Blogging is morphing from a grassroots revolution to a mainstream commercial communications tool. And that's making all the difference in how the 80,000 who start a blog each day and all the rest of the14.2 million bloggers chat it up the blogosphere.
In fact, ecommerce expert Paul Chaney, President of Radiant Marketing Group, observes that even the term "blog" is being replaced by the more formal communications term "content management system."
So, what does all this mean? A total re-thinking of how to use this medium.
As I see it, -- this is very analogous to how the 1970s counterculture movement morphed into a mainstream phenomenon with many commercial applications -- blogging has lost its original innocence. Which is to be expected with a tool this powerful.
There will be less and less attention paid to the spontaneous outpourings of "amateur" bloggers who share their daily activities, feelings and impressions. The medium is now too sophisticated for that. Its passage from a quirky underground thing to something the establishment has anointed as highly useful has been rapid in a medium which is only six years old.
So, to be taken seriously, the postings will have to be clearly differentiated from all the other "stuff" out there. Call it niche marketing, or as marketing expert Jonah Bloom declares in his AD AGE column, not being everything to everyone. Thanks to niche marketing, reports Bloom, Ben & Jerry's - with its clearclearclear brand identity - spends 25 to 50 percent less on marketing itself than does Haagen-Dazs.
That now-must differentiation can come in almost an infinite number of ways: Really provocative/controversial content. Information that can't easily be obtained elsewhere. Brilliant analysis of events, trends, personalities. Authorship by a celebrity such as Donald Trump. Dogged persistence in following a topic. Passionate commitment to a cause or to a corporate function such as customer services, quality, design (e.g. GM's Robert Lutz). And so on.
In short, just putting it out there is no longer enough. That phase is over. As in all other kinds of messaging that will get attention everything connected with the blogosphere has to be strategic. Bloggers can not expect a free pass.
Sad? In some ways, yes. Change always comes with regret. Take the twelve-step movement that was so inspiring in the 20st century. In the 21st century that ideology is being carefully questioned as to its effectiveness and efficiency in modifying destructive behavior. In fact, in her September 2005 THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY review of Maria Housden's book "Unraveled," Sandra Tsing Loh refers to our times as post-twelve step. As someone who perceives that participation in a few twelve-step programs altered the course of her life for the better, this is, well, sad for me.
My advice to clients: If you're blogging now, you better do a better job of it. And you must now use blog postings as just one approach in a integrated marketing campaign. That could include mainstream media (MSM), snail mail, speaking engagements, special events, telemarketing, and so on. In these times, blogging can no longer be applied in a stand-alone way or as a total strategy. It must be a part of a more comprehensive strategy.