If You Only Do *Three Things in Social Media

IStock_000008333208XSmallAs noted earlier, “Social Media Monitoring” is the ONE THING every company ought to be doing in Social Media.  “Setting a Social Media Policy” is #2.  What’s the next biggest priority?


This answer is probably more controversial now than it was in the past, when blogging was all the rage (pre-Twitter, pre-Facebook). After all, success stories like @ComcastCares and @Zappos might suggest that an active Twitter presence is a short-form, high-speed, perfectly valid alternative to blogging.  And Facebook certainly has its allure… 

Blogging is, after all, a slow & muddy slog.  It is hard to dream up enough content to keep the blog going; it is hard to gain readers; it is hard to get readers to leave even a paltry number of decent comments; it is hard to filter out the spam; it is embarassing to see numerous posts with “Comments: (0)” at the bottom; it is hard to read other relevant blogs and leave clever comments that might (MIGHT) drive the blogger and/or their readers to check out your stuff.

Yea.  Blogging is effin’ hard.

But here’s why it’s worth doing:

Blogging gives your company a voice.  In good times and especially in bad times, your blog will be a place where you can talk about what’s going on at the company, in reader-friendly language that folks might actually read.   

Starting a blog DURING a crisis is a crappy way to start a blog.  But starting a blog when times are good can marshall a field force of brand ambassadors to rally to your aid when that inevitable crisis hits!

In this same vein, blogs are a better place to direct people than your corporate website.

Whoa! Slow down, hombre, let me explain, no need to get all hot; I KNOW you want to send visitors straight on to the website … but using your tweets (for example) to direct people to the corporate blog gives these interested new visitors a way to engage with the content and/or the people and/or the company in a way that is far more human and interesting and fun. 

No need to convert them right away.  Let ‘em sniff out the environment and talk to your star blogger for a li’l bit.  Let those visitors add some value to you! They often want to!  And when they are allowed to add that value, they are incented to direct their own friends to go check it out, so there’s a substantial tangent benefit.  So, make it easy and you can take it easy.  Before long they’ll click over to the expensive corporate website, I promise.

Blogging enforces respectfulness. To be a successful blogger, you simply must read and respond (in comments and in fresh posts that riff on peers’ work) to your fellow industry bloggers.  The process inspires true admiration for their work, and ultimately helps the corporate blogger craft a style that is attuned to their larger audience. 

Blogging is timeless.  Remember up above when I tipped my hat to Twitter and Facebook?  Yea, well, they’re quite cool but so was Friendster, MySpace, etc. (Hell, AOL was cool once – I am talking SUPER COOL.  You kids might not remember it, but AOL was once so monstro that they acquired TIME-WARNER!) 

Blogging, however, is not, actually, cool.  Blogging is useful, utilitarian, homespun, and not going anywhere, figuratively or literally.  What if you’d bet your entire marcomm strategy on MySpace a few years ago?  Bet you’d be feeling pretty silly.  But your corporate blog?  Ol’ Reliable.  It’s YOURS.

Blogging enforces content creation.  Of all the things that have gnawed at me these past weeks, abandoning PR-Squared was among the worst feelings.  Not because I saw my AdAge ranking plummet (though that sucked); not because the blog is a primary newbiz driver for SHIFT (though that’s important); but because I felt an obligation to my readers.  I know there’s no lack of cool stuff to read while I’m gone, but I’ve worked hard for SIX YEARS to keep ya’ll coming back here.

Any good blogger will feel the same way.  And you want that, cuz CONTENT drives BUZZ drives TRAFFIC drives ENGAGEMENT drives CUSTOMER ACQUISITION

Which reminds me: did I mention that blogging is good for SEO? 

Before signing off, I should address this question: “Do we give the blog a standalone URL or do we attach it to the  corporate website?”  I get that one a lot.  The path I chose (a URL completely distinct from www.shiftcomm.com) was not chosen strategically; 6 years ago when I started blogging, nobody knew if it was gonna last.

Nowadays I advise clients to make the blog front-and-center on the HOMEPAGE of the corporate site.  NOT at “companyname.com/blog,” i.e., don’t bury it!  If you make it stand out so prominently, you’ll be that much more motivated to make it shine.  It’s totally fine, though, if you allow the interaction (comments, etc.) to happen at companyname.com/blog; I am simply advocating that the content be highlighted right upfront.  Any SEO experts disagree?  Please educate me if I am misguided.  This approach has worked well for me.

Oh, and if your CEO wants to blog? That’s fine, so long as you make them read this post, first.  You can thank me later.

Next time: “If You Only Do *Four Things in Social Media …” Can you guess what I’ll recommend?  Do you disagree with how I’ve been prioritizing this series?  Let me know in the comments! 

Posted on: June 29, 2010 at 12:52 pm By Todd Defren
19 Responses to “If You Only Do *Three Things in Social Media”


  • Alma Clarson says:

    Couldn’t agree more.

  • Mike Radford says:

    Blogging for the beginner IS hard…. but does it work? YES!!!!! In less than 24 hours I went to #1 on Google in the organic listings. THANK YOU!!!!

  • I couldn’t agree more – blogging has completely changed the way we do business. It’s the driver of our traffic, the educator on our services, and the builder of our expertise.

    The biggest error we see our clients and other bloggers make is to get all excited about it in the beginning, write a few blog posts, and abandon it. Nothing is worse than an abandoned blog – it completely takes away your trust level and expertise. If you can’t stick with blogging, what else can’t you stick with? So its important to put blogging in your list of priorities, and just do it.

  • Thank you for prefacing why blogging is hard before going into why we need to be blogging. I ghost write for my company’s blog and its something I had never done until I started working here. With that said, its encouraging to read posts like these because there is so much information out there and sometimes, it is challenging to decipher what is most important when it comes to social media and how companies fit in.

  • I agree with the first 3 things you wrote..Thanks for pulling this altogether. Makes a really interesting post. I’m really enjoying your blog………….

  • Kevin Beamer says:

    Blogging is an effective communication tool that can open the lines between a certain company and its customers. Its also strategically used to build reputation and increase contractor leads. I agree that companies must not aggressively use social media, through constant interaction and interest in content, the site visitor and their networks will eventually land on the company website. All it takes is a little patience on the part of the business owner.

  • Todd, just a note on the blog vs. website topic. We put FAR more focus on driving people to our blog than to our website. Also, they’re completely separate sites, and that works just fine for us.

    We use our blog as our calling card. It’s there that we build relationships and share ideas with members of our community. If they like what they learn there, they know where to find us.

    A company website is much more static than a blog. We’d rather have newcomers check out the blog and see the engaging conversations that are happening there at that very moment. Hey, maybe they’ll be compelled to jump right in. That’s the stickiness factor at work, and it’s been great for us.

  • Steve Hill says:

    I like what you had to say about all the benefits to blogging. However I would add a disclaimer. You absolutely must make sure that the people in your organization who serve as your voice in the blogsphere are well-spoken, grammatically proficient, and tactful. A poorly-written and inconsiderate corporate blog has the power to expose the incompetence of your employees and diminish your brand’s reputation. If a blog is sloppy, offends people, or doesn’t make sense, people will make it their business to point it out. In essence if you’re going to blog, you had better nail it.

  • Superb post. Sums up a lot of key points I have been trying to get across in my classes. Thanks!

  • Hey Todd, just chiming in on your question here:

    It’s totally fine, though, if you allow the interaction (comments, etc.) to happen at companyname.com/blog; I am simply advocating that the content be highlighted right upfront. Any SEO experts disagree? Please educate me if I am misguided.

    I think running the blog on /blog isn’t a bad idea, but I like your idea for the following reasons:

    1. For the SEO value, if the blog is continuously maintained, that’s excellent! This communicates to search engine spiders that you have fresh content, which means they’ll come to you more often. And that’s great for traffic and for simply getting a good index of your site on their search engine.

    2. For user value, well, it simply conveys to the community that you’re a social company. It shows that you’re approachable and personable. There’s a whole lot of value in that.

    So yeah, there’s absolutely value in this strategy. It may not work within the confines of the company website design (and most people I work with have their blog on /blog), but there are a whole lot of pros to doing it the way you’ve suggested. :)

  • Tom Weaver says:

    Great post, and I completely agree. When I started Flywheel I looked around at my clients, peers and others in my industry (many of whom were architectural or design companies). Most of their sites were corporate brochures that did not encourage repeat viewing.

    As you’ve suggested, I’ve put my blog front centre on my homepage (http://www.flywheel.org.uk). I’ve found this has been brilliant for all the reasons you suggest above, namely:

    1) It forces me to be continually creative and searching out new ideas and content, which supports my other work
    2) It has been brilliant for SEO, as evidenced by my Google Analytics stats (I’m addicted)
    3) I think it gives a much more human voice and personality to my company.

    I think it is important to have some expectation about how often you want to post. My strategy is to write one post worth reading every week. Sometimes I’ll do two, but one is my aim. That may mean I spend 3, 4 hours or more on that post, but it will be worth reading and interesting. I’d rather people came back to view good content rather than getting bombarded with new posts daily and not bothering to go visit.

    I’ve also found it useful to tweet about new articles as there are more people on my twitter feed than my RSS feed. I’ve found RSS drives a very small portion of my traffic, on any of the blogs I have ever created. I just think it is one of those brilliant technologies that many laypeople sadly don’t even know exists. But twitter and linkedin status updates successfully drive instant traffic to my page, and google helps people find it later.

    Finally, I think it is important to have a consistent theme and style so you build a readership. I aim to keep all my posts within the interlinking spheres of spatial design, service design and organisational design, which reflects the majority of my activity.

  • I’m with you on this, Todd. After a couple years experimenting for myself, the agency I work for, and on behalf of clients, I’ve come back around to blogging as the most essential “outbound” social media component. I’m about to make another (hopefully way more effective) go at blogging.

    Here’s the thing for me…I HATE Twitter. Like, I get its value and think there is a place for it in many social media strategies, but I personally cannot stand using it. I’ve had three swings and misses on actively engaging. Makes me think it’s not an effective tool for me, personally.

    What do you think of a social media triad that looks like this (trying to reach B2B audience): blog (including all the hard stuff you mention), LinkedIn, Facebook?

    Good to have you back!

  • Jamie Ouye says:

    Hi Todd,
    The extra tweets got my attention and ended up with the same article in more than just one of my tabs. I look forward to seeing more of what you have to say about doing PR/marketing the right way now that your settled in S.F.

    I can definitely see your articles relevance. I believe a lot of companies that are being convinced that they need to go online now start with the formula of website, Facebook, and maybe Twitter. More so because they perceive those as the hot markets because those are the names they have heard and that buzz is actually what has driven them to go online.

    Choosing to go that route they fail, but I think the main issue is time. The companies want to go online, but don’t realize what it takes to be successful. How hard it is and how much time must be invested. You also have to have a lot to say. What if it is a small business and the owner is constantly busy, can he delegate the responsibility of blog posting to an employee?

  • Yuval says:

    Very nice blog chain idea. I agree with the first 3 things you wrote. And I also think that blogging is the basic for all the other sOCIAL mEDIA tools.

    I think the 4th thing needs to be – get out of the house. Until now you talked about things needed to be done in-house (monitor, policy and blogging). I now advise to go out, see what ales is out there. What people are saying, Where are they going. Find what your customers/competitors are saying and where and join them, be a part of the conversation out side of your website/blog.

  • Kelly Rusk says:

    Solid advice!

    I’ll admit-I was a much better blogger before Twitter came along but I still value and contribute to blogging as much as I can.

    Fortunately with our corporate blog, we now have most of the company contributing on a regular basis, which helps us put up regular content, though you’re absolutely right–it’s hard work to keep it coming, to write myself and motivate others too and to promote the content and spend time on others’ blogs. However I do know the payoff will be that much better!

    With my personal blog–I had just felt like I finally hit success right as Twitter became big–I was getting average of 20-30 comments per post and lots of link love. However now it seems most of that has moved to Twitter (i.e. people respond to me via Twitter instead of commenting and link via twitter rather than on other blogs) and unfortunately caused me to spend less time on the blog.

    Thanks for the reminder that it is a worthwhile investment!

  • Dan Schawbel says:

    Todd, I’m 100% with you on blogging being the most important aspect of social media still. You can have my social networks, but please don’t take my blog! The social networks will change over time, but your online property (blog) will remain your top virtual asset.

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