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?

In Praise Of Lazy

As excited as you and I are about Digital Marketing and Social Media, don’t ever lose sight of the fact that most people are not and will not ever really care. 

We used to talk about the 1% rule – that only one percent of an active audience will actually take the time to create content. That number has probably shifted higher because creating content is much easier and can be done in short order. It doesn’t take long to pump out a 140 character tweet on Twitter, and it’s equally easy to upload a picture or even your status on Facebook. Platforms like LinkedIn make it simple to create content by allowing people to not only update their status, but to also answer questions. It doesn’t take much to “like” something on Facebook or give a YouTube video a thumbs up (or down).

Still, the masses don’t care.

I recently overheard two people talking about Twitter. It went something like this:

  • Person #1: “How many people do you follow on Twitter?”
  • Person #2: “Only a couple of hundred.”
  • Person #1: “Do you ever talk to them?”
  • Person #2: “You can talk to people?”
  • Person #1: “Yeah, you use the @ sign and then they know you’re replying to something they said.”
  • Person #2: “Why would I want to do that?”

I can’t make this stuff up.

If the amount of people who open a Twitter account but hardly use it isn’t staggering to you (more on that here: Twitter users not so social after all), imagine the percentage of people on places like Facebook, YouTube and beyond who don’t even understand the basics of how to get the most out of their online experience. It’s not an indictment on the good work we’re all doing, it’s a reality.

How much work do you want to do?

There was a lot of buzz the other week about Digg and their all-new redesign (which included some additional site functionality). Many people think that Digg is doing this because their traffic is plummeting and they’re loosing relevancy in the marketplace (or that they’re trying to be more attractive to brands and advertisers). It’s not that. The Digg model is simply not something that the masses care about. Meaning: people just want the news. They want it well-produced (in text, images, audio and video) and they want it filtered and edited. Most people come home after a long day of work and they want to unwind. They don’t want to scour the Web for information, create a profile, upload a link, Digg it, comment on it, share it, promote it or talk about it on Twitter and Blogs.

It’s all in the balance.

Don’t be upset that the masses all don’t have Google Alerts or have a news reader set-up on their desktop. Most people are not going to download a Twitter client like TweetDeck or Seesmic Desktop so that they can have a Nasdaq-esque screen flowing constantly with each and every tweet that is related to their lives. Most people are mass media lazy. They’re used to sitting back and letting the media wash over them (from a TV sitcom to an article in Vanity Fair). They want to be entertained. They want to forget about their work day. They’re not interested in working more or creating their own media. The balance comes in recognizing both types of people. The balance comes in creating media (as a brand) that appeals to those who just want the information versus those who want to do something with that same information.

Do you think this is going to change – and that people will become more active – or are we all just too stuck in our ways?

Social Media Can Change The Corporate Culture

Most corporate cultures are what they are. Some have been around for decades. Others have had the same corporate culture for a century (or longer). Change is never easy, but change does happen. 

There’s this old trucker saying that goes: “if you can’t change people, you change people.” The truth is that not every competent individual is right for every company, and there are also some serious nincompoops who manage to stick with a company longer than anyone can fathom. Beneath the many layers of individuals, personal politics, power shifting and HR is a corporate culture. The brand’s raison d’ĂȘtre. It is not something that changes easily, but it does change. Mark W. Schaefer over at the Grow Blog doesn’t seem to think it’s possible. In his Blog post, Can social media change your company’s culture? I doubt it (September 22nd, 2010), he calls me out for saying that Social Media is changing corporate culture during our recent Podcast debate on Ghost Blogging (more on that here: SPOS #214 – The Ghost Blogging Debate With Mark W. Schaefer).

Social Media can’t change a corporate culture…

And, here’s why Mark thinks this way: “The idea that you could transform a company culture just because it needs to create a Twitter account or YouTube channel is probably fanciful. I believe the companies who are succeeding on the social web are doing so because they already have a company culture that would enable and reward that success. A well-managed, market-oriented company with a legacy of customer-centricity is going to do well with social media — and any other marketing innovation that comes down the line. If you look at a list of the most successful companies on the social web, there really aren’t any surprises are there? Their cultures are pre-wired to succeed.”

Social Media is not from within.

Mark is one-hundred percent accurate. A company that is customer-centric and open to innovation will probably be more successful in platforms like Twitter and YouTube, but that’s not my point. Take a look at Dell prior to Jeff Jarvis and his infamous Dell Hell post. What made Dell turn the corner was not a proactive decision to embrace Social Media. In fact, it was the total opposite. Social Media did not come from within. It came from consumers leveraging these powerful sharing and publishing platforms to speak their minds, and the net result of this content scared Dell’s top echelon enough to start re-thinking their corporate culture and how they connect with consumers. We’re all quick to cheer Coca-Cola for embracing their consumer-generated Facebook page, but let’s not forget how unhappy the company was when the Eepy Bird guys started mixing Diet Coke and Mentos for some volcanic fun. The company was not amused and reminded people that they would prefer if people consumed Diet Coke.

Coming round.

There are countless stories of major (and minor) corporate brands that over time have begun to understand how their brands now “live” because of Social Media and the brand ecosystem (Dell and Coca-Cola are just two regularly cited ones). A new Social Media marketing platform will not change a corporate culture, but enough voices in Social Media talking, sharing, creating and doing more is likely to get attention and force change. We have to remember that Marketers – if given the choice – would probably never want Social Media. They can’t control a message and they can’t keep others from speaking publicly about them. That’s scary, but Social Media is forcing this change in corporate culture. Whether brands are doing this proactively or because they have no choice is a whole other discussion.

Push beyond Marketing.

Look at LinkedIn. People are posting their positions. Peers and customers provide recommendations. Companies now have their own profiles. All of this information that used to be so closely guarded against the corporate chest is now open for the world to see. I’ve had the pleasure of sitting in enough small, medium and large corporate boardrooms to know that all of this cumulative content (beyond Marketing and Communications engagement) and information is pushing corporate culture to change. From Real Estate and big pharma to financial institutions and law offices. Change is happening… and it’s happening at the corporate culture level. It may be happening slowly for some or at breakneck speed for others, but it is happening.

What do you think? Is Social Media changing corporate culture?


The Internet Is Your Media Lab

Does your company wish there was a place where you could experiment with New Media, Marketing, Advertising and Communications? 

While attending MediaCamp today in Montreal (as a preamble to PodCamp Montreal), Sylvain Carle (from Praized) suggested that maybe more media companies needed to create a media lab where they could experiment with new content platforms, revenue models and distribution channels. This may sound kind of obvious, but it already exists…

It’s called the Internet.

While it may be wise for most brands to have a premeditated strategy and plan before diving head-first into the online channel, there is nothing wrong with trying, tinkering and grappling with a few skunkwork projects online to see what kind of reception and traction you can get. Why not use the channel to experiment and try things… many, small things? You know, that whole “fail fast” model of innovation and development.

Failure to launch.

Most brands fail at the online channel (or think they’re failing) because it’s not a part of their culture (more on that here: There Will Be Blood). Many of the Journalists at today’s conference were pulling out the old, “How do you make money with a Blog?” or “No one is willing to pay me to Blog, and writing is how I make my living” types of sentiments. So, why not experiment and see if those statements really do hold up?

Here’s what you can do by making the Internet your Media Lab…

  • You can start sharing the content that has, traditionally, lived and died on paper.
  • You can open that content up to comments and commentary.
  • You can figure out what people like about it, what they don’t like and how long they spent with your content (try Google Analytics).
  • You can figure out if your content resonates (if it does, people will spread it on their own volition).
  • You can ask people to subscribe to your content (and track how many people actually care about what you’re doing).
  • You can sell ads on your space.
  • You can sell sponsorship on your space.
  • You can put Google AdWords on your space.
  • You can collect data (email addresses, profile information, etc…).
  • You can set-up a tip jar and see how much people are willing to pay for your content.
  • You can use Creative Commons, and let people distribute your content, so that your ideas can spread.
  • You can use the platform to expand your content into other media. If you’re writing, why not try audio, video, images, etc…?
  • You can engage in the comments and commentary you get as a way to build community and spark new ideas for content.
  • You can use your space like a mental gym: work out your content, daily, so that it stays fit, healthy and in shape.
  • You can use your space as a Media Lab to push your critical thinking into new directions (more on that here: Blogging Still Matters… Now More Than Ever).
  • You may get invited to speak somewhere, meet new people or learn a thing or two (or a thousand) about how people really connect with what you are doing.

… And that’s just the beginning.

Once you begin your new Media Lab, you will start to meet new people. If you’re truly connecting to them, other things will happen and you will uncover amazing strategic byproducts from your Media Lab actions. These might be PR and Marketing related, they may be new business development opportunities or you may just learn a whole new way to do what you love to do. Worse comes to worst, you will learn – in short order – that this is not for you or that your content doesn’t have the audience you once suspected.

… And one more thing…

It’s free. Well, that’s not true. You will have to pay in terms of time, effort and sweat equity, but the platforms can be free to start off (you may want to switch to a more sophisticated and flexible platform if your idea really takes off). Remember, never before – in the history of civilization – has one individual (yes, we’re talking about you) had the ability to have a thought, and be able to publish it – as professional content – in text, audio, video and images instantly (and for free) to the world… and be able to measure the results almost exactly and in near real-time.

What are you waiting for?