I didn’t start my business: my blog did.
When I started blogging in 2004, I had just finished graduate school and I was trying to figure out what I was going to be when I grew up. I knew I wasn’t going to pursue a traditional academic career, but I wasn’t sure what else a Ph.D. had prepared me for.
But the emergence of the social web meant there was an ever-expanding set of websites and tools that were driven by the same kind of online participation I’d researched for my dissertation. Sites like Delicious, Flickr and 43Things were ushering in the new phenomenon of “user-generated content,” and technologies like RSS and tagging were providing new ways for regular web users to organize and share content. Suddenly my core research question—what drives online participation?—was something a lot of organizations cared about.
不过，我在毕业论文里探讨过：正由于人们越来越离不开网络，社交网络得以兴起——这意味着网站和网络工具大幅增加。像Delicious, Flickr 和43Things等网站正代表了“用户生成内容”这一新现象本身；RSS 以及标签功能也为常常上网的人提供了组织管理及分享内容的新工具。这样，我研究的核心问题——线上生活的动力是什么？——突然间成了许多组织关心的对象。
The still-newish phenomenon of blogging gave me a way of exploring what we then called “Web 2.0”, and sharing my thoughts about what it meant for online politics and nonprofit organizers. Pretty soon, people started calling me for advice about the kinds of tools I was blogging about, and that advice turned into a few gigs building participatory websites. Before I knew it, I had started what we’d now call a social media agency.
My experience wasn’t atypical in the early days of the social web. As recently as three or four years ago, establishing a blog was still the obvious way for a professional to showcase expertise and build a platform and professional reputation. Blogging your way into a career wasn’t just for social media professionals: Ricky Shetty transformed himself from an ESL teacher to a full-time blogger and online community organizer—beginning with his own DaddyBlogger.com. Former broadcaster Amy Bronee started blogging her cooking experiments while at home with her kids—and now has a thriving business as a cookbook author and cooking teacher. And of course Nate Silverblogged his way from indie statistician to New York Times bestselling author.
社交媒体发展早期我的经历并不是孤例。最近三四年来，开博客还是职业人展示技能、搭建平台、打造口碑的明道。写博客、创事业并非只有专职社交媒体人才能做：Ricky Shetty 从经营自己的DaddyBlogger.com开始，最后成功转型，从教非英语母语学生的老师转型为线上社区组织人；Amy Bronee 写博客分享在家和孩子一起做创新菜，现在成了一名烹饪老师，编写的烹饪书籍十分卖座。当然还有Nate Silver，写博客的时候还是独立统计员，写着写着就成了纽约时报畅销书作家。
Stories like theirs are why, whenever someone asked me how social media could help them shift their career path, I used to say: start a blog.
Is that still the right advice in 2015? Twitter has made it possible to demonstrate expertise by sharing links and short insights, 140 characters at a time. If you’re in a visual field—whether that’s fashion, design or even real estate—sites like Pinterest, Instagram, and Houzz may offer the fastest route to establishing a vision, following and clientele. For folks who like to talk or shoot more than write, creating a podcast or YouTube channel can be a better fit than a blog, and just as effective at sharing your ideas.
But the real blog-killer isn’t any of these alternatives: it’s the hosted publishing that’s emerged on sites like LinkedIn and Medium, where anyone can just log in and start posting. In a world where you can now showcase your ideas on the site where you’re hosting your virtual résumé—LinkedIn—do you really need to have your own independent publishing platform?
但博客的掘墓人并非以上这些后起之秀，而是主场话语权，就是像人们在LinkedIn 和 Medium上随时登陆便可以发布的内容。这里你做东，自己撰写简历，发布新鲜想法——没错我说的就是LinkedIn——那还需要独立个人发布平台吗？
Publishing exclusively on LinkedIn or Medium is indeed the right choice for some people, particular if you are a new or intermittent writer. If you’ve already invested time in building a LinkedIn network, you’re going to find an audience a lot more quickly than if you start a site from scratch. And unlike an independent blog, there’s no need to commit to a regular posting frequency on LinkedIn: you can write a post whenever you have something to share or say, and even if that’s only a few times a year, you’re extending your professional credibility and voice in a context where it can be discovered. It’s also a great way to try out posting without investing in setup or making a long-term commitment: you can write a few posts, develop your own voice, and then decide if you want to commit to running your own site.
For people who are already blogging, however, the right path is less obvious. Indeed, even though I’ve been blogging for more than ten years, I’ve found myself questioning the role of my own site, particularly in recent months. Since rebooting my consulting practice at the beginning of this year, I’ve once again picked up the pace on my blog—but as soon as I started posting more frequently on my own site, a few friends asked me why I was wasting my time on an independent blog when I could reach so many more people through LinkedIn, Medium, or my posts here at HBR.
可是对于已经开博客的人，路就有点曲折。的确，即便像我这样已经写了十几年博客的人，也会质疑自己博客的角色，尤其在近几个月。自从年初我重新接咨询业务，我就又写起了博客。但是，随着我愈加频繁地发布博文，几个朋友就问我，明明有LinkedIn， Medium 和 哈佛商业评论 上的人脉，为什么还在独立博客上浪费时间？
But there are still good reasons to write on your own site, even if you’re also contributing to another site. First, if you’re an established blogger—even one with a modest following—there’s no reason to throw away any readership you’ve built up by abandoning your own site in favor of LinkedIn. Far better to post on your own site, and then cross-post to LinkedIn (for professional content) or Medium (for personal thought pieces) to extend your audience.
Second, if you maintain a website to showcase your professional work, business or consultancy, a blog can drive valuable traffic to that site—particularly if you use it in conjunction with LinkedIn. Occasional posts that reflect your interests or expertise act as proof points for the implicit or explicit claims you make on your website; even occasional stories are a nice way of offering a wider range of content and letting colleagues or clients see the person behind the résumé. Selecting highlights to share on LinkedIn can bring readers back to your site for additional insights; when they get to your site, you can use your sidebar to tout your related services or additional content.
Third, a blog on your own site allows you to shape the context and curation of your posts in a way you simply can’t achieve on LinkedIn. For example, you can organize past posts around a key theme all in one place; the theme or themes you select will help you define and demonstrate your specific areas of expertise. You can decide which posts to highlight on your site, and which posts should disappear into your archives after their moment in the sun.
Last but by no means least, blogging on your own site may allow you to take more risks than you’re ready to take on LinkedIn. It’s the difference between singing at a karaoke bar and performing at Carnegie Hall: while it may be great to have the largest possible audience for a major performance, sometimes you just want to cut loose and have fun. An independent blog is a place you can test out your ideas and hone your writing skills without necessarily hitting the radar of everyone you’ve ever met at a conference. Then you can choose just the best items to post and share more widely.
All of these are great reasons for independent blogging to continue even in the era of LinkedIn-enabled publishing. Yet the rise of LinkedIn, and its ever-stronger hold on our professional conversations and identity, means that more and more people are embracing established platforms rather than setting up (or maintaining) their own independent online presences.
That’s regrettable, because the value of blogging goes beyond the way it can help us build a professional reputation or clear personal brand: it’s also a tremendous tool for personal expression, and for the kind of exploratory writing and thinking that can help people discover new interests, new relationships and even new careers. (I often advise people to write their way into figuring out what they actually want to do with their working lives: write about what interests you, and share the ideas that get you fired up, without thinking about what is strategic or “on brand.” Do that for a few weeks or months, and then look at what you’ve written: are there a few key themes, topics or approaches that you keep revisiting? That’s a great clue about what you find so interesting that you’d pursue it even if nobody paid you…and what you might therefore love to do for a living.)
When you have a clear set of career goals and a set of blog posts that are designed to support those goals, LinkedIn blogging is a terrific way to help those posts find an audience. If we allow blogging on LinkedIn, Medium, and other hosted sites to crowd out independent blogging, we’ll lose an important way of finding those goals in the first place.
Alexandra Samuel is an expert in online engagement and the author of Work Smarter with Social Media (Harvard Business Review Press, May 2015). She previously led social media R&D for the customer intelligence leader Vision Critical (which has worked with some of the companies mentioned in this article).
Alexandra Samuel 是在线互动方面的专家，著有《善用社交媒体Work Smarter with Social Media》 (哈佛商业评论出版社，2015年5月出版)。Alexandra Samuel此前她zai客户智能领导者《关键视野Vision Critical》主导社交媒体研发（与文中上述某些公司共事）。
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