A while back, I was interviewed by a local newspaper reporter about my blog. Being the newspaper’s “business advocate,” he was most concerned about blogging for business.
That’s actually a good topic of discussion for anyone who blogs and operates a business. (That includes me, since I actually own and operate two active businesses: my writing “business” and Flying M Air.) So I thought I’d share some of my thoughts about blogging for business here.
One of the first things to think about when blogging for business is content. You have a few options:
- Publish content that has nothing to do with your products, services, or industry. I’m not sure why you’d want to do this in a pure business blog. (I do it here, but that’s because this blog wasn’t created to support my business.) It could provide enough interesting content to attract visitors and some of those visitors might develop an interest in your products or services. But if you propound opinions — especially political opinions — that are unfavorable to some visitors, you could actually damage your company’s reputation and lose potential (or worse yet, existing) customers. I think Bob Parsons, CEO of GoDaddy.com committed this sin; I recall reading a bunch of mailing list messages urging other readers to boycott GoDaddy.com because of something Parsons had said in his blog. (I decided to boycott the list instead and dropped my subscription.)
- Publish content of interest to your customers that isn’t directly related to your products or services. This is something I do with this blog. My customers (the folks who buy my books) are obviously interested in topics my books cover. But what of related topics my books don’t cover? When I write an article about blogging for business, the article may appeal to some of the folks who have bought my WordPress book, since that book covers blogging software. But it goes beyond the scope of that book to offer additional helpful information. (At least that’s the goal.) It also appeals to bloggers using other blogging platforms that I haven’t written about or don’t even know about. Those people are not going to buy my WordPress book. When you publish content like this, it makes your blog a place for people to get valuable information. These people may be customers or future customers. Or they might be people who will recommend your site to potential future customers.
- Publish support content for your customers. This is probably the best and most useful thing you can do with a blog — provided your Web site doesn’t already have support information in an easier to reference or search place. Some good examples include the blogs for FeedBurner, Tumblr, and Google advertisers. I do this on my blog by publishing clarifications and corrections to my books in the various Book Support categories and answering reader questions in Q & A.
- Publish pure marketing content. I’m talking about information about new products, special offers, and links to product reviews. This is obvious business stuff and I do it on both of my business-related sites. Here, I’m sure to mention when a new book has hit bookstore shelves or if one of my Informit articles is published. On Flying M Air’s Web site, I have a What’s New category where I list new tours and excursions as they are released and a Special Offers/Be Spontaneous! category where I release information about limited-time offers. But in all honesty, although Flying M Air’s Web site is blog-based, I don’t really consider it a blog. You can find better examples of this on many business-related blogs, including the ones listed in the previous bullet point.
If you don’t consider content first, you might find yourself in a situation where you don’t know what to publish. One of my publishers went through this exercise with its blog. It turned the blog over to a single person who had a single focus of interest. The resulting entries appealed only to a small group of visitors and did a pretty good job of alienating others, including me. The project has since been turned over to someone else and the content is more well-rounded.
One of the things I don’t like about some blogs is the writing style used by some bloggers. (Fortunately, I don’t see much of this because I seldom visit a blog more than once if I don’t like the way it’s written.) Some people write as if their company’s legal department is looking over their shoulder. Or their fifth grade English teacher. Or their boss. Or their teenage son.
A blog’s writing style should set the tone for the entire blog. Here are some examples of what I mean:
- Authoritative. You’re the expert and your words prove it. But be careful with this one. If you make a solid, authoritative statement and it’s wrong, your blog’s comments will fill with corrections — some of them worded in a very nasty way. And if people rely on what you tell them and have problems, you’ll wish your legal department was looking over your shoulder as you were writing.
- Friendly and helpful. This is my preferred approach. I try to write as if I’m talking to a friend, offering suggestions, advice, assistance. You might not know all the answers, but here’s what you know — or are pretty sure about. Is the information helpful? If so, great! If not, well, keep checking in; you might find something more helpful in the future.
- Hip, cool, groovy. (Am I dating myself here or are those words back in the current vocabulary?) You’re part of the “in crowd” and you know your readers are, too. You use current slang and make reference to people, places, or things in popular culture. Grammar isn’t important, spelling goes with the current trend. If you want to appeal to others who communicate this way — especially young people who are influenced by current fads — this is the way to go. But be aware that it’s likely to alienate everyone else (including me).
These are just some examples. The best thing to do is come up with a tone that’s comfortable to you. If you pick the wrong tone, your readers will probably know it. And they’ll wonder what else is fake about your blog’s content.
Another thing to consider is the presentation of your company’s blog. Everyone in business these days knows how important branding is. While you might think it’s okay to throw a blog up on wordpress.com or blogspot.com, formatting limitations are likely to make it impossible to give your blog the same branding elements as your Web site. If this is important to you, you’ll need to take the time and effort (or hire someone else to take the time and effort) to set up a fully customizable blog that can include your company logo, colors, fonts, and images.
In my world, Flying M Air is a perfect example. When I had my company’s brochure redesigned by a real designer (imagine that!) nearly a year ago, I decided to use the color scheme, shapes, designs, and existing logo as branding elements that I’d use on my Web site, business cards, and other presentation and marketing materials. That meant rebuilding the site from the ground up — which turned out to be a bit of a challenge, given that I wanted to use WordPress as my publishing platform. (WordPress is heavily reliant on CSS and I know just enough about CSS to be dangerous. I documented the task in a 7-part series on this site, if you’re interested in reading about my experience.) The resulting site supports my “brand” and is clearly identifiable as “official” Flying M Air material.
These are just a few things to think about when setting up a blog for your business. I’m sure if you brainstorm a bit, you can come up with more. (After all, I’m no expert!)
And brainstoming is probably a good idea if you’re getting ready to launch a business blog project. Get everyone who will be part of the blogging team involved. Talk it over together. Come up with a plan.
Just remember that every plan should be flexible, allowing for change as change is needed.
Got some advice to share? Use the Comments link.
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