When I started out I spoke to my father about blogging. “When are you going to get a real job, what’s that nonsense”. It didn’t surprise me. He’s 83 and I too was very sceptical, at something around the middle-aged mark (no, I won’t be specific), about its potential value. Then I set up my website and added Google AdWords (the cost and dubiety of worthwhile is something else completely) and quickly became aware that the oft-recited theme, that content – volume and fresh – is critical if you are to make an impact, is true. So, I guess, indirectly and without planning, I didn’t start my business: my blog did.
That doesn’t mean I hadn’t started already – I had. But perhaps both to get off the ground and feel I was moving in the right direction – no matter how long payback may take – the blog started me off. The realisation that aimlessly wandering wasn’t going to cut it. I think I slowly distinguished between feeling I was using social media and that would help me, and using social media properly as opposed to just having it.
When I started blogging properly, in 2016, I was still trying to figure out where the business might go, what the outcome would be. I, like many from what I read – perhaps it’s an age thing, I don’t know – knew of social media, knew of its importance, knew it was broad and critical and increasingly adopted, but didn’t actually know – or perhaps spend time to find out – whether, by virtue of its being all-encompassing, a scatter-gun approach was ok or not.
The emergence and unstoppable growth of social media meant there was and is an ever-expanding set of websites and tools that are driven by the same kind of online participation. I knew I needed, but didn’t know how, to hone my focus. Previously, sites like Delicious and Flickr ushered in the new phenomenon of “user-generated content,” and technologies like RSS – my how old they seem: does anyone use RSS at all now? – were providing new ways for regular web users to organise and share content. Suddenly my core research question—what drives online participation —was something I knew I needed to care about – and, more pertinently, understand in detail – because a lot of corporates cared about it. They may not like it or even, in an ideal world, want it; but they and I accept there is no choice. It’s long since stopped being a nice to have.
Twitter has made it possible to demonstrate expertise by sharing links 140 characters at a time. If you’re in, say, fashion or design, sites like Pinterest and Instagram probably offer the fastest route to establishing a vision, following and clientele. For business or home users who like or need to talk more than write, creating a podcast or YouTube channel can be a better fit than a blog, and just as effective at sharing your ideas. I mentioned to dad I might start vlogging – he guffawed and riled me until I pointed how much endorsements make for some people. As I said to him, who’s the mug – the 20-something vlogger on £10k a week, or me? He fell silent.
But the real blog-killer isn’t any of these alternatives: it’s the publishing that’s emerged on sites like LinkedIn, where anyone can just log in and start posting – as I do. In a world where you can now showcase your ideas on the site where you’re hosting your virtual CV – LinkedIn—do you really need to have your own independent publishing platform?
Publishing exclusively on LinkedIn is indeed the right choice for some people, particularly if you are a new or intermittent writer. It’s also, I can testify, quicker. There are so many platforms, blogs, providers, CV companies, et al, that allow you to directly share what they’ve produced that the very sharing can be almost instantaneous. But as valued by the reader? Possibly a different debate. Is more more and have we stopped being – or no longer can be due to the swamp – selective?
If you’ve already invested time in building a LinkedIn network, you’re going to find an audience a lot more quickly than if you start a site from scratch. And unlike an independent blog, there’s no need to commit to a regular posting frequency on LinkedIn: you can write a post whenever you have something to share or say, and even if that’s only a few times a year, you’re extending your professional credibility in a context where it can be discovered. It’s also a great way to try out posting without investing in setup or making a long-term commitment: you can write a few posts and then decide if you want to commit to running your own site.
For people who are already blogging, or, like me, for someone who does both and perhaps started LinkedIn before blogging, the “right” (ideal?) path is less obvious. Which do I do? Which will have more impact? Be more widely read? Produce greater returns? But there are still good reasons to write on your own site, even if you’re also contributing to another site. First, if you’re an established blogger—even one with a modest following—there’s no reason to throw away any readership you’ve built up by abandoning your own site in favour of LinkedIn. Far better to post on your own site, and then cross-post to LinkedIn.
I discovered when I started blogging more frequently and with some proper thought, if you maintain a website, a blog can drive valuable traffic to that site—particularly if you use it in conjunction with LinkedIn. Occasional posts that reflect your interests or expertise act as proof or indication of the implicit or explicit claims you make on your website; even occasional stories are a nice way of offering a wider range of content and letting colleagues or clients see the person behind the CV. Selecting highlights to share on LinkedIn can bring readers back to your site for additional insights.
I also discovered, by accident really, that a blog on my own site allows me to shape the style and type of posts in a way I simply can’t achieve on LinkedIn. For example, I organise some posts around themes – usually leadership, management styles, CVs. The idea is that this will help me define and demonstrate my specific areas of expertise. I went from only writing to CVs to, over time, offering market and business research services, interview techniques’ counselling and more. I needed the blogs to reflect my interest in and awareness of those areas so that hopefully they would visit my LinkedIn and see those service explicitly mentioned and available.
All of these are great reasons for independent blogging to continue even in the era of LinkedIn-enabled publishing. I found blogging a tremendous tool for self-expression as I increasingly built a clear set of career goals. I tried to align the set of blog posts with those goals – move from a windy country lane to a motorway.
So, should we use LinkedIn? Absolutely? Blog too? I’d say absolutely? Both? I can speak for me and others I know when I say that they certainly complement each other and expand the audience.
So, I researched and researched and then did some research. It seems there were many generally accepted reasons why blogging is useful / important / critical – delete as appropriate – and I think it would be fair to say they all apply to me.
1. Attract an Audience
To reach the billions of people that use the Internet. I came to understand that blogging can help me promote my business because it works as a method for attracting an audience, because it provides something of value to them before asking for anything in return. This was, I realised, why (above) volumes of fresh content was vital. After all, is there anything on the web that is totally and utterly unique in terms of its idea or process? Of course not, it’s all about nuance, flavour, a person’s take on something. Mine needed to be catchy and interesting. And, I began to feel, have some kind of thread so that readers began to know my style. I guess this is easier if you’re only writing for one platform. Nonetheless, I think my personality may draw people in (he says hopefully!). Why do you read Harry Potter book 2? Because you liked 1. By creating a blog that is of value, I can attract an audience and eventually convert them to customers or prospective business partners. That’s the plan.
2. Establish Authority
Having a blog and writing about topics that are, I believe, relevant to my audience establishes me as an authority in the space (that’s the part where my kids howled: you? An authority? Cue guffaw and fall off the couch). It hopefully enhances my professional image. A blog, I worked out, is to professionals in the 2000s what a business card was in the 1990s. Blogs are the new business cards. Analogous in the 21st century to Facebook being for holidays and pets, LinkedIn being for business.
3. Build Rapport and Engagement
As I started to blog more for my own site, my traffic went up quite significantly and incrementally. Again, I think my attempt to have people recognise my style perhaps worked. Whether they liked each article or not was, of course, a different story. The point was they came back. Blogging can convert traffic into leads and leads into customers. Blogging can “warm up” the cold calls and traffic from other sources. If someone receives your cold call, they may be more receptive if they’ve read your blog and received value from it. I also began to work out how automation can be useful. I use Wix to host my site: it’s a self-build. It enables me to automatically update all my subscribers when new blogs will be coming. I can schedule the messages. And my subscriber list has grown very much in the last year or so. Whether that all converts to work is a different think but I’m maximising – I think – my exposure.
4. Create Opportunities
Blogging can lead to other business/traffic generating opportunities. One of the agencies I have contracted with in the past contacted me to see if I was interested in preparing video content and webinar PowerPoint slides. They didn’t find me through my blog but they did read it and think perhaps I would be suited to what they wanted. It seems that blogging – I would argue, with other components, not by itself – enables anyone with something interesting or valuable to say to be identified as an expert (cue the kids laughing again).
5. Organise Your Thoughts and Learn
Blogging forced me to teach myself what I didn’t – don’t – know and to articulate what I do know. If you try it, you’ll see that when you begin writing a blog post, you are forced to organise your thoughts. If there are any gaps in the topic that you are writing about, you will have to learn about it. Writing out and articulating your thoughts is a great way to internalise something you’ve learned or experienced. Writing helps you become more familiar with the topic you’re writing about.
6. Tell Your Story
Blogging enabled me to be my own media company. My partner couched it like that though I’d never thought of it in that way. But she was absolutely right. When I wrote about a topic of my own interest or, dare I say it, expertise, I could decide how to portray a story, what information to include, and what information to exclude. Blogging allows me to ensure that all information included in the blog is factual, or at least that my slant gives some food for thought – both strands are equally valid.
7. Meet New People
The audience you attract through blogging doesn’t have to just be your “audience.” I was contacted by a client based in Peru who wished market research, and a local business organisation who found my blog, located me via LinkedIn and then contacted me realising I was local: would I write a piece for their monthly publication. Both became good business contacts – I think all the more because they had come to me. My blogging was, to them, a sign of my potential value.
8. Stand Out
According to “the 1 percent rule,” my research seemed to suggest that only about 1 – 3 percent of Internet users actively create new content, while the rest simply view it. By blogging, I try to separate myself from the 97 percent of people that don’t blog. Standing out is essential in an increasingly competitive economy, even I had that worked out early. If you’re an insurance company, online you’re up against hundreds of other insurers. Why would any other business, mine included, be any different? They’re not.
9. Validate Expertise
Blogs are the new CVs. As a CV writer, you’d think such a statement is shooting myself in the foot but I think not. I realise I must straddle various platforms whilst simultaneously moving with the times. The bloggers of yesterday are often now also, as I touched on earlier, vloggers. Blogging about a topic you would like to be viewed as an expert in, can illustrate to readers, employers, and your network, that you are skilled and knowledgeable.
10. Make Money
Directly and indirectly. In today’s economy, being diversified and having additional sources of income can be tremendously beneficial. I blog for money and I also blog to drive traffic
I link my blog to my Twitter – the convenient use of the Twitter-enabled url. I link my LinkedIn posts and Shares to my Facebook (which is my business, not my own, name: I use it to share business content, not discuss my holidays). I add my blog link to my Skype profile – only intermittently but it’s designed as a kind of “look at what I can do”.
Interconnectivity and the all-platform approach: it’s not the future, it’s the now. So, buckle up and enjoy the rise.