State of the UnBlogosphere

David Sifry recently posted the latest State of the Blogosphere.

As always, the medium looks strong and growth is explosive. And as always, the blogosphere is excited about the new numbers.

But, I have a slightly different take on “the state” of the blogosphere. Obviously, Technorati has a very good vantage point to see what’s happening in the blog world…but what about the state of blogs out in the overall real world?

I’ve always maintained that the blogosphere is a long way from being mainstream. But recent experiences have cemented that belief for me.

Recently, I started delivering a new speaking topic called Blogs: Marketing as Conversation. It’s somewhat of a blog101 and a how-to on using blogs to reach out and have conversations with customers. To date, I have delivered it twice and I’m booked to give it a few times in the coming months. The groups that I have already delivered it to include a marketing professionals group and a businesswomen’s group. Both were populated with intelligent informed businesspeople who are active marketers. But in both instances, I found a dichotomy in regards to the audience’s awareness of the blogosphere.

At the beginning of the presentation, I ask for a quick show of hands for…
1) People that have heard of blogs (Usually most of the room)
2) People who have ever read a blog (less than half the room)
3) People who have ever left a comment on a blog (5-10 people)
4) People who are bloggers themselves (2-3 people)

The amazing thing as I go through the presentation is that it’s all new to them. I observe that most take notes on “new” concepts such as Technorati, RSS, Scoble, the long tail, the cluetrain, and a thousand other things that you “inside the blogosphere” take for granted as common knowledge.

Now obviously, there are a few people in the room who “get” all of it. (The handraisers on questions 3&4) They come up afterwards with great questions and want more in-depth knowledge. As I’ve discovered this extreme two-toned group, I’m having to re-do the presentation before I present it again. Imagine giving a speech about the need for a U.S. Mission to Mars in a room made up of 50% rocket scientists and 50% average Joes. You get too technical and you’ll lose the Joes. And you bore/patronize the rocket scientists when you explain that Mars is the 4th planet.

In essence, this is what the blogosphere doesn’t understand. And it’s the biggest danger to the continued growth of the medium. Yes, it’s great that we can have a conversation among ourselves about blogs and bloggers and how it’s going to change the dynamics of communication and marketing. We can point to successes. But frankly, most people are not on the train.

“Well, Chris, you can’t base the entire state of the blogosphere on the reactions of two groups that you spoke to.” OK. Here’s what an attendee of the recent Blog Business Summit had to say about the acceptance…

I enjoyed the speakers at the conference and thought for the most part they were interesting and informative. At the same time, I felt like they are so keyed into the blogosphere that they don’t really know how to relate with people who aren’t. I contribute to 2 blogs right now, I use RSS and Bloglines, I know how to navigate Technorati, I’m somewhat comfortable with del.icio.us, and I know what the term Google Juice means, so I’m probably more familiar with the concept of Web 2.0 than a lot of folks out there. But, I didn’t relate to most of the “elite” bloggers (or bloggerati) at the conference who referred to themselves as tech geeks.
One of the things I would’ve liked to have learned is how to get people involved in blogging. There are many people out there who simply don’t get blogs. I have a handful of friends that contribute to blogs or read them; the rest of my friends think they are just online diaries full of inane ramblings. Sure, some of them read blogs without even knowing it, and I try to point that out, but for the most part they have no interest in the blogosphere. To them it has a negative connation, like MySpace has to me.

My current view of the “State of the Blogosphere” is that it’s like the Shakers. Bloggers are passionate about the blogosphere, but the belief will die out because you’re not creating new adherents.

Yes. Your blog is ranked 9,XXX on Technorati, but the only thing that really shows is your influence with other bloggers. What’s the reach of your blog to the non-blog community?

Right now the blogosphere, for all its power, is equivalent to a room full of people who each have a bullhorn and they’re all talking. Every now and then, they all point to one of the bullhorns and maybe repeat what that A-list bullhorn is saying. And every now and then, someone from outside the room stops and listens, but it’s mostly a closed system.

Here’s my challenge to you.

Get your head out of Dungeons & Dragons a/k/a Second Life and get out in the real world to start promoting this thing that you’re so passionate about. And I don’t mean at a conference full of tech people. Go to a local Chamber meeting, find a small business person, and ask them if they’re using blogs to talk to their customers. When you’re checking out at the grocery, ask the mother behind you if she reads Dooce. Ask a marketing director if she checks a blog search engine for mentions of the company.

I think you’ll be shocked.

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Chris Houchens is a marketing raconteur & writer. Connect with him on Twitter or Facebook.

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3 comments on “State of the UnBlogosphere
  1. Teresa Valdez Klein says:

    Chris: I couldn’t agree with you more. As with any other passion, sometimes those of us who are passionate about blogging forget that there are tons of people out there that are still asking the question “what is a blog?”

    I do try to reach out to people when I have the opportunity. It’s actually gotten to the point where my fiancé begs me not to start explaining what blogs are at parties anymore.

  2. terrell says:

    This issue came up again at a business networking event last night in Seattle. It was a session on business blogging and I’ll admit I arrived late because I wanted to miss the Blog 101 part.

    Anyway, we split up into groups to brainstorm and the man I was with could not understand how a blog would benefit his business. He was there because he keeps hearing about how he HAS to have a blog and how EVERYONE has one. Instead of being inspired last night he was frustrated because he couldn’t relate to the speakers. And they weren’t even techies! It’s just that blogging is such a foreign concept to so many people, you really need to know how to reach people or you’re just going to turn them off to the whole concept.

  3. Mario Vellandi says:

    Most people understand blogs as being personal diaries. So what we have is a stereotype that is not simply going to go away because of its personal connotation and the ratio of excellent : unworthwhile blogs out there.

    What we need is complementary or new words to describe the specific application of the newsfeed/blog/discussion at hand.

    Secondly, I believe it’s just a matter of time until the community learns about more practical applications of blogging when applied to business communication, and we can move from the subjective to the applied. And what we need is case studies and practical examples of niche applications.