Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Newbie takes offense

I read Mitch Joel's Twist Image blog every day and 99.9% of the time my reaction is to nod in agreement. But today his latest post, "My conversation can beat up your conversation," specifically this portion of it, stopped me cold [emphasis added by me]:

"There's a strong case as to why all of us need to be spending more time on Technorati and doing everything in our power to build both our ranking and authority. Let's be honest: what's the point in Blogging if you're not building readerships, conversations and exposing your ideas to a growing audience?"

Wow. I don't even know what to say. What's the point in blogging?? Maybe it's me but that last sentence really touched a nerve. I realize that Mitch Joel is talking to (sorry, "conversing with") a marketing-centric audience, and for that audience alone I do agree with his statement -- if you're blogging for marketing purposes, on behalf of a brand or corporation, numbers count, and growth is a key measurement of success.

But it's such a bald, bold statement that I think the context is lost, and that's a shame, because out of context the statement comes off as... kind of arrogant. And, in my humble opinion, it's not true outside of a marketing context. There are plenty of reasons to blog for a small, stable audience: to keep in touch with friends and family; to chronicle an experience or evolution of thought; to share your ideas with a small, select group.

This is primarily why I started this blog. I'm chronicling my experience as a newbie; my ideas and thoughts about my adventures in social media aren't new -- but they are new to me at the time they occur to me, and like most humans, I'm following my instinctive urge to share my thoughts with friends new and old.

Let's face it, nothing I've posted is going to be of much interest to a larger audience. My goal is to share a conversation with a small, select group and I have. I've never made any effort to grow my audience, and as a result my audience has stayed small. And I wouldn't have it any other way.


David Jones said...

And there's the rub. There are a number of people blogging out of professional interest, whether to build that mysterious "personal brand" or develop themselves as "thought leaders" on a particular topic that the desire to grow an audience and build a gravitational pull around themselves is pretty much right in your face.

I find it a little off-putting when people I follow trawl for Facebook friends, LinkedIn connections, Twitter followers and so on. If I follow you on Twitter, don't ask me to follow you on Facebook. If I think it'll add something to my life, I know how to add people on Facebook.

To me, it's the equivalent of the mid-life crisis red sportscar...maybe I'll start calling in a mid-blog crisis.

Don't get me wrong, my contact and connection info is on my blog. If you want to add me as a friend on FB, Twitter, LinkedIN,'s all there. But I never promote it. It's up to you to add me if you see the value in us being connected.

Blogging to me is a very personal endeavour, even if you blog for professional reasons. Write it for you, write it for your close friends. If people find you and see value in what you have to offer, then that's a bonus. When I see the obvious link-baiting and continued attempts to get Seth Godin or Guy Kawasaki to notice, it makes my skin crawl.

Jenny Bullough said...

Thanks for your insightful and thought-provoking comments, David! (And I'm not just saying that because ITA.)

Funny, while you were commenting I was drafting my latest post, along the same lines. You know what they say about great minds. :)

michaelo said...

A long time ago, a friend of mine wrote: "The memo is dead. Long live email. The corporate newsletter is dead. Long live racks of 'zines from individuals who do not speak for the corporation. Bland, safe relationships with customers are dead. Long live customer support reps who are willing to get as pissed off at their own company as the angry customer is.

"We are so desperate to have our voices back that we are willing to leap into the void. We embrace the Web not knowing what it is, but hoping that it will burn the org chart — if not the organisation — down to the ground. Released from the gray flannel handcuffs, we say anything, curse like sailors, rhyme like bad poets, flame against our own values, just for the pure delight of having a voice.

"And when the thrill of hearing ourselves speak again wears off, we will begin to build a new world.

"That is what the Web is for."

And this is why, IMHO, we blog. It's an expression of self. Blogito ergo sum.

I know I'm easily accused of being a fluffy purist, but those who see the medium as purely a marketing exercise are doing something other than blogging, to my mind. They may be using all the same tools and techniques, but it's not what I've always understood blogging to be.

Having said that, you might be surprised if I comment that I didn't react as strongly to Mitch's statement as you did. Yes, he's writing primarily for a marketing audience, but he's also acknowledging something that many bloggers have felt but rarely expressed. He's channeling Hegel ("Self-consciousness exists in itself and for itself, in that, and by the fact that it exists for another self-consciousness; that is to say, it is only by being acknowledged or "recognized").

We blog for ourselves, yes. But we also love the recognition. He's disarmingly - sometimes shockingly - frank about this, but I think he also gets that there's a lot more to it than his bold statement implies.

Jeez. I just defended Mitch. Wonders will never cease...

Jenny Bullough said...

Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Michael! Love the quotes, especially the Hegel. I'm reminded of the immortal words of Warren Beatty in "Truth or Dare": Why would you say something if it's off-camera? What point is there in existing? :)

Bargainista said...

Jenny, I can't believe you just compared Warren Beatty to Hegel!

In all seriousness, you know Mitch's post left me questioning some of his positions too, particularly when it came to his thoughts about Technorati.