Arment Dietrich

Content As Conversation On Your Business Blog

By: Arment Dietrich | August 1, 2010 | 

Catherine Novak over at WordSpring wrote a great post Tuesday on the merits of content versus conversation. As the word count on the comment I began to leave for her continued to grow, I realized I just might have a blog post of my own on my hands.

In her post, Catherine quotes Cory Doctorow (via Clay Shirky): “Conversation is King, content is just something to talk about.”

When I blog, my primary goal is to strike a conversation. Some people write for catharsis. Some to preach. Some to sell. I write for conversation.

“But this very post is published on a business blog,” you might be thinking. “Isn’t the point of a business blog to sell?”

And it would be difficult to argue with you – or with Joe Pulizzi, who wrote a solid post of his own on Tuesday entitled “Sales Is the Reason Your Content Exists.” But, wait, hear me out.

Yes, I’m writing for a business blog. And, yes, we would very much like to sell our services.

BUT… you don’t sell services through a blog post. You sell services through a conversation. And you sell them if you excel at creating content as conversation on your business blog.

If I write one really good blog post, no one’s going to say, “Quick, let’s hire that guy.” (If anyone has had that experience, I’d really like to hear about it.)

Business blogging is not about the hard sell. And it’s not about preaching from a soapbox, because even if you have all the knowledge in the world, people aren’t interested in taking orders from the people they hire.

Business blogging is about fostering a relationship with your readers over time. It’s about creating a space where readers look forward to spending time, where they can congregate with other readers and feel comfortable sharing their views.

That’s not content. It’s conversation. It’s community.

And if someone feels comfortable conversing with you over an extended period of time, if they feel a part of your community, well, when the time comes that they have a need for services you offer, they don’t need to think very long about who to turn to.

So, ok, you got me. Business blogging really is about selling after all. But the best way I know how to sell is to engage a potential client in conversation. There should be a give and take, a meeting of minds.

That’s why when I set out to write a blog post, it’s not selling that I have on my mind; it’s conversation.

My hope is that this post will strike up a pretty nice one. So, let me know what you think. Are you thinking about conversation when you blog? Are you thinking about selling? What works for you?

  • The most interesting business blogs to me are the ones that get me thinking and compel me to post something. But I want to make sure if I do post that I add value to the conversation. That’s the tricky part for me. There have been lots of times when I’ll start writing in the comment box only to delete it.

    Same goes for posts to my company’s blog. Our blog is a mix of industry stuff, client profiles, media profiles, book reviews, and some fun about our company. Certain posts generate more comments than others.

    Do we hope people will come to our blog and want to learn more about us? Of course, but like you, I’m just hoping to start a conversation. Get to know us a little better, we can talk about business later.

    • Abbie, I think your last sentence hit the nail on the head. People don’t want to do business with faceless companies. They want to do business with other people. And when it’s about people, it’s about people we know.

      I didn’t ask my future wife to marry me upon our first meeting, figuring we’d get to know each other along the way. The same should go for business. Let’s get to know each other first, see if our thoughts and approaches mesh, and then we can talk about hiring if/when we’ve reached a comfort level with each other.

  • @Dan, This is an interesting position because I do think business blogging is facing a bit of a dichotomy at the moment.

    On the one hand you can build a community with a blog, start conversations, and really become an industry hub. On the other, you can use a business blog to generate traffic, do better in Google and lead organic traffic to landing pages for conversion and thus business.

    I’m not saying that conversation doesn’t lead to business; but I do wonder sometimes if it’s a slower process.

    Communities often come back for the comments and discussion rather than sales. For example, with a site like this one how many of the comments are from people working in the industry as opposed to prospective clients?

    Sure, prospects might see this is a vibrant place but where’s the conversion strategy? Does better conversation lead to better sales?

    Finally, I wonder if Twitter or Facebook isn’t better for short bursts of rapid conversation. Facebook is particularly good for building and retaining a community and there’s less emphasis on sales.

    I’m not sure what my own take on this is here, but I’m just thinking out loud.

    • Thanks for thinking out loud with us, Jon. I’m glad to have gotten you thinking, even if we may ultimately disagree.

      One thing I do agree with is that SEO is key for building business. But, while I’m not an SEO expert, I do know that keywords are only a part of the SEO equation. One key factor is authority, which can be built through, among other things, inbound links, which often come as a result of conversation. (Like the link you provided back to this post from your own reaction post on your site this morning!)

      I also agree that conversation is a slow process. Like I said, one blog post isn’t going to get clients banging down your door overnight. But, while keywords provide more instant gratification, conversation builds relationships for the long haul.

      I would never claim that conversation is a get-rich-quick strategy, but I do believe, when done right, it will provide solid results in the long term. I think Spin Sucks and Arment Dietrich is a perfect example of this, and there are certainly many others.

  • When I blog, I am not thinking about selling. My favorite posts have little to do with me but are those in which readers conversed with me and each other. I slowed down my blogging this year and part of the reason was that external pressure to “make it count.” Reading this led to my own “aha” moment. I like sharing information that will help others and of course I want people to hire me but as you point out sales happen through relationship and relationships come through conversation.

    • Congrats on your “aha” moment, Karen! And thanks for stopping by. Maybe we’ll see more frequent posts from you in the future? I hope so!

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  • Daniel, I’m with you on relationships and community. I have always believed in the conversation when it comes to blogging. It’s about education and establishing a relationship. That is where I tend to focus whenever I’m thinking about a blog post. I like to get points of view. People like to offer their perspectives and that is where true value is. When this interaction takes place, people want to do business with you naturally. Sometimes you don’t even have to ask for the sale, directly anyway.

    • It’s great to see you on Spin Sucks, Anna! I think you’re right about the true value being in the diversity of perspectives.

      Danny Brown actually just blogged about this very subject, saying that the post is the “apperitif” and the comments are the “real meat.” I really like this analogy — and I appreciate you adding some meat to this conversation!

      Oh, and best of luck on your announcement of seeking new professional opportunities. I know you’ll find something both challenging and satisfying!

  • jenet

    ya everyone has its own view

  • @Dan I must say, this is one post that has really caught my attention to comment. I hardly comment on posts but this one sure got me.

    I have been into blogging for a while and I’ve also observed over time that posts which get comments are those where I talk about my personal experiences, something probably happening in my area or a major upcoming event.

    This is a really great post that has confirmed my little hypothesis.

    • Thanks so much, Israel! I’m happy to know that you enjoyed the post and that it inspired you enough to leave a comment. Cheers!

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  • “Conversation is King, content is just something to talk about.” That was a very thought-provoking statement. I’m very used to “Content is King”, but if you look at it as just something to talk about, it opens up another level on the playing field. If the people can actually interact through conversation… Great article, thanks for the post.

    • Yes, I think we’re all used to the “content is king” statement, and that’s why I was so intrigued by the “conversation” one when I read it in Catherine’s original blog post.

      Thanks for the comment!

      • You’re quite welcome. I couldn’t help after I thought about it for a minute.

  • melisawilson31

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    “Jamie Dingman”

  • oconn92234

    Its the age old thing – people like to buy but hate to be sold to. If you can engage your readers such that they want to buy and not be sold to then your doing it correctly be it from blogging, though social networks or whatever. Yes its easier said than done though

  • lkj12321

    I think the conversation aspect of blogging has started to disappear a little bit. Thank you for recognizing it’s importance and how great it is to connect with people from all over to share opinions. Hopefully more bloggers will see it the same way you do.

    Luke  |

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