September 07, 2012

Back to the Future - Things Old School Blogging Did Better Than New School Social Media


Back in 2003, my blog had a Google page rank of 9. I burst into the Technorati Top 1000 on a couple of occasions. Considering there were about 1000 of us blogging at that time, this accomplishment was not as "whoa!" as it sounds.

Before I started blogging in 2001, a Google search on my name delivered just 3 search results. Four years after, that number would climb to 300,000 and more. That was before businesses barged in, before smartphones and BYOD meant everyone really was "always on," before becoming a 'social media' expert was a lucrative career option.

The act of blogging was quite different then. But the idea that there was value in talking to each other across the web has stood the test of time

There are things that early "social media" did right -- practices that have been lost amid the growing cacophony of participants. The following are some old school blogging tactics that can be revamped to make conversations more meaningful today

THEN:
We had "blogrolls," which we took great care to maintain, groom, and grow. These were sidebar lists of people we read, lists and links to friends, enemies, whoever we thought our friends should be reading. These were our pre-app apps for finding and sharing. We didn't do SEO. We did I LOVE YOU.

NOW:
Blogrolls have fallen out of favor. Most of us find what we read by following links tweeted by our Twitter folowees, or Facebook links to what family and friends are reading. Blogs tend to link more to mainstream articles today, hoping to glean credibility and SEO juice in return. The problem with that is, Google's analytics are smarter than any of us. And Google did, does, and always will reward authentic conversation. That is what has kept its search results useful over these many years. So don't try to out-SEO Google. Try instead to read, care, and talk about what matters to you, then tell other people why you care about it, and why they should care.

THEN:
Most of us were blogging to get AWAY from our jobs, not as part of our jobs. Some of us were getting fired for blogging, and some others of us even made blogging careers out of getting fired for blogging.

NOW:
Blogging pays. Whether you are blogging about your personal hobby or about your professional passion, everyone loves a blogger. You are more likely to get laid off for not blogging than for blogging. In the process, however, bloggers have lost their authenticity of voice. How excited can you be about PR, really? Or technology? Or social media? It's great that so many pundits have emerged from the ranks of blogging, and that so many have made careers out of it. But we really liked you best when you threw in the personal stuff, the parts about your kid's visit to the principal, you dad's final days in the hospital, the breakup with your longtime love. Don't forget that stuff. It's what makes this space special, me to you, the closest we get to flesh in pixels.

THEN:
Good conversations were the ones you couldn't even trace the genesis of. So many people had blogged and linked to so many others, that the discussion became a web, a mini network of intellect or fart jokes within the larger network of nodes.We read other bloggers voraciously. We would seldom post without reading what other bloggers were saying. Links within a post were the only context we had. Links were organic to discussion. Links were a social grace. Links were etiquette. Linking to someone drew them into a discussion by virtue of the fact that you thought they were important enough to be there. That the conversation needed them. As readers we were concerned with the wattage of conversations, not the volume.

NOW:
The blogopshere is oversaturated with pundits and underserved by conversation. Bloggers think they deserve to be read. Instead of starting a discussion, they stake a claim. Just because you have a thought, however, doesn't mean you're a thought leader. Every idea doesn't have to be yours. Everything you write doesn't have to stand on its own. There are others in the blogosphere. You should invite them into your conversation by linking to something they've said about that same topic. Use links for context, talk with others, not at them.

2 comments:

Jessica Homann said...

Love this, Jeneane -- and how spot on you are.

Allied was the first blog I ever read and it inspired me to start my own in 2004. While I have become a lazy blogger over the years, I still value the conversations and connections it opened up for me.

Through blogging, I raised money for a little girl who had to have multiple liver transplants, I have taken vacations with like minded bloggers who have become good friends, I have flown across the country to sleep on a blogging buddy's couch during a difficult time and I received a gorgeous painting from another blogger who offered it as a gift in my new home post my divorce. I always said that blogging proved that good people are everywhere and I stand by that today.

XO

joared said...

Interesting commentary on what blogging started out being about and what it has become for many.

I do wonder if disclosure of so much personal information may some day be regretted (when it will be too late) if exploited commercialization becomes prevalent.