As a consultant on Search Engine Marketing and Web Site Usability, one of the suggestions I often make to companies who want to establish their online presence is to create a blog. Is this still a good idea?
The seeds of blogging began in the late 1980’s when early adopters of the Internet used bulletin boards to find people and talk with them. Chat rooms and topic focused email lists came next, followed by “groups”, forums and now, blogging and social networking sites. The constant theme is our desire to talk about ourselves.
When there were less people doing all the chatting, it felt more intimate. For a few years there, I could dial up (yes, dial up with a cranky modem), and in due time (after the bagel was toasted), I could easily find all sorts of people that I “knew”. They hid behind their user names, but it was fun to picture what “Italian Stallion” or “TechGod” or “RedPen” looked like. Today, with Facebook, pictures and real names, the thrill of guessing is gone.
I loved the innocence of the early days. And the danger. Oh, the stories I won’t tell you! And still, there was the time during my single mom years that I chatted somewhere about being alone, again, on New Years Eve. One of my online friends, whom I’d never met but had chatted with online and via the phone for hours, flew out to stay with me and the kids and spoiled me rotten with good food and a fun trip to the local King of Prussia Mall. For years, while the kids were young, he sent a box of goofy kid gifts and something pretty for me. The kids adored him. I think he adored me, but I couldn’t return those feelings. Still, he was a loyal friend and he always made me relax, which is not an easy to do. We lost touch…sad to say, because I got so busy with my Internet-based work that I stopped maintaining off-line friendships.
Most of my off-line friends will tell you, if asked, that I’m impossible to reach and even harder to spend time with. One friend wanted to throw me a birthday party and stopped talking to me when I refused to go along with it. I really hate all that attention. It’s a testament to my friend, Li Evans, that she managed to pull off a huge party for my 50th party and got me to come to it.
I’ve noted my own behavior on the Internet over the years. Sometimes I wonder if I’m alone in my feelings and observations. With the gigantic emphasis on social conversation and networking today, why have I slowed my blogging input rather than take advantage of this Big Blogging Thing?
Talk Talk Talk
Blogs were once online diaries of personal heartfelt posts that weren’t generally targeted to anybody in particular. The outflow was therapy. Some people are natural storytellers and were a blast to read. Some were tragic, such as the blog I once followed that was all about the death of a father’s young daughter. Those types of blogs helped us understand that we’re not alone and other people have feelings like we do. Comments weren’t really the big thing. The human outflow was the juice.
Today, there is far far less writing from the heart. Blogs are used to house articles, share industry news, sell products and services and draw enough attention to get other sites to link to your site. My blog has fallen into that trap as well. I don’t write from the heart nearly as much as I once did.
Why? Because of two things. One is I have no ego. I don’t think for a moment anyone cares what I have to say or that what I write here is anything spectacular. I do think the articles I write for OTHER web sites, such as Search Engine Land’s Just Behave, are really good. I write better for other people or sites because I feel it is my responsibility to do my best for them.
Sure, a shrink will tell you I lack self confidence or something related to that. I’m confident in my skills. I do lack the “Here I am! Aren’t I great?” gene. I think that to sustain a blog year after year, the blogger has to truly believe they are hot, in demand, and people want to grow up and be just like them.
This is why corporate blogs and blogs set up for the purpose of getting links are so bland. They lack a personality. Their writers are called “Admin”. Their content is stagnant and most often unoriginal. These blogs are not blogs. They are more boring web sites that are slightly more powerful than an About Us page.
The other reason I write less is that baring my soul became gossip fodder. You’ll recall some of the debates where new people would ask if it’s okay to combine business with personal stuff. My blog was sometimes referred to as an example of a successful combo for both. I did pull it off for awhile, but I’ve shied away this past year from the personal stuff.
I noticed that when I share anything “real”, its when I’m miffed at something. I don’t have a temper. I just get ruffled. When I get really mad, I don’t talk to anybody and go hide in my cave until all the bad feelings are tucked safely away. Really unhealthy way to live…but I have a personal code. Don’t get mad. Don’t cry. Just learn something and don’t judge.
Unless I bring my blog into the cave, there’s really nothing that exciting to write about. So what is left is just the professional business writing.
So now I feel as though I’m standing on the blogging ledge, looking down at all the little blogging people below, with their honking ads and rushing from street to street trying to be the first one to get a news story out. I no longer feel the desire to be first and I have no desire to toot my horn.
I suppose I’ll still recommend blogs to clients, and offer suggestions for how to make them worthwhile investments in time and money. There are some blogs that rock because the folks behind them figured out how to provide information with personality, news with creativity and serious commitment to quality writing. They kept some of the magic, which is writing for readers, not sales.
With blogs becoming more or less just regular web sites, I wonder where the next human to human outflow will be. Will it be found in the niche social sites that target certain demograhics? Is it user generated feedback on sites that ask for reviews and ratings? Does the creative community, such as writers and artists, have anything new up their sleeves? Is the next cool community gab thing on the Internet at all?
Will the transparency fad fade? Have we grown tired of knowing what everybody looks like naked, how much they drink or what meds they’re on? Maybe personal blogging is petering out because they shared too much intimate information. Perhaps there is a push back on voyeurism.
Maybe, in my case, I just miss real people.