Don’t You Know Who I Think I Am?

Posted on November 20, 2008. Filed under: blogging, Observations, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Personal Branding was long the preserve of the Hollywood celebrity. To have a personal brand one needed a publicist, a manager, a PR agency and of course the ubiquitous “People”, as in “I’ll have my people talk to your people”. Social Media is changing all of that. People who would have once gone unnoticed now have a channel through which they can reach thousands of people.

With a million new blogs launched everyday in the US, the competition for audience share is ever more challenging. Skills & tasks that were once only aqcuired by and the concern of product managers, brand managers & marketing managers are now being acquired, honed and practiced by everyone from school teachers, stay-at-home parents, to police officers and computer geeks.

I Know How You Did That

There are two main implications of this change that Social Media is bringing. Firstly, everyone taking part in this surge in communication now wants, not only their 15 minutes of fame, but enduring celebrity and they want it now. The second implication is that having started to realize how brand’s are built the curtain has been drawn back and so these same people are less susceptible to traditional marketing techniques, after all they are using them themselves to attract their own audience.

I have seen recently, a undertone of what could be described as “resentment” against Social Media stars. In some cases I believe that people look at these so called stars in the same way that people sometimes view musicians who gain a place in the public consciousness. The term “overnight success” gets thrown about because people don’t realize the years that a musician might have spent playing spit & sawdust bars, for little more than beer & tips. In the same way a lot of the so called Social Media stars have in fact been practioners of their craft for years. Dorian Carta (aka Paisano) recently celebrated his 10th year as a blogger, hardly a Johnny-come-lately.

A recent NPR interview contained the snippet that it takes about 10,000 hours to become good at something. 10,000 hours that’s just over a year. So if you haven’t been blogging consistently (e.g. more than once a week) for at least a year, you haven’t even begun to get good at it.

Credibility is Key

What is missing from a lot of these Personal Branders is the sense of differentiation. Its a clear case of a little knowledge being a dangerous thing. The desire to achieve some form of recognition is a natural human instinct, but Social Media is allowing some to seek recognition well outside of their normal circles. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It allows all of us to experience points of view, to share knowledge with people we would otherwise be very unlikely to encounter. That differentiation is and has always been, credibility, whether blogging or branding, building consumer trust is central to developing a brand as opposed to building celebrity.

However, this has to be tempered with the knowledge that not everyone will be, or should be recognized as a rock star. Even those who are admit that they are human first, they have good days, they have bad days. Chris Pirillo famously ranted about Microsoft on his blog, given that he had been a high profile employee previously and that he was saying everyone should go and buy a Mac, it had the potential to be quite influential. When asked about it, he admitted, he was just having an off day, he was frustrated by things he saw at Microsoft and shared that frustration with the world through his blog. More now than ever, we can’t believe everything we read.

So when people embark on a blogging career, whether professionally or personally, they need to understand that building a brand is not an over night event. Popularity might come quickly, but it also has the ability to fade quickly, the test of brand success, whether it is corporate or personal is its ability to endure. How many of those 1 million blogs that will launch today will you be reading in a years time, let alone 10 years time?

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Blogging for Small Businesses

Posted on November 5, 2008. Filed under: Business, Marketing, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , |

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As part of my work as a Marketing Communications consultant I am often asked about the usefulness of a company blog for a small/medium sized business.  The questions usually center around the cost in terms of resources, the subject matter and the frequency of posting.  Many small / Mid-sized companies dismiss the idea of a blog as being a burden that has no return on investment for the company or at least too little to be worth the effort.

The 3 W’s

So what is the answer?  As with any form of communication, the company must ask itself “Why, What, Who?”. Why are we going to engage in this particular format? What are we hoping to achieve? Who will be our authors & audience?

These are important questions to ask, and answer, before embarking on any form of marketing communication and in particular on a company blog.  Typical answers might be:

  • Why – because we need another channel of communication, we want to be seen as a voice or even THE voice in our industry, to build credibility with our customers and prospects
  • What – Increase sales leads, increase traffic to our website, increase awareness, improve our company profile
  • Who – In-house marketing team, In-house Subject Matter experts, Outsourced writers: Prospects, Customers, Market Researchers, Journalists, Competitors

Having answered these questions and created a sense of why, what & who there comes the more detailed work of gathering subject matter, authors and deciding on a publication guide. 

Giving your company a voice

Deciding on the company voice in advance is crucial.  Does it fit with the rest of your communication? Does it fit with your audience?  If the majority of your current communication is very formal in style, should you suddenly produce a blog that has a very laid back tone? Probably not.  However, it is important to remember that readers of online material have different expectations than those consuming printed materials. They expect the points to come across quicker, in smaller bites and for the entire post to be scanable so that they can pick out what they want to read.

Frequency is usually the biggest challenge for most small / mid-sized companies.  Some companies set themselves up for failure by trying to commit to a target that they simply cannot meet given the resources that they have available.  Saying that you will have two posts a day 5 days a week, and assigning one person who has other duties is a recipe for disaster.  A more realistic schedule for companies is two – three times a week.  Less than this and readers will lose interest, trying to achieve more than this without dedicated resources is extremely difficult to maintain in the long term.

What to write

A good approach to adopt is to develop a schedule around the posts so that if you are posting three times a week, say, Monday, Wednesday, Friday you always publish the same type of information on those days.  This makes it easier for your readers to adopt and easier for your writers to produce.  A schedule might look like this:

  • Monday – Opinion editorial by CEO on previous weeks Industry News
  • Wednesday – Solution focus – Companies that have solved problems in your Industry
  • Friday – Round up of the Industry news from that week

The Opinion piece can either be written by the CEO themselves or more likely ghostwritten and then approved.  The solution focus should not become a “pitch” for your companies services, nor should you use it to detail your solutions being implemented – save that for your case studies and other marketing pieces.  Use this section to provide information from your strategic partners and customers.  Explain what you are doing, get them to contribute, if appropriate get them to guest author pieces for you.

Spread the word

As with anything else that you produce you want to get the word out that you have a blog.  Firstly, link to it from your company website.  Make sure that you inform your existing customers.  Add the link in your company emails.  As you develop your voice, contribute to other company blogs in the comments.  Don’t use these as an opportunity to promote your blog, but rather to develop your voice and authority in the industry.

If written and promoted properly a company blog can add a new and useful dimension to developing your company’s image both with existing customers and prospects.

Do you have a company blog? What lessons have you learned about creating and maintaining it?

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