It’s not enough to have a blog. You have to write it too. 14 Apr 2005

27 comments Latest by ERE

Businesses are starting to wake up to blogs (even Boeing’s VP of Marketing has a blog). “We gotta have a blog!” is being shouted from the highest floors of the tallest buildings. But look out below, blogs are a lot of work. And a rarely updated blog is worse than no blog at all.

Take the Squarespace blog. I think Squarespace is a great product. Looks great, works great. Anthony Casalena is a really talented guy. But their blog (which they promote twice on their home page) hasn’t been updated since January. As a potential customer that might lead me to believe that the product is dead. Is it? The blog acts like it is.

So… Be careful what you wish for or it might come true. And then what? If you set expectations, you better deliver.

27 comments so far (Jump to latest)

One of several Steves 14 Apr 05

And why exactly are businesses jumping on the blog bandwagon and thinking they absolutely have to have one? It’s starting to sound like 1998 again: “We have to have a portal.” “We have to have whatever trend it is that everyone else is buzzing about.”

There can certainly be useful applications for business blogging - such as collaborative communication for work teams - and certain businesses benefit well from a public-facing blog. But most businesses arguably don’t need them. And just like few people care what I think about what’s going on in the world (and, apparently, neither do I, since I have one of the stalest blogs on the planet) , few people care what Company X has to say about the trends going on around them.

A dead, lifeless tool is the inevitable result when a company implements a tool because they “have to” based on trends rather than an actual business need.

wayne 14 Apr 05

Blogging is a commitment not to be taken lightly.

Mark 14 Apr 05

I think with a business blog you have to have a delicate balance between frequency of posts and relevancy. Sure, not posting for several months after doing so on a weekly basis gives the impression one�s product or service is dead, but on the other hand, posting weekly about stuff that is more relevant on a personal site than a business site is likewise a sure sign that a service / product is dying � or never really existed in the first place.

Squarespace, I feel, is suffering from a poorly executed strategy. The teaser ad on their front page alludes to reading the blog to find out more about the company. Yet, none of the posts have anything to do with the company specifically, but more about what Apple is doing, comparing bloggers and journalists, or hyping the consultants which helped Squarespace launch that blog.

A. Casalena 14 Apr 05

No kidding!

I’ve actually got a lot to say on the prospect of how difficult/easy/appropriate it is to maintain a corporate blog. I’m frankly not cut out to be a blogger, in a lot of ways, and maintaining the personal site vs. the blog is really hard for me and doesn’t reflect well. I already couldn’t maintain my personal site with any sort of velocity. I _hate_ writing out of any sort of commitment — I need to only be required to write when I really have something to say. It doesn’t mesh with what was required from the SS blog.

I’ve actually got a two page entry on when a corporate blog is appropriate, and when one isn’t, ready to go live in a few from my personal site — somewhat founded in experiences with the blog you’re referencing. But then do I publish this to the corporate one? It’s nonsensical: I can’t separate them properly. Our blog has always been more of a news feed, as it stands. I’d instead like to have our customers blog about us, instead of blogging ourselves — which of course is a strategy that equates to “make an insane product, then hope”.

Steves: I think you’re almost spot on. The blog was an experiment. Keep in mind that not everything you find on the web equates to 100% of where our attention was going, even if it’s got the magic “blog” buzzword on it. What to do regarding the blog and such has been a moderate-priority item on my todo for some time. Now we’re where we are now — thanks for the reminder to shape this up.

Jamie 14 Apr 05

Seems like the easy answer is to hire a professional blogger. A new employment position for the new economy of Web 2.0?

Don Schenck 14 Apr 05

I have two blogs, one personal and one for my business.

The personal one I update several times a week. It’s easy to come up with stuff.

But the business blog has been a challenge. I don’t know what to write. I guess I just need to not assume that my readers know everything that I do, and share information.

Thanks for the nudge.

John Zeratsky 14 Apr 05

I’m with “One of several Steves” (first comment):

It’s pretty safe to say that businesses are starting blogs now only because it’s trendy to do so. Worse yet, few of the new business bloggers are really making the most of it. Whether they write or not, many times they simply fail to live up to the potential of the medium. Often, I think it’s because their culture or internal policies don’t allow it.

And there are definitely a lot of companies that don’t need a blog.

Switch 14 Apr 05

Whaddayaknow, they updated their blog! Gee-whiz, do you guys think 37 signals’ referral had anything to do with it?

A. Casalena 14 Apr 05

..umm, well of course it did :)

Dan Boland 14 Apr 05

Not to sound like a kiss-ass, but I think 37signals does the “business blog” pretty well. Most of the posts are in regards to their products, their business, and the issues that are relevant to both. But they also keep in mind that a blog is, for lack of a better word, a journal, and have posted about things like Jason’s search for a Treo charger. After all, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

Mehmehe Manay 14 Apr 05

I think that the whole notion of business blogs needs to fork. Certain firms, like Coudal Partners, 37S, etc., essentially sell expertise. You are paying for their thought leadership, and the blog is an important way to enable both a “try-before-you-buy” opportunity and get some word-of-mouth going.

Let’s say my firm makes jelly beans, though. Sure, someone could make a really cool jelly bean blog, but I don’t think that’s really my company’s role necessarily; we’re in it for the beans. However, periodically, things do happen to our business: we announce a new flavor, etc. These things could be blogged, but the blog would probably never become anyone’s daily read. That’s fine. It just needs to be thought of more as ‘news’ than a ‘blog’. Essentially, it’s taking the part of the site that used to be called ‘Press Releases’, rewording the entries in a Cluetrain-aware fashion, and putting them on the front page.

If you like the company, subscribe to their feed. But don’t be disappointed that they don’t have anything to say on Jellybean manufacturing every day. It’s a different use of similar technology. Calling it a ‘blog’ just sets up unreasonable and inappropriate expectations.

Not named Steve 14 Apr 05

Dan Boland, Alex King,

That sounded pretty much like kissing ass.

Don Schenck 14 Apr 05

I use my business blog to inform my readers (clients and potential clients) of technology that I think is useful for a business.

Not much about iPods … but a mention of the UML, Project Management, and more to come.

Tom 15 Apr 05

Doesn’t Squarespace outsource their blog?

It’s written by a company that write blogs, right?

Mathew 15 Apr 05

Dan Boland, Alex King,
That sounded pretty much like kissing ass.

Would you be reading and commenting if it wasn’t slightly true?

beto 15 Apr 05

It has always impressed me how such a small group of people as yourselves have been able to balance client work and blog publishing. I have been familiar with blogs since 1999, and when I proposed the idea for my current company’s site, they were ecstatic. However, client work rushes, meetings and all that make it often difficult to find time to create a solid post and it usually comes just as an afterthought. How do you guys manage to spin that many plates and not having a single one break? It probably has to do with your vision of work culture - you can write here either about Bush and politics which has nothing to do with your products and still get away with it - I admire that. That simply wouldn’t happen in the buttoned-up corporate culture that permeates most companies, where image is a bigger concern than customer service.

Andreas 16 Apr 05

I agree along the lines of Mehmehe Manay; if it’s just news about the latest bug fixes in a product, then it’s not a “blog”, but more of a “news” section.

The whole concept of “blogs” has just been so blown up the last couple of years. Sorry to go a bit off topic here, but what is a “weblog”, _really_, other than a news sections? Is it the permalink/trackback- and commenting features? If so, then not even kottke, one of the most famous “bloggers”, would get away with it.

My point is that corporate “blogs”, as well as 95 % of all other “bloggers”, start because it’s the cool and hip and trendy thing to do. And sure, some get away with it with sharing some “unknown” CSS tips or similar, but in general it’s nothing other than a miniature portal site, hooking on to the latest online trend.

Randy 17 Apr 05

My point is that corporate �blogs�, as well as 95 % of all other �bloggers�, start because it�s the cool and hip and trendy thing to do.

I love assumptions like this. 95% started cause it’s “the thing to do.” How do you know this? Who are you to make this assumption? Why do you have to bash these folks?

Maybe they wanted to start a blog because it was something they wanted to do.

Bruce 18 Apr 05

There’s no question that blogging is trendy, what tool isn’t, but it can be a very effective tool. It does require, if for business, a commitment from, loathe I say, management. Don’t hold your breath! Typically the excitment will fade and the task of blogging will fall on the shoulders of someone way down the food chain. Content and relevance are important but the success comes when the blog is part of a cogent and an effectively executed marketing plan.

lcreekmo 18 Apr 05

My blog is several days [not months] out of date. [Go ahead, make fun of me. Tell me I’m a loser. I realize it already.] It’s not for a lack of material — got plenty stacked up. Just a lack of time. Fortunately mine’s a personal blog, so it’s not my livelihood on the line. Once a business starts communicating via a blog, if you stop [without explanation] is it like you quit answering the phone? We don’t know if you’re there or not.

Paul Larson 19 Apr 05

I definitely think blogs should be updated regularly. However, my corporate blog focuses on those issues I feel are worth writing about. That doesn’t happen daily - or even weekly.

The fate of the Web is not dependant on my blog so I’m not too worried about it. I’d love to write daily, but as other commenters have pointed out, it’s just not the way it happens.

However, I do try to write entries only on those topics that seem worthwile to others. I choose not to write about my opinion of the Macromedia merger, OS X Tiger, etc - plenty of other blogs do that better anyway.

I write when I think I can offer something unique.