Kodak and Craigslist: A Tale of Two Blogs

There has been lots of talk at search marketing conferences about social media marketing (SMM) and social media optimization (SMO).

This involves everything from starting a blog to optimizing your content with link bait and other hooks to get exposure on Digg, StumbleUpon and other socially driven news sites and discovery engines. SEOmoz is a leading voice in this area, as is frequent SMO panelist Neil Patel.

This conversation usually relates to large brand advertising, but there is still some applicability for SMBs and local search. Search Engine Guide today poses the question “Should You Start a Blog,” including a checklist of business goals and abilities that should be considered first.

For some local businesses, this can be a way to augment a print and online marketing campaign by generating buzz about a topic that is close to your trade (think “how-to” blogs for home improvement).

The very real challenge, however, is the resource constraints of the average SMB that is too busy fixing people’s sinks to be a power blogger on the subject of fixing sinks. There is also a scalability issue in being able to reach a local audience that — by definition — is only so big. With locally focused blog aggregators such as Placeblogger and Outside.in, this opportunity comes closer into reach.

But for now, the majority of SMM activity will remain with larger companies with budgets to apply to full-time bloggers and marketers. The problem is these two roles (blogging and marketing) meld to the point where some companies miss the point entirely and end up with thinly veiled “advertorial” content.

The largest culprits have been those such as Sony and Wal-Mart that tried to completely disguise their promo blogs as the work of independent bloggers. After the flak they received, most brands have been more forthright in disclosing their involvement.

One recent example is Kodak’s blog “A Thousand Words.” My first reaction was, ‘great, another venue for shameless brand peddling.’ But it’s actually entertaining stuff about photography (see post on “Milk Sploop Phorography”), which does a good job avoiding the temptation to plug its products egregiously. It almost has the feel of a real blog, though it loses points for trying to make a big stink today about hiring a “Chief Blogger.”

The other big blogging news today is the launch of Craigslist’s blog, which is an even better spin on its namesake, in the spirit of SMM (not to be confused with S&M, which is an entirely different staple of the Craigslist community). This includes politics, glimpses of its eclectic user base and the nuances of online trade. Like the site itself, the blog has a decidedly spartan look, meant to appeal to its quasi-underground user base. Others that come to mind as relevant forums around a brand include Marchex’s LocalPoint blog.

Challenges will continue to exist in walking the fine line between promotion and objectivity/credibility (readers are very good at sniffing out promotional intent). But if done correctly, blogging and SMM can be powerful tools.

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Related: Classified Intelligence released a report today expecting the 25-person Craigslist to achieve revenues of $81 million this year.

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