Monday, November 1, 2010

Are Blogs the Walking Dead?

Many of us still write blog posts, though at least one study says that only 22% of the social networking population read blogs regularly. I’ve seen more than one article on blogs as a passing fad – an idea whose time has come and gone. Few these days trust blogs or even most mainstream media as a reliable place to gather news. For straight facts on a news item, I would probably trust Twitter before I would trust some media outlets, particularly television networks.

But I wonder if the fad being talked about as dying isn’t the “personal” blog. A few years ago, bloggers voicing their opinion on the net could reach superstar status (e.g., the Drudge Report), becoming famous for little beyond being outspoken rather like some socialites have become famous for little beyond attending parties in designer clothes. Internet enthusiasts rushed to get their own blogs up and templates related to things like sports or fashion, bands and dating, were everywhere. Now the talk is more about HTML5, Wordpress versus Joomla, and which icons to include on your social networking toolbar.

So Why Haven’t Blogs Gone Away?

Some say they have. But again, I think they’re talking about personal blogs – blogs that have no purpose other than to express an opinion about a current event or idea or function as a public diary page. Article blogs are still here and I doubt they’ll ever go away because they’re useful. Article blogs tell you how to do something, what the trends are, where to go to get facts, tools, collaborators. They allow you to share ideas and how to implement them rather than lay out the day-to-day facts of your life and interests. How and Why To Do It blogs fascinate me and probably always will because I like new information. And (because I like politics) I will probably be one of the (very) small percentage who continue to read political blogs, though I prefer to construct my own (biased) perspective out of the (biased) viewpoints of the bloggers I read.

Should Your Small Nonprofit Continue to Maintain a Blog?

Most definitely. Your blog is an essay, the public manifestation of your Big Idea for making the world a better place. Where Facebook and Twitter, Linked-In, StumbleUpon, and all the other social media networks give you a quick and easy way to bump up against other people and exchange views and encouragement, short bursts of information, your blog posts are the way you elaborate on those things. It’s where you share the long view of where you want to go and why you feel that destination is important. Your blog is where you talk about how current trends are affecting your mission and your planning.

Not everyone will read it.

Let’s face it – most people feel they don’t have the time and many just can’t sustain the interest in reading a blog. A lot of folks are just not much on reading. But there are two reasons I can think of why creating a weekly or monthly soliloquy can be good for your nonprofit.

Some People Like In-Depth

There are fewer of them than those that prefer a hit-and-run conversation, but you don’t have to play totally to the numbers. It’s good to give alternate opportunities to connect to others, like through the comments at the end of your posts. You have the chance to encourage some really serious give and take through a blog post that you don’t through either Twitter or Facebook updates.

It Helps You Think and Revitalize

You see something on the net and it sparks a thought related to your mission. You write a blog post about it. So now you’ve informed yourself, broadened your perspective by incorporating the new information into your worldview and refined what you think and feel about it through communicating it to others. And by doing THAT, you’ve given new energy to your work.

How and Where to Blog

I can think of a couple of ways to put your blog out there besides on your website (maybe having your blog on your website isn’t even necessary). How about using the Notes application on Facebook? How about posting on Linked In or Posterous or Tumbler and providing links to other places? How about having a short piece that only appears in the emails you send out so that the only people who get them are the ones signed up for your e-newsletters?

And Link to It

Remember the something you saw on the net that sparked the blog essay? Find that place and articles related to it and other blogs and comment with an overview of your perspective and provide the permalink to your post. That way people who want to connect with you for conversation about it can find you easily.

There’s still plenty of life in blog posts, I think, but it is – as it always has been – the life that you put into it which people find there and which keeps them coming back.

SM Tool of the Week:

The TurnSocial toolbar. Add your preferred social networks to an sm sharing toolbar for your site. Includes location! What they say:
Why continue to send hard earned traffic away from your website to connect with your social content? Buttons? Outbound links? That's so 2009. Keep the conversation on your page, and let us bring the most popular providers of local and social content - Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Foursquare, Yelp and more, directly onto your website.
As we all know, location is big right now. Another unique feature about TurnSocial is our ability to bring in content based on your street address - so if you're an apartment company, restaurant, or traditional brick and mortar business, we make it easy to share what makes your neighborhood great.

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