Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Blogging: Sharing or Marketing?

Coffee in the Los Angeles skyline mug in honor of Dr. Bill who helped me thrash out a business expansion question this morning, "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" by the Allman Brothers on iTunes. Thanks to Guitar Hero 2 I own my first Allman brothers album. Next thing you know I'll be listening to Creedence Clearwater Revival...

Yesterday followed the seven previous days into a jam-packed, hi-adrenaline frenzy that went until 5:15 when the last shipment went out. ("Whipping Post", also by the Allman Brothers, is now on iTunes. How appropriate!) Today will be a little more calm, and I hope less packed, but there will still be no sky-chair time.

Far more interesting than my wacky schedule today is the topic of blogging. Yesterday I spent a bit of time over lunch reading the blog of someone else in my industry. This person is a business owner and writes about glass from that perspective. My reaction to the blog was not positive, which surprised me because I was looking forward to reading it. I felt that its tone was distastefully petty and whiny--not at all the way I wanted to think about either the writer or the company. And yet I am pretty free with my own whining here, so why did it bother me on the other blog?

After a night of stewing I think I understand what my problem is: The blog in question is prominently linked to the company as much--if not more than--to the person who writes it. And there is a BIG difference between a personal blog and a company blog.

Blogging today encompasses everything from virtually sharing one's life, feelings and experiences through the web to producing free, frequent, marketing materials for industry. Lots of businesses (including universities) have people officially designated to write blogs for them. These blogs are intended to more fully communicate to the outside world the spirit of the institution and the daily experience of being there. These blogs are marketing tools. The subjects in them are no less real, but I don't expect business blogs to be written in the same style as personal blogs are. Some of the differences I take for granted include stressing the positive and rising above petty back-stabbing--even in response to another's attack--in business blogs. I don't expect to find squabbles and dirty laundry aired in them, and it makes me uncomfortable when I do.

So what about Glass Incarnate? It's a personal blog. Yes, it's about my daily, personal experiences as someone who owns a glass business, but it isn't a marketing tool for Siyeh Studio: I do link to there from here so readers can find out more about my work, but I don't link to here from my Siyeh Studio website. This blog isn't intended for my clients or suppliers. It's about me, not about my business. What's written here is not politically correct enough for a company website. There are days I need to reach out through the net with a virtual scream, but I would find it completely unprofessional to do so in a venue linked to and promoted by my business.

And there are two more good reasons an institution's blog needs to be squeaky clean: Too many people forget just how public email, group bulletin boards, discussion groups and blogs are. They also ignore how much more the written word is subject to misinterpretation than is the spoken word due to the loss of the additional information carried in tone of voice and body language. Phones introduced new challenges into communication that were exacerbated by email and text messaging. Now with the public longevity of blogs and the like... It's too easy to bitch and moan when the high road would indicate saying something nice or keeping one's mouth shut. Writing something negative is an easy, ubiquitous mistake for an individual, but it is really inexcusable for a company.

Now at the end of this post I find myself as guilty as the writer of the other one: I may cloak my criticism in the lofty justification of differentiation, but right now I am just as culpable of publicly criticizing someone in a written venue instead of just keeping my pen shut.

1 comment:

Bill Paley said...

How did you manage to write this blog using a pen?

Let your fingers do the talking...

I don't think that you're as guilty as the other writer. For example, you don't identify about whom you're typing. This leaves you on the high road, as you are discussing the topic generally, rather than specifically.

In addition, you are involved in introspection about the blogging phenomenon; a very deserving topic.

Finally, and most importantly, what's wrong with Creedence Clearwater Revival????