Get out your dancing shoes, it’s time to blog

Pop quiz: Over the next three years, what is the number one skill that will be needed by marketing professionals?

Answer:  An ability to entertain.

I realize that is not normally something you would put on a resume.  Let me explain.

I often wonder, “Who really has the time to read all these blogs?”  Don’t you feel a bit overwhelmed by the amount of information coming at you every day?  Of course. Who doesn’t?

Well, guess what … you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!   2010 will The Year of Content as the fight for your attention gets much, much more competitive.

Who do you think will win that fight?  The organizations with the most riveting content. 

What will make that content riveting? It will entertain, it will amaze, it will amuse.

And who is going to make the big money on the social web?  Those who can make that entertainment happen.

Yes folks, the ability to entertain will be a white-hot commodity.

Of course creativity and an entertainment factor has always been in demand in advertising circles but I think we are looking at a future where you are going to have to employ Madison-Avenue-quality entertainment value just to get eyeballs to your company blog.  Let alone understanding of the message.  Let alone engagement.  Let alone something that turns into a sales lead.  Consumer expectations to be entertained, as well as informed, are rising exponentially. How will you deliver?

I’m not saying there isn’t going to be room for serious commentary and discussion.  Of course there will. But let’s put it this way, if you have a choice to read a blog that’s interesting or a blog that is interesting AND consistently entertaining, where will you spend those precious moments of your time? Case closed.

What are you going to do to cut through this rising tsnamai of content with YOUR message?  Do you really think a company blog or Facebook page is going to cut it?

As for me, I’m dusting off my dancing shoes.  It’s Hammer Time.  Can’t touch this.

Community alert: Jon Buscall, a frequent contributor to {grow} has written an excellent post on this same topic.  Jon writes well but he cannot dance worth a shit.

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  • Yet again you hit the nail on the head with your take, Mark. I agree, I think this year is the one where repetition and those churning out recycled content will be cast aside for the entertainers and storytellers. Somehow I think I know which side of the coin you’re going to be on… 🙂

    And thanks for directing me to Jon’s post as well – off there now, and mighty unslefish of you 🙂

  • Cheers, Mark ! Appreciate the link-love. Alas, I’m more Flight of Stairs than Fred Astaire on the dance floor.

    The big challenge in the B2B space is to really deliver on entertaining content. It’s somehow easier for the likes of Gawker or Perez Hilton to amuse.

    Danny is right. Storytelling is going to be an important tool for B2B bloggers. I think stories can be a great way of engaging readers because we tell stories so easily as part of our day to day communication. Stories can help share case studies, tips, and best practice. Things that B2B readers are looking for.

    2010 is an exciting year to be a blogger, no doubt about it.

  • Mark

    Thanks for the commentary fellas. An exciting time to be a blogger, yeah but unnerving too, especially as we work with clients (which we all do). We need to keep raising the bar. Dance faster, dance faster! : )

  • Mark and Jon, there are a lot of people out there who are not going to be happy thinking about this observation. But, it’s a well known fact that “Best Product Never Wins” (by itself). It’s also a well known fact that some of the highest paid people in our global economy are entertainers and celebrities. These people are widely “used” to drive consumers to product sale opportunities. Entertainment value delivers attention and in this game, and attention is the “Holy Grail”. Just remember, as per the example used, Fred Astaire was a good dancer and entertainer, maybe even a great dancer and entertainer, but he was not the “Best”. Just because you are the best “Entertainer”, if nobody is watching, what’s the point (commercially speaking)? Even the entertainment business is a team sport.

  • Great analysis, and I too agree with your take.

    As a blogger I read this post with both a feeling of excitement and a flutter in my stomach (thinking “he’s right…now how can I rise to the challenge?”)

    As a blog reader I’m thankful and relieved for a shakeout. It’s 8:45 am and I’m already behind on my reading! There’s no way I can keep up with it all and I know I’m not the only one in this boat.

    As a client service person you have me thinking “how can I help my clients succeed?” – especially, as Jon pointed out, in B2B. How do we make air compressors and pneumatic nailers entertaining?

    Story telling is a great one, but I also think we need to find bloggers who are more than just content experts. Or maybe, it’s a collaborative effort with a team creating content that both educates and entertains.

  • Mark

    Both of you are hinting at this team blogging concept and I think that makes sense for both companies and individuals.

    As an individual, there are few bloggers who can really cut through the clutter on a regular basis, at least IMHO. Wouldn’t individual bloggers be better served teaming up to do blogs together? Dance partners so to speak. It gets down to individual goals.

    This concept would cut the time crunch on the blogger and offer readers more diversity and entertainment. This concept seems to be working at the Savvy B2B blog where a number of bloggers have joined forces.

    Similarly in a corporate setting, deputizing people in an organzation around a central strategy is the way to go if you have the talent to pull it off.

    And to answer your question, Jody, here’s an example of how toner cartridges were made more entertaining:

    http://businessesgrow.com/2009/10/19/finally-a-b2b-social-media-success-story/

    If “entertainment” works for printer ink sales, it might work for nail guns too. : )

  • Mark

    @Jody BTW, wouldn’t nail guns by definition provide “riveting” content? : ) Couldn’t resist.

  • @Mark – ha! I knew you wouldn’t be able to resist 😉

    The things I struggle with most with B2B clients is the corporate culture and general discomfort doing something like the “destroy your printer” case study you linked to. I think it’s ingenious. I think it’s incredible that it has a tangible ROI. But I also think I would be met with cringing and nervous laughter when trying to present something like this to them.

    Now I know there are a lot of ways to entertain, and certainly we need to come up with ways that entertain, stay true to the corporate culture, and also nudge them to progress (or be outshone by the competition).

    I think as B2B marketers we have a steeper hill to climb. If I put on my glass-half-full hat I could say we have more opportunity for growth and development.

  • Mark – I love this and am very excited about what it means for freelance copywriters like me. The prospect of being able to – finally! – convince clients from all walks of business that a little creativity and personality can go a LONG way to capturing and keeping the highly sought after attention of bored prospects … well, I’m starting to salivate. 😉

    Thanks for the Savvy B2B Marketing name-drop. I’ve been “group blogging” in a number of venues for years now, and my experience has been positive all around. Not only does it keep things interesting by leveraging different perspectives, it also makes it much easier to maintain post quality and consistency. Keeping up with daily posts when you’ve got a team of 6 people is much easier than if you have to do all the heavy lifting yourself!

    I also love the dance analogy and the idea of the top entertainer not necessarily being “the best.” I’m an unabashed fan of Dancing With the Stars and last season, icon Donny Osmond took to the floor against a field of much younger, more athletic, more experienced dancers. Surprisingly (to some) he was one of the two finalists who survived weeks of elimination rounds. (I called his triumph in week 1.)His dancing was far from flawless – in fact, he often screwed up royally. What he had working in his favor – as the irreverent and flamboyant judge, Bruno called out – was his ability to entertain. Through the good routines and the horrific, Donny smiled and dazzled. His exuberance was contagious. The audience was so swept up with his performance that they were more than willing to let his technical faux pas slide under the radar. It’s an interesting analogy when applied to business – especially in the context of social media. We all know that this arena has a certain similarity – as you’ve pointed out – to the kind of popularity contests that we dreaded in high school. But thinking about that contest in a less personal way – putting it in the context of competing to entertain … well, that just blows things wide open for all kinds of new and interesting ways to leverage the media.

    Thanks, once again, for giving your faithful (and highly entertained!) community something meaty to chew on.
    I’m off to get my feather boa and sequins!
    🙂

  • @Mark I think team blogging is a great way to go but the teams I’ve worked with simply aren’t big enough or have enough resources to cope. Often it’s a case of the communications person in the team having to maintain the B2B blog along with everything else. Winning over management – typically people who are wary of the Net, even here in Sweden where online culture is very far on – is tough.

    @Jody I hear what you’re saying. I’ve been in there when management have frowned at the idea of blogging, let alone trying to make something zing and be entertaining. I think part of the work we have to do is educate business people to understand that B2B content isn’t just PR releases and advertising claptrap. But we have to do so in a way that shows them how important this is and not just tells them. Which brings me back to the point that bloggers in the B2B space are going to have to walk the walk and not just talk the talk.

    Exciting times, indeed!

  • Polly

    Great post. The opportunities are, indeed, endless … if I can get over the overwhelming-ness of it all. Group/team blogging around a focused strategy has so much potential. I hope I can get some support around more entertaining writing … I miss it. I’ve been putting myself to sleep lately with my consultant-ese.

  • @Jamie – Your DWTS analogy is spot-on. Entertainment and likeability get you far.

    @Jon – I agree that our job is to convince them that pushing content (press releases, ads, etc) is ANTI-social media. I think identifying a few stars in each level (just starting out, mainstream, making it big) would go a long way. Everyone love to innovate but no one wants to be first 😉 It would also demonstrate a proven approach and set expectations on what the next steps are at each level.

    @Polly – one of my clients is having some success with team blogging, but we do have a star who writes more frequently and with more pizazz. I think it’s typical of life in general though – with any activity someone always shakes out to be on top.

  • Mark

    I am about to engage in an experiment in team blogging with a client and I’m not looking forward to it. It may be like trying to herd cats. Not everybody has the same level of commitment or buy-in (which is normal or course) and not everybody has the same skill level. But in the end, it’s the only way we’ll get the job done. So wish me luck! : )

  • Another great post, Mark – thanks!
    I’ve noticed a very strong tendency for my blog readers and Twitter followers to respond to me more when I’m entertaining. (In fact my most re-tweeted comment ever was a urination pun/joke.)
    You have helped me realize that this is nothing to be embarrassed about, and that I need to let my natural, smart-ass, tart-tongue persona come through MORE, not less (as has been my tendency).
    Thank you — you have made a big difference in my thinking.

  • Mark

    As some of you know, I try to do a “funny” post occasionally. Well, they’re funny to me at least. I like doing them and feel it is important to shake it up now and then but they are always my lowest-read posts. Just an FYI.

  • @mark – I think the underlying point here is be “Entertaining with relevant substance” and you sir certainly provide us all with that! Those posts of yours that provide both generate your highest reads and discussion!

  • Tony Burke

    I enjoyed this post Mark and think you are spot on! I am new to blogging and will be starting my own blog this month that will target the boomer audience with topics ranging from how to cope with your aging seniors to interviews with Congressional reps on what they are doing to solve the $60 billion in Medicare fraud annually, which of course wastes your tax dollars. The key will be to keep readers/viewers engaged or entertained in the blog. I can see why bloggers need to be good storytellers and why they need to do it in a short story form too given everyone’s short attention span these days (140 charachters). I also can envision video blogging being the future so we will all have to develop our skills to become proficient at scripting and shooting relevant and entertaining short form vids on our flip phones! Thanks again for the reminder Mark.

  • You are, as usual, expressing quite eloquently exactly the way we need to strategize when it comes to blogging. You definitely are entertaining and your message is always clear. It is going to be more competitive to capture attention but you are a wonderful example of putting all the elements together to achieve readership.

    I like the whole “entertaining” objective…I just might be able to put to good use growing up with a magician!!

  • Mark

    @Tony — You are correct. I have not ventured into video blogging yet but think i will soon! Not natural to me. I think we all need to think about using all media available to us to tell our stories.

    @Diane — Your magician post was great … and very entertaining indeed!

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