Google+: The Resurrection

Somewhat surprising news emerged recently in the social media world. According to Global Web Index, Google+ has surpassed Twitter to become the second largest social network in the world.

Here’s how the numbers break out: Facebook still holds the top spot with 693 million active users, Google+ has 343 million actives and Twitter comes in at 288 million.

Google+ has had quite a journey over its short history. It started with a bang and millions joined in droves. Then, it went through a period of diminished use and got labeled a “ghost town.” But the site has been steadily gaining interest and traction to get to where it is today.

I’ve always liked Google+. Some have unfairly overly compared it to Facebook, and although it does have some  similarities, it’s a very different site with differing strengths and appeal. G+ users aren’t subjected to advertising. It also offers a cleaner and simpler user experience, not to mention that it’s a great site to connect and engage on a deeper level with others that have similar interests.

A couple recent innovations that I think have helped G+ dramatically include the introduction of Communities and allowing brand pages to more easily connect with consumers. Both moves allow finding and connecting with others to be a much easier and enjoyable exercise.

It’s great to see where G+ has landed. Of course, with the competitiveness of social networks, things can change in a matter of months.

(Shorter) Content is King

Bigger isn’t always better. In fact, when it comes to content, shorter, bite-sized pieces are often (but not always) better. For marketers and content publishers, competition for attention and speed of information almost necessitates shorter content in many cases.

Shorter content allows more frequent publishing, which is needed when the average life of a tweet, Facebook or Google+ post is only hours.

It can also be saved and built into lengthier content pieces. Entire books have come out of a of series of blog posts. If the content is collected it can be used for any number of long-form applications.

Bite-sized content also allows fast communication. Views can be shared more immediately while news is breaking.

Passive audiences are also more likely to consume a short piece of content than a piece they fear will steal their time.

Long content pieces will always continue to have their place and importance. But with content marking, saying it as quickly as possible without sacrificing quality are becoming as important as ever.

Here are a couple excellent (but longer) posts on content brevity:

6 Reasons to Make Your Big Idea Small

What’s So New About Content Marketing?

To Blog or Not to Blog

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for blogging, or business blogging at least.

First came the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth study that delivered these findings, among others:

  • Blogging declines for the first time among the Inc. 500.  Fifty percent of the 2010 Inc. 500 had a corporate blog, up from 45% in 2009 and 39% in 2008.  In this new 2011 study, the use of blogging dropped to 37%.  Companies in the Advertising/Marketing industry are most likely to blog while companies in Government Services and Construction make very little use of this tool. This decline mirrors a trend in other sectors as this mature tool evolves into other forms or is replaced by communication through Facebook or Twitter.
  • New tools replace older ones.  Facebook and LinkedIn lead the way. The platform most utilized by the 2011 Inc. 500 is Facebook with 74% of companies using it.  Virtually tied at 73% is the adoption of the professional network, LinkedIn.  Twenty-five and 24% respectively report that Facebook or LinkedIn is the single most effective social networking platform they use. Texting, downloadable mobile applications, and Foursquare are being utilized by 13%-15% of the 2011 Inc. 500.

The study was followed by a Digiday post by Jack Marshall that indicated creative agencies are ditching their blogs as well. Here’s the quote that sums up the gist of the post:

“Nobody reads agency blogs, and there are so many out there it’s impossible for people to keep up anyway,” said Sam Weston, director of communications at digital agency Huge. “We put ours on hiatus while we figure out what we want to do with it. We do use Facebook and Twitter. We’ve figured out what works for us there.”

Marshall’s Digiday post caught the attention (or ire) of popular bloggers Mitch Joel, Chris Brogan and Shel Holtz.

From Joel:

Here’s a dirty little secret: I hope more agencies stop blogging. I could also name some bloggers that I’d like to see stop. Why? Am I being mean? Absolutely not. I see too many agencies and bloggers struggle with their blogs. It’s both obvious and painful to watch. They wind up spending too much time writing about themselves or covering the same areas of interest that everyone else is talking about. They’re afraid to have an opinion, step into a territory that they’re uncomfortable with and – most of all – they’re afraid to go “off brand.”

From Brogan:

I’ll tell you without even having to look why nobody reads a blog: because it’s boring. Because it’s poorly written. Because it’s utterly self-referential.

Nobody has time to read junk. Why would you? There’s so much great material out there.

From Holtz:

The assertion that nobody reads agency blogs came as a surprise to Niall Cook, one of the architects of Hill & Knowlton‘s blogging initiative. Cook left H&K last year to start his own consultancy—Sociagility—but says that by the time he left, the agency’s blogs “were generating more traffic and higher search engine rankings than the corporate website.” The website, he says, cost considerably more than the few thousand dollars invested in getting the blogs up and running.

“Even today, there are way more links to blogs.hillandknowlton.com than to http://www.hillandknowlton.com or http://www.hkstrategies.com,” Cook says. His new company’s blog covers topics like why there will never be a standardized social media ROI metric. There isn’t a new-hire or we-won-an-award post to be seen.

In fact, those self-promoting blogs Marshall seems to think characterize agency efforts don’t represent the best agency blogging. Agency blogs that produce the kinds of results H&K has achieved spotlight thought leadership, not awards and new-hires. The ain’t-we-great style of blog—whether from an agency or a company—never appealed to anybody, a fact reinforced by Forrester research that dates back 3-1/2 years.

It could be, given the data from the Dartmouth study and at least the appearance of a decline in blogging among agencies, that businesses overall are coming to the conclusion that blogging isn’t for them, and that’s okay.

I’m pro blogging from a marketing standpoint and feel there can be numerous benefits to the tactic. Not every business, however, fully understands blogging and how to execute it successfully. Or, it could simply be that these businesses have found other channels that yield increased ROI and choose to focus on those. That’s perfectly fine.

The idea that businesses must blog or that blogging is some kind of silver bullet holds no truth. Blogging, like other forms of marketing requires strategy, commitment and hard work. Even then, in most cases business blogs take time to mature.

So, choose wisely. Blogging holds great promise, but should be undertaken with great care and planning. If that’s not the right approach (for your business), the marketing world has many other avenues to choose from.

What do you think? Do you feel business blogging is on the decline?