Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and Chance Redux

Seth Godin was kind enough to leave some comments, which I appreciate. I’ve heard him speak, and he’s provocative and quite good. I think “The Purple Cow” is his best work and I highly recommend it. (It’s within a couple of thousand copies in Amazon’s rankings behind “Million Dollar Consulting,” sorry, couldn’t resist!)

The fact that a few people whom I’ve never heard of have had “huge changes to their lives” doesn’t disprove my point that most blogs are crap. There will always be an exception. As Damon Runyon observed, “The race isn’t always to the swift and the fight isn’t always to the strong, but that’s the way to bet.” I’m sick to death of people claiming that they’ve sold 400,000 books with an Internet ad or have amassed property in 43 states with reverse financing. And you, too, can do this! If it were that easy, why isn’t everyone doing it?

Seth is a tad modest or perhaps disingenuous about not having a brand before his blog five or six years ago. He’s been writing well-received books, and maintaining a strong public image, as far as I know, since 1999, including co-publishing with Malcolm Gladwell, who doesn’t have a bad brand himself. His blog was based on a strong brand in my book. Methinks he’s revising chronology to try to justify a point.

“Or whatever….” doesn’t give me much to work with, in terms of the ancient argument that any critique of modern devices could have applied to the Stegosaurus, which leaves the telephone, Seth’s tangible example. The telephone provided interactive communication on a real time basis to the common person. If the point is that so does Twitter, okay, maybe, sort of. But my points, as I stressed, are about intelligent, effective mechanisms to market consulting (and other professional) services. The telephone is important for so doing, but not Twitter, which is a very low common denominator and isn’t vaguely attractive to powerful corporate buyers.

I’m not sure about the “all rights reserved” archaic comment, which seems to be an out-of-the-blue ad hominem attack for some reason, but my archaic lawyer, when he rouses himself in the castle keep, advises that it can’t hurt and often helps. To be clear and legal, any words written that are original are copyrighted and protected instantly upon publication, and don’t even need the ©, but almost all of us use it, archaically or not, including Seth.

Wikipedia can be useful, but isn’t a replacement for original sources or original thinking. There is no vetting of the credentials of contributors and although it is supposedly self-policing, it’s too easy to provide a revisionist history within its common denominator boundaries. Egalitarianism has its moments, but raising the bar isn’t one of them.

I’m glad Seth wrote, and I don’t usually respond to commentary on the blog, but this is a useful debate, abetted by someone whom I think has done some fine work. However, let’s not be blinded by the light (or pixels). We are still engaged basically in Gutenberg’s seminal invention of movable type. And as long as there is no barrier to entry in Internet commentary or devices, there is going to be a retreat to the lowest common denominator, not stratospheric new standards.

Wisely, Seth doesn’t seem to take umbrage with my sentiments that 99% of blogs are crap, and I’ll bet him a favorable citation in each of our next books that Twitter will fritter away in about a year or two.

I seem to have struck a nerve, which is why blogging with a brand behind you is really quite effective.

© Ye olde rights shalt be reserveth. Alan Weiss. MMVIII.


18 thoughts on “Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and Chance Redux

  1. Alan,

    Technorati claim[1] to be tracking 112.8 million blogs currently – there are more than this online but let’s be conservative. You say that you think 99% of blogs are crap. However, that 1% still totals well over 1 million blogs!

    Secondly, plenty of that 99% of crap are actually just blogs in niche areas that are of no value to the majority. But they provide high value to those who are interested in those niches.

    Finally, I can’t stand Twitter myself, but it has a massive fanbase. Gone in a year or two? I’ll bet you a favourable citation that you’re 100% wrong on that one 🙂

    Regards,
    Alastair.

    1. http://technorati.com/about/

  2. I tried Twitter and it just struck me that I was basically reading someone’s stream of consciousness. Blogs aren’t as bad, but most are not much better.

    The key, to me, is where you put your limited time and effort. Do you go with the one off possibility of a breakthrough essentially based on chance, or do you go with the tried and true method?

    The problem for most people is that commercial publishing is hard, and you actually have to have something to say and be able to say it coherently and cogently. Most people therefore just choose to blog and twitter, rather than do the hard work that has a better chance of building a brand.

    Richard Martin

  3. Alastair,

    Thanks for your comments. I agree with your overall points, but I would say to you:

    The one million non-crap blogs get overwhelmed by the crap!

    “Niche” blogs are fine, but have nothing to do with my attempt to help consultants build independent businesses.

    Numbers of users, as in Twitter, mean very little for my purposes. My whole point is the need to avoid the dumbing down caused by crazed egalitarianism. Millions of people bought pet rocks. Tens of millions thought Titanic was a good movie. So what? Mass taste has no bearing when consultants are looking for specific and differentiated buyers with very particular tastes.

    What no one seems to understand is that I’m not talking about the dynamics of the Internet in a grand, paradigm-shifting, brave-new-world mindset. I’ll leave that to Seth and others, who do a fine job with it.

    I’m trying to guide solo practitioners to the best return on investment for their time and money, focusing on corporate buyers. I’m totally uninterested in some guy who got on Good Morning America because his blog scooped ABC, or some woman who gets 100,000 hits on YouTube because she posts a video of her practicing in ballet shoes (true story).

    This is ContrarianConsulting.com, and we’re talking about standing out in a crowd here, not being swept along with it. Herds are death to independent thinkers.

  4. Alan,

    I am a huge fan of your work. MDC has been incredibly useful in helping me to get to the million dollar level.

    However, it sounds like you underestimate the power of a blog as a key element of “creating market gravity.” (Yes, I have dog-eared exhibit 2-3 in my copy of your MDC book.)

    My experience has been different. I only post about 2X per week at my blog (http://www.DrugChannels.net), but there have been at least five tangible MDC-related benefits for me:

    (a) The blog has deepened my client relationships because retainer clients get an inbound reason to contact me for “the inside scoop” and specific application to their business. IOW, the blog is just one more form of periodic client communication.

    (b) I have built new client relationships by increasing inbound inquiries. Certain key words will bring up my blog at the top of natural search results — no paid search!

    (c) I have “expanded the envelope” by writing about topics for which I was not perceived to be a resource — and thereby landed new business with existing clients and added new types of clients.

    (d) I have increased my visibility with the media, most of whom will google for sources before writing a story.

    (e) The discipline of a blog forces me to stay current with new developments. This also helps to keep me energized and engaged.

    Sure, thousands of people read my blog and never contact me. But a blog is just one piece of my ongoing and neverending efforts to build market gravity and create opportunities (along with everything else in exhibit 2-3). A well-done professional blog has an effect similar to writing a regular newspaper column. As a bonus, I have accumulated 60%+ of the material for my next book.

    However, I only recommend a blog to solo practitioners who can write quickly and accurately. (I try to limit myself to no more than 2 hours per week on the blog.) Like anything else, it requires ongoing commitment and consistency. YMMV.

    I agree with you about twitter — no idea how that will help a solo consultant. Perhaps someone can post positive MDC experiences and enlighten me.

    Adam

  5. Alan,

    If you are speaking about old-fashion blogs with frequent posts but unfocused content – yes, you are right.

    You are right – a lot of blogs are crap, abandoned, poor managed etc, etc…

    But there are good ones too. Even five years ago there were blogs from non-stars with good content.

    And recently rules have changed dramatically. In the past few years blogging and a business blogging have diverged. A good written, focused blog can surely built OK, significantly help to built you a brand.

    And a lot of cases support this.

    I even wrote an entire e-book on this topic – “The New Rules of Business Blogs”. You are welcome to check it out in my blog at http://www.positioningstrategy.com. Please feel free to post it on your blog or pass the e-book to whomever you believe might benefit from reading it.

  6. Alan,

    I just finished reading your comments and those of Seth Godin regarding blogs, facebook, and twitter. I must confess that, I have set up accounts on Facebook and Linkedin. I find some of the features they have are useful, but I don’t spend a great deal of time on them because they can become all consuming. Twitter is something I just don’t understand and refuse to take any more of my time trying to understand it.

    Your comments about most blogs being crap struck a nerve. Since you started your blog, I’ve been a steady reader and look for it on a regular basis. I don’t know what your decision process is for your topic selection, but I have always found whatever you write on seems on target, answers a question I have or provides that lift I need for the day. When I decided to create my blog I tired to make sure, that it wouldn’t fall into the category of crap by selecting topics I can write on that will provide information that readers find intelligent, insightful, and informative. Using your blog as model, I’m constantly trying to make sure that what I do demonstrates a similar level of quality as does your blog.

    As a consultant, I have a great deal of respect for you and the wisdom you share with those of us in the consulting field. I have a great deal of respect for your knowledge and insight and I’m trying to pattern my practice after yours believing that if I follow your advice I too can have my version of a million dollar consulting business.

  7. If someone spends the time on blogs and other assorted social networking sites, whether blogging or reading, instead to write for an article or a book, then you can produce a lot of published material.

    Say, at 30 minutes per day, if you produce 1 page in a half hour, you can produce about 2.5 pages in a week and about 10 pages a month. Not exactly gangbusters, but if you combine it with all the other wasted time, plus actual writing that is done, then you CAN produce a book or a series of articles.

    These will generate much more marketing gravity than the odd chance at success with a blog for a unknown.

  8. Richard:

    Why is there a problem with publishing *both* on a blog and in paper format? I’ve seen Alan republish plenty of articles from his books here in blog format, and many, many blog authors have got deals with publishers to republish their blogs in paper- or hard-back.

    Adam:

    I think that you have a point there, but what about the huge number of 1 percenters? Shouldn’t they give us a good name?

  9. Wow…look what being contrarian can do! A lot of great feedback. I agree with Richard. Blogging regularly keeps me writing and is helping me with my book. I enjoy and learn from reading blogs from the likes of Alan Weiss, Dan Coughlin, and Darren LaCroix. I put as much thought into mine. I have two blogs – one for my executive speech coaching and one for my insurance consulting. They each have messages aimed at different audiences. In fact, I’m using my consulting blog to more quickly post articles that will be of value. I then highlight them in my newsletter each month.

    Finally, as far as getting business, just today I had a person call to register for one of my Presentation Boot Camps. Upon asking her how she heard of me she said, “I ran across your blog.” I think I’ll keep the money ;-]

    Thanks for your blog Alan. It brings value and thought-provoking ideas for me.

  10. Alan-

    I hadn’t heard of you previous to this, but came across the first part of this post series via another blog. There is a large uprising of social marketing advocates in part because they feel threatened; a lot of this due to your writing style, which strikes me as talking down to people. For instance, you say things such as “you fail to see the point” in rebuttals. Unfortunately, accusatory statements such as that do little to engage otherwise misunderstanding readers.

    Because I’m considering a career as a marketing consultant, I’ll follow your blog for a bit and see if I can derive value. Honestly though, the “self aggrandizing” you claim to be lacking here (from the about section) seems to saturate your writing when someone questions your logic. I find that type of person difficult to stomach so we’ll see if it works out.

    Good luck to you.

  11. I’m not going to bother giving the arguments for and against blogging any more oxygen.

    But I would happily bet that Twitter, or similar, will not only still be here in 1-2 years time. But it will also be more mainstream and pervasive (possibly within private business usage).

    Printed material, however, will continue to decline…

  12. Alan, I think the biggest issue I have with that 99% of blogs are crap is that it is true.

    Unfortunately the reason they are crap is the issue. Social media campaigns created without a specific target and promotion to an audience fall into the age old problem of “if you build it, they won’t come”

    If a social media campaign has worthwhile effort placed into it, the information being presented needs to be matched with an equal amount of effort researching and promoting to the demographic you are trying to reach.

    Each type of social media has a specific audience mentality, which is further defined by the types of information presented with it. Blogs are not Twitter, and Facebook is not Myspace.

    Knowing how to do competitive research online through social media is key to presenting information. An effective social media campaign to reach corporate decision makers may not include having a blog at all, but knowing how to implement a campaign on places those individuals are.

    Example: I spend a good amount of time looking at when, where, and why specific executives are engaged online. Some visit sites like FastCompany or Linkedin, some frequent user sites like Yelp. I also know many have Google Alerts setup looking at their name, and rather than send them an e-mail I can simply make sure it goes into the search systems and is optimized for team entire executive team’s personal names.

    In any case, just blindly writing on a blog and hoping prospects will fall from the sky is fairly absurd.

  13. My sense is that the “talking down to people” stance is part of Alan’s brand – and I mean that in the most admiring possible sense! I have a different take on the phenomenon of (supposedly) building a brand through a blog. My hypothesis about some of the consultant/bloggers I read is that they are getting their corporate/executive clients the old-fashioned way, as Alan describes, and pursuing a mass audience via the blog. At some point, those two approaches can feed each other. Example: if a person with a moderately successful consulting practice attracts a following of individuals and publishes a book, that incrementally raises his/her credibility. That in turn may lead to more consulting work, which may lead to connections for the next book. And so on. I’d bet most of the consulting engagements still get closed after old-fashioned meetings and presentations, though.

  14. Wonderful post, thanks.

    Here’s a kick: I’ve written about being “blambushed.” Every morning my Google Alerts show me blogs with headlines such as, “Jane takes on guru Alan Weiss,” and “Billy gets the best of Alan Weiss.” They then go on to make selective points out of context, of course.

    How would you like to be so pathetic that you have to boast that you’ve done battle with a thought leader and “won”? Or have a crony do it? People are desperate to cling to some imagined fame. How about creating your own intellectual property and innovative approaches? Well, that does sound like work.

    There are some fabulous blogs out there in the ethos. But most of them are crap. There are strong relationships and learning often fostered in social media on the net. But that’s not the way to meet executive-level buyers, and much of it is insipid, inane, and obscene. Why are people so threatened with an objective assessment of reality?

    I was introduced, during my induction into the Professional Speaking Hall of Fame® as “one of the three geniuses in this profession.” I know what everyone in the room of 1700 was thinking: “It’s him, me, and I wonder who else?”

    (Oh, oh, duck, here come some more people to “win” by pointing out some exception on an unreadable site….)

  15. Alan, getting recognized as the best in any profession takes work and you do a fine job teaching how to rise to the top as a consultant. You and Seth agree more often than you disagree.

    In the world of social networks, I think we discover excellence faster. By definition, we also uncover frauds and mediocrity quicker. For the few consultants who can leverage social networks, good for them!

    On another note, Twitter is bigger than it’s ever been and at the same time more inane than it’s ever been.

  16. The social media platforms will collapse of their own frothy weight, and you’ll see massive recombinations that enable people to use such vehicles with more immediacy to personal needs and far less ambient noise.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

12 + 1 =

*