The Future Of Blogging Might Surprise You

As social media evolves, it’s normal that the channels and platforms evolve, too. Some continue to grow in popularity, while others dwindle. 

One thing is for certain: The Internet is not a fad. This new media is not going away. And, as it continues to grow in popularity, it’s important to also accept that social media is not a fad. Yes, some of the platforms have becomes less popular (Friendster, MySpace and Second Life), but then again, maybe they have returned to a more realistic state of stability. Maybe these platforms were never meant to compete with the raw numbers of television viewership. Perhaps not every platform and channel should be benchmarked against Facebook and its 500 million-plus users. Maybe MySpace is doing right now what it does best: serving entertainment professionals and wannabes with a place to connect.

What about the future of blogs and blogging?

Last week, eMarketer released a new report titled, The Blogosphere – Colliding With Social And Mainstream Media, written by Paul Verna. If you think about the advent of social media, blogging really was the first pin to drop. The ability for anybody to have a thought, be able to type it up and then publish it online for the world to see (for free) changed everything we know about publishing, journalism and the media. Along with the publishing component, the ability to subscribe to the content via RSS, and have the ability to comment on it publicly, link back to it or even start your own blog was a watershed moment in the history of humanity and evolution of publishing. Some equate it with the advent of the printing press, while many in traditional print media wrote it off in an attempt to maintain their own credibility and professionalism. As blogging took hold, the ability to publish in images, audio and video pushed social media into many different directions and – as with all things – the content that was easiest to produce and publish (like snapping a picture or shooting a quick video) replaced the not-so-easy task of putting your thoughts into words. Blogging was always hard, because writing is hard. Everyone is not a writer. Everyone is not a blogger.

Nothing has changed … but everything has changed.

“Despite the success of other social media venues such as Facebook, Twitter and Flickr, blog readership has increased steadily and is expected to continue on an upward path,” the Blogosphere report says. ”Just over half of U.S. Internet users are now reading blogs at least once a month, and this percentage will climb to 60 per cent in the next four years. The main drivers behind these increases are the prevalence of blogs in the mainstream media, the increased use of blogs for corporate marketing and easy-to-use personal blogging platforms.” It’s interesting to note that the true growth of blogging is not coming from individuals using this empowered publishing platform to share their insights with the world. The credibility and growth from blogs moving forward seems to be coming from the mainstream media’s desire to have a cheaper, faster and near-real-time platform to distribute their content.

Blogs are (and will become) a mainstream media platform.

In February 2006, I wrote a blog post titled, A Blog Is Like Lemmy From Motorhead. The point of it? I wrote: “A blog is the glory of a personal voice – warts and all. That is why people are gravitating toward them. Deep down, we want companies to speak our language. We’re tired of jargon. We’re zoning out when we hear phrases like ‘best of breed’ or ‘end to end solution.’ We want to know that business cares about us and treasures our loyalty. We want more… and we’re starting with a conversation that has a human voice behind it … warts and all.”

That world is quickly leaving us as blogs become almost indecipherable from a mass media news website.

The Blogosphere report goes on to say: “The number of blog creators is also expected to climb, though not as steeply as that of blog readers. For many people, the appeal of blogging is not as intense as it was when blogs were the leading form of social media. Today, people have many other social tools at their disposal, and some of them are more fun and less labour-intensive than blogs. Facebook offers most of the capabilities of blogs; users post frequent updates that can include photos, videos and links. To give an idea of how blogging stacks up against social network usage, there will be 26 million bloggers in the U.S. by the end of 2010 compared with about 150 million Facebook users. …Nevertheless, overall blogging rates will inch upward. The biggest factors driving the increase are the ease of use of blogging platforms and the growing comfort level with blog reading among U.S. Internet users. Blogs with broad reach – whether media blogs, corporate blogs or influential technology or celebrity blogs – are creating a culture in which blogging is accepted as an integral part of the media landscape.”

From a personal journaling platform in 1997 to a full-on publishing platform, the transformation of blogs over the past few years can be best summed up in one word: astounding.

It’s a profound shift in how we write, read, contribute and distribute the published word. Blogs are no longer the black sheep of publishing. They have quickly become as important as the printed word. The New York Times operates at least 50 public-facing blogs,” the Blogosphere report says. “These blogs are intertwined with the paper’s regular coverage. Readers are routinely redirected from the main site to the blogs and back again. There is a near total fluidity between the traditional coverage and the blog posts.”

So, in some strange, ironic way, the future of blogging lies in its ability to act like and augment the most traditional types of the printed word.

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:

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: