A few months ago I posted a question about using a personal blog as my company blog and now I just want to know what the opinion of all of you is regarding blogging for our startup/business.
I find blogging useful, I do not believe blogging is going away anytime soon and I also believe that it truly helps your business/startup if you do it right - Joel Spolsky answered my question by saying the following:
Forget it. Big waste of time. Why have a blog? I guess he really believes this since he's decided now to stop blogging himself What are your thoughts?
Don't take Joel's advice. I mean that in a good way, that is, don't take it at face value.
You see, Joel is driving 2 main points (1) he doesn't need to blog anymore because he has all the exposure he needs, and (2) most startups do it wrong anyway, with blog posts about internal startup matters, etc that no one cares about.
The overall point is if you are going to blog, make it engaging so people keep coming back. For example, tie your startup to colorful commentary about your niche. But don't steal time away from building your startup.
I started to write a comment to Joe A's answer as I agree wholeheartedly not to take Joel's advice at face value, but then I realised I disagree with his point "don't steal time away from building your startup".
Joe's right - you're not Joel - I'm not saying my mother will have heard of him, but anyone that cares about their trade in the programming world now has. For you and me, we need to raise our profile, both in the natural world and in the Google world. A blog with decent interesting content is a very good way to help achieve that.
Personally, I don't see writing a blog as stealing time away from your startup - if it makes sense to write a blog to raise your or your company's profile, then I would argue that it is a core part of your marketing strategy. If you are going to publish useful content, then you have to invest some time into it. In the early days of writing my blog, it took me quite a while to get going (something about The Resistance Seth Godin talks about) - I find it a little easier now, but I still have to put quite a lot of time and effort in, and I still worry that it's not sufficiently interesting/useful/engaging/etc. Nevertheless I believe it's driving up my Google ranking and it's helped me get in touch with some really interesting people that I wouldn't otherwise have met.
I guess the point I'm making is that if blogging is part of your inbound marketing strategy, as Dharmesh et al argue, then you will need to invest some effort into it. The counterpoint as Joe suggests is that you need to balance it with other startup activities - nobody is going to buy your blog :-).
It completely depends on what your objectives are for blogging.
SEO benefits within a company site, yes.
Dynamic communication with your customers and prospects, yes.
Ability to have somewhat of a conversation with customers/target audience, yes.
Help build yourself as an expert in a space, yes.
Differentiate from competitors, potentially yes.
Creative outlet for yourself, yes.
Magic "silver bullet" that's going to suddenly catapult your company to a leadership position, no.
Look at the benefits for your specific company in your industry and prioritize with all else that's got to be done for your business to succeed. If there are resources to get down on the list to where it resides, great. But I say don't just do it because everyone tells you that you must have a blog. Bullocks!
I think the point that what's right for Joel now and you now are not the same has been covered; so let me come at this from a different angle: If you (and presumedly your startup) have value to share, are passionate about what you are doing and can help people, why not blog?
Approaching blogging as only an SEO tool won't work. Generously sharing what you're care about, and helping people is sustainable, enjoyable and from an enlightened self-interest point of view, works great.
I read Joel's post in Inc. magazine and I took it another way. He didn't say that blogging wasn't helpful, he said that blogging wasn't helpful for where he was currently in the growth of his business.
His blog was a great help to him when he was starting up his FogCreek business. It helped him connect with the community that his software was targeting. Most of his business was generated from his blog. However, as a result, his product became popular only among his readership, which were mostly tech professionals. That lead him to believe that since he focused on his blog other things suffered, such as marketing and sales. To fix that he believed that he should stop writing his blog and focus his attention on growing his company and product outside of the tech community.
My take away from this was that blogging makes sense when you're starting out. It helps with press relations, product release information and connecting with your community. I think at Fog Creek's status, it may not necessarily help any longer. Most tech personnel already know who Joel Spolsky, Fog Creek, and Stack Overflow are.
If having a blog was useless for Joel, he'd delete it instead of leaving it up.
It's not useless.
Blogging about stuff no one cares about without a new voice and without purpose is, of course, useless, and sadly most blogs are like that.
But if you have a point, you have something to say, and you know what you want to get from it (and therefore can measure that to make sure you're making progress), then almost by definition it's a good idea!
It's "how" and "why," not "do/don't."
Fogbugz wouldn't be that popular, not even close if Joel wasn't blogging. nuff said?