The Year of the Blog

Are you one of those people who wakes up every morning and “reads” your smart phone as though it were the newspaper? I am! I check each email inbox, then move on to my news feeds. If it’s a good day, I can spend at least half an hour browsing the day’s top stories over a cup of coffee. Something I read today caught my eye…

Somewhere in my Twitter feed this morning was a business article stating how 2012 was the year of Twitter. According to the author, last year Twitter ruled the social media scene.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say 2013 is going to be the year of the blog. Just in the past couple of weeks, I’ve read at least a dozen articles and blogs about content marketing. This morning my Sunday newsletter from business genius Chris Brogan was all about how to create content that interests your customers and makes them feel like they are a part of something–like they belong.

In my experience, creating content is the hardest part of blogging. Setting up a blog is fun and exciting, linking the blog to social media accounts is satisfying, but there’s something about sitting down and staring at a blank screen that sucks the inspiration right out of me.

If I’m right and content will be king in 2013, then small business owners who want to stay on the path to sustainable growth must understand the importance of blogging. My advice? Take a cue from Twitter’s success and make your blog more like a conversation. Keep it light rather than formal. Ask questions. And at least some of the time, share content about topics you truly love. If you’re passionate about what you’re writing, chances are you’ll strike a nerve with someone else who shares the same interest.

Are you one of those people who shares online content when you find it truly engaging or entertaining? I am, and if my social media feeds are any indication, most of us are. I believe this year, the most successful small business owners will be the ones who create content that compels their audience to join the conversation. So what are you waiting for?

Twitter: The Good, The Bad and The #$%?!

Tweeting. Twitterverse. Tweeps. If the mere mention of these terms makes you nervous, you’re not alone. Despite boasting more than 500 million registered Twitter users worldwide, only about one-third of all Americans use the service. And according to a recent Wall Street Journal article, even CEOs of Fortune 500 companies are reluctant to jump on the Twitter bandwagon. So if the rich and successful business man doesn’t use Twitter to promote his company, why should you?

The answer is simple.  And in this case, it comes in the form of a question from someone far more qualified than I am to speak on the subject. In the above-referenced WSJ article, management professor and former CEO Bill George asks,

“Can you think of a more cost-effective way of getting to your customers and employees?”

Considering all the social media channels at our disposal and the relative cost of each, I think George’s question should have more businesses asking, “Where do we sign up?”

Twitter is only one platform for growing your business network, but I recommend it to all of my clients because it is free, offers an enormous audience, and, in most cases, puts your business ahead of the curve in terms of social media presence. Businesses in my consulting demographic truly need to use as many social media sites as possible because they are targeting American tourists with smart phones who are connected to social media 24/7.

And now, my personal rant (a.k.a. The Bad Side).

I recently experienced a moment of panic when my shiny new Twitter account was suspended just a few days after I opened it. I could not believe my ability to connect with the world could be taken away without notice and seemingly without reason. After several minutes of frantic Googling to find a solution, I contacted Twitter via their appeals process.  Surprisingly, someone replied to me very quickly with a verdict. My crime?  An “aggressive following pattern.” Sheesh. More on that a little later. The moderator who replied to me promised after I pledged to stop violating their policies my account would be restored within the hour. It was about 24 hours before I could use my account again, but upon logging in I was relieved to find  everything just as I had left it.

Which brings me to the negative. Twitter is a third-party service that can decide on a whim to shut down or suspend your account. My violation of their terms consisted of sitting down on my couch one Sunday morning and following a number of businesses in the region I will be visiting shortly. I thought I was doing myself a favor and building a legitimate Twitter feed.  They called it “annoying other users.” Then, as I mentioned, they called me aggressive–a term I take offense to when used to describe me anywhere outside of my coed softball league.

This story has two morals: If we want to win at marketing with Twitter, then we have to play by their rules. Even if sometimes those rules are vague and subjective.

The other moral of the story? Sometimes Twitter sucks. And that’s just part of life in the 21st century.