If you are going to blog, be an expert…or at least act like one, but definitely don’t be a person (yay sarcasm!)


From MarketingProfs.com, Susan Solomon writes about blogs that bore her. I agree with some of her points, but not all (guess what, the parts I don’t agree with are the subject of this blog post…it’s more fun that way, don’t ya think?). Specifically, the type of blog she’s endorsing really seems to lack anything human. She says not to sound like a corporate newsletter, but some of her advice leads the blogger to do just that. I get asked a lot about the A-B-Cs of recruitment blogging (just a hint: if the questions start with “what is a blog”, you’ve got some research to do before you call me…I’m just saying). So I have some standard answers about the things you should think about when you are starting, some of which overlap with Susan’s recommendations, some of which conflict:


1) Know why you are blogging. This isn’t just about having a point of view; it’s knowing why it is that you would spend time doing it. If there’s not some kind of goal that is accomplished through blogging, save your time for some other activity (might I recommend obsessive closet organizing? OK, maybe not). I’ve said this before: blogging is not a silver bullet and it’s not a strategy. It’s a medium. If it doesn’t support a strategy, save it for your off-work time (and then you can make it about what ever you want), because it’s not part of your job. Just something to think about.


2) Know you intended audience and then get to know them better. Knowing your goal should lead you here. My goals involve employment branding (an over hyped term for helping people understand what it’s like to work here and helping them decide *if* they want to…humanizing the company), education (for example, helping people understand our application process, what an interview day is like, what kinds of positions we hire for), candidate identification (this happens when people comment on the blog or contact me directly via the blog to inquire about opportunities or to network). I can share more about the audience I assume comes here and who I have tried to target. Regardless of whether you fit my categories, I am glad you are here.


3) Write the kinds of things that a) your audience wants to read about and b) that support your overall mandate (this seems like a “duh” to me, but I think that it’s easy to forget that humanizing can be a goal here). This is where I disagree with Susan. She says to basically keep the personal stuff off the blog because people don’t want to read it. Well, it’s hard to humanize a company (or a recruiting process) by talking about work only. I also want to share my experience as a person at this company (trust me, if it wasn’t good for me, you wouldn’t see me here). I find that blogs without some personal info, are sterile. And if I want that kind of sterile, I’ll go to their corporate or organization website. And also…”zzzzzzz”.


I mean, seriously, blogging is about relationships. Relationships are between people. People have lives. I’m not saying that the personal stuff should overtake the blog, but there should be a mix. Last year, I asked “What’s the appropriate ratio of personal to professional posts?”. Look at the comments people left…it was a hot topic then. I’m still of the mind that people want to know the person. And let me just add that without the personal blogging, there would be no Apprentice recaps so maybe some things have changed since last summer? Or maybe, “personal” isn’t the right term to use. I don’t blog on politics or religion (which is hard for me but I’m keeping my mouth shut on those subjects), which I personally think are personal (hee!). But I do post on some of the things that impact me personally at home or at work. So I suspect that there are degrees or personalness (OK, the lady who doesn’t like my use of the word “really” is *really* loving that one, I’m sure). The difference is whether they are things that readers relate to themselves or via others, whether they are interested and whether those topics are divisive. My filter is divisiveness and alienation (“will this post alienate my intended readers?”), not whether it’s personal.


Also, as the person that spends my time sharing here (which some of you have told me you appreciate…thanks right back!), I guess there’s the opportunity for some of you to humor me when I post a picture of my dog (which you do…thanks again…from me and Jonas), since I only did it once. It makes me feel good. And this is a relationship, isn’t it (whoah, college flashback…I learned if you had to ask the question, you probably don’t want the answer that’s coming…oopsie, that was personal, wasn’t it)? And I’ve noticed a lot that there are a number of people in the blogosphere in general that don’t like to “humor” others, even in small ways (hello, grammar police, I’m talking to you!). They are just grouchy and blogs give them the opportunity to say things they would never say to someone’s face. So maybe the opinion that people don’t want to hear about others’ “personal stuff” is just based on the grouchy puppy kickers that have been observed in the blogosphere (or the posters’ topics are divisive). Some of my more personal posts get more comments than some of the professional ones.


I guess I have issues with people that set “rules” for blogging (yeah, I feel a separate post coming on…have to let it brew for a bit). I figure that telling people the kinds of topics you could think about (sharing from my experience) is one thing but telling them to “do this” or “don’t do that” is something different (because it assumes you know their experience). And I think I’ve already shared my distaste for the word “manifesto” (let’s talk about the difference between advice and rules, shall we?). Which kind of brings me back to the point of being an expert on something if you are going to blog. Who wants to take advice from people that you don’t feel you know but who are experts that tell you what to do? (That’s a rhetorical question, by the way. Never know whether rhetorical questions deserve question marks. I think they do.). That sounds fantastic. I’d rather be a person that knows a lot about marketing/recruiting/blogging. Because my goal here has been to connect to people, not to become an “expert” (and it’s your call whether I am or not).


(Big deep breath)


Anyway, Susan does give you some interesting things to *think about* in her article (and my intention is not to criticise Susan…I do agree with a lot of the tips she gives). I would just recommend taking any of this kind of advice (which sound more like rules sometimes) with a grain of salt…the advice included on my blog as well (it’s never my intention to sound like a know-it-all, but I’m sure it can come across that way in my eagerness to share “the world according to Heather”).  It sounds to me like Susan is telling you what to do to attract her as a blog reader. My advice is based on my experience as a blogger. I guess that makes it kind of personal, huh?


 

Comments (13)

  1. Nathan says:

    That put a burr under your saddle, didn’t it? I haven’t seen you write so much since the Apprentice recaps.

    I would start with my favorite question: "What are you trying to accomplish?" AdRants comes across as an online magazine in blog form; while I enjoy the content, I have *no* idea of the person/people behind it. Micro Persuasion looks like its purpose is to raise Steve Rubel’s visibility (and I support that strategy). Marketing Profs traffics in marketing advice, so taking the tone of a dispassionate industry expert could be right for them. It would be a mistake to adopt a particular style because it works for someone else.

    Blogs *are* a medium, and they can be used for many purposes, only some of which are relevant in a marketing context. If you buy into the idea that markets are conversations (http://www.cluetrain.com/), use your blog(s) as one way to carry on those conversation in a way that is appropriate to your purpose.

    Oh, and my dog had her own web page years ago. Heh.

  2. Skip says:

    Heather,

    Thanks for this post and referring me to Susan’s original post. I’m always curious on what other bloggers think is right and wrong about blogs because I want to consider those feelings as I write my own blog. If Susan feels that way, others may as well. However, as you point out, Susan isn’t everyone (nor you or I).

    Susan seems to contradict herself – "don’t be personal or make mistakes" while "don’t make it boring by looking too polished". I think it is ok to have some mistakes. I think it is ok to let people know how you feel through personal experiences. While some may get turned off by that, others need that to establish the relationship – as you talk about.

    There are plenty of blogs out there for people to review. There are blogs that I really like and those that I don’t. I know that there are people who like my blog and others than don’t. It is best for me to be true to myself and not try to become something I’m not, including the need to be a little personal. I think both of you are saying that in the end. I will never get everybody to read my blog, but I want to make sure that those who do and hopefully become regular readers that I really establish a connected relationship with them.

  3. HeatherLeigh says:

    Nathan-burr under my saddle…good way to put it. Sometimes I just end up writing a lot (meaning a lot of words per post) because I have all the thoughts floating around in my head and I just want to get them out before I forget them. Plus, if i just let them rattle around in there, I’ll start to think about it too much. "What are you trying to accomplish?" is exactly the point. Since that answer will differ for different bloggers, I suspect that are no hard and fast rules.

    Skip-good points as well. I always figure that if someone really doesn’t like my blogging style (for example, too much personal stuff), they don’t have to read it. Maybe that is another area where people are confusing blogging and media. Given the realitively static media environment (barriers to entry, time to build credibility, etc.), people feel like they have to *fix* media outlets that the find too this or that (too biased, too fluffy, whatever). But since blogs aren’t tranditional media, people may need to get used to the idea that the writer may be OK losing them as a reader…and of course the reader culd just move along and find another blog on the same topic the suits their fancy. I guess just another reason why rules don’t apply.

  4. Appreciated the reference to Susan Solomon.

    Jason Pontin, Technology Review, wrote an interesting piece in July 2005 on why people blog.

    "From the Editor: Commonplace Thoughts"

    By Jason Pontin July 2005

    http://www.technologyreview.com/

    I am not sure if the content is available unless you subscribe. Pontin wrote about "gleaning", which apparently comes from Garvey’s "Scissorizing and Scrapbooks: Nineteenth-Century Reading, Remaking, and Recirculating," (New Media 1740-1915, a collection of essays from MIT Press, Ellen Gruber Garvey). Garvey was influenced by critical theorist Michel de Certeau.

    Have you ever read "When Genius Failed : The Rise and Fall of Long-Term Capital Management" by Roger Lowenstein? You can read an overview at Amazon. Who is an expert? Are experts always right?

  5. I have not been blogging all that long. I also do not have very sophisticated tracking ability, and have generally not promoted the blog other than emailing some friends and professors.

    It is interesting to see which postings prompt people to "click through" on Google ads. The posting below worked. Google came up with some ads for some interesting footwear.

    http://njk42.blogspot.com/2005/07/sandals-and-flip-flops.html

  6. Accel Banks says:

    > I always figure that if someone really doesn’t like my blogging style

    > (for example, too much personal stuff), they don’t have to read it.

    Well, does not that run afoul of your goals of employment branding, education and candidate identification? What if the majority of people who you would have liked to be the readers of your blog dislike some of your style (I do not know who these are, but the question is still worth considering)? Would not you change it? If not, you should be having an additional goal that is different from the goals you are claiming to have (perhaps, "sharpen writing / communication skills" or "be noticeable" or just "feel good").

    I like your blog, but I have to say that I am skipping through most of the personal stuff, since I read blogs to learn something new. I am skipping through similar posts on other blogs as well. Skipping through posts does not take a lot of time, but it sure makes reading much less fun. What is perhaps more important, having to skip through posts decreases the perceptual value of a blog and decreases the amount of attention it gets in the future, whether I like it or not. My brain refuses to give a blog with the ratio of informative posts to posts on personal stuff + posts related to blogging (which are just super-super-super-boring) of 30%, which is not a terribly low score these days, the same amount of brain power than a blog with 100% percent informative posts similar to that of Chris Brumme (pity he is no longer blogging)!

    I would definitely welcome a reduction in the number of posts not related to employment branding and other good things you mentioned. I am sure posts on personal stuff are good, but given the number of things I have to do every day (I am a software developer), I just do not have time to read them. If you think this lack of time is representative of the audience you want to cover, you might be in for a re-evaluation of your goals and / or execution.

  7. Samit Ranjan says:

    Heather,

    A quick question for you . You have defined a few marketing blogs, recruitement blogs, fun blogs and so on your site. Why no mention of any finance blogs which you found interesting. Do you not find any of the finance blogs to be interesting.

  8. David.Wang says:

    Heather,

    Maybe it is just how I process information, but I just do not find disagreement between Susan and your points. I see it as extensions of each other.

    I translate her article as "blog with a point or purpose" because blogging is a great personal publishing medium. If you do not bring a unique point, then you would be yet another "author of the paperbacks at the grocery checkout line". The same Internet forces that bring you audience can taketh away.

    Meanwhile, you are also saying "blog with a point or purpose", with the view that personal entries can connect with people and be an effective unique point all its own.

    So to me, you are both right; just different sides of the same coin. Yes, mindless personal chatter can be boring because it’s not really unique (it’s not as if I don’t have a life to generate the same sort of chatter myself…). However, if the chatter serves a good communication purpose (or goal, as you call it)…

    I know that I am still trying to figure out the right mix between personal and expertise in my own blog entries, so thanks, you’ve got me thinking about it now.

    BTW, I really enjoy reading your posts and all the comments precisely because it is different from my daily routine.

    And I have to commend your efforts on what Susan categorizes as "chatter" because although I have never met you in person, your blog entries project enough tone and personality that I wager would match up in real-life.

    To me, being able to make that sort of connection elevates it from chatter to unique point and is itself an "expertise". So, yeah, it is all reconciled in my mind. 🙂

    //David

  9. HeatherLeigh says:

    Accel-not really. There’s no way my blog is going to appeal to everyone. I’m definitely trying to write toward the majority (of my target readers), but at the end of the day, I am who I am. My style is what it is. I can’t adjust my style to appeal to every reader, so I have to try and understand who the majority of my target is…which is why I really review comments to understand what people like/don’t like and what they find interesting enough to comment on. Anyway, some people are just disagreeable, no matter what. I think the issue of whether I have the writing skills to appeal to my target audience was something I considered when I was deciding whether to blog at all. It’s was a binary decision. I’m really open to ideas on content, etc., and feedback from people that hang around here, but if people are just trolling and leaving negative comments, it doesn’t hold a lot of weight with me (espeically the anonymous ones), because they don’t know me like some people who have read more of my posts. I do draw the line at adjusting my personality for the blog though. I’m not going to fake a persona just to blog and build an employment brand. If I found that the majority of people hated me, I would surely go away ; ). Accel, since my blog is focused on marketing and finance, software developers aren’t a major target for me so I can understand why all my posts may not appeal to you. Don’t get me wrong, I am glad you are here and glad you left a comment, but ultimately, I have to focus on the audience I am targeting rather than adjusting my goals to reach a different or broader audience. I don’t think it’s so bad to have to skip over stuff…trust me, I do the same thing when I read the blogs of technical folks (I’m sure I am not their target reader but I still like to read the blogs). I do a lot of skipping. Either way, thanks for your input. It’s always great to hear a different perspective.

    David-the only part I was disagreeing with is the part where she said to leave out personal stuff. The rest of it, I found helpful as "pointers". Thanks for your nice words about my personal "chatter" ; ) You gave me an idea for a blog post on why humanizing is important. It’s hard for me to gauge whether my full personality comes across here. Even in my day-to-day life, I have to edit my mental dialog before any of it comes out of my mouth (with limited success, by the way), or on to my blog. I guess anyone who has gotten to know me via my blog and then met me in person could tell you whether "blog Heather" and "in-person Heather" seem the same (I could tell you that I am actually a little bit more of a loner than I suspect a lot of you think so the blog is a great way for me to socialize). Mark Tookey could probably let you know…I met Mark via the blog and then met him and his wife in person when they were in town.

    Anyway, both of you guys, great conversation. It’s that whole feedback thing. I don’t know what people think unless they tell me. I won’t be able to please everyone, but it’s hard to please anyone without the dialog. So thanks!

  10. Accel Banks says:

    Heather – As I said before, I am constantly pressed for time, so I rarely "go away" and post comments on blogs. This was my first comment this year and I was really eager to see a response. I got it. Thank you.

    I disagree with most of what you have said in the response. Before you say "too bad, I can not please anyone" or another banality and mark me as a troll, please consider the following and you may disagree with what you have said as well:

    > I’m definitely trying to write toward the majority (of my target readers), but at the

    > end of the day, I am who I am. My style is what it is.

    This is nonsense. It is like saying that you will not fix your grammar since you write like you write and this is all there is about it. Imagine saying that back in school! If you are not willing to change, you are not serious about achieving your goals, in this blog or otherwise.

    > I think the issue of whether I have the writing skills to appeal to my target audience

    > was something I considered when I was deciding whether to blog at all.

    Your writing skills are OK. It is the choice of subjects of your topics that makes this blog less and less valuable for me. Indeed, judging from the goals that you stated, it seems that the value of your blog decreases for all people you are aiming to cover. This is precisely why I have chosen to comment in the first place, since there was (and still is) a hope to "turn the tide" and help you hold to your chosen way, at the same time increasing the value of this blog both for me and for other people.

    > I’m really open to ideas on content, etc., and feedback from people that hang

    > around here, but if people are just trolling and leaving negative comments, it

    > doesn’t hold a lot of weight with me (espeically the anonymous ones), because

    > they don’t know me like some people who have read more of my posts.

    I hope you are not referring to me. Are you?

    > I do draw the line at adjusting my personality for the blog though. I’m not going

    > to fake a persona just to blog and build an employment brand. If I found that the

    > majority of people hated me, I would surely go away. ; )

    Cool down. Nobody hates you. Even if that personal stuff is to continue. 🙂

    > Accel, since my blog is focused on marketing and finance, software developers

    > aren’t a major target for me so I can understand why all my posts may not

    > appeal to you.

    Well, I am very interested in both marketing and finance, since a) I find these topics fascinating and b) I am planning to start my own company in two years or so. The stated focus areas of your blog are not the problem. The deviations from these focus areas are.

    Look at your last 10 posts:

    Recruiting podcasts (on topic)

    Rock and Roll Reality

    Retail alphabet game

    Minesooota

    If you are going to blog…

    Making changes… learning how to relax a little

    World news and personal responsibility

    Giving the little guy a head start

    I think Microsoft is building me my own patio…

    Jobster Audiocast (on topic)

    From these 10 posts, only 2 are more or less on topic, and both these are links to someone else’s material. What is up with that?!

    > Don’t get me wrong, I am glad you are here and glad you left a comment, but

    > ultimately, I have to focus on the audience I am targeting rather than adjusting

    > my goals to reach a different or broader audience.

    This is precisely what I am saying.

    I encourage you to review your goals for this blog and to hold to them. Like other types of media, blogs have this interesting effect of attracting people who are of the same opinion as you, so no matter what you do, you will have supporters. That is OK. What is dangerous is that those who like what you are doing are much more likely to hang around in comments and say so than those who do not. You decrease the number of personal posts and people go "wow!". You increase the number of personal posts and sooner or later people go "wow!" again, because they are no longer the same people. Quickly, your blog and your goals part ways. Hold the steering wheel! Brand employment and talk marketing and finance! 🙂

  11. HeatherLeigh says:

    Accel-I wasn’t calling you a troll or telling you to go away, I was referring to some blog readers in general. Chill.

    More points:

    Grammar and style are 2 different things (grammar can be part of style but they are not one and the same). This is not school. Blogs are imperfect. I’ll mis-spell stuff and if someone gets great joy out of finding errors and correcting them on other peoples’ blogs, they have too much time on their hands. Sorry, my opinion. Correcting peoples’ spelling adds nothing to the conversation and it’s boring and petty.

    If my blog topics are less and less valuable to you, feel free not to come back. I don’t say that to be mean. I hope people like my blog but if you don’t then by all means, remove me from your blog list, but don’t demand that I change my blog to suit only you. I don’t think any one person can judge what all my target readers want to see. So I’m sure you’ll understand if I don’t assume that you speak for all the marketing and finance folks that read this. I’m not saying this out of anger, it’s just the way it is.

    No need for me to cool down. I am a very cool person. There are thousands of other people out there reading my blog. Are you OK with the idea that some/many of them might disagree with you? Or that I might be targeting readers with different backgrounds than yours? It sems that makes you angry. Why?

    Regarding the linking to others’ posts, most people don’t have problems with me linking to other people. That’s what bloggers do. So what’s the problem? Are you just trying to find problems at this point? And if so, why bother? You don’t like my blog. I’m actually OK with that. I knew going into this that not everyone would like it. I assumed that the ones that don’t just won’t read it.

  12. HeatherLeigh says:

    Ack, Samit! I didn’t mean to ignore you. The reason is that i have been working in the Marketing space for the last 6 years and just took on finance as well. So still ramping up. Another reason is that a lot of the sites I find are ones that people make me aware of or ones that link to me and I just haven’t seen that many in finance yet. But you are reminding me that I need to spend the time to seek them out. I’ll definitely do that! Thanks!

  13. Accel Banks says:

    Heather – I will try to make it as short as possible.

    I did not say anything bad about your grammar – that was just an analogy. I completely agree that correcting people’s spelling is boring.

    I did not attempt to judge your target audience using anything else but your own words. Since you stated numerous times that this blog is targeting marketing and finance folks, I thought you are going to post about marketing and financing and decided to hang in since I have interests in both these topics. Turns out I was wrong and you are preferring to talk about other things. Fair enough.

    I am OK with other people disagreeing with me, be they readers of your blog or not, and I am OK with whatever audience you decide to target. I feel no anger about it.

    I am OK with people linking to other people, although I do not think much of blogs with no content of their own.

    Now I go away.