Are Blogs Social?

For a while now I’ve been trying to resolve for myself the question of whether blogs are really “social media” or not.

Whenever some brainless social media “expert” does their tap dance on the subject, they’re always sure to mention blogs along with Twitter and Facebook and all of the other outlets people already know about. To be honest, so have I – not so much for the socialization or communication, but because they’re a good anchor for all of the other social media stuff a client does. If you write a blog post that day, you’ve got something to talk about on Twitter and Facebook, and those discussions can lead them back to the post, which is on the site, which is where you want the traffic…

But that really just makes blogs content page generators, not calls to individuals to discuss the topics.

You’ve read other people’s articles and posts about, “how to entice others to leave comments on your blog,” right? They beg the question, “Why don’t people leave comments naturally?” I don’t have to strategize how to write Tweets to get people to write back. That’s because Twitter really is what we all mean by social: You talk, people listen, then talk back. It doesn’t require posting agita that gets people angry and makes them write back. (That works too, of course – everyone likes venting, especially if you have a talent for being violently disagreeable in public.)

I started blogging in 2002, before people were bandying about this term, “social media.” Back then, a web log was just the next evolution of the forums I’d been hanging around in for the last couple of years – which were really social. You post a quick topic, and the culture of the forum made people want to post back. Blogs were a way to own the discussion, for everyone to be a moderator. All of the friends I’d known on the forums had done the same thing I did and created a LiveJournal blog. We all friended each other, and then any time one of us had something to say, all of us would comment back. So in that regard, blogging was a social event.

Now everyone in the world has a blog, but not necessarily a network of friends. This is what is missing from blogs – that other catchphrase of the day, social networking. As anyone into this stuff who is a sufficient smart ass will tell you, there is a difference:

Social media is the content people create to reach out to other people.
Social networking is making friends who will be interested in all this content you’re creating.

Creating the content is a no-brainer for most. If you can string a few words together, buy a Flip Video, or crawl enough sites to make a healthy collection of bookmarks, you can get into the social media business. But if you don’t do the added work of reaching out to people who might want to see what you’re doing, you’re skipping that second, equally important step of making a network.

That’s why Twitter works. That’s why Facebook works. The major sites like this have networking inexorably connected to what they do. I don’t get comments on these posts here very often – I get them as tweets or direct messages or replies on Facebook. I don’t mind, I’m not trying to defend my use of time in writing my little blog. Besides, that is how people respond now. It isn’t that readers need to be drawn out to leave a blog response, it’s that they just don’t want to do it on the blog. It’s a lot easier to just post:

@ciaoenrico You’re an idiot – I leave blog comments all the time! And btw iPhone rulez! n00b!

So maybe blogs aren’t social themselves – maybe they’re just fodder for all the other sites that are.

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5 comments

  1. I think that whether or not a blog is social really depends on the person writing it. If you’re trying to run a marketing campaign and get a lot of hits for a client, then it probably isn’t social because you’re not talking with others as much as at them. On the other hand, if it’s your own website and you’re sharing your thoughts with friends and strangers then it’s a very social tool. In my experience, I’ve found that blogs are good for longer content while tweets and updates and good for quick interaction. Facebooking is probably easier, but blog posts generate more interest and community around that topic.

  2. Yeah Davis, I tend to agree – blogs can be social, but not the way most people do it.

    You also bring up another point: Length. Personally, I prefer banging out 500-1000 characters of complete thought, as opposed to 140 rim shots. I have a feeling people are slowly gravitating towards the latter, not only because it’s easier to write that, but it’s easier to read.

  3. I’ve been looking around ciaoenrico.com and actually am impressed by the terrific content here. I work the nightshift at my job and it is boring. I have been coming right here for the previous couple nights and reading. I simply wanted to let you know that I’ve been enjoying what I’ve seen and I look forward to reading more.

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