Monday, June 22nd, 2009
Scott Rosenberg’s forthcoming book Say Everything: How Blogging Began, What It’s Becoming, and Why It Matters sounds like something of a dinosaur in a time when everyone’s talking about Twitter and some even see the long-form blogopshere as a foundering ghetto, but of course it’s a great opportunity to think about the place blogs still have in social media and how brands’ approach to them has changed.
Back in the day, bloggers were heralded as the new journalists, and subjected to all kinds of spammy PR approaches that didn’t respect their unique culture and aims. Nowadays, marketers are much more skilled at approaching them in a more personalised and mutually beneficial way, but the new fear is whether bloggers are the ones brands should be pursuing after all. Measurements of blog influence are becoming increasingly nonsensical, but it can be even harder to define the influence of those using other venues.
As always, a good rule of thumb is to look behind the tools to the individuals using them. Bloggers still have a unique and defined position in social media, and microblogging isn’t just an ‘evolution’ of blogging. Historically, bloggers have identified themselves in a more self-conscious way than tweeters, or social networkers, or forum members. They invest more time and space in constructing their own view of the world, in a more sustained and permanent way. They encourage people to migrate to their own property, rather than co-existing on one shared platform, and maintain a more rigid hierarchy of author and commentor as opposed to conversational free-for-all.
This doesn’t mean that blogging is in danger now that we’re all more semiotically promiscuous than we were when blogs first came on the scene. Just as in real life we sometimes want an in-depth discussion about Socrates on the sofa, and at other times we want to toss out a truism about Madonna at the bar, there will always be space for all forms of self-expression on the web. Brands need to always look at who is talking and what their passions are, and then tailor their word of mouth strategies to engage with different people at different stages of the campaign. A link to a twitpic of an exclusive new product has a different appeal, audience, and home on the net than a detailed review of a two-hour hands-on trial session organised by a brand.
We’ll probably be writing a nostalgic piece about Twitter in a couple of years, but I can guarantee that people will still be talking, sharing, recommending, on all the different platforms at their disposal, just as they always have. The fuss about ‘hot’ and ‘obsolete’ platforms is actually driven by anxiety over measurement – how marketers can keep a handle on the influence and effects of new tools. That’s understandable, but that fear shouldn’t stop brands from embracing and utilising all platforms in a flexible and inclusive way.