Blogging and social media: what’s in it for you?

I had an interesting debate about the business value of social media last week. Debate isn’t the right word exactly- once I figured out that my opponent’s perceptions were two decades out of date and written in stone, I just bit my tongue and waited for the conversation topic to shift.

There is no doubt in my mind that social media and marketing are critical revenue channels for 80% of all businesses and industries today. If your key demographic prospect groups can be identified as social web users, it is guaranteed that your product is being discussed. The only question is, “Are you going to participate in the discussion?”

What’s in it for your company?

Outbound, interruptive marketing doesn’t work well anymore. Prolific, impersonal, untargeted, near-spam emails are either completely ignored, deleted, or automatically redirected to junk folders. People are increasingly more likely to only pay attention to new ideas and products pre-vetted and forwarded from “social buddies” on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Yelp, and more.

I understand it can be tough to take social media seriously at first glance. For example, I still dislike how many Twitter-heads babble about nonsense. In fact, I’m personally uncomfortable with Twitter, but have forced myself to learn about it. Why? Because, it falls into my “professional wrestling” category. I don’t get or enjoy pro wrestling. It has zero entertainment value for me and seems silly. But, I recognize that millions of people get real enjoyment from it. Some of those people have PhD degrees and are highly respected in their fields. To dismiss the value of pro wrestling or its fans outright is quite limiting. Especially if your company makes a product that might appeal to the mindset that enjoys pro wrestling.

What’s in it for you?

I can understand why you still might not be excited about the power of social media for improving the effectiveness of your company’s marketing dweebs. So, let’s talk about how it can help you!

In September, I will have been blogging for three full years. When I started, I had no idea what I was doing… or why. For the first year, I had few readers and very little reach. Then, wonderful things started happening. Potential customers started contacting me and referencing my posts. Engineering VPs I approached read my blog and dropped their standard “you’re just a slimy salesguy” guard and more quickly engaged with me as a valued problem solver. Industry analysts contacted me out of the blue for article and topic opinions. I’ve even been asked to speak at an industry conference.

In the last six months, I have had two unsolicited job offers directly motivated by my blogging activity! These opportunities didn’t come from headhunters, either… they came directly from the guys who could hire.

While those offers weren’t strong enough to pull me away from my current professional passion, it certainly helps to reduce job stress knowing that I have options!

Blogging (or writing in general) forces you to get better in your field. You have to work hard to articulate your professional thoughts and beliefs. The act of writing for public consumption will solidify areas that would otherwise remain loosey-goosey in your mind. The next time you are sharing an elevator ride with a stranger in your field, you won’t sound like a babbling idiot. On the contrary, your lift-mate will exit thinking, “Man, that dude sure has it together.”

I recommend that everyone begin a serious dive into the social media waters with blogging.
Start a blog today, and write about your industry, job, or product category.

  • The more niche the better.
  • Accept that it’s going to take some time.
  • Write one quality blog post every week or two.
  • Don’t worry about the final scope, focus, or category titles… that will all evolve as you go.
  • Don’t focus on perfection in your initial posts.
  • You can always edit your posts later after exercising your writing skill muscles.
  • The blog will later become your home-base for extended social media efforts (LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.)

Q: If everyone starts a blog like you are suggesting, how does that differentiate me?
A: Very few people will take my advice on this.

What should you write about?
Here is a scenario to help spark your imagination:

Let’s say you engineer automotive electronic connectors for a living. You will literally write posts about what makes a connector sexy, robust, or cost effective. You will also pull stories from mainstream media that might have a connector angle and elaborate. For example, let’s say the root cause of the recent Toyota braking fiasco was caused by a faulty connector design. That’s about all the national media is going to report about it… one line in a full national article… “Engineers suspect the braking issue stems from a faulty connector design.” People in your industry (and even some motivated, mechanically-minded consumers) are going to want to know a lot more than that.

The cool thing? How much competition do you think there is for blogs about automotive electronic connecter design? Not much. You have the opportunity to own this topic in cyberspace!

If the Toyota example above were reality, you might even find yourself interviewed as an expert on a nationally televised morning news program. Would that exposure be good or bad for your career?

It really doesn’t take much to elevate yourself from unknown bolt turner to industry expert. Please post any questions below, and I’ll be happy to share my experiences and help you get started.

7 comments

  1. Thanks Mark. I wonder what you look like in real life?

    For readers, Mark is a good example of a guy who “gets it.” Check out his stuff.

    He’s into all things 3D CAD/CAE, and also happens to be a big proponent of Second Life. Second Life is at the extremely uncomfortable end of my pro wrestling spectrum… but if I ever have a question about it, can you guess who I’m going to ask?

    Check out Mark’s personal blog here:
    http://virtualvector.com/

    He also writes good stuff for Siemens here:
    http://siemens.pmhclients.com/

  2. Nice post Jeff.I don't know if the professional wrestling analogy is one that I would use but the point is a good one 🙂 Even if you don't get social media or hate its somewhat inefficient way of doing business, its pretty clear a lot of people (like current and potential customers) do work and want to work this way. As a business, you have to go where the customers are.I also agree you can get a lot of personal benefit out of getting involved. Industrial designers often have to provide portfolios of what they have done and a blog or other social media tool can do the same for engineers and CAD designers to demonstrate their knowledge. It lets you make connections that may be valuable to you later (jobs, future business, professional contacts, etc.) Its also a good feeling when you provide some information that helps another person.Mark

  3. Thanks Mark. I wonder what you look like in real life?For readers, Mark is a good example of a guy who “gets it.”He's into all things 3D CAD/CAE, and also happens to be a big proponent of Second Life. Second Life is at the extremely uncomfortable end of my pro wrestling spectrum… but if I ever have a question about it, can you guess who I'm going to ask?Check out Mark's personal blog here:http://virtualvector.com/He also writes good stuff for Siemens here:http://siemens.pmhclients.com/

  4. John Chawner · ·

    Jeff:Couldn't agree more with your post. In my experience, too many people equate social media with Twitter rather than thinking of it more generically in terms of “the next email.” No one would debate the value of email. And who knows if Twitter will still be around in 5 years or what it'll look like. What matters are all the new opportunities for communication.I've had fellow engineers wonder aloud why they care about what someone else is thinking or doing. Duh – they call them “friends” for a reason. It's an opt-in medium. Sometimes I think it's a generational issue (some of us are getting old and crusty) and sometimes I think it's an engineer issue (some of us are crusty by nature).The next step for me is a professional blog (I've had a personal blog for a couple years). Hopefully we'll get the new blog started in a month or so. As I read on someone else's blog, the idea is to out-teach your competition and I'm looking forward to starting. Of course, entertaining them is a good idea too.

  5. Thanks John. If you can use “generational issue” in the same sentence as “old and crusty”, I'm sure your blog will be entertaining!Great point on the nature of engineers and natural attitude toward social media. I can imagine that a big group of engineers (young and old) will be late adopters of such technology.As for the possible demise of Twitter within 5 years… YES! The modes of communication are evolving rapidly. Wouldn't surprise me at all if something better than Twitter, Email, Google Wave, or the Telephone springs up in the next few years and makes all of those obsolete.But, we're here today… and this is today's reality. Embrace it and be ready to evolve.When your blog is up and out-teaching the rest, please drop me a line and I'll feature it here.

  6. haha! I'm staying in the down low with Second Life right now. While its still growing and improving, its definitely on the bottom of the Gartner hype curve.

  7. […] and currently doing a PhD in pharmaceutical science in the Netherlands. A few months ago I read Blogging and social media: what’s in it for you? on Life Upfront and got inspired: Blogging (or writing in general) forces you to get better in your […]