Is Blogging Dead?

Is Blogging Dead?

Is Blogging Dead?

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

I read an interesting article in Inc. Magazine entitled “Where Have All the Bloggers Gone?” If you read this article it would lead you to believe blogging is in decline and on it’s way out as a marketing tool. The article cites a study from the University of Massachusetts in which the respondents (170 executives from Inc. 500 companies) indicated the use of blogging was down 13% from the prior year. Before you draw the conclusion blogging is dead, you might want to read the text that follows…

Don’t Believe Everything You Read – Especially When It’s Labeled As Research
Research has it’s place, but only as it applies to credible research. Here’s the thing – just because a university, trade association, company, professor, etc., publishes something as research doesn’t mean it’s credible (read Not All Research is Valid). The Inc. article does offer some balanced viewpoints, but my fear is the tenor of the piece may create a negative bias in the minds of readers.  The statistics quoted from the University of Massachusetts study infer because blogging is in decline amongst a small sample group, therefore blogging must be on its way out. This is simply flawed logic based upon a lack of understanding about what’s really influencing the decline.

The Truth About Blogging
Despite opinions to the contrary, blogging isn’t dead; it’s just starting to get interesting. Microblogging (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) doesn’t replace traditional blogging, it actually serves as a catalyst to expose blog content to a broader base of readers. My observation is people who say blogging is dead either already have a blog that died, or they have no blog at all. The truth of the matter is blogging requires a committed effort, which many find to be unsustainable. We’ve all watched many a blog launch in prolific fashion only to die a slow public death weeks or months down the road. However for those willing to put forth the effort, there are great rewards to be gained.

There are always naysayers willing to offer their opinions, but my suggestion is not to listen to the rhetoric of the failed or uninitiated, but rather to seek your counsel from those who are experiencing success. While you can find numerous examples of successful bloggers to glean insight from, let me put this as simply as I can; I would not have continued blogging for the last several years if it was not extremely beneficial to do so.

Macroeconomic Forces At Play
For purposes of advancing this discussion I want to examine a few simple business fundamentals and macroeconomic lessons to lend some historical context to the rapidly evolving state of the blogosphere. When a new industry surfaces, the early adopters (first-movers) set-up shop, validate proof of concept, carve out their niche, and build very strong, if not in some cases, category dominant brands. Clearly this was the case for many of today’s most successful bloggers. The truth is that some of today’s most established bloggers aren’t necessarily the best bloggers, they just got there first.

However it’s also important to keep in mind that not all first-movers prosper, or for that matter, even survive. Because first-movers take large risks in uncharted territory, they often make mistakes that are not survivable. Even if their mistakes are not fatal, many times they serve to blaze a better trail for others to follow by removing and/or diminishing barriers to entry. In a previous post “Blogging Hits A Crossroads” I shared some insights on some of the “A-Listers” who have given up blogging, and why others stick it out. In a universe the size of the blogosphere there will always be churn. In fact, blogging has been around long enough we’re now starting to experience the second and third comings of those who once abandoned their blogs only to come back again.

Where Are We Now?
Many successful bloggers today were not necessarily first-movers, but rather fast-followers able to leap frog the early adopters. Any student of history understands as an industry matures, more capital becomes available, advancements in technology occur, new niches, markets and nuanced communication channels open-up, and more players enter the market. This wave of hyper-growth always precedes a consolidation, which is where we find ourselves now with regard to the state of the blogosphere. Blogging is going through a very natural (and healthy) consolidation phase where weak contributors are being weeded out. This is a positive sign – not a foreshadowing of doom and gloom.

Blogging isn’t dying – it’s being refined by those who understand it best, and abandoned by those who don’t have the talent or the ability to sustain their efforts. To be fair, the Inc. Magazine article which triggered this rant did point out those “Companies that do have blogs are very happy with them. Ninety-two percent of those businesses called the platform a success.” I’m not aware of any other medium/platform where 92% of users view their efforts as a success, are you?

Reasons Why Blogging Won’t Die
Because there is virtually no barrier to entry to a medium which offers global exposure to one’s thoughts and opinions, blogging won’t ever die. While the list of reasons behind why people blog are probably only limited to the confines of one’s imagination, the following list contains common representative examples of what I believe to be the main reasons people begin to blog, and why blogging will continue to be an influential platform (listed in no particular order):

  1. To follow a trend
  2. To become famous
  3. To rant, voice an opinion, or champion a cause
  4. To be of service
  5. To have a cathartic outlet
  6. To communicate with friends and family
  7. To collaborate or exchange ideas and information
  8. To build trust
  9. To acquire knowledge or business intelligence
  10. To engage a particular constituency or constituencies
  11. To make money
  12. To expand spheres of influence
  13. To extend marketing efforts
  14. To improve search engine rankings
  15. To improve personal or professional networking
  16. To create added personal or corporate brand equity
  17. To establish subject matter expertise
  18. And the list could go on, and on, and on…

The Road Ahead
The reason I’ve taken the time to walk you through this exercise is because “who” you are, and  “why” you blog will determine your unique definition of success with regard to your blogging efforts. Bottom line; process what you’ve read here and in other places, then incorporate what you deem to be valid into a blogging strategy that will work for you. For those of you in leadership positions, particularly at the chief executive level, blogging is an incredibly powerful platform, which should only be ignored at your peril. I authored a piece for Chief Executive Magazine which goes into great detail explaining the benefits of social media for CEOs. The only way you can lose with blogging is to not blog – stop finding excuses for why you can’t, won’t, or don’t blog and get in the game.

Thoughts?

Social Media for CEOs

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Nary a week passes where I don’t hear from a CEO who’s grappling with this social media conundrum: should I, or shouldn’t I? The inquiry usually goes something like this: “I’m interested in learning more about social media, but my board thinks it’s a bad idea, I don’t have any additional bandwidth, and I’m not even sure where to start…is social media really effective for CEOs?”  The discussion about whether or not CEOs should become more digitally accessible  is certainly not a new one, but in my humble opinion, it’s a tired one that should have ended long, long ago. In today’s post I’ll share my thoughts on why it’s time to put a fork in the social media debate…

Background/Disclaimer
We have a social media practice at N2growth, I use social media, and all of the CEOs I coach are participating at some level in social media. That said, my feelings are not prejudiced, just biased- there is a difference. Experience matters in this debate, and frankly, most of those who opine in dissent don’t have much experience to draw from…In an effort to be balanced, I have nonetheless attempted to represent both affirmative and dissenting opinions below:   

The Dissenting Position:
The stance of the risk adverse is there is little to be gained, but the potential for much to be lost in social media initiatives involving C-level executives. The fear of exposing executives and the corporate brand to public criticism, along with disclosure concerns with regard to forward looking statements, and other confidential information have caused concern for boards and legal departments. They are risk managers who believe in protecting what was rather than embracing what is, and what will be.    

The Affirmative Position:
Proponents of C-level social media participation believe the digital universe provides the CEO with the ultimate platform to evangelize the corporate brand, and to effectively communicate across multiple constituencies. They are opportunity managers who believe engagement to be more valuable than silence, they believe in dialog not monologue, they believe in change and innovation – not in status quo.   

The Truth (as I see it)
A main point of consideration for CEOs is that social media transforms you from an enigma (the stereotype of the uncaring corporate executive) into a human being that people can relate to…social media personalizes you in a way that few other mediums can.  Whether you Tweet, Blog, Facebook, YouTube, etc.,  these communities allow you to be known for the whole of who you are as an individual, not just as a bio on the corporate website. The following list is comprised of  a few representative examples of reasons why all CEOs should be actively engaged in social media:

  1. Leadership Benefits: As CEO, you’re not supposed to be the relic, but the visionary. This may hit a little close to home for some, but the message needs to be heard. Great leaders lead by example. How can you ask members of your team to be innovative, engaged, proactive, creative, authentic, transparent, and communicative if you are none of those things? You cannot be an effective leader if you don’t model the behavior you seek in others. Be a leader or be a disingenuous hypocrite – the choice is yours.  
  2. Learning Benefits: Social media is not just a tool for pushing out corporate propaganda – use it as such and you’ll pay a steep price. What it is, is open access to people, relationships, communities, and constituencies. Put simply, it’s a chance to observe, listen, process and learn. A CEOs needs to understand that in addition to affording them with the benefit of directly engaging consumers of their goods and services, social media also provides a window into the insights or their employees and allows them to monitor the pulse of their culture. Social media also allows you access to business, market, and competitive intelligence in real time. 
  3. Business Benefits: Yes, I know, you’re the CEO and you have to pay attention to business. Well, social media does have significant ability to drive revenue, increase personal and corporate brand equity, open markets, create relationships, drive innovation, improve morale, build partnerships, attract & retain talent, and to generate communications leverage. Not only does social media work, but it works even better when the participant has a bit of cache. The truth is the farther up the org chart one resides, the more influence one possesses, the more leverage one creates, and the more one can accomplish via social media. You can do none of these things effectively by sticking your head in the sand and pretending social media doesn’t matter.
  4. Communications Benefits: I hesitate to mention this becasue it’s been so overused, but becuase it’s true, here goes: “The conversation is already taking place, so you might as well be a part of it.” Social media gives you the ability to be proactive in your communications, or if needed, provide a rapid response to crisis. Unfortunate things happen in business, and sadly, they’ll likely happen to you at some point. Having strong relationships, supporters, and fans created through social media is invaluable – so is having a channel to quickly and credibly communicate with those who are not.
  5. Legacy Benefits: I’ve often said the best legacy is one that can be lived before you’re gone. A legacy is shaped by the sum total of your personal and professional contributions, and most significantly by those contributions which have been the most beneficial to others. Social media takes your personal interests and your professional body of work and gives them access to a larger community. Social media can enhance the value of existing relationships and create new ones, it can help you evangelize your passions, recruit people to your causes, and to help others with their causes. Social media can help you and those you care about make significant contributions.     

To those of you reading today’s post who still haven’t seen the light, and believe that social media is either insignificant, or that the window of opportunity has passed you by, I put forth the following demographics as proof of the power of the social media as a medium:

  • There are nearly 150 million social media users in the U.S. alone, which is more than 60% of the U.S. internet population.
  • According to eMarketer, the average time spent per user on social networks as of late 2010 exceeded 5 hours per month. Remember this is an average number, many users eclipse this number by a significant amount. As an example, according to clickZ, Blog readers average 23 hours online each week. 
  • Nielsen data  shows a 2x lift in brand metrics around social ads vs. non-social ads. 
  • GroupM’s research reports a significant lift in search behavior from users exposed to a brand on social networks. 
  • Over 12 million American adults currently maintain a blog.
  • I have clients who have tens of thousands of Facebook Fans, oodles and oodles of Twitter followers, popular blogs, have driven huge increases in revenue, and have quite literally changed the dynamics of their businesses, brands and cultures via social media. 

If I haven’t convinced you yet, let’s look at what some other CEOs said just in reference to Blogging in a recent issue of Inc. Magazine:

  • “More effective than any marketing budget for getting our name out there.”
  • “Within 60 days of launching our blog, it is our top referral source.”
  • “Results have been great – we had more than 100,000 visits in May alone.”
  • “Our clients love it, and lots of people in our industry pay attention to it.”
  • “The blogs are 50 percent of website traffic. Great participation.”

So, do I think CEOs should be actively engaged in social media? In a word; YES. If you’re a CEO who hasn’t taken that first step, or if you’re struggling with strategy or execution, give me a call and I’ll help. If I can’t help I’ll refer you to someone who can… 

Thoughts?

To Blog or Not to Blog?

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

I think you’d be shocked at how many people still struggle with the “to blog or not to blog” dilemma. Most of you who have been following this blog know that I’ve been an a strong evangelist of social media, and perhaps even more so of blogging for several years now. So why is it that so many people still seem paralyzed when it comes to taking the plunge? Let’s look at the numbers…While the numbers vary depending on which source you believe, the total number of blogs on the Internet is generally thought to be in the range of 200 million blogs. By any category analysis or analytical standard blogging has obviously developed into a powerful communication medium. However the question remains, do the numbers in-and-of-themselves mean that blogging is right for everyone?

I have read many a commentary ranging from the negative – “is blogging dead?” to those who argue the opposite – “Blog or Die.” Moreover, since I author a Blog (you might be interested in reading a previous blog entitled “Why N2growth Blogs“) I must believe in blogging right? Not necessarily…If you’ve taken the time to review a random cross section of blogs on the Internet, I’m sure you’ll agree that the world would be better off without some of the content currently being published. That said, I also believe the world is indeed a better place as a result of some of the good content available via blogs. While I don’t think a business will perish if it does not blog, I wholeheartedly believe a business will clearly fail to maximize its full potential without leveraging the significant benefits that blogging affords to those who do choose to participate.

Jason Lee Miller authored a post entitled: “Blogging Hits a Crossroads” last year which I believe is probably even more relevant today than it was when it was first released. The premise of his piece is that the landscape of the Blogosphere is changing radically, and that as such many “A-Listers” have either quit, or are contemplating giving-up their blogging endeavors. Miller’s post is quick to point out that blogging is competitive, requires a great investment of time, subjects the blogger to the ire of those who have dissenting opinions, and that it is becoming increasingly difficult to make money blogging. I concur with all of the aforementioned assertions, but must admit that I am far from quitting…In fact, I would say that blogging is just starting to get interesting.

What makes blogging so interesting is also precisely what makes it so annoying at times…the low barrier to entry. The simple fact is that anyone can blog, which explains the existence of the huge numbers of blogs I mentioned earlier. The noise in this space is simply deafening…As Miller so aptly stated in his post, “The good stuff lasts, the chaff separates from the wheat, the cream rises to the top, all that.” The dropping-off of a few “A-Listers” is of little consequence to me, or frankly to anyone else. The litmus test for blogging is, and always will be, does your blog add value, does it make a difference, and do people benefit from the opinions espoused?

Bloggers will continue to come and go…while some will be missed, many will not. Nevertheless the reality is this…blogs are not a tool for those looking to get rich quickly (that train left the station a long time ago), nor are they likely to transform insignificant thoughts into something other than what they are. What blogs do offer is a viable and robust platform to be leveraged by those that have a message worthy of communicating. Blogs can clearly be accretive, and will continue to add brand equity to those companies and individuals who grasp the value of social media and understand how to incorporate blogging into their social media efforts.

It should also be noted that while blogs can and certainly do take people that previously lived in relative obscurity and turn them into almost overnight sensations, the reality is that the higher-up in the org chart you tend to find yourself the more benefit there is to blogging. This is simply due to the fact that more people want to hear what a high profile CEO or entrepreneur has to say. Taking into account the above considerations, not everyone can or should blog. In this author’s humble opinion, blogging only makes sense if the following conditions can be met:

You Have Something To Say: I don’t have any particular affinity for useless musings. Time is a precious commodity these days and most people I know are looking for valuable information that they can put to work for some benefit. I’m also not a fan of going to a blog to read third party news, press or the re-blogging of someone else’s information published for no other reason then to boost their search engine rankings. There are plenty of legitimate news sites and other aggregators out there so if you can’t produce your own content you shouldn’t blog.

You Know How To Say It: Mark Twain I’m not, but for the most part I can put across a cogent thought. While there is no requirement that you be a Rhodes Scholar to blog, it does help if you can communicate well in written form. The worst thing you can do for your business is to lose credibility via poor communication and a lack of professionalism. Not everyone is a writer nor should they try to be.

You Have The Time To Say It: I generally produce 5 blog posts per week (one each business day) and it normally takes me an hour or two per post. I don’t simply link to another article or make trite comments, but author original content that I hope adds value, which in my opinion is mission critical. If you don’t have the time to make blogging a priority the effort will end in frustration for both you and your audience. Post frequency is an often debated topic, but how often you post isn’t as important as meeting whatever commitment you make, and doing so with quality content.

You Have Someone To Say It To: Make sure that there is a viable audience for your content. Whether the blog is a tool for internal communication to employees or an external channel to third parties you must have an audience to either receive or pass along value. If no one is reading your content, you might get some cathartic benefit from your efforts, but there may be better uses for your time.  

There Is Some Benefit Derived From What You Say: Back to value – whether the value is received or given (in a perfect world both) does not matter as long as value is created. A blog can serve educational, social, business, philanthropic, political or any number of other agendas so long as a clear value add is present. A simple cost/benefit or risk/reward analysis should indicate whether your effort will be of value to you, and even if it is not of value to you, it may be to others.

The bottom line is that the numbers do in fact speak for themselves. Blogging is much more than the latest trend and is here to stay. So as long as you can meet the criteria mentioned above blogging can be a tremendous platform from which to effectively communicate your message. If you’re still on the fence, I would request you try and answer the following question: If you can engage those with whom you conduct business, or otherwise desire to interact with in a meaningful and value added fashion why wouldn’t you do so?   

Thoughts?

Blogging Hits a Crossroads

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Blogging at a CrossroadsI read a perceptive post today entitled: “Blogging Hits a Crossroads” by Jason Lee Miller. The premise of his piece is that the landscape of the Blogosphere is changing radically, and that as such many “A-Listers” have either quit, or are contemplating giving-up their blogging endeavors. Miller’s post is quick to point out that blogging is competitive, requires a great investment of time, subjects the blogger to the ire of those who have dissenting opinions, and that it is becoming increasingly difficult to make money blogging. I concur with all of the aforementioned assertions, but must admit that I am far from quitting…In today’s post I’ll add a few thoughts to those shared by Mr. Miller.

What makes the Blogosphere interesting is also precisely what makes it so annoying at times…the low barrier to entry. The simple fact is that anyone can blog, which explains why many estimates place the number of blogs on the Internet at well over 150 million. The noise in this space is simply deafening…As Miller so aptly states in his post, “The good stuff lasts, the chaff separates from the wheat, the cream rises to the top, all that.” The dropping-off of a few “A-Listers” is of little consequence to me, or frankly to anyone else. The litmus test for blogging is, and always will be, does your blog add value, does it make a difference, and do people benefit from the opinions espoused?

Bloggers will continue to come and go…while some will be missed, many will not. Nevertheless the bottom line is this…blogs are not a tool for those looking to get rich quickly (that train left the station a long time ago), nor will they take an author of the inane and measurably change their world for the better. What blogs do offer is a viable and robust platform to be leveraged by those that have a message worthy of communicating. Blogs can clearly be accretive, and will continue to add brand equity to those companies and individuals who grasp the value of social media.

For those of you who are interested in more thoughts on this topic I would suggest reading two previous posts: To Blog or Not to Blog, and Why N2growth Blogs.