This post marks the beginning of my 8th year of blogging. To celebrate this milestone, I’m delighted to interview Toby Bloomberg, who inspired me to start this blog in 2005 and continues to be my inspiration in social media. Toby is a strategic social media consultant & trainer, author of Diva Marketing and Social Media Marketing GPS, and founder of All The Single Girlfriends.
QSM: Let's start with how business blogging has evolved over the past eight years. What are the biggest changes you've seen during this time period?
Toby: One of the current challenges I’m seeing is that with the ease and ubiquity of social networks, people are concerned if blogs are still a valid initiative in terms of longevity of the tool. In other words, are blogs on their way out? No marketer wants to invest time in a tactic that will be here today and gone tomorrow.
With blogs the challenges that we faced when businesses first stepped into the blogosphere are still the challenges that many face today. Blogs and social media frequently impact the dynamics of an organization and its culture. We’ve learned that creating an internal structure that supports and integrates social media is not nice to have but critical. How that is developed depends on the enterprise, but the first step should be creating company-wide “bumper” guidelines. (These are guidelines for simplicity that help people to not fall over the edge when creating content or responding to comments.)
How to create and manage communications that are based on what I call “selfless content,” instead of marketing messaging, is often a new direction for traditional marketers. The challenge is how to tell the story of the brand - including the people who are the brand (employees and customers) - through relevant, value-added content.
QSM: With all the content competing for attention in social media space, does business blogging still make sense?
Toby: Here’s the marketer’s response: it depends. It depends on several factors, starting with can a blog support your business/marketing goals and objectives?
Social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and even LinkedIn have capitalized on our society’s short attention span. While “short” posts and updates are fast to write (and to read), blogs offer an opportunity to explore issues in more depth. There is no better way to establish, reinforce and sustain thought-leadership positioning.
Keep in mind that with social networks you don’t “own” the platform ... you’re a “renter” which means you must abide by the rules of the network. Although Facebook allows for branded pages, with the others following suit, you are still at the mercy of another company’s vision. If you own the blog software, however, you have full control of branding, content guidelines and how you’ll manage customer relationships.
QSM: Since this blog is about internal marketing & communications, please share your thoughts on how blogging, tweeting and other forms of social media have affected organizational communications and engagement.
Toby: As I mentioned before, blogs and social media are catalysts for internal organizational change. The new open communication among people in the enterprise demands that new cross-functional communication systems are established among departments and business units. The exciting result is that social media can be a great team builder.
Social media opens the door for all employees, not just those in marketing, to understand the brand values and promise at a “DNA” level. In order to make that happen takes commitment from management, training and continuous sharing of strategic direction. At the end of the day people know each other better, know the company better and go out into the social world with confidence as brand champions.
QSM: And who doesn’t want to foster brand champions these days? Thank you, Toby, for reinforcing the value of business blogging. As my blog & social media mentor, you get the first slice of my blog anniversary cake!