Why is B2B blogging so dull?

Profile picture for user jreed By Jon Reed August 25, 2014
The Ad Contrarian has some strongly-worded tips for our B2B blogging woes. But are his blogging tips enterprise-ready?

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B2B blogging is at a motivational crossroads. Given that even the biggest media bohemoths are struggling mightily with the attention economy, why should we bother to blog in the land of nobody cares?

Then there is the problem of the bland platform. Perhaps due to the loneliness of a solo Wordpress blog, there's a notable migration to larger sites with bigger audiences but (sometimes) questionable reputations. Or, an employee is pressured to post on their employer's platform, which may have good distribution, but the sanitized editing process results in yawn-inducing output.

Is B2B blogging too dull?

Stats on blogging are easier to find then they used to be, but the quest for content ROI doesn't guarantee a good blogging outcome. Enter the notorious Ad Contrarian, who has some strongly-worded tips for our blogging woes in 7 Things I've Learned from Blogging (warning: content not safe for some workplaces). But are his blogging tips enterprise-ready?

The Ad Contrarian, real name Bob Hoffman, is a crotchety - err, I mean seasoned - advertising executive with a flair for the provocative. He always saves some venom for social media marketers, and who can blame him? He's parlayed his blog into two books, including 101 Contrarian Ideas About Advertising. Hoffman excels at getting attention and sparking debate.

Hoffman's blogging tips - and my enterprisey response

1. Social media can be effective

Hoffman: If you know what you're doing, and you have something to say, social media can be effective.

myPOV: A bit of a departure from Hoffman's usual social media critiques. Keep in mind that he is including blogging along with 'short form' social media here. Where I differ with Hoffman is he thinks large brands have no shot at being effective at social media. Not true. Whether you look at big examples like the SAP Community Network or smaller projects like IBM's big data podcast series, there are plenty of examples of enterprise companies getting things done with social media.

Yep, plenty are failing also. But it's not impossible. And: if enterprises manage to create good content, they can promote it through distribution channels, something the individual blogger might not have access to.

2. Most people are too scared to be effective

Hoffman: 'Being effective at social media means having a voice that is interesting and different. Most people aren't interesting and are afraid to be different.'

myPOV: Similar predicaments confront the enterprise blogger - though in my experience plenty of folks are interesting, but they may be partially muzzled by social media policies, or are playing it safe due to organizational pressures.

3. It's better to be interesting than right

Hoffman: You need to be provocative if you want readers to pay attention. 'Nobody bats a thousand. Being right is easy, being interesting is hard.'

myPOV: Not exactly. Being provocative for its own sake might score instant page views, but it can cost you in the long run in the B2B space. Being right is never easy in B2B - doesn't mean it isn't worth striving for, with all the diligence you can muster. The enterprise is rarely about absolute right and wrong. What matters is credibility. If you have an informed view, then yes, pushing a disagreement and taking a strong position, as Den Howlett would say, is the way to go. But not all great B2B posts are provocative. Some are about inside info, or resourceful how-tos.

As a B2B blogger, you earn attention through authority which you gain by freely sharing expertise. Yes, taking strong positions is a help. But: taking extreme positions for link bait reasons is a fail. And floating rumors to gain notoriety can backfire. Research paralysis is to be avoided, but those who dig before they post will gain reader trust. Being right may be overrated, but being informed is not.

4. It's better not to post than to post something dull

Hoffman: 'It's better not to post at all than to post either dull material or material that is easily found elsewhere.'

myPOV: Bingo. Hoffman goes on to say he has reduced his own posting frequency. Orbit Media recently issued a survey of 1,000 bloggers which also noted a shift from quantity of output towards quality. Less than 5 percent published daily.

The rest of Hoffman's tips pertain to social media being overrated. Hoffman claims his own blog generated more views in a day than his former agency's blog did in a year - a vivid display of the futility of mediocre content.

Final thoughts

Hoffman elevates provocation, whereas the enterprise blogger needs data to back up their views. But: his points on taking stances - and the gutless ways we hide from them - ring all too true.

For the enterprise blogger, this might mean a rethink of blogging on corporate channels (e.g. this author who realized the futility of content gigs for marketers). Maintaining a separate blog could allow more breathing room for controversial views. Forget provocation - in the world of B2B media, we're often happy just to find a human pulse somewhere.

Characteristics of great B2B blogging:

  • unique and/or credible data points
  • freely sharing (some) intellectual property
  • linking to other relevant posts (to avoid tunnel vision and show context)
  • avoiding news regurgitation by adding a fresh take
  • less concern with being first and more concern with rigor and quality
  • not afraid to challenge others
  • owning up to flaws and agendas in one's own argument, including financial disclosures
  • cracking the occasional joke, at oneself as well as others (the enterprise is desperate for satire)
  • less brand pimping and more vendor-agnostic search for customer value
  • balance between subject matter expertise and big picture view
  • personality/attitude/cultural reference points - a.k.a. 'your voice'
  • willingness to experiment, fail, and do it again

Quality blogging needs a human element, something Hoffman has nailed. But as he tells it, his former agency never did link to his blog - regardless of how popular it was. Therein lies the challenge. Finding the right voice is impossible when you are given sheet music to play.

Maybe that's when you put down your instrument and declare a state of absurdity. But somewhere out there is a platform that will support strong voices. Find it - not only for the sake of your readers, but for yourself. In the long run, a respected enterprise voice means a better enterprise career. That's worth fighting for.

Disclosure: diginomica has no financial relationship with Bob Hoffman. SAP is a diginomica premier partner.