Monday, January 7, 2008

The Dangers of Blogging

Why would a marketing consultant post a blog message on the dangers of blogging? Because I sincerely care about the growth of your business or ministry. And, my research has shown that blogs could be the biggest time waster since Solitaire became standard on office computers.

Here’s my assumption: You’re a very busy author or speaker who is trying to grow your career, pay your bills, and spend time with God and your family. (If you’re filthy rich or just writing part-time as a hobby, then you can disregard this article.) In other words, you don’t have a lot of extra time on your hands, so the activities that you do really need to count.

But, let’s be honest, most blogs out there are similar to a self-centered diary about someone’s daily activities, vacation pictures of the kids, silly product giveaways, or quirky ramblings. Does this stuff help you sell books or land more speaking engagements? Based on my conversations with others, I don’t see it happening.

Yet, you wonder, “I heard blogs were supposed to be the modern way to reach customers online and build a platform?” That’s what the blogging gurus want you to believe. But, evidence shows that blogging could be a big mistake. Here’s why:

Blogs Can Waste Your Time
If you write a blog, experts agree that it’s best to post at least 2 – 4 times per week. Otherwise, readers won’t think you’re consistent, so they’ll switch to bloggers who offer more content. But, 2 – 4 postings per week is a lot of material, which is a lot of hours spent creating and writing. If you can’t keep up with that pace, then shut it down, because you won’t get many readers.

For instance, if you have a blog, track how many hours per week you spend creating and maintaining your posts. It’s probably more than you think, and it’s important time you could use to do marketing activities that produce better results…more on that in a minute.

Blogs Rarely Increase Product Sales
Three months ago, one of my clients experimented with a blog tour to help launch her new book. Incredibly, she got her book mentioned on over 60 blogs – but only sold 6 books from her website and her Amazon ranking didn't improve very much…ouch! She agreed that blogging increased the traffic and awareness about her book, but it didn’t turn into sales. And, sales should always be your main goal. Otherwise, you can’t pay your bills.

Another mistake some bloggers make is focusing too much on getting “comments,” which are follow-up remarks that people write after one of your blog posts. Supposedly, the more comments you get, the better. But, trying to get a lot of blog comments is no different than a teenager trying to get a lot of friends on his MySpace page. It’s a meaningless exercise. Just because you have a lot of random comments, doesn’t mean you’re growing your platform and making more sales.

Ideally, you don’t want “comments.” Instead, you want “contact information.” Getting people to give you their contact information is the key to long-term relationships and product sales. And, there are better tools than blogs to help you gather those contacts…more on that in a minute.

Blogs Lead People to Expect Information for Free
Given the choice, wouldn’t you prefer to get something for free, instead of paying for it? Since reading a blog is free, many people get used to receiving your advice at no cost. The more free advice you offer, the more they wait to see if you answer their questions without buying your products. If you don’t answer their questions, then they’ll leave your blog and search elsewhere.

Think about it this way…the point of ministry is to help someone with the message that God has given you. But, if people only get bits and pieces of your message, instead of buying your complete book, did they really get any help at all? You may think that your blog is helping people or letting them get to know you. But, in some cases, it could actually prevent people from obtaining your much-needed products and services.

Now, before you think I’m completely anti-blog, let me give you three situations where blogging can make sense:

1. You’re a non-fiction author / speaker with so much helpful advice that it won’t cannabilize your income-producing products. In other words, you’re such an expert on a specific topic that you can give away some information for free, but still get people to buy the rest of your expertise. In my case, I use my blog as a secondary marketing strategy to encourage prospects to consider my consulting services. I can give away lots of free tips, because my blog barely covers the various ways that I can help clients.

2. You’re an A-level non-fiction author / speaker with a huge platform who doesn’t have time to respond to everyone’s questions. Let's say you speak to thousands of people each month, but you still want to make yourself accessible. Blogging can be a nice way to let your fans know what’s happening in your life. And, your audience can “talk back” by posting their comments. However, don’t blog if you find it steals away your precious free time.

3. You’re a fiction author who hates public speaking, but you want to connect with your readers and help them understand how you create your novels. Also, some authors say that blogging forces them to continually focus on their writing skills.

If you fall into one of these three camps, then a blog might be a decent strategy for you. Even so, consider the three points mentioned earlier before you make blogging a priority.

A Blog Does Not a Website Make
There’s a popular trend among authors and speakers to setup a free blog and use it as a substitute for a real website. That’s a big mistake, because the best blog still makes a cheap-looking, one-dimensional website. Worse, blogs can’t provide all of the tools you need to appear professional, such as an online store, audio/video, event calendars, e-newsletters, downloadable files, etc.

If your business or ministry looks homemade, then people won’t take you seriously. They’ll just classify you as an amateur. So, spend the extra money to have a professional designer create a good-looking website for you. Expect around $3,000 - $5,000 for something decent. If you do it right, you will reap your return on investment many times over.

What’s Better Than a Blog?
Now, you’re probably asking, “So, what’s better than a blog?” Actually, lots of things. For example, a real website updated with helpful articles, a subscriber-based monthly newsletter, public speaking, teleseminars, audio and video products, etc. Instead of blogging, take your creative time to work on a new book, write an article, build a better speech, or generate media interviews. These activities are more likely to produce new income and support your ministry.

So, before you become slave to a blog, consider if it’s the wisest use of your precious time. There’s nothing wrong with blogging – as long as it works for you, rather than you working for it.


---
Rob Eagar helps authors and speakers across North America gain back precious time by making them more efficient in their marketing. If your time always seems in short supply, call Rob at 1-800-267-2045 or email him at: Rob@StartaWildFire.com

11 comments:

Marla Alupoaicei said...

Rob,

Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts about this. As an author, it is sometimes tough to know how much time and energy to invest into a website or blog.

I also really enjoyed reading the success stories on your site. Your ministry seems to be making a positive difference for these authors and speakers. I'd love to chat more with you about your services. Will you be at NRB or CBA this year?

Blessings-

Marla Alupoaicei
Author and Director, Leap of Faith
www.marriageleap.com

Ann V.@HolyExperience said...

Fascinating post. I often wrestle with the time invested in weekday blogging, and wonder if it would not be better spent in writing proposals or sample chapters.
And yet:

~an editor of a major publishing house found me through blogging and notes that she visits the blog weekly.
Isn't it wise then to keep blogging?

~aforementioned editor's concern centers not on writing but on a "platform" for the non-fiction book she has asked me to propose. And how else to have readership without blogging?

I wonder if for some of us blogging is a danger that we have no choice but to flirt with...You've given me much to think about.

Thank you....

Rachelle said...

Great thoughts here, Rob.

Cyndi Lewis said...

This was a great and informative read. Thank you!

jendakerr said...

Strange...you are blogging about not blogging...???

tanyadennisbooks.com said...

What a helpful post! I've struggled with all of these issues -- the validity, time-zapping nature, efficiency and look of blogs. I'm a new writer (pieces published locally and online only), but I want to build a platform. I was told three years that a blog was the best way to do it, but I've since learned the readers are fickle and the blog drains me. Thank you for your encouragement toward properly directly my time and energies.

Nate said...

I think these are some great thoughts and don't disagree with some of your points - time wasting, self-centered ramblings, etc, but on the website bit - it seems your scope is very narrow and. Not all blogs look like blogs and not all blogs are "homemade" and/or boring. In fact, blogs nowadays incorporate all of the things you mentioned (I just setup a professional photographer with a a WordPress enabled website w/ a store, portfolios, downloadable sections, etc) AND when people make a comment they often are also giving their contact information b/c their names are most likely linked to a profile with information you could find very useful for contacting them.

Social web applications bring an entirely new bent to the blog discussion b/c the interconnection that you desire is now provided to you.

Jean said...

Thanks very much.

So, what's your take on social networking?

Jean Hall
htp://www.jeanmatthewhall.blogspot.com

nicolas john laparra said...

A Blog post on not blogging... interesting.

I completely disagree with your take on blogging.

And you make it sound as if the only people that can bog purposefully are authors.

Rob, you said it is tough to know how much time to invest in a bog or website. I think you would be wise to invest in blogs because you can communicate with people much faster than you can as just an author.

Rob Eagar said...

Hi folks,

I want to thank Rachelle Gardner and Abraham Piper for pointing their blog readers to WildFire Marketing.

As you can see, this blog post, "The Dangers of Blogging," was written over a year ago. It's a straight-forward, common-sense look at blogging as a tool to help market a book.

However, there still seem to some people who aren't grasping the clarity of my points. So, allow me to make things crystal-clear:

1. This blog and my blog posts are all about book-marketing - nothing else. So, I'm not criticizing blogging in general...otherwise I wouldn't be a blogger myself. So, you've got to read this post under the right context, which is solely about book marketing.

2. I appreciate Nate's comment that blogs are more powerful than they used to be. I wrote this article over a year ago, before some of the new tools existed to make blogs better. However, I worked with over 100 authors at all levels, and all of my research shows that websites are more critical to an author's success than just a blog. So, my recommendation is that an author integrate their blog into their website, rather than trying to make your blog be your website. If you base your online presence primarily on tools that are free, then you will look like an amateur, which will hurt your book sales.

3. Social networking offers great new ways to spread the word about an author's new book, such as blogging, FaceBook, Twitter, etc. However, none of my research has proven that these tools create more book sales than other methods, such as newsletters, public speaking, media interviews, etc.

Therefore, I encourage every author to incorporate social networking into their overall book marketing strategy. However, an author would be unwise to spend the bulk of their time on social networking at the risk of avoiding other strategies that have proven more effective.

Great discussion, and I appreciate the feedback.

Tim A Martin said...

Certainly very interesting points. I'm working on a fiction novel and always hit my words per day target so I don't feel that blogging is taking away from my creative writing time. That and I've actually been enjoying blogging. Good advice though to not spend too much time with it. Thanks!

http://timmartinwriter.blogspot.com/