Living on the Edge: Blogging in the Real World

Here’s an article I did for Floral Management Magazine. It’s meant as a list of real world blogging tips for marketers who want to really put the new tools in play and change the way they talk to customers. As Mike says: it’s time to get real about how hard it is to really have a bunch of ‘edge’ communications. Love to hear what you think.

Living on the Edge: Blogging in the Real World

Ok, we get it: blogs can be really good for business. Over the past 18 months, a lot of words have been laid down to get people to think about blogs as more than online journals, places for cat photos and outlets for political rants. Big companies like Sun, Microsoft, Boeing, GM and a number of others have embraced blogging as a critical way to have conversations with those who matter to their business. A new blog comes online every second, according to blog search service Technorati. Robert Scoble and Shel Israel have just published the definitive book on business blogging – Naked Conversations: How Blogs Are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers.

Blogs are here to stay. So, how do we actually do this stuff?

As my friend Mike Manuel noted at the New Communications Forum this past week, it’s time to move the discussion out of theories about blogging and social media and into the raucous to & fro that is actual conversation. Once you get the big idea (that as marketers our job is to enhance conversations, not try to control them), you need a new set of approaches for getting the job done. The bad news: there are no hard & fast rules. As customers produce their own messages (through blogs, videos, podcasts, photos) at the edges, our marketing has to be flexible, flowing, transparent. Honest. Here’s a handful of real world thoughts to get you started on your own adventure with blogs and other social media:

Get Small Fast.

Social media is an embarrassment of niches. Blogs make small players look bigger & help big players get small. If mass media wastes your message on those not interested, social media helps you offer sharp, targeted stuff that is high value to the right readers. So, you’re not just the floral expert. Maybe you’re the wedding flowers guru. Or you’re the one who’s going to show us the value in everyday flowers. Or you’re going to launch a flower-a-day blog to help us branch out a bit. Drill down. Slice your area in half. And again. Go niche and you’re on your way to better blogging.

Just Do It.

How do you learn to blog? By blogging. Badly at first, but improving with each push of the publish button. See, you’ll quickly learn what gets a response. People will comment, link to you, totally ignore posts that don’t matter to them. Don’t fret endlessly over what platform to use (choose one of the top ones and get cranking). Don’t overdo the fuss over your design (do something clean and sharp that lets people get to the info they want). Don’t overthink it. Start writing a little bit, and see what the world has to say.

Link, link, link.

The most important thing to do in a blog post is provide good links. The second most important thing is to provide really good links. And so on.

Write a Little. Often.

Readership and improved search engine rankings happen through this magical formula: lots of frequent, short posts with links. Have a big idea? Chop it up into a series of posts. Make your blog look alive with routine posts.

Listen. Learn. Rinse. Repeat.

It’s a conversation, right? How can you learn anything if you’re always running your mouth? Pay attention to comments. Respond to them. Use Technorati and other blog search services to track what people are saying about your company, your service, your area of expertise. Respond on their blogs. Great blogging is really about reading, understanding and synthesizing. The writing is mostly flourish.

Ping, Don’t Pitch.

My geek pals & I have a phrase we use when we tap each other for something:  ping.  When reaching out to other bloggers, don’t approach it as you would an old-school media relations pitch.  Offer something of interest to someone you know says Josh Hallett.  A great formulation.  Engage other bloggers.  Comment on their stuff.  By all means, let them know what you’re up to.  (You’re proud of your content, right?)  But, don’t do it in a mercenary way.  Focus on sharing valuable, relevant links & material. 

Spread the Words.

All blog software creates a feed that is automagically updated each time you post. (Sometimes you’ll see an inscrutable orange box that says XML or RSS. That’s what we mean.) Use these feeds to help you spread the word. You can reflow (or syndicate) your blog content to other parts of your Web site. Make sure to prominently feature your blog feed on your page, on your home page, etc. Let readers get your blog posts via email if that’s what they want. Include your blog address in your email footer.

Search Me.

As Elisa Camahort so rightly pointed out the other day, the phrase ‘blogs are great for Google juice’ gets repeated as though it were a form of magic. Can blogging help you show up better on Google and other search engines? Absolutely. It’s a nice, organic byproduct of having real conversations with people. It doesn’t happen by accident, though. Think about what you want to be known for. (Again, go niche.) Then write about those things. Use those terms. And give it time. Blogging is a long-term play with no good shortcuts.  As Jeremy Pepper cautions, though, "don’t just go into blogging for ‘Google Juice’ but because you have passion." Without passion for the topic, the blog won’t continually pull an audience.

Think Beyond the Blog.

When I say ‘blogging’, I really mean all the new tools we can use to self-publish our ideas. Blogs, sure, but there is also flickr and other photosharing services;delicious, digg and other bookmarking communities; podcasting at iTunes, Odeo, AudioBlog and other listing sites; YouTube, Google Video and other video sharing sites; forums, mailing lists and so much more. When you start looking around, the Edge suddenly feels endless. And very exciting.

Updated:

Mike Sansone adds a great point (Rebecca Blood’s incremental value process at work):

Share Your Knowledge.  Mike highlights a key part of the blogging way — sharing know how, linking out, providing value as a ticket into the conversation.  This is fundamental, and I’m glad Mike added his voice to this piece.   

Technorati Tags: better+blogging, brian oberkirch, elisa+camahort, flickr, mike+manuel

Brian Oberkirch | 4:16 pm | Tags: Blogs Work , Corporate Blogging , Dallas , Micromarketing , Blogs , New PR | Bookmark on del.icio.us | Digg It



10 Responses to “Living on the Edge: Blogging in the Real World”

  1. Mason Cole Says:

    I like it, Brian. Straightforward, easy to understand and implement. Good context to understand the whole idea. Nice work — your clients will love this.

  2. Brian Oberkirch Says:

    Mason: thanks, man. Appreciate the feedback. Really working on talking about all of this in way that people who aren’t swimming in this everyday can see the value. Most people aren’t as obsessive about all this as I am (”What? You don’t watch memeorandum like a clock?” “Where’s your feed reader?”), and so I’m really working on introducing things in a palatable way.

  3. Kevin Dugan Says:

    Brian - Great stuff. You get points for NOT saying the blogging has really bloomed.

    I agree on thinking beyond the blog with Flickr (amongst other things). I did a piece on using Flickr more in PR.

    FWIW http://tinyurl.com/s2mkw

  4. Brian Oberkirch Says:

    Kevin: I love that Flickr hack piece. Dear Reader, I truly endorse the above link. Now, if I could just get Kevin to start using http://www.elfurl.com.

  5. Blog Run » Blog Archive » Reuters Embraces Blogs, Transparency is only transparent when necessary?, Blogging 101 for Florists Says:

    […] uld they be upfront on who they are representing. It seems yes, but who am I to question? Weblogs Work: Living on the Edge: Blogging in the Real World What happens when you mash up a floral shop magazi […]

  6. Blog Run Says:

    Reuters Embraces Blogs, Transparency is only transparent when necessary?, Blogging 101 for Florists

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    When the president of a worldwide media organization (they also do financial information, but that’s not important here) talks about how media is being affected …

  7. Larry Boldt Says:

    Brian:
    As someone who is looking to start a blog, I found this to be a great starting point. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Kami Huyse Says:

    This is great, I especially love the Ping, Don’t Pitch. I will reference it in a post on our new PRSA Ban Antonio Byline Blog next week if you don’t mind. I will also pass it on to a friend of mine who is writing a similar item for her scrapbooking magazine.

  9. Silver Ronin, aka Dewayne Mikkelson » Blog Archive » Great Tips for blogging Says:

    […] This article is targeting corporate blogs but some of it applies to all bloggers. Weblogs Work » Living on the Edge: Blogging in the Real World Just Do It. How do you learn to blog? By blogg […]

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