Posted December 23, 2008 9:58 am by with 29 comments

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Michael Arrington questioning Robert Scoble about his “addiction” to Twitter and Friendfeed wouldn’t normally be headline news here at Marketing Pilgrim, but I think it opens up a good debate.

First, the backstory. Arrington’s open letter post to Scoble reads, in part:

What is the cost of this addiction? Well, I’ll put his family life aside, that’s his business. But his blog has clearly suffered. He now posts only a few times a week, sometimes sporadically writing multiple posts in a day but often skipping 3-4 days in between. A year ago, Robert wrote multiple posts, every day. I used to read his blog daily, now I visit once a week.

Scoble takes it in his stride, providing some good self-analysis of what he’s gained and lost by focusing his efforts away from his blog.

So, here’s my take.

When you use a third-party platform to build your brand, you always run the risk that the rug will be pulled out from under you. Don’t believe me, just ask those that had put the effort into building their network on Pownce.

Marketing Pilgrim is owned by me, operated by me, hosted by me. The investments made into building our audience–currently close to 13,000 daily readers–will, in theory, always be realized. Compare this to my use of Twitter. I love using Twitter, I love the social interaction, the conversations, and the ability to better connect with folks, but I make very little “investment” in Twitter. I know some folks that have built their entire reputation around their Twitter/LinkedIn/Facebook community and I hope it’s always there for them.

However, aside from the obvious ramifications if any of these networks ever go the way of Pownce, we now have the “Scoble-dilemma”–sorry Robert. What is the Scoble-dilemma? When you’ve invested 2,000 hours into building your network elsewhere, you not only lose the momentum on your own blog, but how do you get that momentum back and how do you migrate your network to the next hot service?

What’s your take? Is it wise to invest so much time in building your social network, if it means sacrificing your blog’s momentum?

  • That’s a very good angle of looking at social networks.
    When you are not in control you put your fate (or your site’s fate) in the hands of others.

    Svetoslav’s last blog post..How to ignore whitespaces in SVN diff

  • I’d say it works both ways, Andy. Even your blog or website is, in essence, hosted by a third-party. What happens if the company hosting your site goes broke or suddenly disappears? It’s no less a problem than if Twitter goes down – in fact, I’d say it’s more of a problem due to the fact you lose so much info on your blog as opposed to micr-bites of info on Twitter.

    If Robert (or anyone else) wants to increase or enhance their brand by using Twitter or any other tool on top of their blog, more power to them. Arrington doesn’t really have room to talk about Scoble’s Twitter use, considering Techcrunch’s Twitter account is nothing more than a glorified RSS feed.

    Danny Brown’s last blog post..Procrastination Is For Squares

  • @Danny – I agree that there’s nothing to stop anyone building their network on Twitter–more power to them.

    That said, if you hosting company goes out of business, you can simply find another and be back up in hours. If Twitter goes out of business, what’s the alternative?

  • I think building a following Twitter is completely pointless. It is really hard to migrate those people to your blog. Unless you really don’t care about your blog and you don’t care about making money off of it. I know many people think it is the greatest thing ever but the time you have to spend on it is not worth it. Think if you spent all that time working on other things for your blog. You probably would be surprised how you have gone up.

    Blog Expert’s last blog post..How I Gained 200 RSS Subscribers in 2 Days

  • Twitter can be and is an addiction! People constantly refreshing!

    We’re trying to help people overcome their addiction to twitter and other social sites…

  • I think you have to engage in both. If Robert were to just work on his blog and never use Twitter or another social media service he would never have grown to the size he has. Whereas if he simply engaged in Twitter he could still have the same following, but it would be more difficult to pass along his ideas without a blog.

    I also think you need to be open and have the ability to work on several different fronts. Is Twitter more widely used than other forms of social media interaction? Yes, but it’s not the only tool out there. Maybe if you engage in several of these tools if will ease the blow if a Twitter should go out of business.

    Jesse Liebman’s last blog post..10 Brands To Watch In Social Media For 2009

  • Hi Andy, been catching you in Google Reader for a few weeks now, first time commenting with you.

    I saw the Arrington article, don’t know who Scoble is, but I get what’s going on here. Seems to me it’s perfectly safe to build a network on an exterior service. If you’re working that closely with a LinkedIn or even a Pownce (R.I.P), you should be keeping tabs on how the service is doing financially. If you start hearing the death knell, you start migrating your network over to another place.

    So here is the real question: How does one do that? How does one coordinate a mass exodus while minimizing membership loss? My answer:

    Let’s say your spidey sense is tingling and danger is afoot. Say your entire network hinges on a stream of tweets and Twitter’s lack of a revenue model starts to sound more serious in the better tech biz blogs. First thing I would do is start cross-posting everything to the new promised land. Anything you do, do it in multiple places. Automate it. Then you start posting bonus content at the replacement digs and headlining the fact in your tweets as a teaser. Soon you can begin warning people about the upcoming change, but more just getting them excited about the new and better place, a land flowing with milk and honey. That way, followers feel like they are going to somewhere, rather than running from something. More positive, more effective.

    Of course, all this hinges on being able to perceive the impending doom.

    That’s how I would avoid that kind of situational membership loss a la Pownce, how about you?

    Will Conley’s last blog post..What Santa Really Does

  • Maybe one should constantly *merge* one’s website with yet another social media but still keep the main focus on the site.

    Here is a nice quote that I’ve just found:

    Once a new technology starts rolling, if you’re not part of the steamroller, you’re part of the road.
    Stewart Brand

    Svetoslav’s last blog post..Programming Quotes

  • @ Andy. I see what you’re saying, though I think there will always be ways around it. The majority of people connecting on Twitter do usually connect with each other elsewhere – Facebook, blogs, Friendfeed, Stumbleupon, etc. If one goes down, there are always the other connections.

    @ BlogExpert. Although I respect your point, I disagree. Myself and many others (even the big guys of social media) have all reported extra blog traffic/subscribers because of Twitter. Where else can you announce a new blog post to thousands of people all at once if they’re not already reading your blog? Though I do recall you commenting on another blog that you really dislike social media on the whole, so perhaps that’s a reason for you dismissing Twitter and similar?

    Danny Brown’s last blog post..Procrastination Is For Squares

  • Wow – some great observations and insights. Keep ’em coming!

  • You’ve done a wonderful job of bringing other voices to Marketing Pilgrim…Scoble’s blog is Scoble…nobody else can really fill his shoes.

  • Is it really at the detriment of your blog’s momentum? If anything it should be creating more movement to your blog…twitter is really just a teaser to what you are all about…it’s your site that hopefully reveals more.

    Rebecca’s last blog post..Your Inbound Marketing Strategy for 2009 – Steps you can’t skip!

  • @Rebecca – I agree. Twitter helps to drive more visitors to my blog and company in general. That said, some people pick one over the other.

  • Well they are just lazy in that case…there are so many short cuts via which you can update twitter, not to mention that it’s just 140 characters, there should be no excuses not to be able to work on both regularly

    Rebecca’s last blog post..Your Inbound Marketing Strategy for 2009 – Steps you can’t skip!

  • Marc Vermut

    Andy, really interesting thoughts in the post. More interesting is that I found it via a tweet (lost in the stream that flows fast) that linked out to a blog post (Rubel at Micropersuasion) that linked back to here. So, there is value to participating in social networks and platforms. But the approach that one should take is the same as investing…diversification. Participating in multiple venues to balance communities that grow explosively and those that implode unexpectedly.

    More important, though, is to consider the value that is being offered to customers/users and the monetization behind it. Reputation that is earned in a community is not lost if you follow (at least a portion of) the community as it moves. Blogs are not important if you are engaging with your audiences in other ways (video, speeches, consulting engagements, books, etc). Blogs are then marketing tools; only as valuable as the audience they reach.

  • Pingback: links for 2008-12-23 | Company K Media()

  • There should always be some balance between blogging and socializing with advance on blogging side, because socializing can take big time and end up with loosing all results that were achieved over the years. Socializing should be just a support leg for blogging.

  • The real answer to avoid having the rug pulled out from under you is to put some investment into every network you come across. Doesn’t have to be as much as Scoble has put into Twitter and FriendFeed; in fact, just a bit more than minimum should be good enough to keep from being spread out so thin. (Or use a service or program that lets you cross-post to all of them at once, if you’re looking at the same crowd on each.)

    This way, even if a couple of those services go under, the rest are still there and working, and you don’t really have to worry about rebuilding what you’ve lost. Having your own website to pull it all together doesn’t hurt, either, though.

  • Great conversation. I would say that I lean more toward Andy’s point of view on this one because your blog is a real property whereas Twitter is more about promotion. Twitter looks to have legs but until there is monetization of the service this is still a wild card of the first order and a potential house of cards for those that are using it for their foundation.

    My greatest fear for Twitter? It’s that they are bought by someone who THINKS they have the resources and other properties to ‘fully maximize the Twittershpere’ (read AOL or someone else like them) and then it gets botched.

    Frank Reed’s last blog post..Merry Christmas to All

  • It’s a SaaS dilemma, isn’t it? As a VP at a SaaS company, we do two things to avoid this:
    1. Having our customers delegate a subdomain to us. This way, they OWN the traffic although they are using our application. If they wish to change in the future, it’s the flick of a (software) switch.
    2. Allowing our customers to own the content. If our customers wish to leave and would like the content, we’ll export it however they wish. As we grow, we’ll automate both import and export.

    We do this because we have faith in our product and service. It would have been nice for Pownce to contact Twitter before closing up shop and work out some kind of migration of followers and perhaps messages.

    I’ve been saying for a while now that we need a micro-blogging standard – just like RSS.

    Douglas Karr’s last blog post..Recession is a REQUIRED Marketing Tactic

  • There are two sides to this really – there’s the ownership issue and then the issue of what you want to get out of it.

    I’m not sure I agree with Danny above (which is rare) – if you have half a brain, you’ll back-up your blog regularly. That does, in my mind, make blogs different to third-party applications like Twitter. I know several people who at one time or another have had their accounts mistakenly disabled by Twitter. The feeling of loss they experienced, as they lost all of their connections was very apparent. If your blog host goes down, you can just port your content over to a new host. It’s hassle but it’s salvageable.

    Your post raises another issue though – what do you want to get out of it? Do you want to be known for in-depth analysis and content, or do you prefer short- sharp bursts of information and free-flowing conversations (not that conversations are exclusive to third-party apps)? Do you have time for both? Scoble built his reputation on the former but has shifted towards the latter. I place no judgement on that personally – it’s down to what each individual prefers.

    One thing I would take issue with, though, is the focus on quantity of posts. I’d much rather read one well thought-out post per day (or every few days) than two or three posts full of ill-considered bilge. I’ve noticed a real shift towards quantity over quality on a few high-profile sites, which is a shame.

    Dave Fleet’s last blog post..If I Were Santa’s Public Relations Guy…

  • Marshall Huwe

    Ironically, I think Scoble is the least likely person to be caught by the “Scoble-Dilemma”. Because Scoble is Scoble and has built a “community” I don’t think he has to worry much if Twitter or FB or FF or whatever goes away. He has too many folks who, like me, will find him wherever he is. I started following him on his blog while he was at MS. Then to Facebook, and Twitter, and Friendfeed, and Fast Company, and wherever else he decides to create an off-ramp into his community.

  • Oh please. Let’s step back a minute and consider that YOU’RE not Robert Scoble, I’m not YOU, and so on. WE are all different people with different viewpoints and what works for some doesn’t work for others.

    I love Twitter. It’s connecting me to a broader base of the people I want to get to know – in several different areas; the Mommy bloggers, petbloggers, and social media experts. I don’t expect Twitter to make or break me. I don’t expect my blog to make or break me. I don’t expect the link from this comment to my blog, to make or break me.

    There is only one way to create success, today or tomorrow, and that’s to build relationships. The more opportunity you have to do this, the more valuable the tool you’re using. ALL the social media tools have impact on building relationships. If I meet one exciting person via Twitter, that I would not have met otherwise, I am the better for it. As with the blogs and Facebook.

    As one connects, one begins to understand viewpoints not considered previously. As one connects, one learns how to manage the time needed for the different social media tools…and as one connects, one realizes that face to face will always be the best way to connect. However, introducing yourself via Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn is a great way to generate those face to face meetings.

    It’s laughable that you all want to compare the rest of the world to Robert Scoble. I respect him…but I don’t read his blog. I read his Twitter posts.

    I respect you, Andy. But, I found this post via Steve Rubell, whom I do read.

    So… let’s step back and recognize that the world is a diverse place, and not all of us can ‘own’ the tools we need to use to build our brand. Some of us are using paid tools (much like the ancient business folks used press releases) to get the message out. IF these tools go away, others will replace them and those who are innovative and flexible will survive.

    As for the amount of content in a blog – that, too, depends on the writer and the audience. Not everyone wants multiple posts per day, Andy. And, many are happy with one a week.

    Yvonne DiVita’s last blog post..Happy Day to the World

  • @Yvonne – thanks for your comment. I hope you’ll stick around and read more of our posts. You’ll find that we like to share our own biased opinion on topics but always open it up for our readers to share theirs. I thought you did that perfectly! 🙂

  • @Andy, thanks for the acknowledgment. I approve of biased opinion and believe all journalism is tainted with it. If it isn’t the journalist’s opinion, it’s the editors. Traditional media slants the way of the executive in charge.

    I’ll be back now and then to check you out. Happy to join in the conversation. Have also been known to change my mind about a topic after discovering the opposing opinion makes more sense.

    Happy Days!

    Yvonne DiVita’s last blog post..Happy Day to the World

  • once again Twitter pops up. I don’t like it, it shouldn’t be used.
    and to be honest, it’s scobles choice, leave him alone 😉

  • Twitter has gained the greatest popularity and occupied its deserved place in the internet world. So nothing doing.

  • I think that with the way twitter works, text only, I am required to have a separate site for my artwork (original content). So the choice is predetermined by twitter, without the decision needing to be made on my part.

  • I have only used Twitter to be honest, I like the simplicity of Twitter. It’s a simple and easy functionality, and that is why I love it.