I took some time yesterday to catch up on some reading, both online via bloglines, and offline, via my overflowing pile of magazines, and the few books I'm reading. I'm happy to report that I caught up on the magazine reading (albeit, because I left most of the ones I need to read at work), and actually finished an outstanding book - which you will hear more about in the near future.
Today I wanted to do a tribute to my dear, dear friend Rosa Say - to remind all of my readers in the small business sector (whether that's a home-based business or not) that Rosa is out there, and she's the best coach for the money. Her blog, Talking Story, is free. Her Ho'ohana Community of professionals, who join Rosa on a regular basis to talk small business issues, and life, and Managing with Aloha, (yes, I'm one) offer readers valuable insight into more than marketing to women online - as I try to do here every day. The Ho'ohana Community give free insight and advice, designed to improve not only management styles, but lifestyles, for men and women. Rosa guides us, and encourages us to think harder - and basically, coaches us (and you, if you read her blog) all because...she practices Mālama:
“Acts of caring drive us to high performance levels in our work with others. We give and become unselfish. We accept responsibility unconditionally. When we Mālama, we are better.”
But, I got sidetracked from my tribute. I will give Rosa her due another day. It all started after finishing my latest copy of DM (Direct Marketing) yesterday. One of my favorite columnists, Herschell Gordon Lewis left me feeling miffed, yes, miffed. One of the things I enjoy most about Herschell (may I call you Herschell, Mr. Lewis?) is his "curmudgeon-at-large" status. His columns usually have me nodding my head in agreement. I'll also admit that I'm prone to a guffaw now and then, usually in response to his being a curmudgeon, and doing it so well.
Yesterday, however, after finishing Lewis's column, "Crashing Through the Blog-cade," I had steam coming out of my ears.
Here's the thing, Herschell, you had me at Hello, so to speak; I was even contemplating your sub-title, "Is the blog a sophisticated next-generation marketing tool or an unproved cry for attention costumed in a technology package?", with some seriousness. After all, it's a legitimate question.
Your answer, however, reveals a lack of study - as if your research began and ended with Google, or with the sad blogger you cite in your column. You missed a world of valuable content - which I can only scratch the surface of in this little post.
To start, I refer you to Charlene Li of Forrester Research. Consider visiting this video to see what she has to say about the power of social media. In this video, just in case you choose not to view it, Charlene points out that social media, blogging in particular, is just what the consumer ordered. In fact, consumers, just like the ones you made fun of in your column, are adopting this new technology at an alarming rate - because - THEY CAN! I say to you: Ignore them at your peril.
But, let's not leave it at that. Let's get into the nitty-gritty. Herschell, you pointed out, and rightly so, that millions of blogs (the vast majority) are journals or diaries and are individual opinion, not fact. You mentioned that the blogs you found were semi-literate - and you highlighted one particular blog.
Then, you asked (I was going to say, "Nicely asked" but you seldom do anything 'nicely' now, do you?), "If we accept political blogs as political and accept personal blogs as a means of self-expression, two different questions arise: 1) What aberration in contemporary society corroborates the narcissistic notion that your blog interests outsiders, who never heard of you and have only a voyeurisitc interest in your personal diary or rantings? 2) What personality quotient describes somebody who devotes time and interest to blogs excreted by others he or she doesn't even know?"
Let me answer your questions for you, and then...point out why blogs matter.
1) The 'aberration in contemporary society' is called 'word-of-mouth.' It's what PEOPLE do...when they get together in groups. Gosh, a lot of them don't even know each other! But, a lot of them do. AND...during the get-together, whether it's over coffee or bowling or at the theatre (notice I spelled theatre the elitist way - thought you'd appreciate that, but we low-class bloggers spell it 'theater')these people, who might have JUST MET, talk about products, services, movies, sneakers, politics, gaming, the Internet, kids, vacations, oh, you just name it. And, then,these average, can't write worth a damn, people proceed to share experiences.
The shared experiences influence - marketing. Because, real people, in real situations, like to hear what other real people, in similar situations, have to say.
Now, let's move that conversation online. Shared experiences are what's happening on blogs. By millions of people who sometimes can't spell. Who don't always use caps when they should. Who have OPINIONS about everything - like, what toothpaste to buy, what movie to see, what shampoo to use, what cocoa tastes best, what new recipe for chicken is just out of this world, and whether or not they need to have an English degree to write a few paragraphs about a topic they're interested in![the answer is: they don't; we wish they did, but, they don't - and so what?]
When they blog about those OPINIONS, they engage all those people you say don't care. Their collective thoughts get read all over the world, for good or bad (sort of like...movie critics and marketing columnists; sorry, I couldn't help myself). And, those writings influence their readers, one way or another.
Are you still with me? Ok. Good. Now, I hope you'll go over to Millie's blog...and click through. Millie is a very popular senior-citizen, who blogs. Not only does Millie blog, she does product reviews on her blog, in video format! And, thousands...yes, thousands of people who don't even know her read her thoughts and are influenced by them.
Therefore, blogs are word-of-mouth marketing at its most powerful. Why, I know knitting bloggers who command a very large audience - of other knitters (lots of opportunity to get in front of that market, on her blog). And, Mommy bloggers who write daily journals, but then - supplement their family stories with suggestions on restaurants, on coupons, on cars...and more. And, I know writers who are using blogs to learn their craft. These are neither aberrations nor narcisstic folks. These are people - the same people you want to market products to, on behalf of your clients.
2) 'What personality qotient'...this one is easy - marketing columnist's readers, you know, like yours? In case you didn't notice, I don't know you. I met you on the pages of DM. I liked what I read, so, when the next issue came, I read what you had to say, again. I don't ever expect to meet you, Herschell. I do notice that you get around a lot; you speak here and there, and the magazine promotes you a lot, but, for all I know, you're a drop-out from Australia, or a woman with a mustache. Oh, I did visit your website once - and I wondered what talented, overpaid copywriter wrote your introduction page - surely, NOT you? You wouldn't write, and I quote,
"As a communicator in the sophisticated world of direct marketing, Herschell Gordon Lewis is without peer. Nobody has written more books. Nobody has written more articles. Certainly nobody is more respected. But beyond that..." in gold, no less. Can this be any harder to read?
Well, that's enough narcissism for me. How about you? Oh, I forgot! It was ALL about you! In white text on a black background! Well, Mr. Herschell, congratulations! You win the narcissim prize! A click into the website just goes on and on...about how great you are. Yes,there are a few gems of marketing insight. Unfortunately, it's in white text on a black background, with a whole lot of gold and yellow text sprinkled throughout. VERY difficult to read. NOT female-friendly, in the least. [not to mention the RED text on the BLACK background further in the site; a true NO-NO online; which is not my opinion, dear Mr. Lewis. It's just good web design.]
But, why should you care? You're Hershell Gordon Lewis. Not Herschell G. Lewis. Or Herschell Lewis. But, Herschell Gordon Lewis. Because people with three names trump people with only two, I suppose.
So, back to the blogs. Blogs matter because people matter. Blogs are the next big thing in marketing because marketing exists to engage people, and that's what good blogs do. In fact, that's what bad blogs do, also. They give citizens choices - they offer opinions - good ones, bad ones, and sometimes, qualified ones. Not all blogs are worth reading - but not all columnists are, either. Not all blogs contain foolish blather that's better left ignored. And, not all blogs with foolish blather should be ignored - because, though you don't seem to recognize it - even those blogs have readerships. It doesn't matter who the readers are - it only matters that they're PEOPLE...and PEOPLE buy the products and services marketing exists to market.
Here's a really important reason blogs matter: because they build connections. Thousands of good bloggers, and hundreds of excellent bloggers, go online and write good content (qualified, researched, investigated content) to share with others -- all over the world. In much the same way readers qualify columnists, they learn to qualifty bloggers. The good ones rise to the top, and command the attention of the right people. Who then share their good fortune with their comrades, via their own, little, insignificant blogs. And, so it goes. Round and round.
I leave you with this note, from expert blogger Debbie Weil, on her BlogWrite for CEOs blog, where she notes that Charlene Li (a principal analyst at Forrester, as mentioned above) estimates a 5,000 percent ROI for Forrester Research, by blogging this last year.
The math isn't perfect - but, the concept is. Blogging is here to stay. It's a business tool, a marketing tool, and in the right hands, it can return a phenomenal ROI.
Is that sophisticated enough for you?