

            Tabula rasa, even if fully accepted, does not result in equal capability, although it does result in equal potential.

            The whole empiricist project was based on a dismissal of at least most a priori knowledge, but this still does not make us all the same, because the exact same conditions cannot be repeated twice. If we start from the very first experiences, then those are even prenatal!

            Basically, strawmen aside, the main difference in our thinking is about the nature of talent. In this issue, I have always been deeply affected by Mill’s account of himself in his Autobiography: he never considered himself anything special, instead attributing his success to education – he was homeschooled to become an intellectual, for example, learning Greek from the age of three, and believed anyone could achieve the same with similar education.

            Indeed, Mill’s liberty project and harm principle are based on his view that there will always be plurality in ways to pursue happiness (which is not to say that he approved of everything, as he obviously did not, he was not a moral relativist).

            So, does innate talent exist? Nowadays we know that our genes do affect, for example, our talent for sports. Does the same apply to cognitive functions? I am not sure. Even if it does, there remains the question to the extent of talent versus work. I definitely agree that loving what you do is needed in order to succeed, because without that love, you will not put in the hours and concentration needed. However, I place a much lower value on innate talent, and higher value on work.

    • says

      My bad, Sir – my last philosophy class was longer ago than I realized.  That said, I suppose I was never one to side completely with any particular movement or idea, especially one that would state itself in absolutes (tabula rasa being one of those). I think human beings are far more interesting of a study if we don’t discount everything that came before us, and if we look at consciousness as not something that we only learn through experience – that consciousness is richer for it, not more limited.  

      While being tone-deaf may not have been the best example, I watch my highly talented kid play the piano and I know that no matter how much and how hard I worked at it, at the end of the day I could maybe produce a bunch of mathematically correct noise – but that would still not be music.  In much the same way, one can certainly practice the skill of writing but not the art, without innate predisposition (and, importantly, love) for words.  If we take the premise of tabula rasa to its logical conclusion, would we not then indeed all be equally capable and incapable of everything, thereby becoming a rather androgynous mass of people who are essentially the same (not to be confused with equal, of course)?  

      Good to “meet you” btw:-)

  5. says

    Great post! We preach this to our client daily! Everyone thinks they need a blog, invest money in it and then can’t produce the content or quit within a few months. Many try to throw crap up and then wonder why they are not seeing any results. Like anything else, successful blogging requires a commitment.

    • says

      Alex & Lyuba – commitment is definitely a plus, but I’d still insist that some people will never blog, or rather be good at blogging. Nor, of course, do I think that all businesses should blog. They could, but as in all cases of lousy marketing – if it’s lousy, it’ll do more harm than good. To expect great returns from crappy efforts is silly in the extreme.

  6. says

    Thanks for writing this Inna! Great points made and questions that need to be answered before diving into blogging.  I guess most see a kiddie pool on the surface, then dive in and realize that it’s an ocean.

    • says

      Jason – can’t say I blame them with so many coaches/gurus/_______’s telling business folks just how simple and easy it all is.  I think that’s part of the problem. Any time I run across of those 10 steps to greatness things, I cringe:-)

  7. says

    Well phrased. It is passion and dedication that distinguish a “good writer” from a “fantastic writer” … everyone starts the same, so it comes down to the amount of effort and attention ones puts towards conveying their message to others. Everything can be rephrased and rewritten … a “crappy” blogger will just write something and not consider their audience or try to understand what and who they are writing the article for. In my opinion, a “good’ and “bad” writer just comes down to their experience and their effort in understanding the 3 (not so simple) W’s :)

    • says

      hmmm, nope, I still think that it requires a natural gift or at least inclination to write well. I think blogging masks that by pretending to be about something other than writing – so no, effort and experience would not, in my opinion, make a mediocre writer great… 
      Thanks for the comment.

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