On the way home from Blog World Expo 2010, I met a lovely couple on the plane. The husband owns a small printing shop in Renton, WA, and we hit it off right away.
As we began chatting about our respective Las Vegas experiences, and I mentioned that I had just attended Blog World Expo, he asked me to explain a little about blogs and whether he, as a small business owner, should think about having one. Luckily for me, Jay Baer had delivered the precise answer to this question the day before in one of his two excellent panel discussions. (Jay is both the author of Convince and Convert, a superb blog on social media marketing, and co-author of the forthcoming book, The Now Revolution.)
Jay explained that asking if you should start a blog is like asking if you should buy a puppy. Like a puppy, if you don’t take very good and regular care of it, it’s gonna die.
What makes this story better than just a colorful shortcut to conveying the rigors of blogging? Normally, when a business owner starts by asking you about a strategy or a supporting tactic, the next step is to back up and ask, “So, Mr. Very Busy Small Business Owner, what specific business objective would you like to achieve with a blog?”
But according to the puppy analogy, the business goal doesn’t even matter. Why? Because there is simply no point in talking about deploying a strategy that the business has no hope of executing on.
I know what’s coming. You’re going to bust me on the fact that I hardly write in this blog at all. That’s true. I don’t use this blog to pretend I’m a leading thinker in the field (I’m not), or have any smashingly fresh analysis of the social media space to share with my professional colleagues. Right now, I use it for two things only:
- As a place to park information I think my clients and potential clients might find useful.
- As a place to demonstrate my writing chops and general style.
And for those two things, it does a pretty good job. But, let’s face it: that’s not nearly enough for most businesses.
The good news is this: There are plenty of other things small businesses can do very well to market themselves before turning to blogging. In this gentleman’s case, I have a pretty solid hunch he’d earn a lot more money, and more quickly too with a consistent email marketing effort. But each business has it’s own unique sweet spot, and anyone who tells you that a blog or a Facebook fan page will make or break you is lying.
So before you go and kill a few puppies, look around for the easiest, quickest path.
Great post, Carol, and a good litmus test for anyone considering starting a blog. Care and feeding is hugely important. Then again, some bloggers I know started blogging so that they could find their own stuff when they needed it. That was more about coding and web development, though.
Now that Google is looking more closely at internal pages on websites for their top search results http://searchenginewatch.com/3641531 I think blogging is going to see a bit of a resurgence. It's still one of the least expensive ways to optimize a website for search engines.
Do you think that businesses that want to have an online presence should have a Facebook page and a Twitter account? Does the same puppy test apply?
Absolutely Mark, businesses should apply the “puppy test” (love that!) to any social media platform.
Still, when it comes to Facebook, I think any business not taking advantage of it is really making a mistake. The customer’s expectations have shifted dramatically, and not having a Facebook page is soon going to be as big of a strategic miss as not having a website.