Do we still need to blog? We have Twitter and Facebook where we can publish, connect, engage and debate with an update and a like button. Foursquare and Plancast let us inform the world of our whereabouts and our gonna be’s. Posterous and Tumblr give us the option to lifestream in a freestyle way. All of these alternatives are easier and less time consuming than posting on a regular basis.
But over the last couple of years I’ve found the advantages of blogging in a structured manner far outweigh the commitment of time and energy. Here’s why I’m doing it. If you stop by here frequently regularly, I’d love to hear your reactions. And if you’re a blogger as well, I’m curious what drives you to continue.
Focus your thinking
Interestingly the best reason to write doesn’t have to do with reaching an audience. Blogging helps you think more clearly, explore a subject, develop a point of view and reach conclusions. We carry an inordinate number of disparate thoughts around in our brains. Sometimes writing them down, editing them and challenging your own thinking is invaluable.
Find your tribe
Ben Malbon once told me he wants to work with the smartest people in the world and they obviously can’t all work for his company. So he has to find them somewhere else. Blogging by nature connects you to those who think about the same stuff you think about. You write a piece; someone posts it on Twitter; someone else sees the link, reads it and comments — possibly referencing another writer you’d find interesting — and your tribe has just grown.
Discover better sources of content
In an age of sharing, participation and conversation, you quickly realize that a blog is not a discrete property, rather it’s part of a larger eco-system, connected via readers, other bloggers who explore the same topics, and comment streams that start in one place and move across the web. All of which provide you with links to additional content that makes you smarter.
Learn from your readers
This is perhaps my favorite aspect of blogging. Rarely do I write something that doesn’t get modified, added to, or questioned by someone. Could be a regular reader who’s comfortable calling me out, or a first time visitor who’s inspired to share something I don’t know about. You might be lucky enough to find someone like Ben Kunz to show up and challenge your every premise.
Understand inbound marketing
This is an added benefit. But in an age when outbound advertising is getting less and less effective, blogging is an opportunity to learn all about SEO, inbound links, search results and analytics. You know when a post works, whether it gets attention, and how long someone has spent with it. Spend just a small amount of time on learning this stuff and you have a new language and set of skills that increases your value to clients.
If you’re someone who has to speak or present frequently, blogging gives you a head start on any material you have to create. Inevitably your past posts become the foundation and themes for presentations, talks and panels. They also become an opportunity to crowdsource ideas, answers, suggestions and get your readers to actually help you out.
Build your business
This is not a for-profit enterprise, but it’s helped prospective clients discover both me and Mullen and it’s also been a marketing tool for the agency’s new business efforts. You can’t very well claim to have much expertise in the digital space or in social media if you’re not using it yourself. A blog that gets read and referred to helps to convince clients you know what you’re talking about.
Experiment and fail
You can try things with a blog that you can’t necessarily put into practice in real life. Post something crazy, rant a little, proffer a hypothesis and see what kind of reaction it gets. It’s also a chance to say things that turn out to be stupid and wrong. What the hell? It’s just a blog.
Preserve your stream
This is a topic worthy of numerous posts. We still don’t own our own streams. Sure you have your status updates and online photos. But if you really want a stream of your entire life you’d need not only your status but your health, expenses, music, travel and thoughts aggregated in one easily accessible place. Not gonna happen for a while. A blog at least gives you a historic reference that you own and control. A great way to look back at what you were thinking and when.
Helps you avoid watching television
If you’ve read Clay Shirky’s new book, you know this basic premise: for the last 60 years, watching television has occupied the majority of our free time. Amazing to think that after generations of really working that all most of us did with the post war boom’s gift of free time was watch TV. Anyway, one of the best things about all things social is that it turns us into creators instead of passive spectators. May save us from getting Alzheimers. Blogging may take time, but there’s plenty of time available if you turn off the tube. You won’t be missing much.
There’s actually an 11th reason. Blogging is a chance to give something back: knowledge, advice, experience, or just your sense of humor. Somewhere along the line plenty of people must have helped you out. Why not do a little digital mentoring from your keyboard as a way of paying it forward?
What about you? Worth the time, energy and effort?