Keith Rabois touched off a mini-Twitter firestorm the other day when he posted a tweet saying, “I don’t know of a single successful CEO or entrepreneur who blogs regularly.”
Sadly, as I often note, 140 characters isn’t enough for a nuanced response, which this topic deserves. Here are my (often conflicting) thoughts about whether entrepreneurs should blog:
1. There are definitely entrepreneurs (and wantrepreneurs) who substitute blogging and commentary for actually getting things done.
The Valley and the startup world are full of people who seek notoriety, which has little correlation with success:
Just this morning, I had breakfast with a very successful entrepreneur who shall remain nameless; we talked about how the Valley was full of people who weren’t that successful, but who managed to build the appearance of success (yours truly is a pretty good example!) based on their notoriety.
The worst are the posts which present little original thought, but instead spew random quotes (to appear learned or hit) and brogrammer jargon.
2. On the other hand, there are entrepreneurs for whom blogging is a critical part of their success.
I pointed out to Keith that brilliant entrepreneurs like Dharmesh Shah (HubSpot) and Rand Fishkin (Moz) are both great bloggers and great leaders. Part of this is that they are natural writers. The other is that both sell content marketing software; blogging is a critical part of eating their own dog food.
Even if you’re not selling content marketing tools, I like entrepreneurs who write sincerely, and share authentic stories, like Joel Gascoigne (Buffer). That kind of blogging adds value, as opposed to being yet another blowhard tackling the issues of the day (once again, yours truly is a good negative example).
3. Blogging for the sake of “blogging” is almost always a mistake.
Writers write because they have to. When I don’t write, I feel miserable and intellectually constipated, and my wife has to suffer through my verbal overflow.
But if you’re not a natural writer, and you decide to blog because “successful entrepreneurs blog,” you’re as guilty of cargo cult entrepreneurship as any n00b. Blog to share ideas, not to have blogged.
4. It’s really hard to blog when you’re CEO.
I first started blogging after I had brought in an outside CEO to run my first startup. When I was CEO of Ustream, my blog was essentially on hiatus. The point is, I’ve never tried to be a blogging CEO. I’ve always found being CEO to be nearly all-consuming. I have to tip my cap to folks like Rand and Joel who manage this feat!
5. There’s a difference between blogging and having a corporate blog.
One of the key distinctions Keith drew was between a real blog and a corporate blog. If you want to blog, write it yourself, in your distinctive voice. A corporate blog that puts words in the CEO’s mouth is inauthentic and ineffective.
Hopefully, these thoughts don’t turn you off of blogging; I continue to believe that entrepreneurs should blog–but they should do so for the right reasons, and in the right way.