“Should I blog?” is a question I hear all the time. Actually, it usually comes out as, “Do I have to blog?”
I feel like a mom who has just asked her kids to clean their room. 😉
My answer: Of course you don’t have to blog.
So then you ask, “I know I don’t have to, but should I?”
Ugh. The dreaded “should.” The “should” is why so many people detest marketing, especially creative people, especially small business owners and solopreneurs who haven’t got a half a minute to spare. The thought of adding one more “should” to their To Do list makes these people cringe, wilt, and get all rebellion-y.
There’s no need for all that.
The question isn’t whether you have to blog, or even whether you should blog; it’s do you want to blog?
If your answer is, “No, I don’t want to blog.” Then … you shouldn’t blog.
Here’s why: If you blog only because you feel a heavy sense of obligation that leaves you dead inside your blog will not be worth reading. It will be rushed and soulless and disjointed. Readers will sense your lack of enthusiasm and joy. They will not stick around.
“But,” you say, “I need content to establish my brand, tell my story, showcase my expertise, attract my customers, and build my community.”
Yes, yes you do.
But that doesn’t mean you need to blog … at least not in the traditional sense.
When I say “blog,” you say … what?
Do you automatically think of a traditional blog – text-based content published on a regular schedule … daily even? Do you suddenly find your mind’s eye swimming in “how-to” and “top 10” posts? Do you immediately feel exhausted, overwhelmed, and – worst of all – bored?
I get that.
I’m a writer. I love words. I love writing. I love traditional blogs. On average, I probably scan two to three hundred blog headlines a day, and read about thirty to forty posts. But I know I’m weird. I’m the odd man out. Most people do not enjoy writing and the thought of having to churn out multiple blog posts each week (or even each month) makes them cry.
Don’t worry. I meant it when I said that you need content to attract, connect with, and build your audience; BUT that content does NOT have to be in the form of a traditional blog. There are plenty of other content formats out there.
If you fall into the I-don’t-wanna-blog category, here are ten alternatives to traditional blogging that might be a better fit for you. That’s the real key to your success, by the way, finding a medium that works for you. Don’t try to cram yourself into a box that’s not your style. You’ll just hate what you’re doing and find every excuse to not do it. You’ll set yourself up for failure. Instead, find a type of content that feels easy to you – even fun. Play with it. Experiment. Maybe even make up a format of your own. There are no rules. The myth of best practices is just that – a myth. You’re better off finding your own groove and going with it.
So, give these options a gander and let your imagination take flight:
The truth is that word geeks like me are few and far between. The only thing most people seem to hate more than writing is reading, which is why visual and auditory content are gaining traction in content marketing circles. If writing is not your thing, that’s ok. You can use one of these non-written formats:
I’ve been hearing for a year or so now that podcasting is the up-and-coming next “it” thing. I believe the rumors. Happily, this is still a wide-open field. Even though marketers are talking about it pretty regularly, the news about how valuable podcasts can be hasn’t quite made it out to the mainstream. This is good news for you because it means you might have a shot at being the first in your business category with a viable podcast. Being out there first gives you a nice advantage.
(For more information about podcasting, check out my friend Jon Buscall’s excellent and seriously comprehensive ebook, How to Podcast for Business.)
Video is another area where there are still a lot of opportunities. Most people assume that video needs to be technically superior and “slick,” so they shy away from it. The truth is, you can do a lot with simple video shot right from your iPhone or computer. The important thing is getting your message right, delivering helpful content, and giving your audience an intimate, “face-to-face” way to connect with you.
Some brands are doing cool things with social video on sites like Vine and Instagram. You’d be amazed at how much great content you can fit into a few, measly seconds.
Visual media platforms are exploding these days. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and when it comes to visual media vs. blogging, they just might be right.
Instagram and Pinterest are two of the hottest visual platforms out there today. Think about what you can “say” with a picture. How can you convey your brand’s value (and values) through images? What stories can you tell with photos, illustrations, or cartoons?
Infographics are another popular type of visual content. Though they do typically contain some text, they rely most heavily on graphs, charts, and illustrations to get their message across.
LIVE & SOCIAL ALTERNATIVES:
Maybe you’re better with actual interaction. Maybe you like to be at center stage. Maybe you’re a teacher. Maybe you really love Facebook and Twitter and Google +. If that’s the case, these options might work well for you:
Social media gives us a quick and easy way to share ideas, opinions, and content with just a few keystrokes. This is a place where curation works really well since people often come to social media looking for solutions to problems.
In addition to promoting content you’ve published elsewhere, you can create content that is specifically for a particular channel. Images with text, for instance, typically do very well on Facebook. You can engage in live (or, almost live) conversations with your customers via Twitter chats or Facebook polls. You can create “comment content” by leaving comments on other people’s blogs and social content.
Just remember to share and add value. Don’t just broadcast your own stuff. Promote other people’s content. Leave helpful comments. Have actual conversations with people.
Webinars & Webcasts:
If you like interacting with people, but the bite-sized chats on mainstream social sites aren’t doing it for you, you might want to set up for an extended conversation with your audience. Webinars and webcasts are great for this.
Perhaps there’s something you can teach your audience – something they would find very beneficial. Running a webinar or webcast is a great way to provide the training your audience needs. You can run webinars live and then keep them archived for future reference. Webcasts are intended to be a bit more “live” and often run at regularly scheduled times like a TV show.
Communities & Forums:
Sometimes, the best “content” you can create is the space for the conversation. By giving your audience a place to have the conversation, you are providing value, establishing yourself as a leader and connector, and creating opportunities to gain great insight about how to improve your business … simply by listening.
I’ve seen people run communities on WordPress’ “BuddyPress,” via Facebook groups, or in private forums. You can also just participate in forums (such as those on LinkedIn and Quora) by asking and answering questions.
Finally, let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. Traditional blogging may not be your thing, but there are other, more creative ways to blog that might be a good fit:
Maybe you’re not into writing, but you love reading. If that’s you, content curation (the practice of aggregating, organizing, and adding value to a collection of related content) might be an easy way for you to create some valuable marketing content.
Some of the biggest websites are curation sites: Huffington Post, Brain Pickings, All-top, and so forth. You can create your own, specially curated content on topics relevant to your business and of interest to your audience.
So, maybe you’re not interested in taking on the responsibility of your own blog, but you have some really fascinating insights to share that are just a little too long for Twitter. Guest blogging is a great way to share your ideas and expertise via a blog post without actually having to have a blog. As a bonus, guest blogging lets you “borrow” someone else’s audience, which can help you grow your own following. It also gives you the opportunity to create relationships with bloggers you admire.
Creative Formats & Content:
Sometimes, the problem is not the blog, per se; it’s your preconceived notions of what you “should” (there’s that word again) publish on a blog. Maybe you’re not a long-form blogger. Maybe a Tumblr format is more your style. Maybe you just want to publish “quickie” posts that contain a single idea. Seth Godin is a master at short-form blogs. I also really enjoy Bernadette’s bite-sized branding blogs on The Story of Telling.
You could opt to use visual content from your Pinterest, Instagram, or YouTube channels. You could write haikus. You could do one-word/one-picture stories. There are no rules except be interesting and be relevant. That’s all.
A newsletter can make a great blog alternative. Though bloggers are typically expected to publish new content at least once a week, a newsletter can be bi-weekly, monthly, or even quarterly. A newsletter has the additional advantage of being content that gets pushed right to your audience via email. You don’t need to worry about whether they’re following you, will catch your wall post on Facebook, or happen to be on Twitter at the exact moment you promote your blog post. A newsletter will find them in the place they probably visit most often: their inbox.
A caveat and a word to the wise …
One important thing to keep in mind, regardless of which types of content you produce, is that you need to have a “home base.” You need to have a piece of the Internet that you “own.”
You may have heard people talk about paid, earned, and owned media. In a nutshell, here’s what they’re referring to:
- Paid Media: traditional advertising like print, television, radio, and direct mail as well as digital advertising like search and display
- Earned: Word-of-mouth, social mentions, press coverage, reviews
- Owned: Your real estate – in the digital world this is your website and, if you have one, your blog.
I’d also like to add a fourth type of media – a twist on “owned” which is “leased.” I use “leased” to describe any content you produce yourself, but which you publish via a third party (like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.) Though you own the content, you don’t own that platform. Facebook could (and often does) change its policies, potentially leaving you high and dry.
The important thing to remember is that you need to have a home base that you control. Having a bunch of Twitter followers or Facebook fans is nice, but it shouldn’t replace your efforts to establish a direct connection with your audience. Use social sites to promote your content, but always invite people back to your place to get to know you better and learn other ways to stay in touch.
SO, that’s my two cents on whether or not you have to blog (or even should blog). It really all depends on three things:
- Do you want to blog?
- Is a blog the right fit for your skills and resources?
- Is a blog the best way to meet your customers’ needs?
At least now you know you can breathe a sigh of relief, take a step back, and consider all the alternatives. And – who knows? – maybe you’ll come back around and join me and the other word geeks in the blogosphere. Or, maybe, you’ll figure out your own best groove and carve out your own corner of the content marketing world.
What’s your take on the importance of blogging? Do you think it’s an all or nothing proposition? Do you blog now? Do you think you “should?”
Image Credit: Scott Maxworthy