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What comes first? The social networking or the egg?

And by ‘egg,’ I mean ‘blog.’

Beth Harte and Geoff Livingston recently wrote a great article about weeding out the ‘carpetbagger’ social media experts. In their list of 25 things to watch out for, I agreed wholeheartedly with 22 of them – and feel quite strongly about the three I disagree with.

The first point: ‘First recommendation is to blog’ is tackled below – the other two (blog ghostwriting and personal branding) are coming soon.

I can see why it might not always be the right first step for every single person or company. But, I have a hard time swallowing the notion that blogging first might be a misstep for most people – or that its suggestion would make the suggester a ‘carpetbagger.’ I started with my blog and then walked onto the social media scene, and my chosen order was highly beneficial for me, both personally and professionally. Here’s why:

1. Slow, steady, safe pace. My blog gave me a quiet place to watch my ideas develop and be instantly published. At first, no one was even looking, then readers started to show up, then their comments arrived. I had time to find my voice and learn how to respond to people in this medium. If you haven’t noticed, social media happens fast – especially on Twitter – and jumping into the networking madness before I really knew myself online (or how ‘online’ worked) was not the best choice for me.

2. Reason to interact. When you first start reaching out on social networks, sharing your blog content is a great way to introduce yourself (and I don’t mean in a pushy, salesy way) – but it does give you something to say. Having written your posts, you’ve obviously formulated your own opinions on topics that you will now feel confident discussing. Also, as a blogger, you have a healthy dose of appreciation for the other bloggers out there and it’s something you have in common (writing, tech, design, functionality, etc.) to connect about.

3. Portfolio, calling card, resume. Your blog is all of these things – so when people check out your Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, (etc.) page or bio, they have a clickable link that immediately provides an in-depth look into who you are and what you do. When I go to someone’s Twitter bio, for example, and there is no site/blog listed, I have virtually nowhere to go – no way to connect, forge a relationship or network. In this scenario, there is only a small amount of information available that tells me what this person can do for me and what I can do for them. Personally, when I network, I want all of my talents and skills visible to maximize my connection possibilities.

4. Blogs, by definition, expand our ability to be found online. My blog is part of my social networking world. Before I even set foot onto a social networking site, I had built a community around my blog. Then, my blog and my social networking sites blended, merged and grew together – and they continue to do so. In fact, both my blog and my social networks feed each other via organic searches, as well as word of mouth. (people find my blog and then come to follow me on Twitter and vice versa).

A blog is a brilliant way to establish an online presence by letting the world know all about you and your thoughts on everything connected to your industry and area of expertise.

5. Blog as listening tool. I don’t care what your business is – you have to listen to clients, customers, colleagues, peers, the world to succeed. Otherwise you won’t know what they want, why they want it or how you can give it to them. Blogs are a great listening tool because you can ask questions, listen to comments and watch your stat diagnostics (what people are searching for and reading). Of course, social media is a great listening tool as well (would never suggest otherwise).

6. Freedom and ownership. With so many rules and guidelines, blogs allow you to publish, to own, to think your thoughts and explore without being at the whim of a publisher. Your own real estate is always a great place to start…didn’t Madonna start off by singing and dancing around the house in her underwear? Certainly not on the world stage.

And, at the end of the day, I love blogs because they allow for so many different opinions – no one has to be right or wrong, but the arguments can and should be heard and discussed.

What did you do first? Blog or social networking?

Do you feel strongly that one or the other should happen first?

Join the discussion 13 Comments

  • liz zed says:

    hi writing roads (julie),
    first, i luv the oldschool typewriter & letterkeys on Ur blog. second, U pose an interesting ? that i’m sure there are Many opinions on so U should generate a Lot of discussion here. brava!
    i strongly agree w/ U about blogging first. not only to craft an online voice, learn one’s own rhythm, & practice w/ the technology, but also to first establish a platform from which to ‘listen’–to learn and tune in to what your readers and social network want and need–how they want to connect with you.
    thanx for asking the question and also for your gentle, encouraging manner of requesting response (Ur tweet).

  • Well, I’m a writer. I have had on-line accounts all the way back to text-only bulletin boards, which were the social media of their time. I guess I did social media first, but — as I say — I’m a writer.

    I only did the blog / online journal second because they didn’t exist when I started participating in social media. I don’t think there are any such rules. If you are a good writer and know what you want to do with a blog, no reason not to start right in blogging. The social media participation just helps build an audience for the blog and an on-line world for your mind to play in.

    I don’t understand the desire to dissect all of this as if there were pat answers. Every single person on the Internet is unique. Any blog worth its salt will be a reflection of its author’s unique qualities and vision…not a thing built by studying others and worrying over the “right” way to blog.

    If it’s a corporate blog, then the corporation should hire someone – or find someone in their ranks – who is a writer and who knows the subject matter. If it’s a personal blog…why worry over whether you’re doing it “right?” Who is qualified to make that call?


  • Julie Roads says:

    David! Fantastic answer. My number one rule: what feel right to me? Number two (though they are inextricably linked): Do unto others as you would have them do unto you…the rest is gravy. Thanks…

  • Yeah, I don’t understand the ‘blog as misstep.’ As a writer, I find my blog an essential and extra outlet. It allows me to speak about my craft in a way that just isn’t possible in my day to day life. The blog came first because the social media scene wasn’t there.

    ‘What feels right to me’ is the only way to go as a writer. When we start peeking over the fence at the processes of other writers, our own process stagnates.

  • As my grandma used to say, there’s more than one way to skin a cat (I always hated that metaphor). Making and following rules is not the essential ingredient in all this. Testing and evaluating what works is the only way we’ll really understand social media. And that means experimenting with different approaches.

    I think blogging first can work, and I’m skeptical about ghost blogging. But it doesn’t matter what I think. If you’re “doing it wrong” you won’t find success for yourself or your clients. And you can’t figure that out unless you try various tactics.

    Either way, different isn’t necessarily wrong.

  • Ari Herzog says:

    Before we met at a social media breakfast, I’d known of you through Twitter (you reached to me originally, I think) and may have seen your blog but I didn’t have that personal connection. I now subscribe to your blog, and like now, post comments.

    I enjoy adding comments.

    But if you we hadn’t interacted in some other medium, or if nobody suggested you, or if your blog hadn’t come to me on some Google Alert or via another blog link, I’d never find you.

    In that vein, imagine you’re a company. Unless people want to know more about you and your passions, why would they search for you?

  • Ari, I see your point. However, many people aren’t comfortable pointing people to a blog with only a few posts. And we all know plenty of blogs are started with enthusiasm only to be abandoned a few weeks later. If we help our clients understand how social media (as we currently know it) works they can decide what they’re most comfortable with.

    Social media is much more likely to succeed if we offer choices rather than dictate rules. Educate and inform, then step back and let them do their thing, monitoring and guiding along the way.

  • Lauren says:

    Hi Julie,
    Another fantastic post. I am so glad to have discovered you! In answer to your question I stared my blog first and then skeptically entered the social networking scene.
    As you say, it is all now merging and coming together. As a young designer in the early stages of my career my blog has been an invaluable tool – personally and professionally.

  • Julie Roads says:

    Ari – thanks so much for chiming in. The most important thing that I want to say is that I’m by no means belittling the importance of using social networks – at all. The point of this post is to refute the notion that a social media consultant or expert that advises a client to do a blog first is a ‘carpetbagger.’ By way of discussing that, I’m explaining how important it was for me to have my blog before entering the online social ‘melee’.

    And, I appreciate that you found me and my blog (and subsequently subscribed and comment – thank you very much) because of Twitter and our brief meeting; however – the highest referrer to my blog? MSN’s Live Search. So people are finding me (quite frequently) via organic search – not through social media or a referral (though we all understand that happens quite a bit too).

  • Julie Roads says:

    Lisa – thank you so much for being part of this conversation. I love what you have to say about offering choices – educating and informing…guiding. I always tell my clients that I am not their mother – I’m going to present the facts, show them case studies, let them explore and get their hands dirty…and then support whatever decision/direction they choose. But, I will not bully them or dictate what they have to do. A blog or Twitter participation that feels like homework will sound that way too – and have very little return.

  • Ria says:

    “There’s more than one way to skin a cat” will always make me think of Sr. Therese, my 10th grade Geometry teacher! But that’s a tangent! Ha! Get it?

    Anyway, I guess I’m an “accidental writer” in that I’ve discovered a love for it BECAUSE of blogging. That being said, I agree with Julie’s assertion that it’s important to have a body of work out there so that people have a sense of who you are. If I stumble on someone’s Twitter page with no website or if I visit a site that’s slim on content, that doesn’t really entice me to engage.

    I know a lot of people who want to jump on the “social media” bandwagon and are NOT comfortable with writing. So what then? Vlogging, podcasting… there’s more than one way to skin this cat. As Sr. Therese liked to say, “You can start with the ears… or the tail….” :)

  • Rob Gokee says:

    I’ve always put my personal website first and my blog second, for the obvious reason that, as a composer, my site was the best place to showcase past projects and music samples. However, I recently combined the 2 into one site, because I realize they work with and not against each other. I’ve also refocused my social networking to include Ping.FM, which will allow me to post status updates on almost 30 sites at once (Twitter the one exception, I like to be “live” there). My hope is that this will allow me spend my social networking time in one place, and in turn allow me to spend more time on the content. Thanks for the insightful post, Julie.

  • Julie Roads says:

    Thank you, Rob, for your insightful and thoughtful comment – and for sharing your path with us!

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