Farewell, Blogs! Your Days Are Numbered

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So long, blogging, It was nice knowing you.

The demise of blogging is suggested by a Pew Internet report looking at Internet habits across 2010. It states that "only half as many online teens work on their own blog as did in 2006, and Millennial generation adults ages 18-33 have also seen a modest decline.

It's not all bad news. Those over age 34 blog slightly more than they did in 2008, the report continues, and we shouldn't forget that news blogging site the Huffington Post just sold for $315 million. But there's little doubt that blogging isn't the fresh young thing it was five years ago, back when having an RSS feed reader to track blogs was the height of coffee-shop sophistication. There are far fewer blog writers and readers.

So, what's changed? It's no coincidence that blogging is dying off at the same time as Facebook and Twitter have boomed. Both sites have been described as microblogging services, and that's often used to explain blogging's demise. Perhaps people have simply switched allegiances to an easier-to-use service.

But Facebook and Twitter offer far more than mere status updates. They're truly social in a way that blogging simply isn't. I'd argue that because of this, Facebook and Twitter offer much more value for business compared to blogging.

This makes me sound like a mad Internet evangelist, but bear with me while I explain.

I come across few blogs offered by businesses nowadays, but the ones I choose to follow show how blogging can be a powerful corporate tool, if used correctly. These blogs provide information about products, updates to existing lines, or important company information.

In other words, blogs have replaced public-relations tactics such as press releases. They allow consumers to directly access the source of the information, rather than have it filtered through a news service. A blog written by a product manager is likely to be far more engaging than a press release written by a marketing assistant merely trying to catch the eye of a bored news desk editor.

However, this is perfectly demonstrates how blogs are and always have been little more than a publishing platform. They allow businesses to climb onto a plinth and talk down to the public. The reason blogging is dying is because the trend right now is towards a more democratic, social media.

(Note: From this point onward I indulge in more new-media marketing speak but, again, stick with me.)

You see, people demand engagement from their media sources, yet that's just not on offer from blogs. Yes, we can comment on blog postings and share them via Trackbacks. But there's no real involvement or "social" element.

Compare and contrast to Facebook, which more corporations are embracing as one of their main marketing tools. Nowadays some TV or print ads for products don't even bother listing a corporate Web address. Instead, they list the Facebook address, inviting people to visit and "like" or "share" the product page, or the company's own Facebook page.

"Liking" and sharing are two of the most underrated features of Facebook. Although ostensibly trivial to Facebook users, they bond people to a product via a common interest. They make marketing a two-way process.

The act of "liking" a product gets reported in a user's Facebook feed via a brief sentence, while sharing a product page is even better because pictures and words are highlighted within the user's feed.

Liking and sharing are God's gift to marketers. Essentially, they let customers market your products on your behalf to all their friends. And it isn't even as if users think long and hard about liking or sharing. More often it's done on a whim in a split-second before moving on to something else. From a product marketing perspective, Facebook is beautiful to behold.

Creating a page on Facebook allows businesses to interface with customers in an unprecedentedly intimate way. You can offer product information, answer questions instantly, foster discussions, and create and embed simple games within the page. With the addition of traditional marketing exercises like competitions and giveaways, companies can continue interest in their products far beyond what could be offered by a mere static blog posting.

Blog postings are like gum; once chewed over, they're useless for anything else. But Facebook pages keep on giving.

And all the time Facebook offers data. Organizations can see how many people like their products. Facebook will even send them weekly updates showing rises and falls in visitor numbers.

Plus, all a Facebook product page requires in staff input, once it's been created, is one or two pairs of eyes to watch it. It's cheap and effective--two words all businesses like.

But it's important to emphasize that it's not just Facebook that's so cool; it's any social networking Website that encourages interaction with a company or its products. One of the key goals for anybody within an organization trying to use new media is to not only use Twitter and Facebook effectively, but also to watch for the next big thing.

Above all, companies need to understand that online media is not just a platform from which they can announce things, which is why blogging is so weak. The instinctive response should be to engage with your customers, and to use social media in any way possible to allow this.

Keir Thomas has been making known his opinion about computing matters since the last century, and more recently has written several best-selling books. You can learn more about him at http://keirthomas.com. His Twitter feed is @keirthomas.

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