Is blogging for real?
It's probably no surprise that I'm a blogging evangelist and take nearly every chance I get to promote blogging. I'm a big fan of social media and the spread of blogging to bring more and more new voices out into the world. Yes, some of those voices may be more destructive than productive, but the sheer number of voices out there now means that you will find a lot of goods ones too.
When you stip away the "journal" style of writing and personal blathering of some blogs (yes, I know the irony of that statement since I blather on about personal stuff too), you get down to the very effective nature of blogging. From a business standpoint, whether as a manufacturer, distributor, sales rep or retailer, blogging can get you in touch with your customers quickly and gives them the interactive relationship that they want (whether you know this is what they want or not, it is).
Because it is a convenient example for me to use, let's take a look at some of the things I have done on my Masiguy blog. Most recently, I posted a pseudo poll about a Product Development issue. From this little post, that took me all of a couple of minutes to create, I was able to solicit and receive valuable feedback. This feedback is directly related to what will happen to the development of a product. No expensive study groups or travel to visit with people, just a 5 minute post. I was even able to get the news out that our corporate website had finally been updated (Donna, don't get me started...). Now this seems like a small thing, I know, but the website has actually been an issue with many of our retailers. It would take me forever to reach the number of retailers on the phone who I know actually read the blog. Not only does that post reach the retailers, but it reaches the consumers who have been waiting for the site so they can see the new bikes and hopefully find the product of their dreams. I haven't done it recently and need to, but I have run numerous polls on the blog in the past. I certainly intend to bring them back because they were highly effective and provided some great information.
Blogging can take the place of a company website, though it doesn't have to and isn't my plan. The website is where you can put all of your polished, spit-shined images and build in feature intensive things that are not as easy to do on a blog. Where a website falls short, in most cases, is in being stale and static. Maintaining a dynamic and changing website is difficult to do without spending loads of money. A blog can be done for nothing but the cost of time. This site and the Masiguy site are built on free templates (though they were modified by my gifted friends) and use the free versions of add-ins. My total expense so far has been a lot of thanks to friends who have helped me out, a few pairs of socks to the experts and a beer here and there. Outside of that, time is the only cost. Time is a valuable commodity, I admit, but it doesn't exactly impact the bottom line.
A question I frequently get is "how much time do you spend blogging?" Well, that kind of all depends. I think the longest post I have ever compiled on Masiguy took me about an hour and that was at night, at home. Most posts only take me about 10-15 minutes to compile. So really, the time investment is very minimal for me.
Here's the catch, and I am very aware of this issue, not everybody is a writer. I have written for myself as a poet/ essayist and for magazines, websites and other outlets. Admittedly "whipping something up" is a lot easier for me than it might be for a lot of other people. However, it doesn't need to be initimidating for those who are not professional writers. Here is one of the beautiful things about blogging that I like to frequently point out to those folks who are nervous; blogging allows you to make mistakes. Mistakes and how you deal with them can give you and your blogsite, and then your company, greater credibility. There is a level of respect afforded to those who make a few spelling and grammar errors or other mistakes and then come out and say, "oops". Remember, the blogosphere is built on transparent conversations and dialogs. Being true to your own voice and personality goes a long, long way.
Here is a great article written by a blogging friend of mine, Toby Bloomberg. She mentions many great points- seeing as to how I agree with her so frequently, it is easy for me to point out her genius. The article points out the potential benefits of blogging and how they can significantly outweigh any risks to blogging. One of my favorite comments from the article is;
Peel away the high-tech wrapping and you'll find that a blog is a handshake with the customer.
In a conversation on Toby's blogsite, I made the statement that;
Blogging is a real and legitimate tool for marketing and anybody who disagrees is really misleading themselves. It won't be an immediate success for everybody, but it can be a major tool in developing a brand/ service or in simply connecting with people and evangelizing.
Blogs offer a mass form of communication and connectivity that can not easily be done another way. Donna Tocci, one of the other troublemakers... err... contributors here, and I have had a lot of conversations about the topic of blogging and we don't always agree. She may even come back with some points to argue against blogging here. The one thing I think we do both agree on is that blogs can be very powerful and they have to be taken seriously.
Whether as a small bike shop or as a major manufacturer, blogging can get you in touch with the people who give you the money to keep the lights on. As my good friend Bernie at Panther City Bicycles has done, a retailer can let customers know about new products, new events or simple happenings at the shop without the expense of a mailer or sending unsolicited emails to people. Panther has been able to reach customers and maintain a web presence, since that is where customers are going these days. Which is another reason to blog- your customers are surfing the net and doing their research online. Are you there talking to them? You should be... as if your business depends on it because it does!
Chief Kool-Aid Dispenser
Posted by Tim Jackson at 8:21 PM