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?

Why N2growth Blogs

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Because I can...Nary a week passes when I am not cornered by inquisitive minds asking why I blog…The questions range from those wondering how I have the time to blog, and why I give away free information, to those who wonder if blogging is a profitable endeavor, why we don’t sell advertising on the blog, or the oh so tired “isn’t blogging passe?” So, for all those inquiring minds, in today’s post I will answer your questions in hopes that our blogging efforts at N2growth won’t seem so perplexing from this point forward…

Q. Why does N2growth produce a corporate blog?
A.
Becasue it works…Productivity aside, N2growth is a strong believer in the benefits of building community through social media. It is something we are committed to, and we earnestly feel that the Blogosphere is still the medium that provides us with the strongest brand voice (yes, I Tweet, have a LinkedIn profile and maintain a presence on other social networking sites as well). As the Chief Strategy Officer at N2growth, I believe strongly in the concept of brand fluidity, which means that rather than promote a static brand, we evangelize a fluid brand that is constantly being shaped and refined by the feedback and input we receive from our audience. It is without doubt in the best interests of the company to give freely of our opinions and advice, as well as to use the feedback we receive from our readers to help us shape our collective futures. 

Q. Why do I blog?
A. Five reasons…First, blogging is part of my job description. Second, to engage, listen and learn. Third, I wanted a platform that would be uncensored, and one of the reasons that I accepted this position is that it afforded me the opportunity to share a bit of my opinionated self without being edited. Fourth, I love to write, and; Fifth, because it works.

Q. How do you have the time to blog?
A.
Between books and columns, I already spend a great deal of time writing, so Blogging didn’t really change my routine that much. Since I usually spend between one and two hours each day engaged in authoring content, I just had to change my focus a bit. That being said, I would be less than candid if I didn’t admit that authoring this blog is an occasional struggle. However I have become convinced that I don’t have the time not to blog…Blogging is not an afterthought, but rather it is something that is part of my daily regimen. It is meaningful to, and appreciated by, our audience, as well as being useful to me by helping me refine my thinking and allowing me to synthesize disparate thoughts into valuable information and useful content. It can also be quite cathartic at times…

Q. Why don’t you sell advertising on the blog?
A.
Because we are a corporate blog we don’t feel that it is appropriate to sell advertising. Our readers subscribe to the blog for its content, and not to be bombarded by third party advertising. Our profits from the blog come from building a strong community with our stakeholders, creating a bond of trust with our audience, the creation of good will, an increase in brand equity, and paid engagements that are spawned as a result of publishing the blog.

Q. Is blogging profitable?
A
. The answer is unequivocally yes. We not only receive almost daily inquiries for services as a result of the blog, but we are consistently engaged by clients as a direct result of communication originated by content published on the blog. Moreover, we believe the blog is profitable for our audience as well. We receive frequent emails, Re-Tweets, and other feedback attesting to the positive impact our blog has had on our audience.

I hope this has helped address any questions that you may have with regard to our blogging efforts and thank you for all the positive feedback and support with regard to this endeavor.