A couple weeks ago, I wrote a post about how I believe (most) brand-side folks are less networked than their agency peers. Pretty sure that post ruffled a few feathers among my brand-side friends (but, like I said in the post, there are exceptions–and I know a lot of those people!).
And, that’s OK. Because it reminds me of a mantra I learned early on in the blogging world.
“You’re not a blogger until you’ve offended someone.”
Wait, Arik, why would you want to offend people? And in this particular case, why would you want to offend brand-side folks? Aren’t those your clients?
Yes, they are. And no, I don’t mind offending a few of them.
Here’s the way I think about this, because I think it applies to many of you who might be reading this blog (and might not be bloggers).
I kinda think about it like a talk radio host. I listen to a lot of KFAN (for those not in the Twin Cities, that’s our primary sports talk radio channel). One of the shows on that channel is “Nine to Noon”–a program hosted by the voice of the Vikings, Paul Allen. On that show, he talks about this issue all the time–that if you’re going to be a talk show host, you have to have a strong opinion to be successful.
Strong opinions are what sells when it comes to talk radio.
Blogging is no different.
In my experience, playing the middle of the road when blogging will get you very little attention and readers. Now, I’ve talked before about my MO for this blog and it has never included “getting a bunch of readers” or “being an internet celebrity.” From the beginning, I’ve blogged for two reasons: 1) To express my opinions in a forum where I can share what I want, when I want, and 2) To support my business as a consultant.
Having strong opinions on “controversial” or timely topics hits on both of those reasons.
Over the last 8-plus years of blogging, having strong opinions has positioned me well as a consultant who’s not afraid to tell a client news they might not want to hear (but need to).
Having strong opinions has positioned me as someone who’s not afraid to take a stand.
And none of those things are bad.
Yes, I realize not everyone is going to agree with me all the time. It’s the same situation as that moment (typically when you’re in your teens or early college years) when you first realize, not everyone is going to like you–and that’s OK.
Not everyone is going to agree with my opinions on PR, social media and marketing-related topics. And I think that’s OK.
Difference of opinion is good. It challenges us to think differently.
And if others have a big problem with that–to the point where they don’t want to work with me–so be it. Most likely, we wouldn’t be a fit anyway.
How does this all tie back to you?
Having a strong opinion obviously isn’t something specific to bloggers. We all have strong opinions. Some of us blog about them. Others share them on Facebook. Others share them at dinners, or t-ball games or at church.
My advice: Don’t back off your opinions. Have strong opinions and stick to them. Not everyone is going to agree with you–but that’s OK. Because in the end, I think more people respect those with strong opinions who stick by them when times are tough than people who play the middle of the road and never take a risk at all.
A few weeks ago, I spoke at the sixth annual Minnesota Blogger Conference. You can read all about what I talked about here.
Part of my presentation caused a bit of a stir: My prediction that more people (and I would also argue, companies) will remove comments from their corporate blogs in the year ahead.
Yeah–that was a little of the reaction I got at the Blogger Conference.
But, hear me out.
First, the reasons:
Fewer comments may hurt your brand reputation
If your corporate blog is like many, it gets few thoughtful comments. Fact is, most blogs are seeing fewer comments than they’ve seen in the past. Don’t believe me? Let’s look at some of the more popular and well-known corporate blogs, and how they’re faring in the comment department.
The Allstate blog is commonly listed on many “best corporate blog” lists. Taking a breeze through it, I see many posts in its current slider with under TWO comments.
What about the Whole Foods blog? No question that’s usually lauded as one of the better corporate blogs, right? Looking through the last five posts on its home page, I don’t see ONE with a a SINGLE comment.
What about Randy’s Journal from Boeing–one of the longer-running corporate blogs? A quick peek at that blog shows numerous posts with ZERO comments.
So my argument is this: If you have a corporate blog and you’re getting 0-3 comments per post, is that hurting your reputation more than it’s helping?
More “comments” are happening on Facebook and LinkedIn
To be honest, this has been happening for a while. And, there are two big reasons behind this: 1) People are spending WAY more time on Facebook (and, to a lesser extent, LinkedIn) than on corporate blogs; and 2) Companies are using paid advertising to amplify posts on Facebook and LinkedIn that drive customers back to the corporate blog (I would think most people are getting to corporate blogs in two ways–search and paid advertising). So, if the comments are really all occurring on social, and companies are actually using the paid ad products on these platforms to drive people to their blogs, do the comment sections even make sense anymore? Won’t most people prefer to comment on Facebook, where it’s easier and where they’re already spending time (and, they don’t have to “register”, as is often the case, to leave a comment)?
Social behaviors have changed
This ain’t 2011, my friends. The era of the blog comment may be winding down. Not for ALL blogs–mind you. But, by and large, people just don’t comment as much as they used to. They don’t SHARE as much as they used to either. At least, that’s been my observation anecdotally. Let’s take Gini Dietrich’s blog, Spin Sucks, as an example. By all accounts, Gini’s blog is one of THE most popular blogs in all of PR. Heck, it’s probably the MOST popular blog. And, in 2011, that blog was getting a TON of comments. To the tune of 400+ on occasion. See below.
Three years late, Gini’s blog was still seeing a lot of comments. But, the number had ratcheted down a bit.
This year, the numbers seem to be down even more.
Taking a spin on Gini’s blog today, I see the following comment numbers for the last week: 1, 3, 15, 1, 49, 5 and 14. Those might not seem too bad, but for a blog that was routinely seeing comment numbers in the hundreds they’re a big step back.
I don’t say this to take a shot at Gini. I’m a big fan of Gini’s blog, and have been for years. I’m just highlighting what I believe to be a big trend in blogging–the death of the comment.
To be clear, I’m not saying all corporate blogs should remove comments. If I’m wearing my consultant hat, as always, this is a case-by-case basis.
But, from a trend standpoint–with social behaviors changing, the rise of dark social, and far more content options than in the past, it might make sense to look at taking your comment feature off your corporate blog.
There, I said it.
Don’t hurt me.
On Saturday, I had the opportunity to speak at the sixth annual Minnesota Blogger Conference–an event I helped start with Missy Berggren years ago. Nowadays, Jen Jamar and Mykl Roventine run it, and they are doing a WONDERFUL job. After my limited experience at the event on Saturday, I just can’t say enough good things about what they’ve done with that event.
But, I digress.
I talked about trends impacting bloggers. Specifically, 7 trends impacting almost every blogger at #mnblogcon.
In case you missed it, here’s a sneak peek–along with the deck at the tail end.
#1: Avoid the “content shock”
Credit to Mark Schaefer for the term. I talked about how bloggers need to get back to basics, and providing their unique perspective around whatever topic they’re writing about. So many people are using listicles–and I highlighted that with a screen shot of my Feedly account (take a peek below). My argument: When everyone is zigging–try zagging. And get back to why you started blogging–because you had something to say.
#2: RSS=dead. E-newsletters=alive and well.
RSS never really took off like bloggers hoped it would. But, now, I think we can all safely say it is officially over. And, instead of just adding the standard “subscribe to this blog via email” widget to your blog, I argue you should consider starting an e-newsletter. See the deck for a few solid reasons why.
#3: Content syndication=new readers!
Everyone wants new readers, right? But acquiring them is usually a different story. Content syndication is one of those strategies that I’ve felt has always flown under the radar. LinkedIn Publishing, re-posting to Medium and finding industry sties who will run your posts–these are all great ways to re-purpose your posts to reach new audiences.
#4: The rise of DIY tools
The big discussion here–do you use DIY tools and potentially take a hit on the look and feel of your blog (but, not pay extra for help), or do you enlist the help of a professional designer to create a blog, and visuals, that appear a bit more polished? That’s the discussion right now–I fear we may be leaning too far toward the DIY side right now.
#5: Social sharing ain’t what it used to be
Here’s the part where I told everyone to take social counters off their blogs. After all, weren’t they always just an ego-trip anyway? As social behaviors have changed, dark social continues to grow, and more people spend more time on chat apps, social sharing is losing steam. Take a peek at some of the popular blogs in your industry–chances are they may have already taken down their social share buttons.
#6: Blogs are starting to look a lot less like, well, blogs.
Remember what blogs looked like in 2008? I do. They looked like a Blogger blog. Remember Blogger? LOL. Nowadays, blogs are starting to look like this blog (Jungles in Paris, a popular travel blog).
Blogs are starting to look more like the new simplified web. Big visuals. Headlines. Minimal navigation. That’s where blogs are heading from a design POV.
#7: The blog comment may officially be dead.
Copyblogger was way ahead of the curve when the popular blog killed its comments a couple years ago. I bet we’ll see many more kill their blog comment sections, too, in the months ahead. You watch.
Want the full deck? Take a peek.
For years, what’s been beaten into our head?
Drive all social traffic back to our corporate blog and/or web site.
We own that content.
We can drive leads on our site.
We can track user behavior more accurately.
Drive all social traffic back to our corporate blog and/or web site.
And, for the most part, that’s been true. We have been doing that. And, it’s been working.
Except here’s the thing: I’m not 100 percent sure that’s true anymore.
Hear me out.
Let me give you an example.
Dave Kerpen is a agency owner and big-time influencer in the social space. If you’ve been online long, you know Dave’s been a fairly big deal for a long time. He’s owner of Likeable Local, a long-time influencer and now, a LinkedIn “Influencer.”
Dave’s business is social media and digital marketing consulting. B2B. Straight up. His company has a corporate blog. But, he doesn’t show up there much.
Where does he show up? LinkedIn. In a big way.
Dave blogs using LinkedIn’s publisher feature on a regular basis. He was part of the early “Influencer” program, so he had a big edge. But still–he’s out there posting on a regular basis. In fact, Dave’s made 184 posts on LinkedIn since he started writing there in January 2013.
And, his posts are getting big-time traction.
Take this post, for example, from March. As you can see, the post has generated more than 700,000 views, more than 4,000 like and more than 600 comments.
Those are big numbers. Numbers, I dare say, he wouldn’t get on his blog these days. And, more importantly, he’s reaching the RIGHT people. After all, LinkedIn is widely regarded as THE professional network. It’s full of people looking for jobs, tips and advice in the business world.
Now, Dave does include multiple links within each post back to the Likeable site. But, he’s choosing to post on LinkedIn–not his blog.
Another example: Medium. You know, the tool Ev Williams created as an ad-hoc blogging platform for those without a blog.
We continue to see people and brand posting here (including Periscope, which uses Medium as its blog, as far as I can tell).
For example, you probably remember Hank Green’s post from a couple months ago.
The angle: Green basically ripped Facebook’s engagement metrics for videos to shreds. It created quite the hub-bub among internet and social media types.
And he chose to publish it on Medium–not his personal site (YouTube, in this case, where he has more than 2 million subscribers).
The metrics weren’t all that crazy–2,000-plus recommendations, 2,000-plus likes. 80-plus comments.
But you know who one of the first people to comment on the post was? Facebook product manager, Matt Pakes.
So, clearly the post drew interest. Clearly, it made a mark. And again, he made it on Medium.
So, is this a trend just starting to break? Not sure.
It’s just something I’ve noticed lately. More people not publishing key pieces of content on their owned media properties–and instead, posting them on “rented land” like LinkedIn, Medium and Facebook.