Mark Fletcher talking on blogging

This is a post I wrote elsewhere a year ago, in November 2007.

Mark Fletcher gave a talk at Edinburgh University Business School about blogging.

Mark set up bloglines, one of the first RSS aggregators (and the one I use. Sometimes). I didn’t know this before I went along, I was just interested in the subject.

It was an interesting talk – though I am not sure that I learned much I didn’t already know from playing around on the net. Mark gave some stats from Technorati, which he was healthily sceptical about, showing the vast spread of blogs and the blogosphere, and he talked about how blogs can be used by businesses; but none of it was stuff I hadn’t really thought of for myself.

I have been thinking of setting up a business blog for a while – since I decided to freelance, over a year or so ago. But I am not sure what I’d write, how I’d avoid abusing client confidentiality, and who my audience might be.

Mark identified three ways in which businesses could you blogs – research (what people are saying about you and your competitors on other blogs – he advocated aggregated websearchs for this, which I guess he would!), marketing (letting the world know what you do) and collaboration (both internally and externally).

All this makes sense, but it is nothing I haven’t discussed with Richard.

Mark suggested some useful strategies – say a little often (though that isn’t really my style), have your own voice (QED) rather than corporate-speak, make sure you reply to people, think before you post (d’oh!) – again, though, this all seemed common sense.

He also talked about the downsides of having a business blog – be careful what you say, because it will be out there forever; the pleasure of spam and linkfarms (ok, I’ll admit, I’m not sure what a linkfarm is…); the loads of garbage out in the blogosphere which make it hard to find stuff (and for people to find you). He also emphasised the next to have a blogging policy to avoid your brand being damaged and you staff being dooced – Mark told of someone working at Google who had been fired because of his blog (interesting how quickly don’t be evil can be forgotten…).

Interestingly, Mark was convinced that blogging would improve business productivity and performance. I’m not convinced – all that time people spend surfing the net and blogging about stuff rather than working – but then today Chris Dillow says much the same – indeed, that even negative postings can improve a business reputation.

Mark was a good speaker, and I enjoyed (although every slide he used had a lolcat picture which I really dislike (the grammar nazi in me just can’t help it!). He gave his thoughts on different platforms – Typepad, WordPress and Blogger, for instance – though really he said it came down to personal taste.

Things got more interesting with the Q&A session – people asking how to make money out of blogs (advertising seemed to be the main revenue stream, although I pointed out that some bloggers have successfully turned their blogs into published, paid-for books – it was only later when I really thought about it that I realised all those I could think of were about sex – Belle de Jour, Girl A One Track Mind and Catherine Townsend are about sex. On top of which, I remembered that Catherine Townsend writes a column (geddit?) in Independent, not a blog).

There was some interesting talk about the future of blogging: Mark talked about the convergence of social networking – mainly Facebook, though professionally LinkedIn seemed to be more popular with people networking afterwards – and blogging, and of the decreasing size of posts to message-like dimensions with Twitter (which calls itself a “microblogging service”).

There was a lot of chat after the talk – for once, I stayed around to network (possibly because I felt this was something I could contribute to), and drink some wine. One guy there was working on a program which would translate txtese into real words on your PC – so you could speed up your typing; another was building a program to do something different with social networking (I’ll admit that I didn’t fully understand what he told me!).

One of the other things Mark said in his talk was that the more you link to people, the more they link back – and hence you can build your audience, because people trawling through those blogs will pick up on you (as long as what you say is pertinent and intelligent – natch!).

Also, he reckoned that it made a lot of sense to search blogs for your own name – he does, with an RSS-enabled blogsearch, so presumably it just shows up on his RSS feed. So I am just waiting for him to drop by here… [And he did pop by where this was written, too!]

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