Blogs killed the engagement star

(lame song reference attempt… sure)

My involvement with “social media” really started in 1992. At that time, the internet was really all about the usenet and community email lists. They were incredibly noisy, geeky and (at times) downright confrontational. But boy were they engaging! You were thrown directly in the pit with all the lions. If you held your own and gained their respect, you really got to learn a lot about each individual. Friendships and (yes) business relationships I made back in those days still persist to this day. And that longevity is something I directly attribute to the in-depth debates, conversations and running jokes we all shared.

Then came the great blog migration.

My exodus from the usenet/email communities to blogging happened in 2001. I went willingly… looking for a way to reduce the signal to noise ratio in my life. Blogging allowed me to spout off whatever was on my mind in detail without (too much) concern over impacting the bandwidth, topic restrictions or guidelines of any particular community. RSS feeds and community filters allowed me to control what I read. It was great. I had so much more free time to, you know, work.

But looking back, I now realize that I lost the depth of individual engagement I had previously. Sure, friends and colleagues would comment. And I would read their posts and comment. That’s all great, but that method of communication is rather truncated and static. It’s primarily one way. It’s yelling into a crowd and hearing a few shouts back.

Blogs are not engaging. I don’t care who tells you otherwise. They can be compelling, moving, informative… all good and important stuff. They tell your story and share your mindset in detail, which is fantastic. But they are not, on their own, going to help you build relationships with individuals. Best you can hope for is some useful feedback and some trackbacks from other bloggers. Most of the time, a post’s author only has an exchange with the first few people who bother to comment (if at all).

From the perspective of building relationships, blogging was 3 steps back.

Micro-blogging is potentially 2 steps forward and 1 step back.

The 2 forward: We now have this wonderful real-time, worldwide conversation stream. We have the ability to connect with people and entities who would never have dabbled in the older discussion formats. We can seek them out. Easily. We have every opportunity to engage.

The 1 back: Now we are down to 140 characters of space for building relationships. That’s a real challenge. It can be done over time though. I’m not faulting the networks, and there are certainly people out there who get it. In combination with blogging, micro-blogging can go a long way to filling that relationship-building void.

The issue is that business is new and pretty baffled by this engagement concept. They, by and large, were not involved in the old usenet days and don’t realize how that level of interaction could be relevant to what they are trying to achieve. They’ve only just started wrapping their heads around blogs… under the assumption they are press release repositories. So, it’s no wonder that most twitter and facebook page feeds by business are a constant refrain of “here’s our link… hey, here’s our link… oh yeah, you seen our link?”.

The challenge is to ensure you aren’t taking that backwards step. Simply, that means you need to talk with the community you build. Not at. Get to know them. Let them get to know you. You may be surprised just how many opportunities arise due to your participation. It takes a greater effort, interesting ideas and (*gasp*) personality. But using the traditional mass-marketing models on-line is a mistake. Garbage in. Garbage out. Or, to quote McCartney: “and in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make”. :)

Image: Simon Howden /

  • J Ryan Williams

    I am principal of Websuasion LLC, based out of Fayetteville, GA. We Develop Web and Mobile Applications, Produce Video and provide tools and methodologies for Responsible Brand Marketing.

    This blog tends to focus on the technical and conceptional aspects of our work with Ruby on Rails, iOS, DSLR video, the business process and a little branding discussion at times. I welcome your relevant comments, and if you have questions, feel free to speak up. For info on rates and service packages for Websuasion, please visit our Service Packages page.

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