I'm presenting at a blogging conference in a few weeks and as I thought about what I will say I started to ask myself why I bother?  Why blog?  What is it that makes me think this is a good idea?  If you are thinking of starting a blog, maybe this will help you decide:

First what does it cost me to blog?

  • Time: I'm not a blog zealot and I don't blog every day but I think it's a good goal to have and I do try to blog every weekday.  I took the decision not to worry about it too much at weekends but like Matthew Stibbe, I sometimes do a random roundup if I'm clearing out my inbox on a Saturday. All that said, I reckon it takes me about 30-45 mins to write a blog post and I should also set aside time to read and comment on other people's blog (it's all about the conversation) so I think if I'm doing it right, blogging takes me about 90 minutes a day.  However I still enjoy slow burn blogs like Patrick Dixon's who only writes now and then.

  • Effort: Blogging is not a sprint, it's longevity and consistency that wins. You do have to be prepared to be patient and keep at it.  That said, it is amazing to me that I've been blogging for two years now, it's gone quickly.  It also requires me to think more about what I'm doing and what I see around me - this does take a certain amount of focus but that can be a good thing too.

  • Vulnerability: Blogging does require you to give a bit of yourself and when you put yourself out there, not everyone will like you. That doesn't bother me too much but you should be aware that you are giving away information about yourself and your privacy may be valuable.

What is the return?

First for my company:

  • Change perception: We are changing perceptions about Microsoft. We are proud to work here and we want to replace the faceless borg reputation with a personality. We know that Microsoft is full of warm, funny, interesting and smart people and by getting to know the people behind the brand, we hope you will want to do business with us.
  • Two-way marketing: We want a dialogue with you, our customer, not to shout at you via traditional channels.  If you've not seen the video you must! Blogging let's us listen as well as speak and that is so important if we are going to meet your needs.  We want more of a two-way relationship with you so that when things go wrong you feel you know us and have a way to tell us and a way for us to put it right.
  • Organic marketing: We realise that people are talking about us and our products. We can't always influence it, we certainly can't control it, we don't really want to but blogging is a way we can join in some of those conversations for mutual benefit.

And for me personally:

  • Change minds: I like to think that I can stimulate people to think in new ways about what I do and about things that I am passionate about.  When the blog shows me that has happened in some small way, I get satisfaction from that. I'm fascinated by the way ideas travel and I like being part of the ideas ecosystem.
  • Become a more interesting person: Blogging causes me to think things through a lot more thoroughly. It makes me challenge my preconceptions and makes me think harder before I form opinions. The dialogue with other bloggers and the wonderful people who take time to comment (thankyou!) helps me think in different ways, shows me when I have got it wrong and helps to tease out my own views.  Blogging has made me more insightful, more open to new ideas and given me richer opinions and perspectives.  I think it even makes me a more interesting person (or less dull anyway).  That is worth a lot to me.
  • Meet interesting people: Blogging has meant I've met some cool people or at least conversed with them.  I'm genuinely grateful for these opportunities because they have enriched my life. Other bloggers accept that you are part of the blogging community and this opens doors to get to know people you probably would never come across or get the chance to meet.
  • A right to reply: I work with the press a lot and the blog gives me a way to talk back or to put my side of the argument and there are a lot of situations where people take you more seriously when they know you might write about it. Somehow it levels the field. You have to use this wisely of course but I can't deny that it is useful sometimes to be able to set the record straight.  I take the view that if journos can criticise my products then I should be allowed to comment on their writing or the quality of their research.
  • Writing practice: I'm sure the discipline of blogging helps to hone your writing skills and probably your communication skills generally. 
  • Sheer kudos: A PR at a recent meeting I was at stated "bloggers are all geeks and egotists".  There is some truth in that.  It's nice when people know you from the blog and like your stuff and when you get known as being a blogger, people read your ideas before they meet you.  I do like that, I can't deny it but after a while you get over any silly ideas of fame and fortune and realise it's just helps people to get to know you and what you stand for.

Why do you blog?  What puts you off?