5 Starter Moves – Should Blogging Go Next

Filed in Blogging by on January 13, 2009


Written By: Chris Brogan

I ask this question because I believe most people advising organizations about social media go straight for a blog as their first option. I’m going to step out and say that maybe a blog ISN’T a good first choice. Why? Because I think that blogs are fairly substantial steps, and that an organization might feel really exposed if their first attempt at clearing their throat is an A Cappella moment on stage in front of thousands.

Why not start with a tumbleblog? In fact, an organization could even do a stealth trial of the feel of blogging by doing a few “throwaway” tumbleblogs that AREN’T about the organization. Start with something that appeals to the person who might be asked to blog. If they’re into Texas Hold-Em, cool. See if you can get them to post once every few days about poker.

Find some blogs that you’d want your organization to emulate in tone or style or content, and subscribe to those in the reader, too (at this point, you might consider adding some folders to the reader, one for “listening” and one for “blogs.” Add a mix of related business blogs and maybe even some “fun” blogs to read, like poker blogs (to match my idea above).

Blogging is fun, empowering, and a great way to build the “face” of an organization, but it’s also some people’s version of standing naked out on stage. Ease them into it. Give them a chance to get comfortable, and then break out blogging.

Internal, External, or Both?

I advocate for blogging inside the firewall (privately), as well as having a public facing blog. The internal blogs make a great way to share and compare knowledge, and now that your company is full of professional RSS listeners, they can learn quickly the benefit of using a blog for information sharing instead of email.

Back outside the firewall, facing the public space, your organization will want to be able to use their voice and talk about what matters to their organization. Some companies, like Sun and Microsoft, have TONS of company blogs, several written by engineers and people in the trenches. Blogging is NOT the responsibility of the Mar/Com team, nor the CEO. It’s whoever should be sharing their voice to open up the conversation to the company.

Choice of Platform

This isn’t very important in the scheme of things, but I’ll put in a plug for WordPress as being simple, configurable, and non-threatening. Hosting a copy of the application on your own site makes it a lot more configurable, but if that’s an issue for IT reasons, or some other roadblock, there’s a free, hosted version too.

Other platforms you can check out in the free and hosted camp are Blogger, TypePad, Vox, and then about a gazillion others. Like I said: it’s not especially important, except in understanding the level of customization you want at your disposal.

Topics of Conversation

If your organization has been reading other blogs that you’ve recommended, or blogs in your space, you should start to get a sense of what’s important. From there, I’d recommend just trying it out. Post something. See what happens. See how people respond or not (comments should be enabled, but we could have another huge whole post just on comments, couldn’t we?).

Here, at [chrisbrogan.com], I tend to talk about things from two levels: starting with a simple strategy, and then finishing with some actionable ideas. I call this notion “giving your ideas handles.” Meaning, I want you to take what I share and apply it to your own needs, make it your own. It’s a great strategy for me, because it keeps people engaged, and it is, I hope, most often helpful.

There are tons of ways to get the conversation started. Don’t bog down on that. Just try something, and see what happens. With that said, read this.

Things to Avoid

Some easy landmines to avoid:

  • It’s okay to remove potty talk and unruly trolls from your blog’s comments section (lots of people cite the: “if I wouldn’t allow it in my living room, I won’t allow it on my blog” rule).
  • But DON’T delete comments that criticize you, provided the people stay civil. This is just begging for a brawl. It’s considered in poor taste. Besides, that’s one part of blogging: understanding what people think of you. If you can’t learn from your critics, where are you getting all your advice? Your raving fans only?
  • Don’t repurpose other people’s content without appropriate permissions. Learn about the Creative Commons and about the difference between RSS making it easy for people to consume content versus making it easy for people to steal content. (A hot button with creative types.)
  • Don’t just post press releases and marketing junk into a blog. No one will read it, and things will go ghost town quickly.
  • Try to keep your blog open to more than just pitching yourself, your organization, and your services. It’s your place, so you can do what you want, but if it’s just a big fat ad, that gets boring fast, too.

Sounds like there are lots of negatives to this blogging stuff, huh? Not exactly, but there ARE lots of ways to make a crummy first impression, so that’s why I wanted to cover all those.

What You Should Get Out of Blogging

Blogging, when you’re comfortable with it, is a great way to keep people in the loop about what matters to you. It’s a great way to represent your organization. It’s a wonderful way to share information back and forth, especially once you start learning from experiencing other people’s blogs.

Chris Brogan is a ten year veteran of using social media and technology to build digital relationships for businesses, organizations, and individuals. Chris speaks, blogs, writes articles, and makes media of all kinds at [chrisbrogan.com], a blog in the top 20 of the Advertising Age Power150, and in the top 100 on Technorati.

This post was originally published on January 12, 2008 and is republished with permission.

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