While the blog in the current evolution of publishing online officially turns 20#, we have been sharing our thoughts and collaborating through conversations for much longer than that.
As Dave Winer says at The Guardian, “we were blogging before there were blogs, they just didn't know what it was called. Julia Child was a blogger as was Benjamin Franklin and Patti Smith.”
One theme of the conversation on blogging continues to be whether social streams have replaced blogs. Given that so much of the activity online has been rendered frictionless by the ease of clicking on likes, stars, and buttons why on earth would you still bother with blogging?
I keep coming back to my original answer and reason why start a blog and 25 ways to make it work; and certainly the changes to Google search in the last couple of years have cemented the more pragmatic and commercial reason of all: what is not searchable does not exist, and social signals contribute to authority building for search.
Evolution of themes in blogging
A couple of different threads developed from those early days:
- search + social meant individuals paved the way for companies and businesses that started by listening and monitoring to evolve their presences and go direct to customers first with proof of concept projects to teach the organization to be innovative, work organically, and think socially. Along the way, we wondered about the role of the corporate blogger: angel or demon? I think we settled that in favor of customer service and community managers in subsequent years.
- brands as publishers where we had this interesting evolution of individuals becoming brand-ified at scale due to the ease of creating an online presence, and on the business side, brands looking for the more intimate connection with customers to build audiences, in essence direct lists, instead of relying on renting eyeballs only via media, take for example one of the earlier forays in brand as media company by Procter & Gamble (are dads a new market opportunity?) The brand has since established strong communities/publications.
- content from social object to product and asset; portals and forums gave way to blogs and RSS, then social voting, social streams, and now with apps a return to defined brand-owned or theme-focused destinations. We are in the early stages of digital products as evolution of content and I expect we will see many more examples of the evolution of sites like Union Square Ventures# that borrow from some of the most useful and time/use-tested features in social networks to re-establish a community-centric URL.
Where do we go from here?
One size will continue to not fit all, and along with the evolution of business, we will see a more mature approach by brands. Rapid prototyping and earlier experimentation are paving a path for a more interesting and nuanced application of what we learned -- as individuals and companies -- to where we go from here.
The convergence of iterative development, agile processes, and organizational participation beyond the marketing, customer support, and communications groups makes for a solid foundation to online innovation.
Search and social are opening the door for experienced practitioners to make good on that “join the conversation” earlier mantra appropriately -- see community manager Josh Martin rocking the Grammys on behalf of Arby's#.
Brands as publishers are experimenting along the continuum of content marketing applications from curation, to co-creation with customers and communities of practice, to full producers of owned shows with original content -- starting on Facebook with product launches (e.g., Ford, Victoria's Secret, Burberry early on) and heavy use of video where we are seeing more examples of the latter on Google+ hangouts for fashion like the recent one with Topshop#, and entertainment like the Skylander Boomcast#.
Content as product shifts the stance from producing copy and images for inbound marketing to designing an experience that in itself becomes a product -- we will see more applications of this concept to servicing customers through digital and in store integration (and at the same time managing yield and resources smartly), on the phone and screen collaboration from earlier app prototypes (further segmenting customer base on the do-it-yourself and do-it-for-me spectrum), and so on.
My work concentration has been focused on the application of where these themes meet company readiness and maturity for social integration. Convergence is here, and it is a good thing for innovation as technology capabilities, process sophistication, and people/teams need combining into the appropriate execution to support the business where it makes sense.
We have come a long way, and still the opportunities and fun are ahead of us yet.
Valeria is an experienced listener. She designs service and product experiences to help businesses rediscover the value of promises and its effects on relationships and culture. She is also frequent speaker at conferences and companies on a variety of topics. Book her to speak here.