Many people have the same impression of blogs and blogging as they do of other social media such as Twitter: as the ‘place’ where self-obsessed individuals drone on about what they had for lunch to an appreciative audience of friends and family. However, that’s not what it’s all about.
Blogging has moved on and, according to a recent survey by the blog search engine Technorati, business or professional bloggers are responsible for around 40 per cent of content in the blogosphere.
Originally a blog was an online diary or web log. Now many people, including professional writers and entrepreneurs, see it as a good way of showcasing their expertise and getting their opinions out to a massively diverse global audience. Just that alone makes blogging a valuable tool for business.
Most people find blogs through search engines when looking for information to aid a buying decision, a solution to a problem, or just general advice.
If they like what they see, the chances are that they will share the content and recommend it to friends and colleagues. Make your blog easier to find by promoting it everywhere – including email signatures, the website and social media.
However readers find you, make it easy for them to make the link to your business and get them to sign up for regular updates to the issues that interest them. When they come back they will be looking for fresh, regularly updated material that gives them what they need and doesn’t give them the hard sell.
Companies often ask ‘if we are not selling in our blog what’s the point of spending time on it?’ One answer is that this is an opportunity to build lasting relationships with customers, potential customers and the people who influence their decision-making – such as the media.
The indirect sales benefit is that the company will be valued as an expert in its field, a trusted adviser, and the first place to come to when readers are looking to buy.
Carefully placed links directing readers to key landing pages on the company website will help to nudge people in the right direction ‘for more information’ without putting up the equivalent of a flashing ‘buy now’ neon sign.
Some other good reasons to blog
Search engines love them Google loves new and original content that changes regularly and blogs are the perfect driver for new content. If the blog is sited on the company website then it’s even better for search engine optimisation and the chances of rising up their free listings.
Businesses are made by people It’s a good way of showing the human side of the business, although that should be carefully managed to make sure that all the good work that’s being done elsewhere is not undermined by the crazy blogster in the team who’s keen to show their wacky side.
It’s good to share Build relationships with key audiences by keeping them informed with useful content that help them in their business. Don’t be afraid to encourage readers to share articles and encourage comment, but do monitor it.
Raises the profile As an added bonus, attention from opinion leaders, media and event organisers can lead to invitations to speak at key events and write for respected media. It all helps raise the profile of the business as a thought leader in its field.
Having said all that, blogging is only of value if there is something interesting to say that keeps readers engaged and coming back and, from a business point of view, it has to be part of a broader content strategy.
Deborah Rowe is principal consultant of Sheba Marketing and a member of the organising committee for the Chartered Institute of Marketing Construction Industry Group