Cut back on social media — focus on your online basecamp instead.
A brand’s website should be an online basecamp; a place for like-minded people to come together, test ideas, put up your roadmaps and go over your logs.
I started blogging before it was cool and I kept blogging well past the hype days — and I’m still at it. These days, blogging can be considered to be many things, but ‘cool’ definitely isn’t one of them. Perceptions matter and the FOMO crowd is always quick to direct its attention at new and shiny things.
And yes, blogging has quite a few downsides in today’s competition:
The bar for interacting with a brand website is high. In general, social networks like Facebook and Twitter have successfully sweeped the online conversation away from the blogs. Some blogs still get a fair amount of comments, but most blogs don’t. Instead of speaking with the author of the blog and other readers, blog readers tend to move the conversation around blog posts to their own channels — which makes a lot of sense.
Your content is likely to be discussed elsewhere. A surprisingly large portion of social media users are willing to engage in discussions around a socially shared link to a blog post without actually clicking and reading the blog post first. they feel that the visible open graph snippet in combination with ongoing conversations contains enough information to enter the discussion.
The competition is insanely tough to overcome. Given how search engines prefer to have blog content served, the bar today is fairly high for producing search visible content. Qualified keyword research, lengthy blog posts with 10+ images per post, various open graph adaptations, a reasonable page rank, and tested headlines are only a few time-consuming efforts needed to create successful blog content.
So, website publishing has its fair share of challenges.
Why should you even bother, then?
Social media publishing isn’t without its flaws, either
To be fair, social media publishing for brands comes with quite a few major downsides as well:
Little to no control over the brand experience. Engaging with a brand on a social network like Facebook will mean that the experience is mostly that of being on Facebook. If your corporate message doesn’t fit with Facebook’s brand experience, then you must change your message.
Only indirect business relationships with the audience. While a brand can benefit from cultivating a social brand audience, the social network in question will benefit more at basically no risk. Social networks are rigged much like most forms of organised gambling — the house always wins.
The rules of engagement could change 100% at any time. Whatever the social network decides, whether that’s to remove or promote certain types of content or make changes to your visibility, the network will push brands to create whatever the network needs — as opposed to the content a specific brand audience wants.
Why it’s unwise to put all your eggs in one basket
Many readers recognise some or most of the challenges outlined above, I’m sure. Still, we shouldn’t be tempted to try and change the inherent media logic of specific channels.
It might be theoretically possible to persuade a social network to give in to user demands; complaining Youtube creators have at least been heard to some extent by Google, but organised media publishers sure haven’t.
For brands, pragmatism is the answer. Brands should leverage various media channels in ways that 1) makes business sense and 2) channel-specific media logic allows for.
It’s all about the media mix; don’t create an unnecessary either-or-situation for your brand.
Still, this is exactly what many brands do as they shy away from blogging. It’s not ‘cool’ and it’s time-consuming to write a search-friendly blog post. Why bother?
Why brands must rethink ongoing website publishing
I actually agree that ‘blogging’ isn’t cool. It connotes to the idea of shipping diary-formatted texts to a small audience who has nothing better to do than to hang out in your comment section. And to a large extent, this is what ‘blogging’ is mostly about.
But I would suggest that it’s time to re-examine what it means to continuously publish new content on a website.
Some brands take the route of “online newsrooms” which is essentially a form of continuous website publishing. Other brands take the route of iceberg publishing by continuously putting up short-term- or long-term landing pages to increase conversion and capture search traffic. Others simply have a feed for embedding their social media posts like videos, events, and graphics.
As the paradigm of inbound marketing entered the online universe of communication, it has proven obvious that many types of brands must (and should!) rely on what could best be described as “a continuous flow of new content added to the corporate website”.
Is ‘corporate blog’ still the best way to describe these strategies?
I’m not convinced.
The importance of having an online basecamp
“Jerry, do you think that we must start a blog? We struggle as it is to keep a decent level of quality in our social channels. Also, the idea of launching a new blog right now doesn’t sound all that fresh, d’ya know what I mean?”
My standard answer used to be, “I don’t very much care what you decide to call it, but you must have a continuous flow of new and strategically indexable content to your website.” I also typically added, “You can call it an ‘inbound marketing hub’ internally and a ‘newsroom’ externally — that’s not what’s most important. What’s most important is that you have the capability of adding new content continuously to your website as a key part of your digital strategy.”
But lately, I’ve changed my tune. Because naming matters.
I’ve started referring to client’s websites as their ‘online basecamps’.
Their online basecamp is one of few controlled environments to which a brand can always revert back if a social network suddenly changes the rules of engagement.
An online basecamp should be a community for like-minded people to come together, exchange experiences, to discuss and to try out new ideas. It’s where you put up your roadmaps and where you go over your logs.
The “online basecamp” analogy has so far resonated very well with several of my clients. It makes sense to them to have a safe online basecamp for their brand.
My advice is simple:
Before you venture out into the uncertain and ever-changing world of social media, always get your online basecamp in order first.