Blog Clutter? What Was it Called Before Blogs?

Is the blogosphere just one big echo chamber? Yes? No? Maybe? So What If It Is?

As individuals, our opinions and ideas are more findable than ever. And, while we find commonality – by our nature, we’re probably attracted to this commonality – we often find subject matter echoing across several blogs we read.

Larry Hendricks and I have been discussing this in email and in comments from the SMO post a few days ago. Rather than keep that conversation below the fold, I thought I’d bring it up to post level.

So let’s think about the possible answers to "Is the blogosphere one big echo chamber?":

YES: Think about it, how many Snakes on a Plane posts have we seen? The challenge for me as a reader was that I stopped reading anything with SoaP in a headline. In some cases, yes – the "blogosphere" is an echo chamber. Is that a bad thing?

NO: I believe that a majority of content published in blogs is quite original, and if it takes a previously shared thought and expands upon it, it’s of value. And even if it doesn’t add anything new, does it still have value?

MAYBE: Lots of people publish "daily links" and I would love to start up Whistle Stops again soon. But herein lies the value of these posts: By doing this, the author can become a trusted resource and the author becomes a source of information and reliability. But isn’t this constant regurgitation of links just noise across the Internet?

SO WHAT IF IT IS?: Before blogging, we shared our opinions offline just as we do now online. These days, we have a larger potential audience. Our audience may not be reading everything we’re reading – though because of commonality there will be crossover. Should that slow us down – or even stifle us from sharing our thoughts?

My take? I can only think of one immutable law in business blogging. Each author chooses what to write, each reader chooses what to read. Know your target audience (and be open to the possibility that your target evolves and changes as time goes by).

What’s your take?

Does SEO Even Matter Anymore?

I don’t know if SEO matters as much anymore – at least not like it did a few years ago. Here’s why I’m thinking this, and it’s almost accidental – almost.

A couple of months ago, I launched IowaBizEvents. Launched it quickly, cheaply and have made very little change to the out-of-box Typepad template. It’s not using Advanced Templates.

We haven’t put any keywords or descriptions in meta tags – yet. Haven’t submitted it to any blog directories (we did claim it on Technorati)

It’s a public service blog to provide dates, gatherings and profiles of speakers. And here’s where it gets interesting.

I recently did a profile on Todd McDonald (Todd supplied the bio), who is not only a top-notch professional speaker, but also an author and entrepreneur. Yet, if you Google Todd McDonald Iowa or Todd McDonald Speaker, what comes up first? I’m getting the IowaBizEvents post as the top result.

Same thing for professional speakers Kathy Peterson, Matt Booth and Jeff Bradford. Thankfully, I’ve published their contact info as well. Did a blog increase their findability?

All of this without any intentional SEO or Keyword strategies. We’re just trying to provide a one-stop-peek for Iowa Business Events (many have talked about it, few have implemented it).

So why aren’t each of these folks blogging? I guess that’s my fault. I should give them a call.

Did You Miss the Rules of SMO? Don’t.

I missed Rohit Bhargava’s post on 5 Rules of Social Media Optimization (SMO) earlier this month. So a quick thanks to David Beisel for sharing his take with The Challenges of SMO.

The conversation begins with the concept of SMO:

  • Increase Linkability
  • Make Tagging and Bookmarking Easy
  • Reward Incoming Links
  • Help Your Content Travel
  • Encourage Mashup

As others have added thoughts and rules (practicing the above), Rohit has updated his post and created a page at del.icio.us to hold this community effort.

Many of the additions are important, most notably Cameron Olthuis’ # 8: Participate. Any SMO strategy that doesn’t include reaching out and engaging in conversation is Marketing 1.0 (Renaissance Marketing?) with makeup on. Same old practice, but wearing a mask.

While there are several lessons to be learned from reading these (grab a cup of coffee, a notebook, invest some time and come away smarter), I’d like to share one additional lesson business bloggers can take away:

  • Link to valuable resources, no matter how many others have
  • Know Your Target Audience
    • Many who are reading this post, have already seen the original. But there are many more who haven’t yet. I owe it to my audience, my community, and my customers to share it with them.

So, here’s my challenge to you. If you can add to the conversation, do so on your blog site. If you don’t have a blog, post a comment on one of the sites above. Then practice some SMO in your business.

Married to Panera

Logo_1 I’m married to Panera Bread. The people, the brand, the experience.

While working/eating at Panera today, the manager ran over to make sure I had chicken on my salad. Yep – just like I ordered it, thanks:-) The cashier stood behind the counter and gave me a smile and nod. Nice.

Several minutes later, she came over again. Apparently I was leaning against one of the banners and it was about to fall, the back of my head its target. They’re looking out for my stomach and my head. Thanks again!

It’s unconditional love. How did Panera and I go from a courtship to a marriage.

First sign of unconditional love. Right about this time last year, when summer is winding up, I got super sick. I hadn’t eaten much in two days and “nothing” still sounded best. My wife sneaks out to Panera to get a cinnamon roll and a cup of coffee. One of the managers noticed my absence – poured her a cup of chicken noodle soup to go, added the roll and coffee – all of it on the house. Wow.

Second sign. My turn. A Saturday morning a few weeks later. I get up early (but so do a lot of folks here). Except for the guys working the kitchen, the manager was the only one who showed up – along with a dozen customers. Like a deer in headlights and …(what’s that running down his face…sweat or tears?)…the line of people getting longer fast.

Let’s have some fun…I jump behind the counter and start bagging bagels, giving away strudels and soon we’re all smiling. The manager gets a second wind and even made a few phone calls for help. I get a Panera hat and a new nickname (“Brother Bread”)

Since then, I hold most of my business meeting there. I come in and rearrange the furniture for large gatherings like I own the place. But I also pick up garbage from the parking lot on my way in. Hey, if I’m bragging on Panera, it better be sharp, right?

I’m not their best customer. There’s plenty of us. We’ve become a community – a family – on the customer side of the counter. I’m just one of many customer enthusiasts.

And we each have a sense of ownership. Is it because of the bread? Probably not. The coffee? Nope.

It’s about the people, the relationships, the love. We’re the kind of customers you want in your business, yes?

As this Labor Day comes to a close, I’d just like to say thanks to my peeps at Panera. I love you.

What Causes Goose Bumps, Tears and Adrenaline?

Maybe there is no spoon. Either way…

Stir this around (your heart… your head…humanity…): Greater Than Yourself

What if?   and    Why Not?

Crash Davis and the Belief Statment – My Turn At-Bat

My fellow SOB and MugClub-er, Starbucker shares his own Crash Davis belief statement…and I thought I’d give it a go:

I believe in smiling eyes, firm handshakes and others first. I believe if you’re in public, you’ve made yourself accessible…that we’re all contagious and choose our own contagion…the wonder of curiosity and the power of teamwork. I believe the decision of love precedes the feeling of love…of being child-like, but not child-ish.

I believe we’re created equally and die the same – it’s what happens in between that matters most…that unequal circumstances shouldn’t be treated equally…I can learn something from everyone. I believe an empty ballpark is romantic (it’s where I got married), the smell of freshly cut grass, and mornings before sunrise, listening first, laughing last and living 24 hours each day. Mistakes are Tuition, Hit it or Quit it, Rules are for Schools.

What do you believe? Your Turn.

September 1st: BlogTipping

Blogtipping_1_1 And so another calendar page gets turned, and we begin with BlogTipping Day:

BlogTip #1:Insights
Author: Allison Davis, CEO of Davis & Company

  • Easy-to-read, well-designed, always-informative (remembering the rule of three)
  • The blog (a conversational tool) is a high priority, appearing at the top of the company web site.
  • Use of bullets and lists make longer posts easy to read.

Tip: Though it may be late in the game, Categories could act as a Table of Contents. Granted, most of the posts align with the tagline of employee engagement, but it could help navigating some of the golden posts of yesterday.

BlogTip #2: Got Boondoggle?
Author: Mike Wroblewski

  • Important subject matter (Lean Manufacturing). In Iowa, some say we have a dying manufacturing industry. I disagree. Mike’s site is one I can point to often as an informational resource – and a blogging resource
  • Various sizes in post length. Just like a conversation offline. Sometimes we simply want to make a point. Sometimes we want to tell a story. Mike does both well.
  • Generous linkage to other blogs

Tip: Again, Categories. Though this is tougher with Blogger as a platform. Here’s a link I’ve found helpful when working with Blogger and Categories.

BlogTip #3: Entrepreneurial Wordsmith
Author: Donyell Nelson

  • I love this design. Not just because it’s easy and readable – but it’s published with Blogger. High-Five to your team.
  • Generous knowledge-sharing. Thanks for the tips and how-to articles
  • Well-integrated blog within the company web site.

Tip: Thought I’m tempted to say…Categories…I think that goes without saying by now. So let me suggest linking to other blogs often. This will introduce more people to your great work.

Why do we go BlogTipping?

  1. As part of the audience, you share feedback with the author.
  2. As the author, you find out what your audience likes/would like.
  3. As fellow blogtippers, we can be introduced to different blogs.
  4. By looking at other blogs and blogtippings, we can learn from each other.
  5. It’s a great way to introduce your audience to other blogs.
  6. It’s a great way to introduce your site to other bloggers.

And thanks to those who BlogTipped me today (Thank You!):

- Liz at Successful Blog, suggests I have too much going on, it’s hard to keep focus. Point taken and I agree. Once again, an angel told me.
- Tom at BusinessBlogHive, suggests I share some of the stories of successes and failures. Good idea, though I’m cautious for a few reasons (especially regarding the failures – and there have been quite a few). Worth looking into – we can all learn from these, right?

Previous BlogTippings:
- August 1st: BlogTipping
- July 1st: BlogTipping
- June 1st: BlogTipping
- May 1st: BlogTipping

Fears of Blogging: What do I Write?

Fears_1_1 We can hum along to Battles Hymn of the Blogger all we want, it doesn’t answer the question, does it?

Not everyone is a business writer, that’s why we hire copywriters. But we don’t hire copywriters to script our conversations with customers, do we?

Remember in school…some of us wouldn’t want to raise our hands to ask a question because we thought it was a dumb question? Then, another kid would be brave enough to ask the question. Phew!

Take the questions or situations you see your customers talking about regularly. Generalize it to speak to your whole audience – there’s your post. Use hypothesis, analogies, metaphors….stories.

In fact, what you’re reading now is an example of this very thing. I had three different people ask me about this yesterday. I picture their faces while writing this post. I’m talking with them via my blog.

Within 15 minutes and 150 words, I’ve got a post for my blog. What are your customers talking with you about?

Related Prescriptions Elsewhere:
- Overcoming the Fear of Corporate Blogging by Mark White
- 5 Tips to Overcome Your Fear of Blogging by Debbie Weil

Other Fears Found Here:
- Fears of Blogging: Time
- Fears of Blogging: Control
- Fears of Blogging: Work
- Fears of Blogging: Prose

Say Hello to my Little Friend

Them: “But I don’t have time to read blogs or fool around with this aggregator stuff.”
Me: "Say hello to my little friend"

Them: "I’m too busy with market research to read feeds."
Me: :::Shaking my head::: "Say hello to my little friend."

Them: "I’m busy finding a new job,
Me: "Say hello…"

If you’re reading this, chances are fantastic that you’ve subscribed to the content feed. But this post isn’t about me. And it’s not about you. It’s about them.

A few folks I know  refuse to share this "new" tool they’ve found with others. They don’t think it’s their responsibility. They don’t want to lose their competitive advantage. Say what? And if the authors of what you’re reading felt the same way – what exactly would you be reading? Hmm?

I believe it is our responsibility to find ways to teach, motivate – even evangelize the use of feeds in publishing, research and all facets of business and education.

How do you introduce RSS and Content Feeds with others?

Is Small Business Ready for a BIZolution?

I talk with many small business owners, associations and Chamber of Commerce folks -especially in rural areas – that are tried, tired and testy about developing a web presence.

Bizolutiontm "Too costly."

"My sister’s nephew’s cousin built our site a few years ago – we don’t use it anyway."

"Our customers aren’t on the web."

"I’m buried too deep in Google, besides, the market is already saturated."

Okay, I hear ya. Enough talk, though. You want a Small Business Revolution? We’re about to ignite one.

In September, we’ll be rolling out Bizolution, a web/blog development service that will allow the 30% of small businesses without a web presence to have one that’s Findable, Affordable and Trustable.

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