I had a great conversation this morning with the executives of a successful startup about best practices for business blogging. We discussed many aspects of maintaining a business blog and one of the topics that arose was around whether comments were critical to blog success. I have blogged about comments as a metric of success for blogs before, but this time it took a little bit of a different angle.
The question was also directed at whether it was better to try to promote and build a following for company representatives as thought leaders, or whether it was more important to publish regular rich content that supported sales objectives. The answer to the question isn’t the same for every company.
Developing a following for your blog with significant link-backs, tweets, and comments can be valuable but is also a challenge. It requires that you invest in a full time person who’s primary responsibility is evangelizing your company, market and approaches to solving the problems in the industry you serve. I have rarely seen this done effectively by someone who holds a full time role in the company. The reason for this is that building a significant following requires full time attention, significant content, and ideally is complimented by speaking engagements and other public facing communication.
A famous example of someone who filled this role is Robert Scoble when he became the poster child of corporate blogging at Microsoft. The keys to his success aren’t easily duplicated.
- First, he worked for the industry giant Microsoft. His initial influence was significantly bolstered by writing for one of the largest companies in the world about their products and addressing users questions directly. He invited feedback and even published his mobile phone number at one point.
- Second, he was free to criticize Microsoft and be fully independent. At Microsoft this served to humanize the company and connect users to a company that could be seen as technical and aloof. This level of freedom doesn’t always work to a smaller company’s advantage when they don’t have the market clout of Microsoft.
- Third, this was his main responsibility. Scoble’s title was technical evangelist and he made it a point to indicate his freedom and independence when it came to posting on his blog. The following is quoted from his old blog:
“Robert Scoble works at Microsoft (title: technical evangelist). Everything here, though, is his personal opinion and is not read or approved before it is posted. No warranties or other guarantees will be offered as to the quality of the opinions or anything else offered here.”
At smaller companies, this role can often be filled by a founder who is the visionary and chief evangelist for the company naturally, but they don’t always have the time or talents to fill this role, or they are occupied with another executive position. At the end of the day, because of the independence required to be successful at this, the blog can often become more valuable to the blogger than the company as evidenced when they ultimately leave as Scoble did after less than two years at Microsoft. If you start down this path, ensure that the blog supports the thought leadership at your company and team in general, not just the individual.
Because of these and other considerations, for most companies a blog is best used to develop rich and regular content in support of your sales objectives. In this case you don’t measure your success by comments or link backs, but rather by web traffic, search results and sales support.
Today’s individual typically doesn’t read an individual blog or news publication religiously. This is why so many papers and other periodicals are failing. Search, email and social media drives users to the content the ultimately consume through links to a specific article of interest. The key is ensuring that your company will be found when a prospect is looking for a solution to a problem you address.
If your company engages in blogging at a minimum of 1-2 times per week about topics relevant to the industry you serve, you will quickly find that the top search results for your key web terms will often point to blog entries. If you want to get the best results for your business keep the following items in mind:
- Publish regularly – You need to publish a blog entry at least once or twice per week in order to get the most impact. If your blog posting frequency starts to approach one blog every two months or so, your blog can begin to have negative returns as it will appear to be inactive and may not reflect well on your business.
- Keep SEO in mind – Blogs should cover topics that your prospects will be searching for. Clever topics are nice, but blog titles that match a prospects frequent search terms are even better.
- Take the time for a quality post – This should go without saying, but your posts need to reflect well on your company. Take the time to share a unique insight or your perspective on a recent news item that will be of interest once your visitor is reading your post. Low quality repurposing of data sheets or other blatant marketing materials won’t have full impact.
- Publicize your blog – Search is great, but you should also give your blog airtime through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, email, on your website, and in any drip marketing like a newsletter. Blogs are fantastic tool for advancing a point of view that supports your sales team and lays traps for the competition.
Blogs are a tremendous tool for corporations to develop and deliver regular content to their ideal prospects. Whether you have the right makeup to support a blog with