Dina Mehta says, “My blog is my Social Software and my Social Network“. Many bloggers, including Lilia Efimova, seem to share this feeling. Dina cites the richness of content of a blog compared to a profile pages on a networking cite as the primary reason. She also points to the various back-end tools that allow her to carry on an extended, public conversation with other bloggers. Lilia sees a balance between the two, appreciating the immediacy of information that a profile on a social networking site provides, but also the depth that comes from reading someone’s blog. She summarizes it by saying: “I’m thinking about YASNs and weblogs in terms of contact management (knowing whom and how you can reach) and relation management (knowing why you do it and why they would react). For networking you need both…”
I, too, appreciate the role of both. I do, though, see some limitations to blogging, particularly for the impending mass of mainstream users:
- While blogging itself is fairly accessible, many of the back-end tools that allow that connectivity are not. Every new blogger will most surely end up pinging weblogs.com and blo.gs, but how many will learn how to properly use Trackback, properly join and ping the Blog Network, or set up different categories in their blog to ping the proper categories at Topic Exchange? The basics of posting and linking are easy enough, but the stuff that enables blogs to be really useful as social networking tools are still somewhat exclusive to the digerati.
- Blog conversations are NOT egalitarian, as has been discussed recently by Joi Ito, Clay Shirky, Marko Ahtisaari, et al. I’m not saying that’s “wrong”, or “bad”, just “inaccessible” for most users, compared to the openness of a discussion forum or mailing list. With blogging, you simply have to work a lot harder to be heard by anybody.
- Reading and writing blogs can be enormously time consuming. I appreciate the rich picture I can get of someone from reading their blog, but do I really want to do that with every single person I meet? It’s completely impractical. As we point out in our book, The 5 Keys to Building Business Relationships Online, the number of people in your network and the average strength of your relationships with them are inversely proportional, constrained by the time one is willing to spend building relationships. Furthermore, different people need different balances between numbers and strength of relationship. Someone selling $15 e-books needs more people at a much lower strength of relationship than someone selling $150,000 enterprise software. Blogs are great to have there to provide the depth when wanted/needed, but they’re not as useful as a purely exploratory tool.
Bottom line: I, too, see the role both can play in building a rich and diverse social network. If you’re primarily interested in deep, long-term relationships, then your blog should be your focal point, and the profiles in the various social networking sites merely additional points of presence to invite people into the richer communication of your blog. On the other hand, if your needs are more towards a broad visibility, not just among the blogging technorati, then less frequent blog posting and more time spent in group discussion in the social networks is a better strategy. If your relationship needs are far more focused, i.e., wanting to meet people, or people in specific roles at specific companies, then business-oriented social networking sites, not blogs, are the place to do that.
They can all be part of the mix, but the portion of your time and energy spent in each platform should be aligned with what your objectives are for social networking.