Monday, April 28, 2014

The 10 Reasons Why I Blog

I sometimes get asked why I blog. Given I put out at least three blogs a month and each one takes at least a few hours to write it is a fair question. I am, effectively, doing an extra day of work each month. Over the course of almost six years I have put out just shy of 200 blogs, which at a couple of hours each, is the equivalent of working for three months, with little direct income for my trouble. So here are a few reasons why I do it, on the off-chance you are reading this and considering doing the same. My reasons are listed from least important to most important.

1) For the Fame and Fortune

I often get told on LinkedIn, by people looking to link to me, that they are a fan of my blog so, perhaps, my blog has given me some level of fame within a small pocket of the internet. However, this is not the reason I write the blog. I do use Google analytics to monitor blog activity, and know I get about 4,000 visitors per month but I do not know who actually reads my articles. I write on topics I am interested in and, hopefully, this resonates with others.

In terms of making my fortune with a keyboard, I make NO direct income from my blog. Microsoft do not pay me to write it and I have no advertising links. I also consider it very unlikely that anyone will ever make a book or movie and pay me handsomely for the rights for my content.

When comments are added to my articles which contain commercial links, I usually remove them without prejudice. The most I have got out of my blog is a few free books when I have done a book review. I usually call this out, and any other conflicts of interest, as part of the article.

I did, very briefly, add advertising links to my blog but soon realised I had no control over the links served and feared it had the potential to damage my personal brand, so I turned them off.

If you are thinking of writing a blog for freebies and cash, write about hotel rooms, resorts and luxury items, not CRM systems. Of course, if anyone has any expensive Arduino sensors they want me to review, email me for my postal address.

2) To Prop Up My MVP Activity

As a Microsoft CRM MVP, I need to show I am active in the CRM community each year. If you are writing a blog BECAUSE you want to become an MVP or only to maintain your status, you are missing the point. In all honesty, I will be ranting about something on a blog well beyond my tenure as an MVP.

This being said, blogging is very visible and very measurable so, as a community activity, it works well for demonstrating passion and commitment.

3) For My Own Reference

This is more of a side benefit than a core driver for blog writing. On more than one occasion, I have searched for an answer to a question and found the answer in my own blog. The human memory is fallible, the internet is forever. In writing a blog I write it once and the search engines ensure I do not have to go far to recover the information.

4) Good Writing Practice

Regularly writing is the only way I know to improve one’s writing. English is a fickle mistress so most of us need all the practice we can get. Reading good writers of English, like George Orwell, is also useful, but actively writing allows you to find your own voice. I try to write as I speak but, hopefully, slightly more coherently.

If you are planning to write your own blog, read Strunk and White first. My physics professor forced me to read it before writing my honours thesis, many years ago, and it has served me well ever since. While I am sure I regularly violate its doctrines, I know my writing is better for its digestion all those years ago. In my opinion, Strunk and White’s “The Elements of Style” should be compulsory for anyone planning to write in the English language for the consumption of others.

5) Good Material For Presentations

I do quite a few presentations each year online and in the real world, often to audiences up to a few hundred people. If you want me to speak at your event/conference/dinner let me know; I am happy to oblige. I offer a money-back guarantee and no one has asked for a refund yet (of course, I mostly talk for free, especially if it is about CRM, so this is not too surprising).

Often, when approached, there will be a vision for a general theme but not a specific topic. My blogs provide a rich source of potential talks for which I already have a solid foundation of knowledge. Topics are discussed, one usually stands out and, with a script mostly written, all that is left is to create the presentation materials.

6) To Make Me Think Clearly

Writing on a subject forces you to clarify you thoughts, research them and then arrange them in a logical, coherent fashion. A good example of this was my “Is email dead?” blog. The assertion that email was on the way out did not ring true to me. Without a blog, it would have been easy to speculate but go no further. By forcing myself to write an article on it, I researched, found the actual studies on the subject, and then synthesized the information to form my own conclusions (email is not going anywhere and is VITAL in the formation of strong relationships).

7) To Test Out My Ideas

I come up with unique ideas sometimes, like the universal search tool for CRM and the flow model for bugs. I also come up with ideas contrary to contemporary wisdom. My regular blogs on the finances of Salesforce are a good example of this. Ideas are no good unless they are tested. Putting them into the wild on my blog is a great way to test them.

There is risk with putting ideas out into the wild. The main risk being you might be wrong. It is true my spreadsheet manipulation, late at night, has occasionally led me astray. The only advice I can give on this is from my wife, who studied public relations. She says “tell it all and tell it fast, before someone else does”.

In terms of where the ideas for my blogs come from, they come from various sources such as talks over drinks, projects I am working on and working with the product itself. The important thing is to capture the idea straight away, otherwise it is lost. When I first started the blog I was very concerned I would be unable to come up with things to write about each week. I started a Word document with blog topics in it. When I think of a new topic, I immediately add it to the document. I have never been short of a topic idea and the Word document is now five pages long and full of topics to write about in the future.

8) Content Marketing

Writing content that is of interest to others, allows me to promote that content and advertise myself and the company I work for (Oakton). Microsoft syndicates my blog (the only condition being I put out at least three blogs per month) and I promote it through all free channels available to me (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn groups).

While the leads this generates do not keep me in full time work, it does generate leads and connections which would be lost to me otherwise. This kind of marketing establishes a rapport even before a conversation has started and, while limited in the volumes of traffic it generates, the quality of the traffic is very good.

9) Brand Management

Reading my blog gives the reader a very clear picture of my interests, thoughts and strengths as a consultant. It is very clear that I am a functional consultant/CRM architect who works with Dynamics CRM and that I come up with creative, codeless solutions to problems that arise with the product.

My blog also establishes me as an authority. I am known amongst the other CRM MVPs as ‘the person who keeps an eye on Salesforce’ because of my articles on them. When meeting Microsoft’s Dynamics CRM product team a few years ago, one of them commented “you’re the guy that wrote the infocom game in CRM, right?” I nodded and smiled. That one article meant I immediately stood out to that developer and I was instantly recognised, hopefully for the right reasons.

Being conscious that my blog is an expression of my brand also keeps it focussed. It is rare for me to deviate away from CRM-related topics and, unlike my Facebook wall, things rarely get too personal or political. My blog is there to express my ideas and thoughts about CRM and to communicate my position to others. Any blog topic which does not support this goal is normally filtered out.

Blogs with their focussed, dynamic content, are the darlings of the search engines. Therefore a blog is a great way to ensure that when that person who just received your business card types your name into a search engine, they get relevant (hopefully intelligent) information associated to your name and not, for example, a physics paper you co-wrote over ten years ago.

10) Because I Enjoy It

If you do not enjoy writing a blog, do not do it. You have limited time on this planet, so fill your life with things you enjoy. I enjoy writing a lot. I enjoy it for all the reasons above and for the feedback I get from readers. I genuinely get a buzz when a reader tells me an article was useful or helped them out in some way. Even the feedback that someone took the time to read one of my articles puts a smile on my face.

While I do consider my blog writing as part of my work and it does take time (I started this blog post over six hours ago), the notion that I am making a difference and helping out others is the main reason I do it. If you are also motivated by such things perhaps blog writing is for you as well.


Andre Margono said...

Completely agree with your 3rd reason, Leon.

Anonymous said...

good points well made.

I would also add

I have learnt about new features in CRM because I thought it would make a good blog post.

The level of knowledge of a subject/functionality needs to be deeper to explain it someone else. Often when I am writing about a subject, I can learn more about it because I think about why, so I can explain the logic behind the steps.

Most of all it has to be enjoyable otherwise.