I’ve written about business blogging in the past, and I firmly believe that it has become an essential tool for small business marketing in any business where the personalities and personal knowledge of the participants form most of the value of the company. As a company of one, I’m all I’ve got, and I blog in part as an online portfolio but also as a way to engage smart people in conversations of mutual interest. Somehow along the way, I became an evangelist for blogging.
For the past couple of years, I’ve been doing some very occasional mentoring for the son of a friend and his two buddies as they start up their company, Trioro. Every time that we have met for the past year, I’ve asked them when they were going to start blogging, and gradually their looks changed from “she’s crazy but we’ll tolerate it” to “hmm, that might be a good idea if I can fit it into my spare time” (Scott, I can read your face like a book). I strongly suggested that all three of them blog, since they are the company, and a few weeks ago they finally came through. I think that they’re still finding their voice, but it’s a great start.
It’s a little strange to have to push this new-fangled technology to people young enough to be my own kids (well, okay, if I had decided to have kids instead of taking grade 11 algebra), but when I think about it, I’m not really pushing the technology, I’m pushing the concept of a blog as marketing. I can’t fault them for not getting it: a huge part of the business world doesn’t get it yet, either.
I have several friends with small businesses, many of them one-person businesses, and very few of them realize the power of blogging for their business. My long-time friend Pat, a very talented photographer, has her first show of photographs for sale hanging at Barrio Lounge (a great local restaurant) this month. She takes beautiful photos of fruit and vegetable arrangements, lit to look like 16th-century Flemish still life paintings, and prints them on large-format canvas. She’d like to eventually quit her job as a technical writer and do this full-time, and this show is her first step towards making that happen. So you think that she’d be blogging about it, right? About the technique in creating and lighting the arrangements. About the settings on the Canon Digital Rebel that she uses. About the difficulties of finding a printer who could print the large canvases. About the technique for stretching and mounting the canvases. About how we scrambled to hang the show in two hours last Saturday afternoon. If you thought that, you’d be wrong. Okay, she’s busy: while preparing for this show, she was also finishing her Master Gardener certification, in addition to holding down that fulltime job. But at some point, she’s going to realize that success at selling her photographs is going to come much more quickly through greater exposure, and that a blog about how she creates these masterpieces is a powerful tool for gaining that exposure. It’s not like she doesn’t have the skills: Pat’s a professional writer with a degree in English, and she writes many emails to me every week about the same stuff that she should be blogging about.
Another friend of many years, Ingrid, is also a writer. She has degrees in law and journalism, and specializes in plain language business writing on a variety of subjects that usually aren’t so understandable, like tax law. She writes a semi-monthly email column, On Being, that I would love to be able to point you to except that she doesn’t post it online. In other words, she’s a wealth of information on topics that many people would be interested in, but very few of us get to see them. Unlike Pat, however, I think her reasons are more around intellectual property than time constraints: during our latest discussion about On Being, she said that she hoped to be able to sell the columns to a magazine, so didn’t want to put them in the public domain. (I blame the legal training.)
Maybe the problem is that when we write for a living, or if we’re used to highly-polished “marketing writing” as being the world-facing view of a company, we think that everything that we publish has to not only contain pearls of wisdom, but be perfectly proofread. Blogs make that untrue. It’s not like you shouldn’t have something to say, and use your spell-checker once in a while, but you’re not writing your Ph.D. thesis, it’s a blog post! The half-life of the interest in any particular post is less than two days, so there’s not much sense in spending more time than that writing each one.
Interestingly, I wrote most of this post yesterday afternoon, then was interrupted to head off for dinner with Ingrid. We discussed blogging again, and she offered up this last concern — that she was a professional writer and that more casual writing in her blog might impact someone’s view of her finished product — but I think that she’s going to come around on this one.
I rarely write about personal blogging, since I read very few purely personal blogs — most of my reads are technology or business-related. One trend that I have noticed in the past year is “elderblogging”, or blogging by seniors. I’m not talking about what baby boomers are doing as they finally start to retire, I’m talking about their (our) parents: the 70+ crowd. Just as businesses started to realize a few years back that “grey power” was a huge market force, mainstream media is finally starting to notice that the geezers are blogging. That made it easier when I was trying to explain blogging to my 82-year-old mother last month: I just showed her a blog written by a woman her age. Two weeks later, the inevitable email from Mom arrived:
I read Millie’s note today wondering why there aren’t senior bloggers and that she’d helped some get started. As you know my computer skills are not too good but thought that learning how to blog might be fun. Can you tell or send something about how to do this? Don’t know what I’ll blog about but it might be fun.
She started blogging last week. No evangelism required.