There has been a lot of discussion in recent months about the impact that the very recent mass adoption & use rate of Facebook and Twitter is having – or will have – on “old school” blogs, like this one.
Since I’ve been blogging regularly at the same domain (two, actually, but they both point here) for about seven years now, I think I have a pretty good body of anecdotal data with which to consider the ramifications to traditional blogs and bloggers from the social media tipping point that arrived in the past 18 months, you know, when seemingly EVERYBODY IN AMERICA suddenly joined Facebook, Twitter and Linked In.
Here are my observations, from my own blogging experience, as well of from my actual blog analytics, which I’ve observed over the years:
- Post Facebook/Twitter tipping point, I find that I am more likely to take an interesting idea and use it as a pithy, quick hit on Facebook or Twitter rather than turn it into an actual blog post. As a result, my blog is now less “sparkly,” for lack of a better way to put it. My personality, humor and day-to-day activities now seem to end up in my Facebook and Twitter status udates (friend me on both!), while my actual blog posts these days tend to be more like short form essays, dealing with more high-concept topics and issues. And that’s not necessarily a good thing in terms of my blog being the primary platform where people actually get to know me. However, to be fair, that shift over time in the tone and content of my blogging here isn’t entirely due to Twitter and Facebook. In my own case, as a very early-adopter “mommyblogger” who has been doing this a long time, some of that evolution away from so much “here’s the funny thing or the really painful thing that happened with Katie and her kids today” blogging has come as H, J and E – the “blogged about” – have gotten older. They now have vetting power over any blogging I ever do that references them in any way. And although they have generally enjoyed having a mom who is a writer/blogger (or at least they have enjoyed the food and shoes that the writing has paid for over the years), they are no longer okay much/most of the time with me relating some specific, funny thing that one of them says at the dinner table. At age 4 or 7, they didn’t care. As middle schoolers and teenagers, they do. And I totally understand that. So as the big kids in the family have gotten older, I have also become more cognizant of the fact that at a certain point, their childhood stories are THEIRS to tell, in whatever way and to whomever THEY choose. If I am the only one telling these stories – via my blog or through essays published elsewhere – and I do it before they ever get a chance to run their own memories of our family life through the sepia sieve of hindsight, they will never get a chance to remember things, or tell things in their own way. I want all four of my children to one day sit around a table together, laughing and sharing memories of their childhoods and our home life, debating who is remembering this Christmas morning mishap or that day at the beach correctly. I don’t want my blogging to replace their memories to such a degree that they don’t have those wonderful, “remember when” conversations that adult siblings have together. Of course, C is still young enough that I can exploit her for commercial gain for a good long time yet before she objects (I kid! I kid!) While I do believe that all of the writing I have done (and will still do) about our lives together will one day offer a wonderful adjunct for their own memories – a sort of digital scrapbook or diary – I never want it to replace what they remember and believe and want to talk or write about. So yeah, Twitter and Facebook HAVE changed my blog’s content, but they aren’t the whole impetus behind those changes over time.
- In the past 18 months – since Twitter and Facebook hit the big time – my blog’s traffic (meaning how many visitors I get and how often they visit) has remained steady or grown, but my comments have dropped DRASTICALLY. This is the biggest impact that Facebook in particular has had on my blog. I used to routinely get dozens of comments on most blog posts. Lately, I am lucky if I get 5-10. I can see from my analytics that more people are visiting my blog year over year, and are hanging around and reading multiple posts, and then returning for more on a regular basis. But my blog readers are now much more silent. Very few comments. I believe that this is almost entirely due to Facebook. The people who used to chat with others or debate things or talk about what I’d blogged that day in the comments below each of my blog posts now have those conversations on Facebook instead. In fact, when I publish a new post here at this blog, a link to it automatically goes to my Facebook wall (I use Networked Blogs for this). I can see from my traffic stats that lots of people are indeed following the Facebook link and coming here to the blog to read the post. That’s the good part of Facebook’s impact on my blog; the bad part is that they then wait until they get back to Facebook to talk about the post, and they do it in the comments below the link to my blog post…on Facebook. I love hearing from people about what I write – whether that’s here on the blog or over at Facebook. But I do really miss having a volume of comments here that made my blog feel more like a real community than it does currently. With all of the comments on my content happening over at Facebook, my blog – which is very dear to me after years of sharing my life here with readers who have held my hand through good times and bad – feels a little dead, a little empty. And that really does bother me. It’s not that I want more comments for the pageviews they generate – I am getting plenty of pageviews – but post-Facebook tipping point, my readers are sort of silent here at the blog. They come and go without saying hello, sharing their own stories, or telling me who they are and how they found the blog. I even miss some of the “heated” (that’s one way to put it!) disagreements among readers that were a common occurrence back in the day (the day being all of the years I blogged up until 2009. And yes, I do blame Facebook for that. Damn you, Facebook, and your comment-sucking ways!
- Traffic growth for my blog in the past 8 months-12 months in particular has been primarily driven by Twitter and Facebook, rather than by search engines. I used to get A WHOLE LOT more blog traffic from search engine queries, some of them very bizarre (You don’t want to know some of them. Ick. So disturbing to look at one’s blog analytics and realize what people are out there searching for.) In fact, some of my favorite longtime readers/commenters originally found me when they typed something into Google or Yahoo or even AskJeeves (yes, I have been blogging for THAT LONG!) that had absolutely nothing to do with me. Example: What do I do when my child’s pet Python escapes and is loose in the house?” But the search query somehow landed them here, at this blog. And then they stayed, and then they came back again and again. And then many of them started joining in the conversation in the comments below my posts. But lately, my search engine traffic is down precipitously, while my referrals from Twitter and Facebook status updates and wall posts – my own and those from other people referencing me or my blog – are up to a huge degree. When I get some free time (ha!), I need to sit down, and with Jon’s help, try to figure out what’s going on with the SEO issue on my blog, because the change has been incredibly dramatic over the past year. I want to figure out if there is any clear correlation between Facebook’s explosion and the fact that it appears to me that fewer people are searching for topics that used to be the bread and butter of my search engine traffic – things like breastfeeding advice, co-sleeping stories, etc – the kinds of search queries that used to be a huge driver of women and moms to my blog. My suspicion is that women are now simply asking these sorts of questions in their status updates, and then letting the info come to them via their network of friends and friends-of-friends on Facebook. Instead of going out to find the info, they are attracting the info they need directly to them from people they already trust and “know,” at least to some degree. That sort of high-influence information carries much more weight with a woman wanting to know what high chair she should buy than some blog post that I – a complete stranger – wrote about my preferred high chair brand, and which she then found with a totally impersonal Google search.
So those are a few of my observations regarding how Facebook and Twitter are impacting my blog and my blogging. I’d be really interested to hear from other bloggers – particularly those of you who have been at it for more than two or three years.
You can leave your thoughts, ideas and observations in…..the comments below 😉