Friday, May 14, 2010

Sometimes Less Is More

We're going to do something a little unusual today.  We're going to write a bunch about writing very little.  Confused?  Don't be.  We're talking blogging today and, hopefully putting some fears to rest.

When I work with clients on their social media efforts, one of the first things I do is to look for potential blogging material.  It's not hard, generally.  When I was a journalist or working in a large PR firm, one of my standard sayings was, "Everyone has a story to tell...everyone."  Sometimes you have to look a little harder than normal to find the story, but there's always, ALWAYS something interesting to say about something.  It doesn't matter if it's a coolest new business you've ever heard of, or if it's the gas station on the corner.

Admit it, the sandwich looks good, but you love my wicked 'stache, don't you?

In other words, you can always say something about your organization.  But clients get nervous about blogs, for a number of reasons; the privacy issue, not feeling like they're interesting enough, having little confidence in their writing abilities, exposing the inner workings of the organization online, saying something that could get them sued.  Clearly there are legitimate concerns, each one of which can be mitigated through some basic blogging instruction. 

Time Keeps On Slippin':

But the biggest concern, by far, is the time issue.  "Blogging takes time I don't have," my clients say.  It's a lament you may have made yourself many times.  Sure, you'd LOVE to blog about your organization, to tell everyone why you're so awsome, but you "just...don't...have..the..time!"

I get it, I hear you.  But here's the thing...it doesn't have to take a long time to blog.  When clients ask me how long it takes for me to write this blog everyday, I immediately have to tell them that this blog isn't necessarily the example they should be shooting to recreate.  It takes me about an hour every day to catch up on research and write the blog.  But this is really only one type of blog available to small businesses and non-profits. 

I have set up a blog designed specifically to educate and inform.  In order to do so, I have to take time and spill a lot of (virtual) ink.  But your blog might have a completely different goal or purpose than this blog.  In that case, you can spend as much, or as little time on your blog as you like and still be very successful in attracting an audience.

Smaller and Successful:

One of the more fascinating stats I ran across a few months ago was that 20-somethings, or "Millennials" as they're called, are changing the way blogging works.  As you saw in yesterday's post, teens are texting on average, two-thousand times a month.  The younger generation is used to saying things in short bursts and reading short thoughts that express their feelings or impart information. 

We also know that Millennials don't write traditional blogs as much as their older online counterparts.  They might read a more traditional blog every now and then, but they're drawn to blogs featuring video elements, they listen to podcasts more often and they spend most of their time on Facebook and Twitter.

So why blog at all, you might ask?  Because even though they're not blogging in the traditional sense, they ARE blogging.  This blog fits into the traditional structure very nicely, but if I could look at the demographics of who is reading this blog, I would venture a guess that most of the readers are 30 years old and above.  Which is okay for my audience and my purposes.

Reaching The Right Audience:

But for many small businesses and non-profits, the Millennial demographic is a powerful money-spending, potential-customer audience to appeal to.  Which is why, when you blog, and you should, you should consider "Micro-Blogging."

Micro-Blogging is really an outgrowth of Facebook and Twitter.  Instead of spending time to write full blog entries, much like this one, they instead write one, two, maybe three sentences about their thoughts, observations or information and then move on.  In essence, Micro-Blogging is a series of short bursts of information that gets constantly updated and passed on every day.  These Micro-Blogs also are heavy on video or pics or graphics to illustrate the information.

In a way, Facebook has become a de-facto micro-blogging spot for many Millennials.  Instead of signing up for a Blogspot or Wordpress site, they use Facebook and Twitter as a way to micro-blog.  You could do something similar if you choose.

As with everything, there are pro's and cons to this strategy:

If you use Facebook and Twitter as your micro-blog, you will certainly save yourself some time in terms of writing out long posts.  At the same time, you will have to be constantly updating your Facebook and Twitter to get the most out of your efforts.  It's estimated that micro-bloggers are updating their Facebook and Twitter up to six or eight times a day.  This means you'll have to be constantly updating your pages, which can take time.

And while this fits in quite nicely with yesterday's post noting that the more activity you have on your social media platforms the better, six or eight updates a day, every day, will become a drain on your time and you'll come to loath your social media efforts. 

You should look forward to your social media efforts.  Another drawback to using Facebook and Twitter as your micro-blogging spaces is that you lose a link.  In other words, every Facebook page, Twitter account, blog, micro-blog, LinkedIn page should be linked to your website.  As we noted a week ago when we discussed SEO strategy, the more links your site has, the better you show in online searches.  You want as many links as you can get, you NEED those links to raise your online profile.  If you don't set up a separate blogging space, you lose a link that you can add to your website.

So what do you do?  What is the best way to blog, without spending hours a week to impart information about your organization while still managing to blend in your existing social media pages and adding links to your primary site? 

The Winner is...

The answer is:  A Tumblr blog.  Before we go on, I have to say that I am not being paid by, or representing Tumblr in any way.  I'm simply using this as an example of a good small business and non-profit blogging strategy.

Tumblr blogs is really more of a generic definition of a style of blog that uses an actual brand name.  Think Kleenex or Xerox.  When you need to blow your nose, you say,"hand me a kleenex" even though you bought a box of Stay-Puff brand tissues.  Same with Xerox, the brand name has taken over the vernacular, even though there are all different kinds of photocopy manufacturers.

Same goes for Tumblr blogs.  Tumblr is a blogging site, much like Blogspot or Wordpress.  It specializes in short, to the point, video heavy blogs.  It has become very popular, particularly among Millennials and others who simply want to look at something short, to the point and interesting. 

Here is a list of the nine interesting Tumblr blogs, as compiled by Mashable recently.  Take a look at it and you'll quickly start to understand what Tumblr blogs are all about.

9 Odd But Awesome Tumblr Blogs
In honor of the grueling work days in the immediate future and Tom Selleck’s glorious ’stache, we thought it prudent to offer up a list of single-serving Tumblr blogs that are sure to provide you with a much-needed helping of entertainment.

This list is far from comprehensive, seeing as how there’s scores of Tumblrs on the web — with more popping up every day — but it does contain both staff and popular favorites. We know we’ll probably miss a few that you have bookmarked, so please feel free to post them in the comments.

Selleck Waterfall Sandwich

This blog is basically self-explanatory, which isn’t really explaining much. It will leave you oddly hungry — whether it’s for Selleck or the sandwiches is up to you.

Awesome YouTube Comments

Of all the trolls in the land, those who frequent YouTube () are by far the most amusing/horrible. Get a daily dose of idiocy and rare lyrical clarity here.

Unhappy Hipsters

OK, so it’s no longer a Tumblr (Tumblr) and those aren’t really hipsters (“yuppy” would be more accurate), but this blog is hilarious. If decorating magazines generally put you to sleep, this blog will stir your ventricles back into wakefulness.

All of these blogs have one thing in common.  They use video or pics or graphics, combined with one or two short sentences to impart something funny or interesting or useful to the reader.  They are short, they are compelling sometimes and they don't take long to put up.

Tumblr blogs are even becoming more popular on more traditional blogging sites such as Blogspot or Wordpress.  Tumblr is becoming a catch-all for blogs that use this style of blogging.  Short sentences, one or two, three at the most, combined with pics, video or graphics. 

Right now, a lot of these blogs are for entertainment purposes only.  But small businesses and non-profits could use this style to their advantage.  You could simply take a photo of something that relates to your organization, post it to your blog, write a short paragraph and, viola, you have posted a Tumblr blog entry. 

You could use this style of blog to appeal to all demographics and potential audience members, still be able to add a link to your primary website an also be able to impart information, tips and fun facts about your organization in a way that people will read.

It's a win-win situation.  You can still update your Facebook and Twitter pages three times a day, one of those updates being your Tumblr blog update, and still meet your goal of blogging without having to spend hours to do so.

Tumblr blogs are growing in popularity and sophistication.  Blogs like LOLcats are blogs in the Tumblr style and the audience is exploding.  As a small business owner or non-profit, you know you have to have as big a presence online as possible, and this includes a blog.  But you can have your cake and eat it to, so to speak, by utilizing a tumblr style blog.  You won't spend too much time doing it, and, who knows, you might actually find that you enjoy your daily blogging efforts.  And having fun is a big part of the social media experience.

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