Earlier today I was listening to NM political blogger Joe Monahan as part of a media roundtable. He was a decent member of the panel, making a few good points about social media, but at the end he really blew it. He was asked about the future of blogging and he said that blogging had reached its heyday a couple of years back and that blogs would start to fall by the way, much like some of the mass media outlets that have shuttered their doors in the last decade – the market would decide which blogs will survive.
Joe’s looking at the story of blogging as an independent source of revenue, he had discussed advertising on blogs, or blogging independently as a career – like he does. He’s not thinking about the use of blogging and other social media in a business setting. That’s the future of non-independent, non-hobbyist social media use.
While some people are blogging and making some money off of it, you’ll find very few who have crafted a career out of their well-penned pieces (look at the Daily Kos, or Hugh Hewitt, or Dooce.com). The growing future (and I disagree with Mr. Monahan, we are still in the early adopter/early majority (from a “Diffusion of Innovation” angle) of blogging) is in a corporate setting. Keeping corporate bloggers on staff to communicate with the online community is important, especially if your organization has a lot of pushback from those communities.
It’s a necessary evolution of communications in general, and corporations more specifically. A lot of corporations are still not willing to get engaged with their target audiences, and they treat blogging just one more way of pushing their message out, instead of a way to draw in an audience and engage with those audience members. The communications model isn’t just one-way anymore – people “out there” expect to have a say in the conversation, and those companies engaging in social media need to be responsive to those in the audience. (the “pull” vs. “push” model of communications)
Your organization’s “spokesblogger” can’t just be a mouthpiece for the organization. They need to be more than a member of the marketing/communications team. They need to become kind of an “online ombudsman,” not just engaging in the conversation about your organization but trying to improve your organization when you get those negative responses. What the NY Times was trying to do with their online editor. Granted that was created more as a response to the Jayson Blair scandal than for any altruistic reason. But think about the goodwill your organization will foster with the online community, and your online detractors (which is one outlet where the mainstream media is picking up stories) if you are not just conversing with them but are actively trying to help correct problems (as much as you can).
In addition to the important goals of content creation, and developing online relationships, or reading blogs and recording podcasts, one of the futures of corporate social media isn’t in freelance advertising-paid blogs, or in repeating the same message your PR department is sending out in a press release, it’s engagement in the online community, pro and con, and representing those detractors back to your organization when a change is necessary. It’s a lot like Corporate Social Responsibility, and as a social media professional, you can’t forget it’s more about the “social” part than the “media” part.