When social entrepreneurs ask me about a digital media strategy, the first words out of my mouth are often these: “start a blog, today, right now.” They sometimes look at me like I teleported in from the mists of 2006, but I always stick to that advice. Blogs are still a vital part of a strong digital media strategy, they’re inexpensive to start, they work very well with small teams of founders and do-gooders, and while they’re not as “hot” as they were half a decade or more ago, for my money they’re the best way for a social venture to communicate with a wide audience.
Sure, blogs are a bit long in the tooth. My own personal blog turned ten last month, and frankly I’ve been writing on blogs and pre-blogs and proto-blogs for nearly two decades now. It’s a long tail digital trail, and an older bit of technology in a mobile-dominated media world. But so what? Blogs today remain perhaps the most cost effective, sustainable, and best-structured communications commitments social ventures can make.
“Blogs are fantastic for highlighting issues and content that you care about, and establishing your organization as a leader and thought leader in the space,” says Jereme Bivins, Digital Media Manager at the Rockefeller Foundation. “Also, they don’t have to be solely for original content. Invite guest posts, share link-roundups or media that are compelling; or break down your organization’s dense reports or publications into digestible, focused stories or pieces.”
Social entrepreneur Caroline Avakian agrees. She recently launched SourceRise, a new social enterprise connecting journalists to expert sources at international NGOs. “Our website’s blog has been a critical piece in being able to tell the story of why we came to be,” says Avakian. “That one post has drawn a ton of traffic and it’s how people are getting to know us and sharing with their networks. I’ve found that people are more willing and inclined to share a founder’s story of a need she came to fill instead of just sharing a website.”
In my experience, there are five core reasons for social enterprises to use blogs for communications:
1. Tell your own story – Blogs are direct. They don’t rely on someone else’s network, and they allow you to express yourself freely. They’re also fast, generally easy to manage, and self-organizing. A decade into the mainstream acceptance of blogs, they’re still the easiest content management system to launch and to use.
2. Run your own press – Your blog is your blog. Especially if you’re hosting the software (or more likely, running it on a co-hosting service) it’s your printing press. Getting your story out the way you’d like to doesn’t matter on the limitations imposed by social media platforms.
3. Make authenticity matter – When you run a blog – and it does require a commitment to post regularly – it looks like the lights are on, and the social entrepreneur is in the office. Engaging potential supporters with your real voice (not the voice of a public relations agency) will pay dividends. And it also makes it easy to “go direct” with both success and failure.
4. Invite conversation and engagement – A well-run blog tells the world: “our front door is open, come in.” It allows you not just to publish, but to interact and share. For social ventures in a networked world, this is a simple concept and a vital one.
5. Social media needs a headquarters – Sure, social media is where the people are and you can’t not be active on Facebook and Twitter these days. But what are you going to say there, where are you going to send people, what are you going to share? Your blog – even a simple one – creates a digital media hub for your message and outreach.
That complete package makes a difference to social entrepreneurs. “I’ve been blogging for ten years now and it has been hugely valuable,” says nonprofit social media guru Beth Kanter. “I don’t have to market myself, establishes thought leadership, and serves as a home base for my social media presence. But there is another value, it forces me to track and write about the topics I do training and consulting on – and thus enhancing my knowledge and expertise. It serves as a ‘personal learning space or network’ where I can curate knowledge and share it with my network.”
And your blog is your blog – the organization is in the driver’s seat. “There’s a huge value to owning a simple printing press, 2014 edition, on a blog,” says consultant Howard Greenstein, my teaching colleague at New York University’s Heyman Center for Philanthropy and Fundraising. “They can take away your Facebook page, or change the rules of how promotion works, or suspend your Twitter. But they can’t take down your blog, as long as you don’t violate copyright rules.”
So make sure a blog is your digital plans for your social venture. “From a social enterprise perspective, it can be a critical component, especially when you’re just starting out” says Avakian. “We’ve found our blog to be an indispensable tool in sharing our story and building our network of journalists and nonprofits.”
Source: Forbes Business