Why it’s so hard for me to blog anymore

I’ve fallen off the blogging bandwagon. Big time. Each time I post here — which, let’s face it, has been few and far between over the last 10-12 months — I feel like I have to start with a mea culpa. “I’m so busy” or some similar excuse. The reality, though? My blog and I have grown apart, because I no longer practice what I preach(ed).

When I started blogging, I was working in corporate communications, exploring social media daily (when a lot of things were still in the “new” phase) and actively practicing public relations and organizational communications. It made sense for me to blog about PR, social media, and corporate communications, because that’s what I was living everyday.

My work life and goals are vastly different now. For the last nine months, I’ve been leading sales efforts at readMedia. It was something I didn’t think I was up for when the opportunity arose (“Sales? No way! I’m a PR person! I like writing! I’m introverted!”). But it turns out that I really like it, and I’m good at it. I get a rush from hitting numbers and knowing my team is directly responsible for the growth and success of the business.

Thus, my efforts and attention are no longer focused on the PR and social media minutiae of the Twitterati and Blogosphere. I’m not interested in debating the latest corporate PR gaffe or spending time in Twitter chats discussing the “right” way to do social media. PR Daily has gone unread in my inbox for months now. The echo chamber grew too loud for me, and I’ve slowly been gravitating away from the entire digital/social/PR2.0 ecosystem.

 

I also fell away from blogging because I’m very lucky to work with people who challenge me everyday. I used to “muse” here on the blog as a way to flesh out ideas and spark discussion in the absence of any friends or mentors at my old job. Now, I have the luxury of spending all day with really smart co-workers, and we’re constantly talking through ways to do things better, faster, and more creatively so that we can provide an even more valuable product for our customers.

Don’t get me wrong — via Twitter and my blog I’ve created fantastic relationships with PR pros from all over the world — some of whom I count among my close friends now. And via my relationships with readMedia’s customers, I still spend a lot of time talking with talented communications and PR professionals.

But I’m just not “in” PR anymore. And I’m okay with that.

Photo via Flickr user GiNet

Why I’ll never use Delicious again

I want to like Delicious, I really do. I’ve been using it to trap links of interest for a while now, and as someone who’s probably used 10 different computers regularly in the last few years, it seemed a handy way to store content I want to access again later, from anywhere. I installed the Delicious extension in Chrome recently and that made it easier and more likely that I’d share and tag links.

But my days with Delicious are over.

The social networks that have stood the test of time so far (“time” in Internet world meaning more than a year or two) have constantly added functionality, features and new design. Facebook does it every few months, it seems. Delicious, for whatever reason, never seemed to graduate into a really robust, useful platform for people to share and save content. It was hard (nearly impossible) to import and find friends, the interface was ugly and clumsy, and search was frustrating. It earned the moniker “Where links go to die” and that’s not too far from the truth, in my case.

It’s too late for Delicious. Google Reader has completely lapped it.

Google Reader started as a way to keep track of blog feeds, and I didn’t use it much beyond that. But then they began rolling out more useful features. You can tag and star items and organize feeds into folders. Then Google rolled out the “Share” function, which, with one click, allows you to post to your own public feed any item from your reader you wished. Google added the ability to find and follow friends via Google Reader and see, right from within your reader, what they are sharing. You can add notes and comments on items or send an item to someone via eMail. And let’s not forget the nifty ‘Trends’ stats feature (this is Google, after all) that shows you which feeds you’re most engaged with. (The official Google Reader blog is a great resource on all these features.)

For a long time, the only thing that kept me saving items to Delicious was the concept of “discovery.” Anything I wanted to save, share or tag in Google Reader was limited to feeds I was already subscribed to. If I happened across something on the Web or clicked to a link from Twitter, I didn’t have a good way to get it into my reader. Plus, I often found a single post interesting and bookmark-worthy, but had no desire to subscribe to the entire blog.

So, it was a two-party system for me: Google Reader to share and save the most interesting posts from among the feeds I already subscribed to, and Delicious for tagging and saving sites I randomly “found” out on the Web.

But it doesn’t have to be this way!

Google Reader has a “Note in Reader” bookmarklet! It does! And it has for two years! Drag the bookmarklet onto your browser’s toolbar, and wave goodbye to Delicious. The bookmarklet lets you save and/or share anything you find on the Web into your Google Reader. You can add notes and comments, just like you would on a blog post. I don’t know how I missed this feature, but to me, it pretty much means the end of Delicious.

The “Note in Reader” feature completes the content consumption round trip for me. Using Google Reader I can:

  • Subscribe to a blog or Web site’s feed to receive all its content
  • Arrange and sort feeds into folders and bundles
  • Star, tag, like, annotate and share specific items from those feeds to my own public “shared items” feed
  • Find and follow friends via my GMail contacts or other social networks, or even search for people via keyword or location, and then see and subscribe to items they are sharing
  • View recommendations for new feeds that Google generates by comparing my interests with feeds of users similar to me
  • Share and save content into my Google Reader from anywhere on the Web I happen to find it

I haven’t tinkered with Google Buzz much, but obviously Reader and Buzz are easily integrated so you can share items across that platform, too.

(I’m not even going to get started on Google Reader Play, which is possibly the biggest time suck I’ve ever seen – it curates and presents fun and interesting information from the Web it thinks I may like into a visual slideshow type of format and lets you share, like and save right from the screen. I’m talking hours lost here discovering fun stuff.)

So I’m sorry Delicious. I can’t even say that it was fun while it lasted, because it was always a bit cumbersome. It’s too bad we have to part ways, but with “Note in Reader” and all the other amazing options Google Reader offers, can you blame me?

Check out what I’m reading, saving and sharing via Google Reader here.

My blogging birthday: Mengel Musings turns one

It doesn’t seem possible, but tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of Mengel Musings. From my first, very tentative post to my 100th post Wednesday announcing my new job at readMedia, it’s been a fantastic first year as a blogger. This space has been a way for me to explore the rapidly changing world of PR and communications, force myself to write on a somewhat regular basis, converse with smart people from across the Web and around the world, and even learn a little bit of CSS.

Here’s a retrospective:

Three most-viewed posts in the last year

These posts saw the most traffic on my site. The numbers are probably not totally accurate as some of my posts were syndicated to SocialMediaToday.com and my stats here don’t reflect those page views. But all-in-all, these were popular (in the case of the McDonald’s post it was largely due to Google searches — it still gets traffic daily):

Five reasons corporations are failing at social media
Locally targeted McDonalds ads turning heads
(tie) How I use Google Reader without going insane
(tie) Six ways to add social sizzle to internal communication

Three most-commented-on posts in the last year

I try very hard to respond to commenters and engage in dialogue, so some of these comment numbers are a bit inflated since many of the comments are my own. Still, these posts generated good discussion among readers. In second place with 48 comments was the ‘Five reasons’ post listed above, so I skipped it and moved to the next on the list:

Allan Schoenberg: My Twitter “Patient Zero” (57 comments)
“Become a fan” of Facebook brand fatigue (45 comments)
Can “sponsored journalism” really work? (33 comments)

Three posts that are my personal favorites

These are the posts that, while they may not have gotten a ton of traffic, comments or retweets, are posts that I am most proud of, enjoyed writing the most, or that I think show some of my best thinking:

Where the boys are (hint: in the business school)
Are corporate communicators hopeless in social media?
Anatomy of a social media product launch: Screenr

Year two and beyond

What’s next for Mengel Musings? Well, I may not be posting quite as frequently as I get up to speed in my new role. Secondly, the topics and focus of this blog will probably shift a little. Since I’m now out of the corporate communications world, I’ll be writing less about that. You’ll probably see more posts about how the news and media landscape is shifting and the challenges and opportunities that presents for PR professionals– especially in regards to local news content.

I’ll still write a lot about social media, but I (and many others) am ready to move on from the Shiny Object Syndrome that captivated us all in 2009 and talk more concretely about how social media participation provides value for organizations – how and why companies are using social media to generate sales leads, support integrated paid/earned media campaigns, enhance customer service and loyalty, and provide real value.

Thanks for sticking with Mengel Musings throughout the first year, and I hope you’ll hang around to see what year two has in store. Check the archives and tell me what was your favorite post of the last year. What would you like to see more or less of going forward? As Jason Falls always says, the comments are yours. Let me know.

Allan Schoenberg: My Twitter “Patient Zero”

Ever heard of a woman named Mary Mallon? Probably not. But if I said “Typhoid Mary” that might trigger some recognition. Mary Mallon was the index case for typhoid in the US in the early 1900s. She was a healthy carrier of the disease and spread it to at least 53 people before she was forcibly quarantined. Mary Mallon was the American typhoid epidemic’s Patient Zero.

For me, Allan Schoenberg played a similar role, but without the fever and malaise. I consider him to be my Twitter index case. (Stick with me here.)

I spent the first several months on Twitter not doing much. I followed a few people I knew from “real life” and a few who were into Georgia football. I didn’t even really think of it a professional networking medium at the onset. At some point, though, I caught the Twitter bug and from that point things changed dramatically. And I can trace that moment back to Allan.

It was about this time last year when I was working on putting together a photo book of pictures from my trip to Iceland. I tweeted about it and got a random @ reply from Allan commenting on how great Iceland was and how much he loved it when he had visited earlier in the year. I followed him back and checked out his profile, where I saw that he had a pretty sweet job as director of communications for CME Group. We continued to chat via Twitter throughout the next few weeks about everything from movies to beer (good beer) to the economic situation in Iceland.

Allan  Schoenberg and Amy MengelAllan was my conduit to the Twitter PR and communications world. Recognizing that he was pretty interesting guy with an interesting job in my field, I figured that I’d probably enjoy following some of his other Twitter pals. I began looking to see who he was following and unabashedly started poaching his network. This led me to people like Mike Pilarz, Arik Hanson, Matt Batt and Lauren Fernandez. They led me to others like David Mullen, Kellye Crane, Chuck Hemann and Scott Hepburn. And it just kept proliferating.

Today, I consider Allan and that initial group tops among my trusted colleagues, confidants and advisors. In the year since that first tweet about Iceland, I’ve started this blog and my consulting business, founded Social Media Breakfast Tech Valley, and forged what I consider to be lifelong friendships as well as professional alliances with people from Twitter. I’ve had the opportunity to meet most of my closest Twitter friends in person, despite the fact that they all live in far-flung places. Allan even got me a tour of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange when I was visited last spring.

So in the spirit of those Bud Light “Real Men of Genius” ads (though Allan would rightly never drink Bud Light):

I salute you, Mr. Twitter Uber-connector Index Case of Networking Genius Guy. Thanks.

Whose your Twitter Patient Zero?

Why I blog

I’ve flogged this deceased equine before, but no foray into social media– be it blogging or anything else– should be without strategy. That emerged as a major theme from last Friday’s Social Media Breakfast Tech Valley #4, which featured a panel discussion on blogging.

The panelists discussed how companies should decide what they hope to get out of a blog before they start one. That’s solid advice for companies, but it also spurred a discussion about personal blogs: Not every mommy blogger needs or wants to grow up to be Dooce. Not every technology blogger needs or wants to grow up to be Engadget.

It got me thinking about a very simple question: Why do I blog? What am I hoping to get out of this?

I started blogging nearly a year ago practically by accident. My first post explains how I had been becoming more active on Twitter and finding I had more to say than 140 characters allowed. I had been a long time reader of PR blogs but never felt as though I had anything to contribute. The last year has been quite a journey for me and after reflecting for a bit on “what does this all mean?” (blogging, not life), here’s what I came up with:

I don’t necessarily have a “strategy” for this blog. I don’t blog for page views or ad revenue. It’s one piece of a diverse online presence for me where I share conversations (both personal and professional) with colleagues, clients and friends. For me, it’s a success.

Why do YOU blog?