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Maybe it’s the weather.  It can be positively gloomy in November in the Northwest.  Overcast, cold, shorter days mixed with long periods of wet.  Unlike So.Cal where this time of year the Santa Ana winds seem to blow warm and people remain in t-shirts and riding on dry pavement.

Even the light is different, as the air takes on that winter snap.

The contradiction got me to thinking about motorcycle bloggers and social media.  Yeah, I’ve been fairly skinny on the number of posts lately as the work gig is never ending, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think about how to improve.

I’m talking about ReTweets. Likes. +1s.  If the terms are unfamiliar then stop reading.

Bloggers talk about these things as the currency of meaningful social engagement.  Seriously?  Many insist that the holy grail of social marketing is to create meaningful relationships with readers.  So, why is it we reduce these relationships to the most meaningless metrics?

I have an opinion that when someone clicks a “Like” button it’s similar to a “Hand-Wave” as two motorcyclists pass on the road.  These are folks who give a nod and say, “Sure, communicate with me.” But, from that interaction we never conclude they are advocates or do we assume they have blog affinity. Essentially they were a drive-by, somewhat interested party.   Using a dating metaphor,  a Like or a ReTweet is simply someone saying, “What’s your sign?”  It’s not a relationship.  Bloggers seem to forget that the real relationship and engagement happens after the “Like.” It’s the dance of finding out stuff about each other. It’s the “conversations” which is akin to an unforgettable riding journey together.  It’s knowing the other party cares about who you are and what you feel. There’s a feeling of trust. The “Like” is just a glimpse into the experience and who knows if they will linger.

If your blog strategy is like a teenager who measures popularity by the number of Facebook friends or to “get Likes,” without thinking about your audience or what to do with those Likes after you get them, I would suggest you are what researchers – using that dating metaphor – call “desperate.”   You’re essentially building up a dairy of folks who you can ping later with some form of advertising which most often is hawking someone else’s wares. And just like with dating, you’re going to get rejected more often than not. Most people have more self-respect than that. They’re looking for true “blog love.” While most motorcycle brands (corporations) just want to……well, you get the picture.

Business 101 states that you double down in a recession, that’s when you invest.  That’s the opportunity to pull ahead of your competition.  How many motorcycle bloggers doubled down over the last 4 years?  For that matter how many trade publications and/or motorcycle magazines remain in business or innovated their way out of the downturn?  A few did, but mostly what we’ve heard about are cut backs or the occasional web page that got a fresh coat of paint at most.

The number one challenge remains and that is getting people to listen to you.  And the way you stick is by being different.  It takes longer to get traction, but you last longer.  We know that the public is restless.  People are open to change and they want some new ideas.  If you’re giving them the same ‘ol, same then you’re no different from the government.  Something we tolerate, but can’t really believe in.

The bottom line is if you’re working a social media program you need to think about the entire process, not just the “Likes.” Likes are meaningless without the hard work of relationship building, and until bloggers truly understand this and embrace it, we’ll be viewed like that dating metaphor — an indiscriminate speed dater who is not very clever.

Photo courtesy of Onlyfunnyjokes.com

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog
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timeoutAccording to a 2008 survey by Technorati, which runs a search engine for blogs, only 7.4 million out of the 133 million blogs the company tracks had been updated in the past 120 days. That translates to 95% of blogs being essentially abandoned, left to WOW (wallow on the web), where they become public remnants of a dream — or an ambition — unfulfilled.

I started blogging in 2006 which seems like a long time ago… then in 2007, prior to taking off on an extended motorcycle trip I started the Northwest Harley Blog.  The thinking at the time was that a mix of hobbies (motorcycle and photography) would be a natural fit and thus was born — rantings of a motorcycle enthusiast.

Many people start blogs with lofty aspirations — try to build an audience and leave their day job, land a book deal, get attention from traditional media or simply to share their so-called genius with the world. I did not! Some even assumed that once they started blogging, the world would beat a path to their digital door.  Getting started is easy, since all it takes to maintain a blog is a time commitment and inspiration. Some actually believe those TV advertisements about some mommy blogger making $4,000 a month?

As a “closet journalist” I like to provide a unique voice and work to accurately report and find unusual angles on stories related to motorcycle causes and the industry.  I also like to provide chronologies of my various ride and rally wanderings. After two+ years, or put another way — after 500 posts, 873 photo’s edited/uploaded, and several thousand moderated comments later I feel the blog is a successful hobby after obtaining on average 24,000 unique monthly views, but it’s also at a cross-roads.

trollThe internet is different now.  It used to be about research, accuracy and quality entries.  The good bloggers had something to say about the big motorcycle issues of the day.  Now it’s about snippets from people who pump out dreck or large excerpts of other articles.  Original and high-quality content has become dumbed down.  Bloggers are required to spend more time ‘digg-n’, ‘tweeting’, ‘facebooking‘, ‘youtubing‘ and SEOing their posts than they do on the actual posts themselves. Even H-D is pushing their social media outreach staff to pump up the noise level on marketing messages in non-traditional channels — i.e. bloggers.

Sure it’s cool to have all this media presence, you can tweet ad infinitum and make videos clips if you’ve got a burning desire to do so… especially if you love new media and are thrilled to be in constant contact with your fan base or “tribe.”  In other words, if its an end unto itself.

But, that’s what bothers me.  There is a point of diminishing returns and a mental cost to all the work.  In the early days all that was required to “win” at blogging was to show up early each day.  Today?  You need a team of social marketers to get your message out, a second team to manage any fall-out from whatever you’ve said and a third to manage all the SPAMers and deletion of bad behavior rolled up by the Google machine in the form of drive-by trolls and haters who try and take up residence.  As a result blogs have a higher failure rate than restaurants!

Not all blogs fade from lack of reader interest. Some bloggers find themselves too busy — what with, say, band-camp, and swim practice, or perhaps even housework. Others graduate to more immediate formats, like Twitter or Facebook and drop evangelizing via the blog platform. And a few — gasp — actually decide to reclaim some small slice of their personal time.  This brings me full-circle about a decision.

I’m going to take a blogging timeout. Little if any new material will appear during the month of October.  I plan to resume in November.  Why?  Having blogged consistently for over three years now, I think it would be wise to take a step back and evaluate the effects (both good and bad) and determine what if any new direction should be taken.  If you have an opinion or viewpoint I’m sure you’ll let me know.

I appreciate the allegiance of the blog reader base who subscribe and those who visit the site regularly.  If you happen on to this site during the month of October I hope you’ll enjoy looking through the archives.

Enjoy fall and ride safe out there…

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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