The Art of Blog Marketing

This is a story about building relationships online through blogging and how connecting and sharing is about the art of marketing. For this post, we will leave science aside, except for the technology required to blog.


Over Memorial Day weekend, a group of us met in NYC to honor CK and her recently passed momma, Sandra J. Kerley, with a tree planted in a corner of a Spanish Harlem family garden. The spot is a haven of green among the concrete, brick, glass and steel setting. Five of us gathered with CK, but many participated in the celebration through their generous donations. Some who could not join us called to speak with CK.
In the group were Drew McLellan,
David Reich,
Luc Debaisieux,
Valeria Maltoni, and me. Drew and his family flew in from Des Moines, David drove from the ‘burbs, Luc came all the way from Belgium, Valeria trained from Philadelphia and I took the commuter line from New Haven. If you want to read more about the event, each of us posted or you can click here to read my post and see the photos.
The gathering made me think about what brought us and so many of you together. The tool was blogging but the strategy that connects us is that of relationship building. Each of us believes that life and the part of it we call business require the art of connection to grow. Anyone can blog. It doesn’t require either great technical or writing skill to do so. But among the bloggers who I have met in-person and online, a sense of sharing, connecting and getting to know others is inherent within us. And that is a basic principle in marketing.
At the end of the day, marketing is not about products, services, technology, advertising, public relations, or traditional tools. It is about creating connections, what some of us may call experiences. Successful marketing gives people a reason to care about us. In business we may call the “us” our brand. That is also true in life.
Why did we gather in New York City, a group of strangers, some of whom had previously met, others who had never met face-to-face? We cared about each other. We had connected. We wanted to be part of the brand experience (honoring CK and becoming friends). This may seem a strange analogy. To some it may seem a bad and heartless analogy, as we are talking about a friend’s loss. But to clarify, I am talking about love for a friend and caring for her. I am talking about what we gained through CK’s loss.
And that’s what customers feel about brands that they are loyal to: Harley-Davidson, Starbucks, Apple, VW, Coke or Pepsi. Those companies have connected with their customers. They share their human sides, build relationships, and become friends to and with their customers.
They do so by telling stories and touching our emotional sides with those stories. The 40-something accountant who loves the rumble of a Harley. The 30-something mom who cherishes her escape to Starbucks Third Place Experience. The Mac lovers who hold onto their minority but special status.
These things don’t just happen. They happen because of the art of marketing. That same art applied to our personal lives and our businesses is producing enduring relationships, more sharing opportunities by writing for other blogs such as the Daily Fix, and work opportunities. All because of relationship building. Like me, I suspect most of you have a similar story.

Can Blogging Work as a Marketing Tool?

Yes, it can. My two most recent clients hired me because of what they read on my blog and at my Web site. That is significant because for marketing to be accepted and effective, it must result in sales. I know some disagree, and that’s one of the great things about this medium. It is interactive, immediate, and informal… key ingredients to good communications.


When I first started blogging nearly a year ago (my first anniversary is June 13), one of my goals was to use my site the same as I use all my outlets for writing–as a way to brand myself and my business. But to be successful, my branding efforts must lead to work. Newspaper and magazine articles, as well as TV and radio guest appearances and my books have always done that. I saw no reason why blogging shouldn’t be able to build my brand image, market my business philosophy and values, offer lot of free content for my readers, and lead to work. It has.
The point I want to make is that blogging does not need to be sold only as a way to have a conversation with your readers, customers and clients. While that is a good thing in and of itself, I don’t believe it is the right argument to make when we offer blogging (or any of the social media tools) to our business clients.
The primary purpose of a business is sales. And every marketing tool should support that purpose. I now have proof that blogging does, when done correctly and when our posts serve our reader’s wants and needs, the basic foundation of all marketing and branding efforts.
Here is my challenge to you: If you believe that blogging is an effective marketing tool, pretend that we are potential customers and clients and give us your best pitch. If you don’t believe that this medium can be an effective marketing tool, tell us why.

10 Tips for Keeping Your Blog Fresh

Even the best bread goes stale in a few days. After a year of blogging and sharing marketing ideas, is it possible bloggers go stale, as well? I think the answer is yes. But does that mean we should shut the doors on our blogs and fade quietly into the background?


I think not. There is hope for refreshing and reinvigorating our posts to keep our readers interested, and I don’t believe it includes writing less.
Here are some of my thoughts. What are yours?
1. If you haven’t already done so, create a plan with measurable goals. Doing so will keep you focused and consistent, helping your readers understand what matters to you. If you don’t know wwhy you blog and where you are going, how can your readers follow your journey. And if you aren’t tracking goals, how do you know the impact of your blog.
2. Search the news and business wires for today’s hot business topics.
3. Cover those topics using a slightly different angle and ask questions for your readers to think about and reply to if they wish.
4. Write shorter. Most of us don’t have time to read a long treatise on any subject.
5. Inject your opinion but not so strongly that your readers feel no room exists for their thoughts.
6. Write the way you talk. Write simply. Save the big words for your great American novel. No one wants us to prove how smart we are. The writing shapes the ideas, not our vocabulary.
7. Keep to the subjects promised in your masthead and “About You” page. If you are a marketing blog, mostly stick to that subject. Readers seek familiarity when they visit.
8. Throw in a fun post once a week, such as interesting tidbits about others or music or books or TV or movies. Make it a regular feature so your reader’s expectations are met.
9. Occasionally, be provocative, which is a great way to get readers involved in big ideas. Be sure the subject is big enough to handle provocation.
10. Use names, pictures and stories of other bloggers. We like to see our names in print.
Finally, write for readers, not links. When we write for readers, we create words and ideas that are authentic, heart-felt, credible and worth reading. Readers are the audience, and in writing for our audience, the links will come. Going back to my first professional writing job, my editor told me repeatedly to write for readers, not for myself. All of my subsequent editors ensured that I remembered that lesson.
Your turn. Agree or disagree, share your secrets and ideas. How do you keep your readers coming back? What works and what doesn’t?

7 Things That Blogging Does

Seven years ago (2003), I posted my first Blog post here. The day would have slipped by had someone not sent me a note about it.

After tweeting about my Blogaversary, Jay Fleischman, replied: "@mitchjoel 6.18 posts/wk for 7 yrs. Take out 1 for the podcast and you’re at 5.18; 400 words ea = 2,072 words/wk. 754,208 words total. Nice." my newspaper column for the Montreal Gazette and Vancouver Sun (which will be cross-posted here tomorrow) is all about the future of Blogging. That being said, after 7 years and 2251 Blog posts, I have learned some very important lessons about the value of Blogging when I think back.

7 Important Lessons About Blogging:

  1. Blogging = Critical Thinking. If everything else went away (the readers, the comments, the community, the feedback), Blogging was (and still is) an amazing place to think about an issue or news item and work through it. I liken myself as a Media Hacker. A Blog is a great place for anyone to be a Hacker of whatever it is that they love. If you don’t believe me, then just watch this: Blogging Still Matters… Now More Than Ever.
  2. Blogging = Ideation. In using your Blog as a platform for your critical thinking, you will quickly start uncovering new and interesting business models and ideas for how you can push your industry forward or how it can/should be thinking differently. Writing a Blog, reading the comments and feedbacking into them is the ultimate Petri dish for ideation and innovation.
  3. Blogging = Tinkering. The ideas and critical thinking are not always one hundred percent final. Blogging allows you to tinker with ideas. To work at them (like a complex mathematical formula). Slowly, over time, you start realizing how wrong you were, how visionary you were and how much further you still have to go.
  4. Blogging = Relationships. It’s not about sitting in the dark recesses of your basement as you tinker away with words and thoughts. It’s about using this platform to connect. It’s about real interactions with real human beings. Some of my best friends are people that I would not have otherwise met were it not for Six Pixels of Separation (the Blog, not the concept). If you Blog, step out into the physical world. Meet other Bloggers. Share, learn and collaborate with them.
  5. Blogging = Business. Make no mistake about it. This Blog started out as a means for Twist Image to tell the world how we think differently about Media, Marketing, Advertising and Communications. Over the years, this has attracted many world-class clients, speaking engagements, a book offer and many other amazing and interesting business opportunities. So, while this is not a place where Twist Image shills its wares, it is a place that is directly tied to our overall business objectives/strategy. It consistently delivers a very solid ROI to our bottom line (take that, you Social Media measurement naysayers!).
  6. Blogging = Sharing. As each day passes, I like Charlene Li‘s latest book, Open Leadership, more and more (her first book, Groundswell rocks as well). Many people think that Social Media is all about the conversation and engaging in the conversation. I believe what makes any media "social" is the ability to share it. To help you to open up. Not only can you share the concepts by telling your peers and friend about a Blog, but everybody shares in the insights as well (whether you work for my company or not). It has changed/evolved our corporate culture. A Blog makes you think more about how you can share your content, your thoughts and why others may want to work/connect to you.
  7. Blogging = Exhaust Valve. A great Blog is great because the Blogger actually cares and loves to create content. If it’s forced, if it’s your "job," then the passion rarely comes through. The biggest lesson I have learned in my seven years of Blogging is that this Blog is my exhaust valve. After working a full day with clients and their many challenges, this Blog is my playground. It’s the place where I can let off some textual steam. Make your Blog your exhaust valve. Caution: be careful that you’re not Blogging simply to blow off angry steam. The steam and exhaust I am talking about is the pent up energy of passion that I have from doing what I love to do.

What does Blogging equal for you?

Is Social Media Right For Every Business?

A great man once said, “Do or do not; there is no try.” 

Fine, it wasn’t a great man, but when Yoda said that now-classic line in The Empire Strikes Back, many a geek (myself included) nodded our heads as if it were the common-sense wisdom of the Dalai Lama. In fact, the concept of “trying” something without having a true strategy or direct outcome in mind is becoming a much more sensible approach to Digital Marketing channels. This is especially true with the varied world of Social Media, where channels and platforms like Twitter and Facebook roam wild with Chat Roulette and Wikipedia. One person’s video of six dogs chasing a gazelle with 80 million views is equally layered against an audio podcast that focuses on the best burger joints in Montreal. (No joke. Check out The Montreal Burger Report).

Is there room for businesses and brands in all this random content?

Of course there is. One of the primary reasons that businesses struggle to understand the world of Social Media is that it is often compared with one particular traditional media channel, instead of being seen as a healthy ecosystem where a bricks and mortar brand (and this includes products and services with a business-to-consumer or business-to-business focus) can create and do things with content (text, images, audio and video) across multiple areas with varying degrees of impact and audience.

PodCamp could well have been wrong.

Last week, close to 400 business professionals, hobbyists, media hackers and others with an interest in Social Media spent the weekend at UQAM listening to many different types of presentations (like Revenue Generating Trends for Bloggers, Going Against the Grain with Niche Podcasts, and Your Web Content: Forever or Fragile?) at PodCamp Montreal. What originally started as an unconference (a self-organized get-together where the content and flow of the day is organized and led by all participants), PodCamp Montreal has blossomed into a full-blown, two-day professional conference with sessions in English and French. (PodCamps happen all over the world – just do a search for one in your area).

As someone who has participated in and helped organize these types of unconferences over the years, it was surprising to hear many speakers say: “Social Media is not right for every business.”

The explanation given was that some companies simply don’t have the wherewithal. They don’t have the bandwidth, budget, resources, people, experience or the right attitude. It’s as if everything has to align like the stars to get into this very complex media mix. That kind of back and forth is a huge misconception. It’s usually done so that a company hires any one of these many consultants/speakers to pay them to do the work.

The truth is, asking, “Are social media right for my company?” is a flawed question. Instead, ask yourself: “Should my business be sharing who we are and what we do with the world?” If the answer isn’t yes, feel free to pick up the computer or mobile device that you’re reading this on and whack yourself upside the head until you realize the answer is always yes!

That’s why you’re in business: so more and more customers can find you, buy from you and tell everyone that they know how great you are.

This flawed thinking that Social Media are not for everyone happens because many of these self-anointed experts focus on only two areas of Social Media:

  1. Whatever platform is most popular (like Facebook and Twitter).
  2. The notion that Social Media are all about the “conversation” taking place online about you, your competitors and/or the industry you serve.

Those are both valid spaces to play in, but they’re not even close to the only ones or the reason to get involved in the first place.

What makes Social Media (or any other type of media) truly “social” is the ability to share. Whether that is done on an internal basis with your employees or publicly (or both), sharing is the best place to start. Share everything there is for people to know about you (news, articles, white papers, your thoughts, etc.). Share beyond your own hallowed digital walls (your website) and push that information into the channels where people who might be looking for what you have to offer frequent.

Share and share alike.

Optimizing your site so it can be found on search engines is important, but don’t forget YouTube is actually the second-largest search engine (after Google) and people are doing all kinds of searches within their online social networks like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and beyond. They’re scanning the industry blogs and podcasts to see who is saying what about whom. The more you make your content findable, the more findable you become – everywhere.

Once you begin to benefit from this, you’ll begin to see the many additional options that are available – from tools that can help you to better collaborate both internally and by leveraging the wisdom of your crowd, to listening to the existing feedback and dialogue surrounding your brand. All this public content is there. It can help you better analyze your market position, what customers really think about you and your competitors, and it can even provide indications as to how you can improve and innovate.

Social Media is for every business… that’s just stupid.

What if you sell toilet paper? Are Social Media still right for your business? Charmin released an iPhone app called, Sit or Squat, which allows you to locate, rate, comment on and even add the whereabouts of a clean public toilet. The feature-rich application also allows you to narrow your search to bathrooms that have a baby-changing station (as one of many examples). This crowd-sourced initiative has been downloaded millions of times and – as someone who travels as frequently as I do – has a special place on the first home page of my iPhone. Charmin is enabling and empowering people like you and me to share with the intent of having a better bathroom experience (with the hope you’ll consider buying Charmin toilet paper as you make your way through your grocer’s aisle).

If Charmin can make toilet paper social, what’s got you all blocked up?

The above posting is my twice-monthly column for the Montreal Gazette and Vancouver Sun newspapers called, New Business – Six Pixels of Separation. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original versions online here:


When The Web Is Considered An Inferior Media

Going back a few years, the Internet was not considered a credible media source. That changed, but it’s changing again.

In the early days of online publishing (even pre-Blogging) the simple fact that any one individual could publish their text, images, audio and video online created a major stir within the major mass media outlets. In fact, their only defense in trying to maintain control over what the public consumed was to scare the world with stories of online publishers not living up to the journalistic integrity that we have come to expect from our news and media outlets. To this day, there are still traces of this (look no further than the articles covering the accuracy of Wikipedia entries).

Can the Bloggers be trusted?

It’s a powerful thing to say, but we’ve come to learn that the vast majority of Blogs (and the Bloggers who publish them) are overly transparent about who they are, what they’re Blogging about and where their intention is (those who are transparent gain credibility, conversation and audience). On top of that, the Bloggers that do not disclose things like conflicts or when they are being compensated are becoming easier and easier to spot.

…But things are starting to get ugly again.

Yesterday, Paid Content, ran a news item titled, Condé Nast Enlists Web Edit Staff For Samsung Advertorial. Here’s the gist of it: Condé Nast is attempting to protect the traditional wall separating advertising from print editorial by having online-only staffers create an ad insert for Samsung… the use of web staffers was seen as a compromise and a way to avoid clashing with print editors who were considered averse to allowing their own staff work on an ad product.”

Either you’re believing in this digital content stuff or you’re not. You can’t be half-pregnant.

There are a couple of factors at play here:

  1. Making a differentiation between print and online journalism (in terms of quality and value) is downright silly.
  2. By allowing the online-only staff to do the advertorial content, this activity diminishes their ability to be considered credible (today and tomorrow).
  3. The overall action creates a bad moral compass for the company’s ethics of journalism at a macro level (it’s sounds like they’re looking for some kind of ethical loophole).

The Web is not an inferior media.

The sooner that brands, advertisers and publishers stop treating the Internet like the red-headed step child of the media and marketing mix, the sooner they’re going to be able to better understand how they can connect and build their brand in this new world where consumers are connected, looking for real interactions between real human beings and are, ultimately, not just a passive audience, but active participants, voices and community members. Publishers aren’t the only publishers anymore. People are now also publishers and brands (and Marketers) are publishers too. So, we need to change our code of ethics around editorial content and advertising, and not just look for loopholes and ways to capitulate.

What do you think?

Your Blog Is Your Business

Your Blog is your business, unless it’s not your business.
If you Blog as a hobbyist, that’s fine, but if you’re Blogging to grow your personal profile, build your business, create some semblance of thought leadership or to simply share some of your thoughts and ideas, nothing is going to really happen, unless you treat it as a serious piece of your business. It’s not easy. In fact, if you ask anyone who Blogs regularly, it’s one of the hardest things to do.
It’s easy to forget about your Blog.
Being impressed by someone who regularly Blogs would be a dwarfed emotion compared to the stat of abandoned and forgotten Blogs. For every Blog that is regularly updated, there are probably thousands of Blogs that have been
orphaned. The problem with most Bloggers is that they’re not writers. They don’t see Blogging as a craft and art that must be practiced, pushed and prodded on a consistent and constant basis.
It’s easy to let a Blog drop.
In fact, it’s easy to let any of the many Social Media channels that you use to connect and share to drop off of the priority list. Sure, there are days when
the inspiration runs dry. Sure, there are days when the day-to-day stuff gets in
the way of the words. Sure, it’s easy to say that it’s “the work” that must come
first. But, before you do all of that, ask yourself this: “what was it that made you this busy in the first place?”
It’s not easy to let a Blog drop.
Think about your clients. Think about the work you’re doing. How did you happen to close those pieces of business? I’m lucky (some might say cursed), but a majority of the success we’ve had at Twist Image comes from the work we do – right here – on this Blog. When we started Blogging in 2003, we (and I say “we” because although this is my worded playground, it is a group effort and a huge
part of the overall business strategy of the agency) had a few clients and a few employees. The mass media and industry publications didn’t care much about us, because there wasn’t much of a story there to tell. Blogging enabled and empowered us to share how we think about the Digital Marketing landscape with the world. This Blog prodded along (it still does), and whether it’s working with a major brand, securing a business book deal or getting talent bureau representation, we stay focused on the fact that a lot of that came (initially) because of this Blog (in fact, it still does). Yes, we needed the work to stand on it’s own (both the creative and strategic) and we need to keep nurturing all of those client and business development relationships, but to this day many brands find us (and want to work with us) because of the ideas we share here (amongst other reasons).
This Blog is our business.
So, when you think you’re too busy to Blog or other priorities float on to the radar, try not to forget that Blogging (if it’s a part of your overall business strategy) is your business and the important work that must get done. What do you think?
A special thanks to Chris Brogan (author of Social Media 101 and co-author of Trust Agents with Julien Smith) for the inspiration with his Blog post: Your Blog Is Not Your Job.