Ten years is a long time. Ten years of blogging? Well, that seemed unfathomable back in 2006, yet, here we are. This week marks my tenth full year of blogging.
Things have changed so much since I began. Back then it was edgy, then it become profitable. Now, it seems passé and marginalized.
In 2006, writing something new and cool excited me. In the 2008-9 range, blogging was majestic, an exhilarating experience that brought attention, notoriety and opportunity. By 2011, it became a grind. Feeding the beast to stay relevant forced me into a daily blogging discipline.
Then after a series of private disappointing events related to my last business book something happened. I stopped giving a damn what other people thought of my blog. Relevancy, topic, edgy, not edgy. It just didn’t matter to me anymore.
Perhaps I realized what a fool I had been.
The Joy of Blogging Returns
I still blogged once a week for a couple of years just to maintain presence, but when this year began I gave myself a gift. The weekly blog, a post I would write so often on Sunday night just to get it published, was an act of drudgery more often than not. There was little business value to it anymore, either.
So I decided to stop, and let myself off the blogging hook. No longer would I write on a schedule for my personal blog. Instead, I write now when the muse strikes me, and time permits. And that seems to be every two to three weeks.
What a relief. Freedom to write when I want to, what I want to.
When I press publish, I smile. The joy of blogging returns.
Forgotten Maybe, But Not Dead Yet
I may be forgotten as a consequence of blogging less, but I’m not dead yet.
Now I still blog elsewhere for other people several times a week. They’re not blogs anymore, not really. I guess because saying what you think is not really marketing. Blogs have to be polished, relevant to target audiences, geared toward the larger customer experienced ecosystem. No, we call them articles now. It’s not the same thing.
Here, when it’s said, it’s meant. It’s a hell of lot less frequent, but there is a genuine authenticity to the blogs that you won’t find on a corporate “brand journal.”
Getting there again was a process. Ten years teaches you if you’re still blogging, it’s because it resolves some sort of creative angst within you. It’s old school. It’s a bonafide antiquated blog, said when it wants to be said.
You’ll probably notice a new simple blog design on the site. The revised geofflivingston.com reflects a greater focus on photography, and less on books and writing as a whole.
This reflects an anticipated larger strategic shift with my own activities online in 2016. Next year will bring a professional change. With it will come a reduced focus on marketing personal consulting services. I will reveal more when I can.
As a result, at some point during the next year I anticipate letting myself off the hook for a weekly post, and will simply blog when I have something to say. I know people like to interpret these things and go off and write posts about bloggers quitting and riding off into the sunset. This is not that. It is not a resignation, nor the end. Instead, it represents a maturation and an evolution.
There are two drivers behind this change.
The aforementioned personal change will likely push any personal blogging to other venues, a corporate site, my Huffington Post blog, and/or my LinkedIn blog. If I am not marketing, building personal influence, or trying to prove my worth as an individual blogger for some other reason, then weekly blogging is a habit.
There are a variety of reasons for that habit, from maintaining a consistent presence to making sure my writing skills don’t get rusty. The truth is I will be writing, again probably elsewhere. So the only reasons to continue are to build personal influence, which frankly doesn’t interest me very much.
Keep in mind, this is not a new game for me. I don’t see much value from getting free Doritos, conference passes, and movie tickets because I am an “influencer.”
When blogging here does become something I do on my own time, it becomes a time eater, a hobby. My top two concerns will be my child and my professional activities. And I have another hobby which actually produces a dollar now and then, one that I find is less time consuming and more enjoyable, at least right now: Photography.
After regular periodic blogging for so long (see below), it is time for geofflivingston.com to become a true personal blog. That means only publishing when I care enough to write something. Writing when I have something to say effectively right sizes personal blogging to where it belongs.
I’ve Been Around Too Long
In April, I will celebrate/mourn 10 years of blogging. I have used blogs to weigh in on industry issues, market my services, help causes, and in the latter few years, add my voice to societal matters.
Blogging was unique when I began. Now it is a crazy evolving mess. That probably reflects content shock, and the corresponding impact information glut is having on the interwebs.
In the end, writers write. While I may be a marketer and a photographer, my core skill remains writing.
My experiences blogging and marketing over the past ten years have taught me one thing: A blog is just a means of publishing, nothing more, nothing less. It is an online Gutenberg press that allows people to comment on and share posted media. It’s always been that way. How marketers use or abuse the form is up to them.
My words will still have a venue if I need it. And if I am still active on social channels — and I will be — then my friends and community will still welcome those words, infrequent or not.
So blog I will. When I want to. I guess that’s what happens when you become a cranky old blogger ;)
Looking online at the top social media news articles, it is amazing how Facebook and Twitter still dominate conversations. Yet, if I could start over from scratch — I would not use Facebook and Twitter for both professional and personal online efforts.
I have been online in social networks for a long time now. These days when I speak on panels I am the old guy, which is a bit weird. There are others who have been around longer than me or who have walked the earth for many more days, but nevertheless history and legacy are a burden.
The past can prevent you from moving forward unless you make a conscientious decision to embrace change. Consider that online media giant AOL still has 2.3 million dial-up subscribers, yet their business is moving towards online video programming. AOL manages to innovate, but where would they be if they hadn’t been bold and moved towards online content as their primary offering with the acquisitions of Engadget, the Huffington Post and TechCrunch years ago?
The same could be said for how you invest time online. Today, because I have shifted much of my content production to photography, I spend more time on Flickr and 500 Pixels than I do Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram or Google+. When I do participate on those sites, more of ten than not it’s either for business or to post a picture.
I look at the interactions with my customer base, and believe in some instances that I am wasting my time. So given my customers, passions and the interaction, where would I start?
Separate the Person from the Business
In the mid 2000s, everyone associated their personalities with their blogs. It was the age of personal brands, and like many others — in spite of my protests about personal branding as a movement — I weaved my personal social media activity and blogging for business together.
As a result, it was harder to scale prior companies, and my own personal adventures and missteps impacted business. Tenacity5 is different (I hope). I have a role as president, and while I am the front man, but it isn’t a personality vehicle. It is a business.
For example, T5 does not promote my personal projects. It is a brand that allows people to provide services, people that are more than me. As the company grows, this will be essential.
I increasingly try to create separation between the business and my interests. It is only on LinkedIn that I allow the two to completely merge, and largely because I see LinkedIn as a business only network.
Facebook Is a Waste of Business Time… Sort of
I’ve blogged before about how Facebook is almost a zero-sum game for pure marketing posts. Analytics continues to reaffirm that when posts are marketing centric they fail. When they are personal, they tend to do well. Though I caught a lot of grief back then for not marketing on Facebook, I am no longer the only one experiencing this.
I feel like this is particularly true of marketing agencies. We are experimenting again with the Tenacity5 Media Facebook page, but I have sincere doubts. Unless your friends are all marketers or you have a serious ad budget, people don’t want to read crap about content marketing on Facebook. What Facebook is good for is my customers seeing photos, but I doubt they are hiring me because I post nice pics.
In my mind Facebook is a place to post my photos, not to talk shop. And my photography hobby benefits greatly from it. Google+ is definitely in the same vein. People love photos and tech talk and not much else up there, at least in my feed.
I would say that Twitter, though not the most liked or popular network, is a primary driver for business traffic, so I would continue to invest in Twitter. I do find the conversations to be lacking personally.
Then I must admit — as much as it irks me a times — that LinkedIn has successfully become the place for B2B conversations. And a marketing agency is a B2B play. So from a business perspective, I see LinkedIn as important. So much so that we need to find ways to better engage there in the future.
I don’t think much of Instagram or Pinterest right now. The results have been fun at times, but I fail to see the value. I am keeping an open mind, though.
Today, I wouldn’t waste my time blogging as a primary business activity. In fact, for the most part I have slowed down significantly. I still post once a week here, mostly because I believe that a blog still has a role in my online life, even if it is for the fewer. But the topics are stream of conscious now. There is no editorial mission outside of what I think, and no real business goal outside of supporting personal projects.
Because you cannot succeed as a marketing blogger without these two necessary components: High quality posts that are clearly focused and a frequency of at least once if not twice a day. Without consistency, precision and excellence, the marketing blogger game is a loser. There are too many branded blogs and too many consultancies publishing for it to be as effective as it used to be. I do not have the wherewithal to commit the necessary resources to blog as a primary outreach mechanism today.
So, while it was a big deal back in the day, without the ability to commit the necessary resources, blogging is not a primary mechanism.
In the future, if Tenacity5 grows beyond 20 or 30 people I will recommit to daily content for the sector. Until then, there are other actions that yield more awareness, personal content (e.g. photos and books) that fares better than blogs, and marketing activities that are more profitable for the time investment.
Say what you will about Marshall McLuhan and the timeless media theory debate he inspired, “The medium is the message.” If you read his work, you come to appreciate how much he anticipated, from the destruction of privacy to the dramatic impact that electronic media change inspires.
While I believe a brand experience transcends any singular medium, I do believe the ability to navigate media change marks the successful communicator. Stasis in tactical approach is the fastest way to make oneself irrelevant. Communicators need to adapt methods to rapidly evolving media.
The medium becomes the method. At a minimum it defines the tactical approach.
Consider the mass scurry that occurs everytime Google alters its algorithm or Facebook changes its interface. Communicators across the Internet write posts telling peers and clients What It Means. Media change defines the communicator’s approach. On a larger scale, those channels must evolve frequently to remain prescient in the face of fast moving trends, such as integrating contextual data, visual media consumption, widespread spamming based on their systems, and more.
Worked Over By Media
McLuhan said that “all media work us over completely.” He meant from a sociological perspective. Media defines our behavior, from consumption to interaction. Technology evolution defines the medium itself, forcing networks and traditional media to evolve or perish.
Doubt me? Go to your favorite restaurant and leave your phone in the car. Then watch everyone else use their phones. They ignore their dinner mates, or share conversation points with them, or even take a selfie (mates are optional). The smartphone defines our experience, both at the physical level as well as how we present our experience online (true or false).
Consider how integral social has become to TV’s existance. Yesterday’s True Blood season premier was promoted with a preceding social TV marathon. Those social media updates usually occur on mobile phones and tablets while people watch the show.
Keep in mind the iPhone was first introduced to the market in 2007. Android entered our worlds one year later. In January, 2014 66.8 percent of Americans owned a smartphone, according to Comscore. Thorough society-wide changes occured in less than a decade.
The Media Debate
Last week I added my voice to the on and off again debate of whether (independent) blogging is dying. It was the first time I outright said that blogging is probably not a smart primary tactic for a significant group of companies.
Why say that? Online media has changed in the past 10 years. The difficulties and slow rewards of daily blog production in the face of other content creation options makes blogging less attractive in my mind. I would weigh other tactics first.
The discussion spawned here by the movement towards visual literacy saw some severe reactions defending text-based communications. Certainly text will not disappear, but I do beleive it will become a secondary form of content presentation as evidenced by significant trends. It’s not that photos are becoming dominant, it’s that people increasingly prefer video, photos, graphics, podcasts, etc. over text. That trend will only increase as more content is created and mobility continues to dominate Internet access.
Even discussions like this written post are becoming more of a niche form with every passing year. There will always be some who prefer to weigh their thoughts through the written word. But like the senior executive who doesn’t understand how to integrate travel itineraries onto their smartphone, we will be surpassed by the media change. Unless we adapt to the medium.
The medium is the method. We have no choice but to change or become irrelevent.
It’s the tension of new business development versus client work versus blogging. Then there is the creative tension of wanting to finish writing The War to Persevere (3/4 of the way there), shoot more photos, and develop better, more visual blog stories.
Oh yeah, I have a finite amount of time to invest because I insist on being a present father first.
So I’m going to blog less.
But what would you say if I told you that my photo blog on Flickr gets as much traffic in a week as my regular blog does in a whole month?
Perhaps you and others who follow me online are telling me something.
After talking with a few peers who have been around for several years and who enjoy good reputations, I made the decision to ease up on the blogging throttle. I am giving myself permission to blog less.
What does that mean?
Usually, you will still find a couple of posts here a week. But you won’t get three posts at 7 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Only one of them will be guaranteed at a certain time, which is the Monday post. There may be a week here and there where that Monday post is the only one on this site.
I understand the consequence of this decision. I know that frequency drives readership and search indexing.
If the blog was driving new business like it was five years ago, I would not make the move. But, I find leads are coming through my networks these days. Credibility within my circles has been established.
Moving forward, online credibility will come from major initiatives like xPotomac, novels, books, photos, events and certain social networks. The written blog is a part of the recipe, it’s just not the primary ingredient anymore.
There is one exception, and that would be if I were to start blogging about social media marketing again three or four times a week. However, that’s just something I cannot make myself do. I’ve tried before, and the topic drives me crazy after a few months. Frankly, I struggle writing one or two social media posts a week on the Vocus blog and here. Nor do I think that would be a smart business decision for Tenacity5 Media, and how I envision media evolving.
I could make this a content publication filled with guest posts and different voices. However, that would require ending discussions on many topics, including science fiction and personal thoughts. I don’t want to do that. It may be done in the future somewhere else, but not on geofflivingston.com.
There is still a need to talk, share great ideas, and remain present. When I’ve got something to say, I am going to say it. But I don’t want to blog because I have to or at the expense of other works, a new business opportunity, or client work quality. At a minimum, it should be enjoyable.
I’m sure other strategists have their methods, but here’s how I do it.
There’s one critical precursor to success: You must possess substantial knowledge about your topic area, and keep abreast of current trends, not only in the mainstream but on the edge of your sector. Become a subject matter expert.
If you don’t, it will be difficult for you to compete. You need this knowledge to determine the trends you should cover.