Blog or Die

There’s been a lot of talk lately about people saying you shouldn’t blog anymore. The arguments seem to break into two categories:

The problem with these arguments is that they’re missing the big picture, and that’s presence. Namely, your presence (either your company or yourself) on the internet.

The internet is a noisy place. It’s filled with every type of company and personality, all trying to make themselves heard all at the same time. (Marshall McLuhan would have exploded from joy if he’d lived to see today’s internet). Like standing in the middle of a loud party, it’s hard to be heard. That’s why presence is so important — people will pay attention to those they perceive as important. You need to be staking claims in a variety of places, and investing time and effort in key areas to ensure the quality and intensity of your signal can rise to the top.

You need multiple approaches in various forms all leading to the same message (love you, Marshall, really!). And on the internet, it’s definitely a plural thing — not just one thing. A single channel would be a blog or a MySpace page. One thing. Multiple (full) channels would be like maintaining a big website, constantly engaging people in forums, and Twittering constantly. That’s expensive.

So think of things in a smaller sense: microchannels (and no, I refer not to the ill-fated Micro Channel of yore).

There are countless ways of approaching other people, from social networking to one-off media downloads. To give you an idea, this is what I personally engage in:

And just to illustrate the point, here’s a series of services I don’t use (for no particular reason) that friends of mine use:

As you can see, there’s a lot of them. But most of them can provide only limited value due to specific focus (e.g. bookmarking, or current location) or limitation on the content (e.g. 140 characters for Twitter). This creates the nature of the microchannel — limited, specific content.

Hopefully, you’ve already noticed the problem here. Microchannels — as cool and enticing as they are — are tricky to coordinate into a cohesive message. It’s sort of like trying to pull together lines from a dozen different books so you can read “Dick and Jane.” It also requires work for the reader (e.g. reading multiple Twitters or looking through Flickr pictures). And that (drum roll, please) makes it really hard to easily provide your point of view.

(I wonder where he’s going with this. What could he be talking about? Could it be … BLOGS?)

Yes, blogs. I don’t care if people think they’re old and boring — anyone who doesn’t think blogs provide value has not directly experienced what a blog can do. Well-crafted messages on blogs provide value, insight, and can impart actual personality of an otherwise faceless company (heck, even a half-assed blog entry can be very useful). As part of a microchannel effort, you can direct readers (and links) to blog entries that are specifically tuned to the points you wish to discuss. Anyone reading the blog could then be directed to a website to enquire about products or services.

That said, don’t just think you can only blog and that’ll be enough. You need to engage people where they’re spending their time, which means going into the microchannels, too. But it’s not too much effort to lead them back to a blog entry. And if you provide a good RSS feed, some of these things are automatic (my blog automatically posts announcements to Twitter, for example).

Now comes the other question: Should you blog?

With only a couple of exceptions (notably anyone in the financial industry), it’s a resounding “yes“ in my book. The reasoning behind not having anything interesting to say (or have the chops to write it down) is weak at best — just because one person might not find it interesting doesn’t mean no one will (believe me, if you’ve seen any of the posts on my blog, you might think mine is a total waste of time — but I get a lot of traffic). At worst, the only thing your blog will do is increase traffic to your website. At best, it might make you rich.

But what happens if you choose not to blog?

Well, if you stick to what others suggest, and do only the most trendy things, you’ll miss a lot of potential audience. You’ll have to spend more effort to get across complex ideas because the microchannels don’t always offer enough space, and spend more time linking everything together. And you’ll have to wave goodbye to a lot of potential search traffic because Google (and Yahoo! and Microsoft and Baidu) can’t search Facebook, parse your audio/video for keywords, won’t tie together all your Twitter entries, or understand that all your tagged articles mean something as a whole.

So I say “blog.” Or die the death of the unseen.