Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The 7 Deadly Sins of Blogging

The flipside of the ten P's of blogging previously covered here are the attributes or characteristics that should be avoided in creating a successful business blog. Like the seven deadly sins in Christianity, these vices can relegate a blogger to the underworld of the blogosphere though the judgment of readers.

Gluttony: Avoid the "it's all about ME!" syndrome in blogging, where every post is about ME, MY company, or MY product or service. It's perfectly acceptable to write a personal post on occasion, or selectively bring up one's product or service in highly pertinent posts. But if one's own company and its offerings are the only topics of coverage, the end result will be a (very boring) piece of extended marketing collateral, rather than an effective blog that enhances organizational recognition and credibility.

Greed: Everyone has to eat, so there's nothing wrong with generating income from a blog—providing it's done ethically. Including sidebar content from ad networks and/or affiliate programs is a common and accepted practice. The sin, however, comes from deception—passing off paid content as an "objective" blog post. If exposed, this practice destroys a blog's credibility.

Sloth: A blog needs fresh content on a reasonably frequent basis to be effective. Writing a couple of posts per month (or less) is not conducive to getting traction with search engines, RSS subscribers or other bloggers.

Wrath: The best review posts have an objective tone, presenting both the strong points and limitations of a product, services, company, individual or idea. But posts that simply trash someone or something seldom do a blogger or his/her audience any good, and certainly don't help the subject of the writing. I've heard the same idea expressed in a number of different ways over the years: "Keep your words short and sweet, in case you have to eat them later" (folk wisdom, almost everyone's grandmother), "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all" (my mother), and "You'll catch more flies with honey than you will with vinegar" (Mary Ann from Gilligan's Island). It rarely pays to make enemies.

Pride: You've seen it—bloggers who write with the tone of "I am the all-knowing fountain of wisdom on (topic), and you mere mortals should count yourselves blessed indeed to feast on the morsels of knowledge that fall from my intellectual table." Oh gag me. Get over yourself. I'd love to name some names here, but don't want to violate the deadly blogging sin of wrath (above).

So, instead, I'll point out some counter examples. Laura Ries is a best-selling author and frequent speaker at industry events, as well as a principal of marketing consulting firm Ries & Ries in Atlanta. Given her stature, she could perhaps be forgiven a bit of arrogance; yet neither her blog nor her approachable and charming personality display a bit of it.

Another example is Guy Kawasaki, a former Apple Fellow, founding partner of Garage Technology Ventures, and author of eight best-selling business books. Despite his fame and pedigree, Guy's blogging is delightfully humble and self-effacing. One of my favorite examples is his closing line of The 120 Day Wonder: How to Evangelize a Blog: "May you use this knowledge to rise in Technorati and make the A List. Just say hello as you pass me by--someday I'll be sucking up to you. :-)"

Seth Godin falls into this camp as well. In fact, it seems that it is rarely the truly famous who display pompous behavior online, but most often the wannabes, like...ooh, can't do it, no wrath.

Okay, this is where my parallel construction with the seven deadly sins of Christianity breaks down. The last two are "lust" and "envy." While someone may be able to come up with a clever way to relate those to blogging sins, I'll focus on two blogging-specific vices here.

Failing to acknowledge the existence of other bloggers: This sin often goes hand-in-hand with Pride above, but is its own worst practice. One of the very cool features of a blog post is, of course, the ability to link to other relevant blog posts as one is writing. For example, pretty much everything I know about podcasting I learned from podcasting guru Albert Maruggi, so I rarely write anything about the topic without linking to him.

Yet some bloggers write as if they are the only experts on a given topic, or at least the only ones with an opinion worth reading. They consistently fail to link to other bloggers who could add additional knowledge, perspective or insight into the topic at hand. Very bad blog etiquette.

And last but not least...

No contact information: The vast majority of blogs enable readers to comment on posts, which is great. But sometimes, a reader will have a question or comment they'd rather share with the author personally rather than through the very public forum of commenting. Giving readers no way to contact you directly is just flat-out rude.

There you have it. Avoid the sins above and your blog may ascend to new heights of readership; engage in these vices and you risk damnation to the depths of unread-blog hell.


Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom


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