We often take blogs for granted–we might read a post or two here and there, but it’s like a newspaper to us. We pick it up, skim it a bit, make a comment, and put it back down.
It’s easy to overlook blogs, because they’re everywhere. Visit any random site, and chances are it has a blog. Most blogs serve to convert readers into consumers or enhance a site’s SEO.
But blogging used to be different. The blogosphere wasn’t trying to convert anybody; it was there for enrichment. Bloggers would have blogrolls where they’d share their favorite blogs. People built relationships and interacted with each other, leaving comments in a constantly ping-ponging discussion.
It seems like those days are long gone. The era of the corporate blog is in full swing, and we’re all jaded. That doesn’t have to be the case, though. Blogs began as an explicitly communal medium, and with enough effort and focus, they can be communal once again.
Revisiting the early blogs
When blogs first rose to popularity, they were mostly journal-style blogs, used by their authors to share interesting Internet tidbits. Justin Hall’s Links.net is a prime example. Some had a bit more gravity to them–Andrew Sullivan’s blog comes to mind. Those journal-style blogs continued with the rise of early blogging platforms like Blogger and LiveJournal.
Those early platforms implemented features to help users find communities or build them. On LiveJournal, bloggers friended one another, whether to create a two-way friendship or a one-way followership. And Blogger made it easy to comment on and follow blogs. The platforms themselves were only conduits through which discussion flowed.
Blogs rose to power because they were such strong facilitators for discussion and action. Take the example of the hubbub surrounding Trent Lott, who resigned from the Senate after bloggers pointed out his discriminating comments. In that case, blogs created a conversation with each other and spoke out loudly.
The takeover of the corporate blog
Over time, blogs became ubiquitous. Millions of people got their own blogs and used them as social soapboxes or personal diaries. Once companies saw the massive power of blogs, they wanted in. Enter the corporate blog. This took over in the mid-2000s and is perhaps the most common form of blog today.
The ideal corporate blog is less of a place to connect with readers and more of a place to provide value in return for conversions. In fact, connecting with readers isn’t a main goal at all. As a result, these blogs suffer. And more importantly, corporate blogs have changed the social notion of what a blog is.
If you had told someone in the early blogging days about a blog that posted lots of how-to articles in order to convert readers, they would have been flabbergasted. “That’s not what a blog is for,” they’d say. To the early blogger, the blog was a place to share ideas, talk with others, and enact changes.
In the last several years, we’ve all been tricked into thinking that a corporate blog is a blog when it’s not. It’s an entity of its own, but it’s not a blog in the truest sense; that is, it wouldn’t have passed for a blog fifteen years ago. And what’s more, corporate blogs can look back to the early blogging days to transform themselves and better their readers in the process. Corporate blogs can be blogs again.
What will happen to the corporate blog?
If the typical corporate blog continues on the same road it’s heading down, there’s going to be some problems. Readers are no longer passive–they want to be a part of the action. Furthermore, corporate blogs are a dime a dozen, and they’re slowly but steadily losing their power.
What corporate blogs need to do is change. They need to look back at the early days of blogging and analyze what made those blogs so powerful and magnetic. Corporate blogs don’t have to be corporate blogs–they can simply be a place for community on a company’s site.
Here are 3 ways blogs can reintroduce community:
Focus on the readers: Create open-ended discussion questions to get people talking amongst themselves, making connections, and changing things.
- Encourage and maintain an autonomous community: A blog should be a place where readers come to put their thinking caps on and discuss ideas with others. Imagine shorter blog posts with more concepts (and less instructions). The community should talk on its own; the blog author shouldn’t have to facilitate it (aside from providing discussion points).
- Brand your blog as a place of connection: Every blog out there prides itself on how much information it can machine-gun at its readers. Focus your blog on a place where readers can connect and spread ideas–a true social medium.
Swift Social is dedicated to creating a space where readers can talk amongst themselves and gain new perspectives. That’s what this blog will be–not a rigid, lifeless corporate “blog,” but a blog in the truest sense of the word.
To really get this started, I want you to get the discussion going in the comments below. Do you think that community-oriented blogs are the future? Why or why not? (Don’t be afraid to agree or civilly argue with others.)