For Small Businesses, knowing where to apply your limited marketing resources is challenging with so many options and limited time. Through a serious of interviews with people who have ‘been-there-done-that’ we’ll get to the bottom of your most challenging marketing questions.
Our first interview is with long time friend and blogger Toby Bloomberg. As part of several American Marketing Association events from 2004-06, I had the pleasure to tour with Toby and talk with SMBs about the benefits of content marketing before it was mainstream. Back in 2004 it was called blogging. Toby Bloomberg consults speaks and trains on how to combine social media with branding, marketing and other customer touch points to build relationships though the people who are the stories of the brand. She was Forbes’ Pick of Best Women Blogs on Marketing & Social Media
I wanted to find out from Toby if blogging is still relevant into today’s social networking world.
Q. Blogging has evolved over the 5 years you have been involved with it. Can you briefly explain the evolution?
Toby. From the start, blogs were perceived as rogue. The culture demanded transparency, authenticity and honesty. Although we hope honesty is a value for all companies, transparency and authenticity were new to many organizations. Allowing employees, even at the CEO level, to speak their minds in what has been called “human speech” and talk directly to the world without benefit of marketing or PR messaging was nothing less than earth shattering for many organizations.
Interestingly, it was small businesses, which didn’t have the layers of red tape or management structure, that led the way. Entrepreneurs recognized the benefits including: cost efficiencies, online presence (at the time websites were still costly to develop), relationship marketing, positioning reinforcement, informal research, search engine lift and media relations.
Slowly brands and larger organizations came onboard. Some stumbled but eventually got it right. Dell is a great example.
Recently, I’ve noticed the core reason for blogging is getting lost. Organizations are using blogs as a vehicle to push out messaging instead of connecting to people. Some blogs don’t even include a byline for blog authors. Copywriters, ghost writers, agencies now “speak” for the company turning the blog into little more than an SEO vehicle.
Q. There is a lot of talk about Facebook, Twitter – short messaging. The latest upstart, Pinterest, is gaining a lot of momentum around images. As a small business owner, should I still have a blog or should I just jump on one or all the social sites?
Toby. I’ll give you a marketer’s answer .. it depends. It depends on what you want to accomplish and how you want to use social media to support your positioning. However, what I remind clients is that you never have full control over your content, branding or guidelines when you “rent” space on social networks that you don’t own.
Although less time consuming than a blog might be there are tradeoffs with putting all of your content marbles in social networks. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube and even LinkedIn change their rules at their own pleasure. Frequently they offer little or no notice to its “clients” or users.
Although most social networks are picked up by the search engines, the archiving functionality is limited at best. If a business owner is utilizing social networks to reinforce or create a thought leadership positioning it’s difficult to send clients or prospects to a tweet or Facebook status update.
All that said, for a company that wants to test social networks and engage in digital conversations Facebook or LinkedIn could be the way to begin. Especially for social networks, the greater benefit is derived from the right friends, followers, likes, etc. Keep in mind the Field of Dreams does not hold true. They will not come unless you tell them. One more element to add to the mix.
Q. If you believe a blog is still vital, what are your top 3 words of advice for how a small business should leverage it in today’s social climate?
Toby. You do ask challenging questions! I’ll give you one word in three support roles. Understand.
- Understand the benefits, challenges and culture of each social media platform/network including blogs before you choose where to begin.
- Understand what success means to you on each social network (including blogs) that ties back to your goals/objectives
- Understand your own resources and interests. If you commit to too much too soon and you have no interest in the subject matter you won’t sustain the content development nor enjoy participating in discussions.
Q. Everyone is talking about how small businesses need to be on one of the social networks, is the ole-fashion newsletter still valid/needed? How does it fit into the social landscape?
Toby. For me, social media and eMail newsletters go together like PB&J. Since eMail is an in-box communication where no one but you can see the information, I don’t consider eMail to be social media.
eMail, however, is a great tool to send people to a social platform or blog for more information and conversation. Keep in mind, not everyone is online all the time. Especially with social networks the stream moves so quickly that a tweet or status update or post can be easily missed. I think of email as bringing people to the party.
I encourage you to follow Toby:
All The Single Girlfriends
Author of Social Media Marketing GPS, the first book based on Twitter interviews