A small introductory remark
I’m quite aware that this model has a few contradictions and flaws, but my ambition is to try to patch this model together with the help of your feedback. I think we need something to relate to, in order to get a better understanding of this constantly changing landscape we call the blogosphere. By pointing out and discussing the shortcomings of the Blog Compass, we might develop a more accurate model together. The PR agency, Bloggbyrån (Swedish for The Blog Agency), of which I’m a partner, is constantly building relations between companies and a big range of bloggers. Since the blogosphere is so huge, we needed something to rely on when we were scouting blogs.
So what was the challenge here? Well, by trying to map them all out, you run a great risk of being rewarded with nothing but an outdated map for all the time you’ve invested. Therefor I tried to develop a model that could, not only, help us to navigate the blogosphere, but also help our clients to make better decisions. Biggest reach isn’t necessarily always the way to go, if you want to spend your effort wisely. Sometimes an increase in connectivity or building a network for collecting ideas is more important for your business.
The 3 new forms of currency
If you take a brief look at the opportunities that come with the digital society, you’ll sooner or later come to the conclusion that converting all your efforts directly to monetary currency won’t get you the best return of your investments. Money doesn’t rule the world. Not entirely at least. Through social media, we’ve increased our connectivity and made our networks transparent, and all of a sudden we’ve got a few more factors in the equation of social behavior. We’ve seen online stores attract customers, even though they haven’t necessarily had the best prices. Instead they’ve focused on increasing their connectivity and through that attract customers that are not only loyal, but also willing to spread the word about the company. We’ve also seen an uprise in how people tend to turn to niche blogs before making purchases, instead of relying on guides from established newspapers. So how do we formulate a new strategy in this disruptive media landscape, when we know money talks, but doesn’t provide the whole vocabulary
My take was to introduce three more types of currencies, the social capital, awareness and knowledge capital, which together form the foundation and driving forces in the Blog compass.
First off, a reminder:
- Monetary capital – the form of capital we are used to, money. It’s easy to quantify and measure. You can convert money into social capital by inviting people with high connectivity to events or just spoil them in some way. You can convert it into competence capital by hiring consultants who give you their thoughts on your current affairs. You can even sponsor someone famous (who people have high awareness of) in order to get associated with them.
- Awareness – the form of capital that comes with getting attention within a broad media and big platforms that are already established. This is pretty much brand awareness.
- Social capital – this is the form of capital that gives you access to contacts and networks that include either awareness or competence.
- Knowledge capital – the form that provides you with an expertise within an area and good skills in predicting trends.
Together these three forms of capital will provide you with a larger spectra of opportunities than just monetary capital. Sure, you can ”buy in” into a social sphere to give you a head start, but if you don’t invest social capital at the same time, that money will be wasted. Once the champagne bottle is empty, the crowd of highly connected people will move on. Same goes for buying competence and knowledge. You can hire the best people you can get for money, but if you want the best people, you might have to offer something more. Preferably that should be something they can continue to build their competence capital on. The reason why it’s critical for a company to understand these currencies, is the capital decrease in every conversion. In order for companies to keep up, they have to learn how to value the different currencies and spend them wisely, instead of trying to convert them directly into money and by that loosing lots of value. We need to take these values into account when measuring the effects of our online efforts. If we don’t, it will seem like we are running numerous campaigns with red figures, when we’re actually not.
”If you only have a hammer, everything is a needle”. It’s time to extend your toolbox and stop messing up all these nice screws people keep handing you.
The 3 elements for successful blogs
- Awareness: most of the time this is achieved through some traditional media, characterized by a wide range of content and a broad audience.
- Connectivity: has an ambition to become an established blog for a big audience (with high awareness) or within a certain topic. Is hard working and utilizes social skills to attract knowledge and readers.
- Niche: specialized within a certain area and has a tendency to lean towards idealism rather that populism or sensation.
The 3 basic blog types
- Celebrity blogs (C) – the blogger is already established in some way and will have an audience from start. The demand for niche or connectivity isn’t that big yet. People will read the blog anyway, since it’s a famous person blogging.
- Personal blogs (P) – here we find the majority of newly started blogs. Either the blogger want to become famous, or he/she want to learn more about a certain subject in order to become an expert. The blog is the tool he/she is using in order to get there.
- Specialized blogs (S) – people that have a passion for something and choose to pack their knowledge in a blog (for example, knitting or fishing blogs). An important aspect of this area of blogging is that many of the early adopters are to be found here.
Moving blog types
When a basic blog has reached its maturity it tends to move towards one of the two complementary elements. As a result of that, six more types emerge.
- Personal branding (from P towards Awareness): a person want to become famous and is using its personal capital to tie bounds with celebrities. A way of doing that is by refering to the celebrity or becoming part of the discussions where celebrities participate. For example, this could be discussions on Twitter or in a commentary field with a great audience.
- Social celebreties (from C towards Connectivity): celebrities that want to get in touch with their fans and socialize with them. By doing so, they build stronger relations with their fan base and create ambassadeurs for their brand.
- Learning Blogs (from P towards Niche): when personal blogs are starting to specialize within a certain topic, they use the build and spend social capital by referring to specialized blogs and adding their own thoughts on the subject.
- Teaching blogs (from S towards Connectivity): niche blogs, that want to get a bigger reach and fame, can increase their connectivity by becoming more social and acting like a teacher within a certain subject. The reason why they have to go through the Connectivity phase, instead of just going Public Expert (described below), is that the area they specialize in isn’t popular enough for a mainstream audience. By tying bounds to highly connected people they can reach influensers (like social celebrities) that can make the subject more popular.
- Public experts (from S towards Awareness): if a subject becomes popular, niche blogs can participate in debates in traditional medias or big broad platforms where they explain the subject in a way the broad audience can connect to.
- Celebrity experts. (from C towards Niche): celebrities that focus on a certain topic and are given an expert label. They might not have the same knowledge as Public experts, but are still invited to participate in debates because of their fame (high awareness).
The 3 extremes
If a blog contains 2 of the elements and almost none of the last element, we will get three new types of blogs (or sites or content types) which are characterized by beeing far more extreme than the other blog types. The reason why these types are read is that they either provide a big beneficial value, or that they have an entertaining value.
- Educating blogs (High niche and awareness. Low connectivity). The reason for naming these blogs ”educating” is the beneficial values they provide. They are however not that entertaining and they don’t encourage discussions. Think of it as some sort of business media. You read it because you have to.
- Helping blogs (High niche and connectivity. Low awareness). These are highly idealistic driven blogs, where the focus lies more on educating people in subjects, but without the ambition that the helping effort will result in some sort of fame (compare it to the teaching blogs, where there is an incentive to make a topic more popular). The exchange is more on a one-to-one basis with very specific discussions.
- Chit Chat (High awareness and connectivity. Low niche) Well, this is pretty much discussions about everything, led by people that demand a lot of attention. Think of Twitter a Friday night, with a lot of semi celebrities discussing everything from their best jambalaya recipe to how the government is handling the recession.
Uses and applications of the Blog Compass
So is this more than a colorful flowchart? As far as I can see, yes. The compass can be used for several areas, including finding a tone of voice and making an inventory of your social and competence capital. But to put it simple, the compass allows you to navigate through incentives and value exchange. It can answer some essential questions such as:
- Why are some people supporting you?
- Why should you put some efforts into building relations with certain people?
- What’s the most efficient way to build that relation?
Application: Increase the awareness around a certain topic (Building opinions)
Say for instance that a company want to rise a specific question, that hasn’t yet become interesting for the mainstream. One way to do that, is by building relations with a Public Expert, by providing the expert with bleeding edge information about that specific topic. By doing so, the topic can be injected into an ongoing debate, through the experts’ ability to ”translate” the topic and ambition in order to show that he or she is an expert within the area. In other words: the expert invests his or hers newly found competence capital in exchange for high awareness and a strengthened position within his or her niche.
Application: Spread awareness of (”make some buzz”)
When a company is interested in spreading word around about a new product release or a campaign they are running, they can choose to contact someone within the Learning Blog segment and ask them to guest blog at their campaign site. The exchange here is simply fame by association (the company lends some of their high awareness to the blogger) in exchange for high connectivity (the blogger will try to grow the newly found capital of awareness by spreading the word that he or she has been acknowledged by an established brand – in other words, share the blog posts).
Share your thoughts!
This model is (what we in the early days of the Internet used to call) under construction. It’s built on my observations of the blogosphere and the social exchange on Twitter. I’m sure there are a lot of clever minds that can point out the strengths and the flaws of this model and I’m really happy if they do. Some questions I’ve been thinking about is:
- Are there any better names for the driving forces or the forms of currency?
- Is there a better way to name the different blog types (I have a feeling that Educating blogs, Learning blogs and Helping blogs can add some confusion)?
– Last of all, I’d like to give a big thanks to Mattias Östmar, media analyst and founder of Typalyzer, who helped me out with some of the terminology and pushed me to develop the directions of the compass.
The Blog Compass is licensed under Creative Commons and you are welcome to spread it or develop it further in exchange for attribution. (You’ll give me and Bloggbyrån cred for coming up with it, or as we say: awareness and connectivity in exchange for some knowledge capital). That’s it!
The Blog Compass by Joakim Nyström is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Based on a work at http://bloggbyran.se/?p=1441.