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Lee Odden

Blogging For Business or Pleasure? Personal Expression vs. Creating Value for Your Community

By Lee Odden     Blogging, Online Marketing

Is your blog content a form of creative expression or serving your community?Within the blogging community there’s a substantial number of bloggers that are independent business people and even more that run a personal blog. With the rise and fall and rise again of blogging as an online communications channel there are the expected debates about best practices and such.

One of the debates is around writing content as a stream of consciousness with the assumption that it will attract the audience that it deserves, causing it to be shared and exposed to even more readers.

Then there are the opportunists that seek to scale the reach of their content though blogging by creating processes for generating topics, keyword optimization and social sharing schemes to blast the content everywhere the internet’s sun doesn’t shine.

As extremes these are opposing views where one is focused on earned attention due to quality and another is focused on maximum attention due to quantity. The tricky part is that they both have merit but not until a very important distinction is made:

Blogging for personal expression is not the same thing as blogging for a business. 

Blogging as a form of personal expression vs. blogging to meet the needs of a particular audience you want to do business with are different things.

Personal expression and creativity are awesome. If your form of creative expression results in something that also happens to resonate with your readers and internet audiences at large, it’s very gratifying. It’s also a crapshoot in terms of achieving results.

On the other hand, when a business, small or large, invests time in creating content, there’s an expectation that it will result in a return of some kind. Few companies have unlimited budget and time to figure out what that return is, so they reconcile the difference between business goals and the information needs of the audience they’re trying to connect with.

In tandem with who you’re writing for is the notion of frequency, a topic of last night’s #blogchat hosted by Mack Collier. “Should we should strive to blog consistently, or only when we have something epic”.  Epic or meaningful, it makes sense to write when you feel inspired. But for business blogs there has to be some accountability. Epic can mean an overwhelmingly practical and useful post or the “War and Peace” of your industry.

Based on 9 years of business blogging, I answer such questions through layers in the editorial plan. Some topics deserve to be epic and others more routine. There’s an audience for both. There’s satisfaction in creating both.

Tools and processes like a content marketing strategy, editorial plan, researched topics and keywords that are in demand by a target audience can all help move the business blog’s chances of getting a return on effort from crapshoot to a solid investment. And it can do so without compromising content quality.

The flip side is when opportunists take those processes and pervert them mechanically, then the spew of auto generated, keyword curated nonsense in the name of content marketing and SEO puts a nasty mark on two very legitimate marketing disciplines.  All because of how the tools are used.

Tools are only as good as the expertise of the person using them. 

Recently, I read a post on Social Media Explorer about the need for creativity with business content. With that premise, I can’t agree more. Companies that master the blocking and tackling of content creation will never rise above to their potential without tapping into the creative inspiration that exists within their subject matter experts and content producers.

At the same time, there is a very important role with the aforementioned tools in order to scale those creative efforts. I’ve been using and recommending these types of tools for many years. That’s why the following part of the post caught my attention and inspired me to comment on both the post and to write this one:

“Put the editorial calendar on hold and focus instead on developing pure ideas. Set the list of key words aside and face an empty page (and) without it the crutch.”

That is just one part of the post, but my experience with using such tools has been very different. Here’s my reply:

“Really? I’ve been using an editorial calendar with keywords and topics as a guide for 5+ years. We have one of the most popular marketing blogs on the web. Traffic, inquiries and awareness of our business have never been higher. Our posts get hundreds and sometimes thousands of social shares and anywhere from 4,000-8,000 visits per day. We’ve had a 6 year engagement with a $100bn company because of that content. We helped launch a new social community with one of the world’s largest computer manufacturers because of that content.

If someone is ineffective at using tools like an editorial calendar, search phrases and social topics, does that mean those tactics stand in the way of creative inspiration?

Content planning that considers the information needs of the audience you’re after that will ultimately buy you, your products and services deserves guidelines. There’s plenty of room for creative execution, just as there’s room for content planning to be accountable for business outcomes. It’s not enough to dance like no one’s looking to be competitive.

Could businesses stand to be more creative and free with the content they produce? Of course. But I’ll take creative + performance over creative + personal expression every time.

So, my question to you is, are you blogging for personal expression or do you consider the audience you’re writing for? Do you use any tools to manage and optimize your writing and blog post promotion efforts to reach those readers?

Photo via Shutterstock


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