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The September 2009 Blogger in the Spotlight is Maddie Grant from SocialFish. Blogger in the Spotlight is a monthly series where Newstex turns the spotlight on our publishers with in-depth interviews that give you a glimpse into the stories, tips and secrets of successful bloggers and content producers. This month’s interview is with Maddie Grant, CAE who is an association industry blogger based in Washington, DC. She is chief social media strategist for SocialFish, a consulting firm that helps organizations build community on the social web. Maddie has written articles for a number of publications and speaks frequently. Maddie writes for the popular “SocialFishing…” blog, covering the intersection between social media and association management. You can find Maddie at www.socialfish.org.
How did you get started writing your current blog?
Maddie Grant: I was working as COO of a small membership association and decided to start a personal (yet professional) blog where I could explore issues relevant to associations. I found that it quickly became part of me, something I had to do, and eventually I built my consulting firm around it.
What makes your blog unique?
Maddie: Social media is a hot topic and represents a fundamental change in how people communicate, collaborate, and work. Blogs are social media, and there are many great blogs about blogging, and blogs about social media, but mine was one of the first to tackle how the association industry specifically is being transformed because of it, and how building community is at the heart of why associations exist.
To what do you attribute your blog's success?
Maddie: I was lucky to start blogging when the association blogosphere was still tiny. In only a few short years, it has truly blossomed, and I had an advantage of being in the first wave of bloggers. It didn't take long to make a name for myself as a blogger - in our industry, everyone knows everyone, and even much faster and easier now though social media! Blogging is so interactive, I have great relationships with technology bloggers and nonprofit bloggers too, and we're all learning from each other.
What are the top 3 tips you can give to bloggers looking to develop successful blogs?
Maddie: First, that you need a personal voice. You need to find your own rhythm and personality in your writing. There are no rules except to be yourself - and that's especially important if you're blogging for an organization. No one wants to read corporate messages devoid of personality. Second, that a blog is about linking - otherwise it's just static content. Read more than you write, and link to other blogs and other posts. And third, that as a blogger you have a responsibility to build relationships by, for example, commenting on others' blogs. They will return the favor and bring readers to you. It's give and take, and it's conversation.
What is the best thing that has happened to you as a result of your work on your blog?
Maddie: This is the million dollar question for me! I started my social media consulting firm with Lindy Dreyer, my business partner, as a direct result of people asking me for strategic advice based on the things I was exploring in my blog. My blog has changed my life and it's the best thing I ever did. It enabled me to truly find my purpose in life.
What inspires you to keep blogging?
Maddie: I'm one of those fanatical bloggers that writes at least 5 posts a week and has a permanent list in draft. I'm interested in so much stuff, I read a lot and I continuously find ideas to explore or to share. Social media as a topic is very fast moving, of course, and I see my role as someone who can stay ahead of the curve and filter all of this barrage of information and distill it down to what's important for my audience. So blogging at a fast and furious pace is part of what gives my blog value, I think, because of the subject matter. There's just so much to learn, all the time. I love it.
What are your favorite blogs and why?
Maddie: I have so many - but I'll mention a few non-obvious ones. For technology - Bub.blicio.us has good stuff on social media tools, and Bokardo is an amazing blog on social web design. For thoughtful marketing posts - Online Marketer Blog. And for associations, Jamie Notter is a phenomenal writer on strategy, leadership, diversity and generations (at Get Me Jamie Notter); Thanks for Playing (by an association marketing director) and Mizz Information (by an association community manager) are both written by smart women who have an irreverent side, like I do. All these blogs are smart and push my thinking.
What effects do you think blogging will have on traditional media?
Maddie: How about on your industry? I think traditional media will learn to adapt. I already know that the lines are being blurred between traditional journalists and bloggers, and I know that journalists scour the real-time web (in places like Twitter) to hear the news first. But I still like to read my paper with my morning coffee; I think there will always be a place for that as long as newspapers and other forms of traditional media start to truly understand the changing habits of their readers. For the association industry, social media in general is changing everything and some won't survive. Almost all associations want to be the "thought leaders" for their particular field or industry - and in my opinion that is impossible without a blog. The traditional peer review system for vetting authors and publications will stick around a while, but the speed of availability of new information is just too important - and blogs, not annual journals, are the way to get that information out there.
At what point did you decide to syndicate your blog with Newstex and why?
Maddie: Actually I was approached by Newstex pretty early on! It was the first sign for me that I really had an audience outside my niche - so I jumped at the chance to be syndicated.
What do you think are the benefits of syndicating your blog through Newstex?
Maddie: Like I mentioned earlier, blogging is all about linking and building relationships. Being syndicated extends the reach of my blog and therefore potentially gives me access to more people in general and more bloggers specifically - which can only be a good thing.
What's next for you and your blog?
Maddie: This is just the start! I'm building a team of guest bloggers from the really awesome people I work with, who will enable me to focus the blog more deeply at times on certain specific areas (such as technology, or social media policies and risk management) that are helpful to my audience. I want the blog to be a really useful resource as organizations start experimenting with social technologies - at the same time as I want to retain my personal voice. So far so good -- we're all about sharing the love, and that's what I believe blogging is really about!