Whenever I hear a young communications professional express interest in blogging, I try to give them as much encouragement as possible. I strongly believe as communications professionals, this is the one medium that leads to and understanding and strong grasp of the other online channels because they all serve the interests of building an audience for your blog. And there’s no better way to understand blogging than to blog yourself.
Let me count the ways blogging is important:
- The Process: Setting up a blog is initially fairly simple but as you get deeper into, there are more and more wrinkles. Process itself is educational.
- Analytics: Shortly after the first post of your new blog, you become fascinated with its traffic. How many people read my post? Who are they? Where did they come from? How many visitors did I get? Am I gaining readers? All these questions lead inevitably to Web site analytics and how to decipher the traffic to your blog and what it means. What is the difference between a pageview and a session and a user? What is a bounce rate? Who is linking to me and why? Why are people finding my blog using specific search terms? Learning analytics gives you a firm understanding of the types of metrics you’ll need to know in order to analyze and demonstrate progress, identify and overcome failure, and ultimately justify your work.
- Search Engine Optimization: When you make the connection between the content of your posts and the search terms people are using to find those posts, your curiosity of how that works will lead you to the practice of Search Engine Optimization or SEO. Studying SEO will teach you not only where to put keywords in your content and why but how search engines work and why some content is listed higher than others on the search engine results pages.
- Keyword Research: Your interest in optimizing your content for search engine traffic will lead you to tools such as Google Trends, Wordtracker, KeywordDiscovery and a host of others. Your research of what keywords people are using in their search queries will lead to the realization that search engines are what Bill Tancer calls “a database of desires.”
- Online Behavior: Your keyword research will lead you to the realization of how people use search engines, when and for what purposes and that there are distinct phases of the search process and the people conducting searches often have distinct mindsets when they’re searching. The understanding of how people behave using search engines will lead to a greater insight that people may have distinct behaviors in other venues as well, like blogs or social networks.
- Empathy: After you’ve been blogging for a bit, you’ll begin to understand what it’s like to be a blogger. You’ll get annoying comment spam with people leaving idiotic, off-topic or nonsensical comments on your blog for the sole purpose of getting a link back to their site. You’ll get email pitches for completely irrelevant things from people (and many, sadly, like yourselves, PR folks) who clearly have not spent 30 seconds trying to understand what your blog is about. You’ll even get those spot-on-topic pitches that you’d probably be very interested in writing about if you only had the time.
- Appreciation: From empathy comes appreciation for the time constraints most bloggers have. You’ll understand that nine times out of ten, they’re blogging because they’re passionate about their subject matter, not because they expect to make money. You will begin to understand how much work blogging can be (and you’ll learn what it takes to do it (and whether or not you should recommend it to clients, by the way). If you’ve ever entertained the underwear-wearing, parent’s-basement-living, socially awkward stereotype of the lone blogger, you’ll abandon that quickly because you’ve become one of us.
- Knowing What You Think: Writing is an integral part of my thought process. I’m not sure I really know what I think until I’ve got my thoughts out of my head and down on paper, as it were, where I can examine them objectively. It helps me clarify and hone my thoughts.
- Thought Leadership: Once you know what you think, blogs are a great platform upon which to share those thoughts and try them out with the world. See what people have to say. Learn from what they say. Incorporate that into your own thinking. Comment or riff off things you’ve read and like from others.
These are ten reasons I can think of off the top of my head that communications professionals should blog, but I’m sure there are many more. What reasons would you add to the list?