The Role of the Blogger

Rheingold discusses the role of the blogger and the power of participation in chapter three of “Net Smart: How to thrive online.” This chapter, along with our other readings, caused me to reflect on the role of a blogger and their ability to influence action through participation.

The Power of Connective Blogging and Being Human in Markets

Rheingold discusses how connective blogging creates communities where people can comment, think critically, and influence action by sharing like-minded information. In the Cluetrain Manifesto, Levine, Locke, Searls & Weinberger argue that “markets” (bloggers, etc.) are able to do this because they speak in a human voice. They also argue companies often fail at this because they try to convince others they are human with lip service.

Most companies blog about their product or service and expect consumers to engage with it. They fail because they do lip service – they contribute to a conversation in order for you to buy such product or service. While this works to a certain degree – it is not the most effective way to create and influence action because most readers know what these companies are doing. Companies can create discussion, cause others to think critically, and influence action by being human.

Being Human Means Being Educational

Source: The Modest Man’s Website

The Modest Man is a good example of a blogger being human. Brock, The Modest Man, focuses on helping short men “dress better and ultimately feel more confident.” People actively watch his online videos, leave comments on his blog, and seek him out for fashion advice. Brock is not only able to get users to actively engage with his blogs and videos, but he was able to influence a men’s clothing company to change their sizing options after posting a positive, but critical review of their service.

Brock was able to have this effect because he has a human voice – he doesn’t post YouTube videos and blogs because he is trying to influence his audience to buy a certain product or service. He is blogging because he genuinely wants to provide helpful, educational information for those who are interested. When your focus is being educational, versus trying to influence a user to buy a certain product, you are more likely to gain a user’s trust (which Brock has done). The information he provides is authentic, truthful, and human because he is honestly trying to help men dress better, regardless of the product or service.

Being Human Requires Being Authentic

Source: The Chicken Whisperer’s Website

The Modest Man is similar in many ways to the Chicken Whisperer. Joe Pulizzi, author of Content Marketing Inc., loves to use the Chicken Whisperer as an example of a blogger who has gathered a large audience by posting educational content about raising chickens. However, it’s not that he just posts educational content – he demonstrates authenticity through his content.

For instance – his website and branding is slightly boring looking, but it helps provide authenticity. There isn’t shout outs to other brands, he doesn’t look like a executive who is trying to take your money, and most of his call-to-actions link to content and not products. This looks like a blogging information source that someone could trust and share with other users. His blog is shared because users respect and trust the information he provides them.

Being Human Means Being Trustful

Source: Realtime API Website

As a content marketer who works for companies, I often have a disadvantage because my content will automatically be seen as biased if I post anything about that subject matter on our corporate blog. One way I’ve remedied this is by creating third party microsites to publish and share information about a subject matter unbiasedly. For instance – my coworker and I created a microsite called realtimeapi.io that helps users build realtime APIs. All information we publish on this website is helpful for anyone who wants to build a realtime API and doesn’t focus on a single company or product. Whenever I create websites like this, I disclose that I work for a certain companies so users can trust and be cautious of the content. But websites like this also allow me to discuss a certain topic (like Realtime APIs) more generically and be more educational, and not force users to only look at my company’s product or services.

I believe connective blogging requires having a human voice. A human voice requires being educational, authentic, and being trustful. Companies typically fail at these three things because they only want to focus on their product and come off as biased. I believe companies must learn from connective blogger’s transparency and educational content to be truly successful in content marketing.

Posted on October 7, 2018, in Marketing, Social Media, Society and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. Hi Jeffry,
    You did an excellent job showing – through examples and pictures, just how a company can look human and authentic. I didn’t have a clear picture of this until I read your post. This also reminds me of some information I learned from a co-worker. She always talks about the importance of developing messages by starting with why. When we first tell people why, they become engaged and want to continue to listen. Then we tell them the what, which is all the details and facts we want to give them. Once they know why and have some solid information, then we go on to tell them how – or the action we want them to take. Many make the mistake of starting with what we want people to do. The result is that people will tune them out before they even know the why. It’s what separates the messages that get through from those that seem boring and businesslike. Simon Sinek has a good Ted Talk about this called “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.”
    In the work you do, do you see a correlation between starting with “Why” and using a human voice? Can these two be used together to create an even more compelling message?

    • Lisa, can you link to the TED talk here?

      • Here is the Ted Talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action?language=en

        Yes, I do see the correlation and I am very familiar with this Ted Talk.

        I always start with the “why” (the company’s purpose) whenever writing a blog post or email that will interact with customers. For instance, I’ll say – “At Particle, We believe in enabling you to build real IoT products that will solve real-world problems.” Then I’ll move into the “How” – “It is important to us that product creators have all the tools they need to power their IoT product, from device to cloud. And then the “What” – “That is why we’re proud to announce Particle’s IoT Rules Engine which will help accelerate your time to market.”

        This has a human voice because you give your customers a purpose that they can believe in. This is an extremely similar structure (if not the exact same structure) that Simon Sinek outlines in this Ted talk. I believe he is correct when he says this is how you inspire action, by going from why to what. However, so many companies follow this structure now. Companies are quite good about talking about themselves and many of them know how to inspire action from this pattern. So while it is a very human way of speaking (you give someone reason), it’s also a bit tired.

        It truly depends on the customer your talking to. Someone who loves your product will be inspired by your company’s mission and think you will sound human. To others who don’t care as much, it will just sounds businesslike and kind of preachy. To answer your action, they can be combined to make a compelling message, but it can also be easily ignored.

  2. I agree with Lisa–excellent choices to highlight blogs that actually gain readership through unique voices but not necessarily only with a bottom line in mind. I’ve had undergrads profile YouTube vloggers before and I’m amazed at what’s out there in terms of frequency of content production and loyal followings!

    • Definitely. YouTube Personalities (YouTube Celebrities) are extremely interesting when it comes to content production and loyal followings. I’m not against YouTube Personalities and bloggers having a bottom line (because everyone has to make a living), but it becomes a problem when they are self-promoting themselves all the time. Self-promotion isn’t a bad thing, but you tend to alienate your audience when you do it too much. However, it is interesting because YouTube influencers can promote their own products all the time, be criticized for constant self-promotion, but also maintain extremely high amount of viewers.

  3. I really enjoyed your blog this week. Content marketing is one of my main focuses in my emphasis in the MS ICT program. I took a course in Digital Marketing Strategy last semester and one thing we studied was that the best way companies win people over is to offer free content that is valuable to the reader without the ulterior motive of trying to get them to buy something. It shows good faith and builds rapport with consumers. Blogs are an extremely valuable tool to this thought process. From simply offering a free recipe to a mini book linked within a blog, consumers feel much more engaged and valued when companies are offering something without an expectation. It is about being human, sounding human and being genuine.

    I’ve actually heard of The Chicken Whisperer before and I believe it is because it was referenced in my course last semester!

    Thanks!

    Jennifer

    • Hi Jennifer!

      You may have heard of the Chicken Whisperer from me because I did a presentation last semester that mentioned him (and I believe we were in the same class – I could be wrong).

      I agree with everything you’re saying. Many companies that I’ve worked for will put case studies or white papers behind walled gardens so users have to provide their information first before they can download it. And I’ve had customers email me because they want to read the company’s white paper or case study, but don’t want to provide their email or information to gain access to the content. Blogs and posting content for free is a much more loyal way to get a strong following, and it truly shows customers that you aren’t just looking at them as a dollar sign.

  4. Hi Jeffrey,

    Thank you for your thoughtful, insightful blog post this week. Upon completion of reading it, I have determined it is far easier said than done to be truly “human”, at least in accordance with the definition within this context.

    Thank you for sharing the blog The Modest Man, which I find to be uplifting and inspiring. As one who struggles with self-confidence, this particular blog aims to help vulnerable males build confidence while steering them away from blissful ignorance and outward arrogance. To be honest, I have already bookmarked this blog!

    Great work!

    ~Jeff

    • I’m glad to hear you bookmarked it! I enjoy checking in on his videos and blogs from time to time. When I first found his stuff, I didn’t even know his “content tilt” was aimed at short men. His content is helpful for me because I am a rather skinny guy and have a hard time finding clothes that fit me – he knows the best places to get clothes that will fit perfectly. I highly recommend!

  5. Hi Jeff,

    Wow, tremendous job this week! I loved your first reference to blogging and the tie with being human. You mention, “They also argue companies often fail at this because they try to convince others they are human with lip service,” I think this so true. Oftentimes by telling and re telling people content they either lose interest, have no idea what you said or care to seem what you said, or they they are fully intrigued and want to hear more (but, how often does this happen especially in the work place setting). This reminded me of knowing your audience and always asking yourself if a blogger were to visit your blog post what value can they take away from this. When addressing the latter I think being able to offer your reader something for stopping by your blog is huge whether that’s a fact sheet, how to guide, or a general pdf or one sheet document they can download or share with others. Reverting back to your sentence above on “lip service” I think this is where individuals tend to get lost or lose interest when there is nothing really to show for it or for them to have a tangible item to take with them after listening.

    Your example about the man leaving feedback on a clothing company’s product and having an impact also brings in another area where the company is listening. I think it’s so important as an e-commerce, brand, company, organization to pay attention to all reviews including the good and bad. No experience is a bad one because you can always learn from it and sometimes one’s flaws or faults may result in new inspiration or ideas for whatever it is the company is selling. You include the human voice in this portion and illustrate how being human has the power to influence and I think this is what companies look for when they read product feedback. The power to influence can help shape a company’s persona and can even be used to promote on social media, displaying a user’s actual feedback and experience through multiple lens. By including individual’s human voice and their own story on a company’s social media platforms it provides other viewers with real evidence, being shown, how a transformation took place, who inspired that change and finally the results and satisfaction of both the individual and company.

    Great post and examples this week very riveting content!

    -Kim

    • Kim,

      Jennifer and I had a similar discussion above about the importance of offering free stuff and content. It is incredibly strong way to show loyalty and “humanness” to customers.

      I also agree with you that listening to customer’s feedback can influence a company’s persona. You can definitely see that in effect with Brock’s review of Stannt (the company). Stannt saw his review, made changes to their service, and reached out to him again to show that they listened to his feedback. Because of Stannt’s openness to feedback, Brock made another review where he promoted the company because they listened to him. This was a great PR / marketing move because not only do Stannt show that they listen to feedback (which shows that the company has a good persona), but they get a free shout out as well. Being human benefited both parties in this case.

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