I joined a group of about a dozen Chicago Bloggers last night at Columbia College to talk about setting up new blogs and getting business with blogs. There were a variety of people from those who have been blogging since 2003 and those that didn't have their own.
We started out getting a general idea for blogging experience and discussing which blogging platforms people use (all the major platforms represented). It was entertaining to see how quickly the experienced bloggers would dive into the technical details. We also talked a bit about blog advertising and making money from blogs. There was some question of "how do blogs drive business," but I never really heard a solidly explained answer for that one. (I have my own opinions, of course.)
We had some discussion of whether a blog was a community or could represent a community. Stated that way, I would say that a blog by itself doesn't look like a community. And if you have the particular view that your website needs to be "sticky" in the traditional web design sense. Blogs are interesting because the author is excited about their area of interest - readers find them entertaining or informative. The community, such as it is, develops over time as visitors develop a feel for the blogger and the larger community in which s/he operates. Blogs aren't necessarily designed to attract huge audiences for their superbly-edited content and flashy graphics. In my book, the community in blogging shows up over time - it's not really possible to see the community by visiting a blog one time. I still like the analogy of blogs as a front porch, originally from Brandon Wirtz (not Dina Mehta as I had remembered):
Blogging to the outside is about building relationships. You don't have to turn every reader in to a dyed in the wool customer, but you turn them in to some one who is willing to consider your company when they go to spend their hard earned money. You build loyalty, and you show that you do care about the feedback you get. Blogging is like sitting on your front porch and waving to your neighbors as they walk by. You don't have to have a great dialog with each of them, but they will remember who you are and think of you when they need something, or be there to help out when they can.
Blogging to the inside is about building relationships, but it is also about perpetuating dialog. A blog lets you put your idea out for everyone to see. It is like the ultimate suggestion box. And because blogging happens on neutral ground no one has to take offense to contradictory ideas. You can say this is what I feel we need to be doing, and if some one else says, this is what we should be doing instead, the discussion can be about the ideas not the people. You don't get that level playing field in a conference room where you worry about rank, or department, or even if you like the other person. Blogs are like coming home after work, sitting down on the front porch and having a beer with your co-workers.
Blogs are just a front porch.
Attendees (that I remember or could find):
- Prof. Barbara Iverson (the organizer of the Meetup), who has been working on Creating Community Connections, an interesting project to get Chicago communities participating in the digital world.
- Bridget Houlihan of Chicago Bites and ThuNdering HeRD of TuRtles (no explanation of the crazy-caps or the name).
- Philena Rush, who is busy with a zillion online projects: Black Work at Home Moms and several Work at Home resources.
- The guy who owns Links.com and is interested in providing interesting content and monetizing the service he provides.
- Charles A Krugel, who writes a Labor & Employment Law blog.
- Brian, the head chef at Bite Cafe, who is setting up a brand new blog to chronicle his adventures in starting a catering business. (I helped him setup a WordPress blog, but I don't know if that is going to be his landing page. I see that he's been playing with the template already.)
- Sy, who is a reader of this blog and has been involved with Barbara Iverson on the Creating Community Connections project.
- Keidra, who's got at least two blogs (Enjoy and Exciting and No Attention) and has been at it since 2003. I think she sat with another blogging newbie to set up a space on Blogspot.
- And a bunch of other people whose names and/or URL's I didn't catch.