Why do I blog?


iStock_000003915234XSmall

I’m presenting at a blogging conference in a few weeks and as I thought about what I will say I started to ask myself why I bother?  Why blog?  What is it that makes me think this is a good idea?  If you are thinking of starting a blog, maybe this will help you decide:

First what does it cost me to blog?

  • Time: I’m not a blog zealot and I don’t blog every day but I think it’s a good goal to have and I do try to blog every weekday.  I took the decision not to worry about it too much at weekends but like Matthew Stibbe, I sometimes do a random roundup if I’m clearing out my inbox on a Saturday. All that said, I reckon it takes me about 30-45 mins to write a blog post and I should also set aside time to read and comment on other people’s blog (it’s all about the conversation) so I think if I’m doing it right, blogging takes me about 90 minutes a day.  However I still enjoy slow burn blogs like Patrick Dixon’s who only writes now and then.

  • Effort: Blogging is not a sprint, it’s longevity and consistency that wins. You do have to be prepared to be patient and keep at it.  That said, it is amazing to me that I’ve been blogging for two years now, it’s gone quickly.  It also requires me to think more about what I’m doing and what I see around me – this does take a certain amount of focus but that can be a good thing too.

  • Vulnerability: Blogging does require you to give a bit of yourself and when you put yourself out there, not everyone will like you. That doesn’t bother me too much but you should be aware that you are giving away information about yourself and your privacy may be valuable.

What is the return?

First for my company:

  • Change perception: We are changing perceptions about Microsoft. We are proud to work here and we want to replace the faceless borg reputation with a personality. We know that Microsoft is full of warm, funny, interesting and smart people and by getting to know the people behind the brand, we hope you will want to do business with us.
  • Two-way marketing: We want a dialogue with you, our customer, not to shout at you via traditional channels.  If you’ve not seen the bringtheloveback.com video you must! Blogging let’s us listen as well as speak and that is so important if we are going to meet your needs.  We want more of a two-way relationship with you so that when things go wrong you feel you know us and have a way to tell us and a way for us to put it right.
  • Organic marketing: We realise that people are talking about us and our products. We can’t always influence it, we certainly can’t control it, we don’t really want to but blogging is a way we can join in some of those conversations for mutual benefit.

And for me personally:

  • Change minds: I like to think that I can stimulate people to think in new ways about what I do and about things that I am passionate about.  When the blog shows me that has happened in some small way, I get satisfaction from that. I’m fascinated by the way ideas travel and I like being part of the ideas ecosystem.
  • Become a more interesting person: Blogging causes me to think things through a lot more thoroughly. It makes me challenge my preconceptions and makes me think harder before I form opinions. The dialogue with other bloggers and the wonderful people who take time to comment (thankyou!) helps me think in different ways, shows me when I have got it wrong and helps to tease out my own views.  Blogging has made me more insightful, more open to new ideas and given me richer opinions and perspectives.  I think it even makes me a more interesting person (or less dull anyway).  That is worth a lot to me.
  • Meet interesting people: Blogging has meant I’ve met some cool people or at least conversed with them.  I’m genuinely grateful for these opportunities because they have enriched my life. Other bloggers accept that you are part of the blogging community and this opens doors to get to know people you probably would never come across or get the chance to meet.
  • A right to reply: I work with the press a lot and the blog gives me a way to talk back or to put my side of the argument and there are a lot of situations where people take you more seriously when they know you might write about it. Somehow it levels the field. You have to use this wisely of course but I can’t deny that it is useful sometimes to be able to set the record straight.  I take the view that if journos can criticise my products then I should be allowed to comment on their writing or the quality of their research.
  • Writing practice: I’m sure the discipline of blogging helps to hone your writing skills and probably your communication skills generally. 
  • Sheer kudos: A PR at a recent meeting I was at stated “bloggers are all geeks and egotists”.  There is some truth in that.  It’s nice when people know you from the blog and like your stuff and when you get known as being a blogger, people read your ideas before they meet you.  I do like that, I can’t deny it but after a while you get over any silly ideas of fame and fortune and realise it’s just helps people to get to know you and what you stand for.

Why do you blog?  What puts you off?

Comments (12)

  1. Colin Walker says:

    Great post Darren, it’s really good to say the way you think about blogging from both a personal AND corporate perspective. Obviously, as an advocate of MS you have certain obligations to the business but it’s refreshing to see the approach from both sides laid out.

    There is no doubt that the blogging ethos has opened up a great two way conversation with certain areas of the business but there will always be those who will attack the big blue monster regardless of how transparent things become just because of the past.

    I wrote an article for Micro Mart magazine a while ago looking at whether the criticisim MS received around the time of the Vista launch (and previously) was actually fair – I got slammed and accused of being a fan boy so I know that there are those not willing to listen.

    All anyone can ever do is present the information, it’s then up to the reader to decide what to do with it.

  2. Bruce Lynn says:

    I concur with the ‘Meeting Interesting People’ motivation.  The process not only introduces me to people whom I would never have otherwise met, but also helps to kick off a relationship with people I do meet in the daily course of my life.  Especially, in the work context, many people I meet do have a look at my blog (the link is on my email signature and business cards) and it gives them a bit of insight into me and often provides a hook to start the conversation.

    I was thinking about this ‘why do I blog’ the other day and the one big motivation that came to me was ‘Mechanical Advantage’.  In elementary physics you learn about pulleys, screws and levers which all provide a form of mechanical advantage.  They do so by taking a big unit of work and breaking it up into lots of units of smaller work (essentially).  A blog is like this.  For some big and broad topics, I would get tired and frustrated trying to get all my thinking down in one go or one structure.  But the blog format and dynamic allows me to explore my area of interest over a long time, in small bites, with the benefit of regular interaction and feedback from others similarly interested in the subject.

  3. Bez Berry says:

    "Bloggers are all geeks and egotists". T’were no PR,  Darren, who made that particular comment. I was sitting next to the offender at the time. And, as I am a PR gimp, you should accept that as the gospel truth, of course.

  4. stevecla01 says:

    Darren

    as usual, brilliantly written. You know my take on why I blog. Mainly driven to change percpetion but has had some amazing by products for me:

    + met tonnes of great people.

    + got involved in moonshine marketing with Blue Monster

    + got invited to do lots of talks on Why Microsoft Blogs

    + improved my writing

    + improved my listening

    + encouraged me to be more open and listen to other people’s viewpoints more thoroughly

    + learnt about lots of new technology that I can baffle my friends with 🙂

    The downsides?

    – time

    – expectations are raised

    they’re far outweighed by the positives though.

    A big learning for me was a few months in I asked a friend what they thought of my blog and they said quite candidly, "pretty shitty actually". they thought it was too corporate and said what they wanted was our "pub chats", (albeit without the 11:30 stumble home). that made me change the focus and style of my blog and I’m much more comfortable with it now and my audience seems to be too.  

    btw – like the new design Darren. Much cleaner 🙂

  5. dstrange says:

    Mr. Berry, you know I never think of you as a lowly PR 🙂 and as I say, the person who did say it had a point anyway.  Steve thanks on the clean look complement – I did steal more than a little from yours but then I know you stole yours too so I don’t feel bad.

  6. I just had a great chat with the Economist Intelligence Unit about Microsoft and blogging and finished

  7. One of the most exciting experiences in my life was being in the front row at Wembley on Saturday to

  8. Darren Strange, UK Office Product Manager, wrote an interesting post about why he blogs . I started blogging

  9. A lot has happened since I wrote my first post on OfficeRocker! two years ago. I started blogging in

  10. A lot has happened since I wrote my first post on OfficeRocker! two years ago. I started blogging in