It’s winter; it’s cold outside. Shortly snow will likely cover many of the cars I pass while walking in Brooklyn. So, my heart goes out to you if you’ve been in hibernation. But I sure hope you have Internet in those caves. Reason being? You can not; or shouldn’t, shy away from blogging. It has evolved into a multi-faceted, ever-evolving form of social networking, of media coverage, and is one of the most crucial forms of putting your content out there. But what the hell is it?
We’ve heard the term for a while. It’s rather simple; “blog” is just a combination of the words web and log. But until recently, blogs were created by personal users and were rather static. That is, they were able to put their respective “content” on a blog; but the technology to use this content as a form of sharing, advertising, networking, etc was null. Often, blogs were simply online personal journals that were “read only” and didn’t allow for much interaction with others; thus this was not really social media, but personal media. What the hell is personal media?
Things have changed. Immensely. Bloggers now can not only post about themselves, or an issue they are addressing, but can interact with co-bloggers by being “followed” or following.” This simply means that people with similar interests could be followed (and they could follow you) and with your permission may re-blog your content and vice-versa. This is truly gentrifying an issue with many voices (and for that matter, forms of media ) while maintaining the autonomy of the blog being “yours.” Further, bloggers have the ability to ask co-bloggers questions, answer questions, connect, etc.
Blogging has become big business. People visit and post to blogs about virtually any subject, and it turns out the owners of these blogs have figured out that they can make their blogs very profitable. This is complicated, perhaps, to understand. Unless, of course, you are willing to understand several keys things. A three year old child of a friend of mine has a blog; albiet related to “Sponge-bob.” Turns out, it’s not just her inherent Internet prowess. She has over 1,000 followers. Generally, this group is between 2 and 6. They post clips from YouTube, they have adorable podcasts where they reiterate their sentiments regarding this fellow, Sponge-bob’s, latest adventures, they write back and forth regarding toys and plots. Initially, this was rather shocking to me. I cannot picture, for the life of me, doing this at that age. Never mind that i didn’t have the know how, that the Internet didn’t really exist, and that things were simply different. What really comes to mind is the “dangers” of the web…would my parents let me conduct such a platform? At three?
Well, here’s the thing that is important to note. This child’s mother is VERY aware of what her kid is doing. And she understands that the demographic, and the number of followers has attracted attention. From toy stores, Amazon, Sponge bob, Netflix: anything related to “Sponge-bob.” There are advertisements all over her site. Advertisers pick up on the amount of followers, seek space, and animated advertisements are all over the place. Thus, unbeknownst to the little blogger-that-could, she has a bank account that is growing daily, and making her mother drool. And this is all done via something that goes hand in hand with blogging: social book-marking and networking.
Social book-marking is more or less a by-product of blogging but it is based on the same basic technology. Social book-marking sites such as Delicious, allow their users to upload their own favorite site bookmarks so that everybody else in the world can see and use those bookmarks. When enough people click on the link, the site that has been book marked gets indexed and gains a rank by search engines.
Many of those who have created very successful (and profitable) blogs make use of such advancements as RSS feeds, podcasts and webcasts to enhance and promote their blog websites. In other words, they use a varied form of media. For example, the “Sponge-bob” devoted site is filled with YouTube clips, and four year olds making announcements regarding what Sponge-bob related products they got for Xmas (podcasts).
I can create any kind of blog I want. The first and most obvious choice to make is the topic of the blog. For those who plan to monetize on their blog, the choice of topic is a very critical one. If your intended blog is already part of a niche market (ie; artwork, news media, etc) then this makes things easier and marketable. If you simply want to have an online collection of your thoughts; it’s generally not going to harness much monetary wise, though you may get followers interested in the same things (there are trillions of blogs that are simply teenagers addressing their teenage angst with other teenagers; re-blogging other’s cynical outbursts.) I have come across these blogs often. This sort of venting may have benefits; I have noticed that these kids are consistently updating their blog, and gaining followers. That’s a good sign. They have a purpose, and a shared one. My parents, and friends, literally rely on my posts to track me. In other words, if I have not updated virally daily – in my case often a photograph - something must be wrong. These kids are ardent (albeit angry) bloggers. Something is engaging them. Keeping them motivated. Perhaps their parents are saving money on therapy, as well.
Blogs benefit from search engine spiders to visit the site so that it can become indexed and appear in searches made on search engine sites. This is the place where social book-marking comes into play. Owners of blog sites have learned to help each other in a sense. They can ping one another’s sites and create back links for both sites that are picked up by the search engine spiders.
Social book-marking is easily defined. It’s simply a way for a user to have a computer, then a site, that allows users to save and categorize a personal collection of bookmarks and share them with others. Users may also take bookmarks saved by others and add them to their own collection, as well as to subscribe to the lists of others - a personal knowledge management tool.”
Social book-marking is a way of organizing and categorizing information with the use of ‘tags’. Tags are user generated and are based upon key words that identify the bookmark so this is a true user-directed way that information is organized and categorized. When a bookmarked site is clicked on, the social book-marking site identifies the person who created the bookmark and provides access to other sites that the same user has bookmarked. Now, the person who created the bookmark and the tag is also provided information about how many times the link has been clicked on as well as who clicked on it. This system makes it very easy for like-minded people to make social connections and to identify others who have the same interests. Over time a community of users develops. As a community of users develops, they sometimes develop a very unique set of key words that define resources of common interest.
There are several ways in which social book-marking is having an affect on Internet marketing. The ability to create “tags” using key words; which social book-marking sites allow is very attractive to Internet marketers. So social book-marking sites provide free advertisement, increase the number of visitors to a website and are a great search engine optimization tool to boot. Another asset that Internet marketers quickly became aware of that social book-marking sites provide is that they are great research tools in and of themselves.
For example an artist may find that a tag such as “acrylic paint” is associated with “canvas” or “gallery.” Ah ha: More leads!
No longer is social networking limited to people who work at the same jobs or who live in the same communities. Social networking is now world wide and easily accessible to everyone who has access to a computer and an Internet connection. It all started with the advent of instant messaging technology but it has grown far beyond that limited ability. With instant messaging it was necessary to let others see your email address and so you lost much of your anonymity.
What’s best, I think, about all this? Social networking and complete anonymity are both possible. So, my friend can rest assured that her three year old can channel and re-channel everything possible about Sponge-bob, without ever disclosing her identity, or anything else about her. My friend monitors the site; and the most worrisome thing she came across was a five year old who posted a YouTube video he had made on her daughter’s site which claimed “Sponge-bob was for babies” while he attacked his brothers stuffed animal as the brother cried in the corner. This was immediately removed from the site, because, with sites being so customizable, one can allow (or not) posts to be put up, but can just as easily remove them.