Innovation can be a tricky thing. It comes with opportunities but reveals inadequacies, creating a greater gap in the ideal state and the current reality of a situation. Collectively embracing this ideal as a culture is recommended and ultimately necessary in order to achieve a significant leap forward in innovation, but too great a disruption will cost time and money, especially for small t0 medium-sized businesses.
We understand the blog (an abbreviated form of the “web log”) as an innovative tool for creating content that establishes an online presence. Blogs have been around since the late 1990s when they were largely adapted as an online diary that soon built a community around itself. Right now, the blog is experiencing a resurgence thanks to the current trend in Content Marketing. Content Marketing (also known as “content strategy” or “inbound marketing”) is the intentional use of specific content (such as blog articles, video, music, webinars and ebooks) to attract users with the ultimate goal of creating promoters out of them. As the user, this has manifested to you as social media updates by peers, Serial podcasts, or even your favourite YouTube cooking channel.
Today’s internet not only focuses on the medium that allows us to communicate (the technology we use), but the integrity of the message we produce and access (content). Engaging content is trustworthy and valuable to the user, and they’ll be willing to come back for more.
We consumed over 30 billion gigabytes (or 30 exabytes) worth of content globally in 2014 (that’s a lot of Netflix). Hand-in-hand with consumption, the number of published blogs also continues to rise. To the individual, engaging content strategy can lead to benefits, as aptly listed in this Forbes article on why you should blog. The business case for blogging (done right) is similar: it will drive traffic to your website, can increase your SEO, help establish your brand’s integrity and authority as an industry leader, and ultimately lead to better customer relationships and sales.
Our society still largely rewards extroverted behaviours, and this coupled with the ideas behind reinforcement theory explain why certain blogs become more popular than others. Consider the recent popularity of Medium, a social blogging platform while not completely unique in technology, is proving to be a very popular soapbox for personal and professional reflection in the virtual town rally we call The Internet. The standardized (and beautiful) design, intelligent content curation algorithm, and quality editorials provide independent writers additional credibility and attention. Here’s a great article from The Atlantic exploring the many levels of relationships involved in Medium’s content. Put crassly: Medium is the NPR or TED Talk of blogs today. That pretty much sums up the hype and the type of audience it attracts through its storytelling form.
But, will blogging actually improve my bottom-line?
To answer this question, it is important to review where internet culture, technology and trends have derived from; especially in order to predict where it will take us next. We’ve come a long way since the early pings of the internet.
It may surprise you that Content Marketing isn’t new. Yes, it’s a trend, but it has actually taken a lot of effort for it to be what it is today. Web developers have been building the world wide web guided by the “Content is King” principle, and designing an internet that is usable, if not accessible by all. These two factors, have contributed to greater technical and media literacy among web users. We’ll be more in awe of these pioneers in another 10 years time, when we recognize the importance of developments such as search engine optimization, the first banner ad deal (that legitimized the value of content), to sponsored editorials, and ultimately to intelligent content custom-served.
Content marketing existed pre-internet, but it was simply known as “good writing”. The key to effective content is elementary: know your audience, find your voice, write well, and stay diligent (keep publishing!). As in all competitive business: understand your environment and your shortcomings –don’t become intimidated or reactionary. Rather, accept that change happens, that it is continuous (particularly in technology), and the best way to minimize disruptive forces is to see when change is coming. It’s easy to get caught up in a race to develop content, define your voice in the sea of digital soapboxes and review your stats to see what’s working. Ensure you have a greater story arc or strategic vision in your consistent writing, and be wary of blogger’s block!
The intersection of technology and culture is intentionally broad and especially welcoming today. I’ve been publishing online in one form or another since 1999, but chose to concentrate on smaller personal digital imprints through a carefully curated and delicious social media presence. Today, I return to the long-form to contribute and belong to a greater meaningful nexus. This blog serves as a place to gather my reflections on the emergence of our global community, and the shifts it has brought our local societies.