Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Is blogging here to stay? Can you use it?

Is blogging a fad borne of technology that will fade faster than pet rocks, even if it can do more? In a world of digital & technology leaps, most anything can be a fad, at lightening speed. Just because the technology makes this online public diary possible, will they become equally as useless as the diary under a teenage girl's bed? Aside from the sneaky little brother, who cares what is written?

It's a debate that continues with folks much more intelligent than myself, but in reality, I am very suited to this debate. After all, it will be a decision reached by people. For in order for it to survive, it must become part of popular culture, so who else is more qualified to discuss the issue than BW's resident Pop Culture Queen? Especially as I also manage to be quite 'average' when it comes to technological things.

Why are blogs so popular?

Blogs are cheap & easy. In seconds, and for free, you can be set up with one. A few seconds more, and your blitherings are available for the public (or just your friends if you wish). Want some serious features? You can opt for upgrades for a couple of bucks.

However, like most of the webmasters, bloggers are discovering, just because you have built it, it doesn't mean they will come. Aside from your mom, your best friend, who is going to come to read your blither-blather? In reality, you have likely already told then in an email or phone conversation that your dog ran away, you were promoted, you like cheese, and that your recent ex is an idiot from hell & that you are going to burn his favorite jeans in the back yard. So why blog?

Most blogs are part of online communities. You can link up with other dog owners, cheese lovers & jilted lovers, all of you blither-blathering on & on until someone gets a cat, becomes lactose intolerant, or finds Mr. Right. But the truth is, just as with real multiple conversations, no one is listening as much as they are talking. Many bloggers are saddened by little traffic, minimal comments, and tire of having to post chipper little comments at the entries of others in order to try to get some to reply to their entries.

The now fact what webmasters everywhere have known for a long time: if you don't promote, you die.

All the 'big names' in blogging are just that, Big Names. In fact, the most successful bloggers are professionals in their fields. Folks seek out their wisdom & experience, often for fees. So the chance at free information & tips, with or without the pithy asides & insider rib poking, is why they visit.

Rarely are these blogs about mundane daily events, trifling tidbits on cheese - unless this is a dairy or food manufacturing site. No the popular blogs are very similar to the biggest & best websites: they are all about business.

The loyal rag-tag gang of readers & posters are those who work in, or desire to work in, the particular arena the blogger does. Or they hope to make an interesting discovery which will help them in their work, such as Mr Corporate or Ms Entrepreneur reading blogs on marketing.

Right now, blogging is so popular, that businesses are not just thriving on the tips, nor just being created to support the business of blogging, but they are even business models trying to utilize blogs as an income source.

To promote You have corporate blogs, where loyal customers can find out the inside scoop directly from the PR department. Blogs are now becoming direct marketing pieces. Where once normal consumers were jaded & viewed all corporate communications as a sales pitch, they now sign up to post & receive mailings. They believe what they read is as rare & private as a teen girl who reads Tiger Beat magazine thinking they now really, really know their heart-throb de jour.

*sigh*

If I sound jaded, forgive me. And I don't mean to say blogs or bloggers are evil spawn to be avoided. But where is the realism in all of this?

The media loves to play up the popularity & power of blogs. They love stories such as new authors being 'discovered,' how so & so got a job because of her blog, but sheesh, is it such a surprise?

Remember when Hollywood starlets were 'discovered' at coffee shops? Was that the norm? No. Remember the beginnings of biographies of famous people who claimed they got their professional start simply by being in the right place at the right time? They delivered something, gave someone a ride, made a good impression somewhere to the wife, the son, the man himself, and *boom* they got the job of a lifetime - or at least the start to one.

That's what blogs are: a way to make a good impression.

In this world of digital & instant communication, as folks spend more time with their monitors than they do in coffee shops or at cocktail parties, this is how we meet people. Sometimes it's a link in an email from a friend. Other times, it is a 'referral' in the from of a links list. Sometimes, a cheese lover will find an excellent writer in his fellow cheese lover. Who knows? Folks surf , so why is it a surprise that occasionally a connection is made? The web is made up of data & pixels, but it is humans that absorb & interact with it.

So, will blogs die out or become a fixture?

My bet is that there is more to come. Both in technology & in the goals of the users.

Those bloggers who find what they are looking for, be it pals that love cheese or that writing gig, will stay with it. Like the readers, those who can't find a community where they fit in, will likely move on.

As for businesses, I suspect it will be much like all in business: those that are honest, remain flexible, and focus on their customers will only grow larger.

© GlamKitty, a Backwash columnist, who despite being from Wisconsin, does not blog about cheese.

More by this author:

* Marketing Tips That Include The Real World

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