This is me, just before leaving school at the end of the 90s. No idea what the world beyond a tiny cathedral city was all about, shy and introverted, and never for one minute imagining that at age 41, she’d be doing what I did last week – standing in front of 60 people at Samantha Cameron’s networking session, and speaking for the third time about blogging for small businesses, as the invited expert. And I’m wondering, if I had a time machine, how I would prepare this girl 9 for that – so I’ve had a go by writing a little explanation of the world that’s to come, to Becky of 1999…
I’m about to show you the future. In 2019, you’ll be a blogging expert, and be standing in front of people, telling them how to do it. Steady, now – I’m going to explain exactly how such a thing came to pass, and why you didn’t die of nerves or flee the building.
First, I’d better explain blogging. A very short time from now, the internet is seriously going to take off. I know you’ve dabbled with your own university email addres – although the whole process is extremely slow, quite confusing, and requires a trip to a computer lab full of other, similarly perplexed undergraduates. But anyway, it’s all going to be massive, and very soon every business – big or small – will be setting up their own website. You’ll even be able to look up Alanis Morrissette lyrics whenver you need to (because I know you don’t have a kosher album with fold-out song words).
There will be loads of search engines, to begin with – Lycos, Ask Jeeves, Internet Explorer (some say this stills lurks in the depths of ancient PCs), and Altavista – but the big one is going to be Google. You’ve seen it, actually, on Channel 4’s ‘So! Graham Norton’ on a Friday night – he’s always got it on the monitor. Well, Google really takes off, and becomes the one search engine that every business wants to court. They all want a prime position on the first page of the results that Google shows when someone searches for what they do. Let’s give you a 90s example you can relate to…if you ran a business that sold Christmas condiments, the ultimate prize would be to come higher up the search results than Dolores and her iconic band, when a customer types ‘cranberries’ into Google. (Oh, and Becky – you will still have all their lyrics in your head in your mid-40s, so I hope you’re proud of yourself.)
Hm, 90s websites – I know you don’t have a favourable impression of them at the moment (the standard Times New Roman font across every page is not easy on the eye), but I can assure you that they do get better – in fact, you’ll even be building them yourself in 2019. Just follow this link to your Portfolio and see for yourself.
So what do these businesses need to do, in order to get to the top spots? Well, they have to blog. It’s like writing short essays about your business, that give people a little background about who you are; some credibility to your expertise; reasons for customers to choose you in the sea of competition. And putting new blog posts on your website makes Google pay more attention to you, and rank you higher than a business that isn’t.
The problem is, lots of people don’t have the time, or the inclination. But you can. You’ve been writing for years – short stories, poems, essays on History, Latin, English Literature – and you’re going to go on writing, for newspapers, for police officers and staff, for board rooms full of decision makers, and you’ll even write documents destined for the Home Secretary. And in 2019, there are people out there who’ll need your help to understand why and how they should blog – and you can take all those years of writing, and all those years of helping people to understand the message you’re telling them, and give them that help.
First you’re going to start small, and help people one to one. Then as your confidence grows, you will start talking to groups of people about how to blog. Then one day, you’ll be asked to speak at an event for 60 Northampton business about the whole thing. And the crazy thing is, you won’t be as terrified as your 1999 self might think. It will all seem to come naturally.
Trust yourself. Trust the years of experience you’re going to get. Of course the 20 years between 1999 and now won’t be filled with blogging experience, because no one knows what that is yet. But you’re gathering something else – knowledge that people want to hear things that are relevant, things they understand, and that give them a clear course of action. Basically, that’s blogging. Get ready to tell them all about it.
And never stop loving Britpop.
Rebecca L Chamberlain (that’s you)
RLC Words (that’s your business – yes, really)