I had to laugh last week when I heard the keynote speaker at a public relations conference refer to the conventional wisdom that blogs are “so yesterday.” Maybe it’s because I spend two to three hours daily tending to my own blogs and others, or maybe it’s just general frustration with trend-chasing, but blogs are more relevant today than they’ve ever been, and they’re growing more useful as options proliferate.
The blog is the Swiss army knife of social media. Simple to use and easy to update, it accommodates every type of media: words, images, video and sound. Blog entries can be of Twitter-like brevity or can go on for thousands of words. Content can be displayed in a wide variety of formats and designs. Visitors don’t have to register to read.
Blog content is automatically syndicated via RSS feeds, making it simple for the owner to republish information through other outlets. A blog can also act as a catch-basin for the owner’s other social media activities. All of a person’s tweets, Yelps, Flickr PhotoStreams and YouTube creations can be aggregated and displayed in one place.
Content can be automatically reformatted for display on devices ranging from text readers to mobile devices. A countless variety of useful widgets can be added to entertain and inform visitors. Web analytics can show detailed information about where visitors originated, what they read, how long they stayed and where they went next. Blogs can even incorporate order forms. Last but not least, blogs rock on search engine performance.
It’s true that there are a few things blogs don’t do well. They’re not as quick and easy to update as Twitter or the Facebook status message. And they lack interactivity. While visitors can comment on individual entries, they can’t comment on the overall theme of the blog, and even threaded comment strings can be difficult to follow. There are also limits to what you can do with the simple reverse chronological format, although innovators like Brian Gardner are managing to make WordPress do things I never thought possible.
For businesses, blogs provide a critical element of control. They’re the social media equivalent of speaking to an audience. The author retains control over subject matter, tone and direction while offering interaction around subjects of his or her choosing. Businesses that shrink from the unpredictability of unmediated discussion can take comfort in the fact that blogs give them the podium.
For business-to-business applications, blogs are the overwhelming tool of choice. That’s because b-to-b professionals often don’t have the time or patience to fill out profile forms, answer friend requests or join groups. Blogs are simply a fast and easy way to share information with very little overhead.
Blogs are the building block of nearly every form of social media. They are the tool you need to master in order to understand the rich nuances of other media that are available to you. If you want to learn more, my Social Media Crash Course goes into detail on the many nuances of blogging. Now it can also be delivered remotely as an interactive screen-sharing session. Contact me for more information.
Tip of the Week: Free Software
A few years ago I stumbled across a website called “46 Best-Ever Freeware Utilities.” It contained a fantastic list of software covering many of a PC user’s basic needs ranging from tune-up utilities to security packages, office programs, multimedia and more. The site was the work of a man who called himself Gizmo Richards. In the years since, that fledgling site has turned into a truly impressive storehouse of links to free software of all kinds. Richards believes that 95% of the software most people need is available free if they know where to look. He and a small team of volunteers comb the Web searching for gems like out-of-date programs that have been placed in the public domain or promoted for a limited time but never taken down.
If you want to learn more about Richards, a 62-year-old Australian former IT manager, check out my interview with him.
Just for Fun
Is that a penguin on the telly? Well, a few penguins, actually, but click the image to see the truly awesome spectacle of what happens when penguins congregate. This is one of the photos on Incredimazing, a website devoted to collecting bizarre images submitted by people like you and me. If you want to scramble your brain, check out the M.C. Escher car.