About the easiest way for companies to dip their toes into the social media waters is the blog. There are few technical burdens to setting them up, the time needed to create posts can flex with the workloads of the assigned writers, and they can become a conduit for customer conversations through the comments section.
So every business is leaping eagerly into blogging. Right?
Well, not exactly. There are a couple of things holding businesses back. First, as an editor, I’m painfully aware of how terrified some people are of “writing.” That’s “writing” in quotes — like writing an article (or a blog post). The same people are often adept at churning out e-mails, texts, Tweets and Facebook posts, but they have a block about writing longer pieces for one-to-many consumption. It’s a little like a fear of speaking in public. Helping you past that would require me to have a totally different educational background, I’m afraid.
Other businesses get hung up on the strategic elements of blogging — and that’s something I have some ideas about.
Blog or Blogs?
First off, realize that starting, nurturing and maintaining a blog can be a low-resource effort, but it’s not a no-resource effort. It’ll take some time to write posts, and it’ll take time to develop the audience. Budget accordingly.
Also, be aware of your audience — or audiences. If you’re a larger company, multiple blogs may be the best approach to reaching your important constituencies. For example, if you’re a software company, you may have developer partners, existing users seeking to optimize their use of your product, and people in the decision-making process looking to get a feel for the culture and direction of your company. One blog is almost guaranteed to submerge the key messages for each group under material that’s unimportant to them.
Instead, three blogs would be a good answer — one penned by a key member of your development team, another by someone on the service team, and a third written by a key member of your management team.
The Human Touch
Next, be cognizant that in order to connect with the readers, a blog has to come from someone (meaning the writer) and not something (meaning your company). Readers are not visiting it to get a blast of unadulterated marketing; they’re going to visit a personality who’s entertaining, informative or, ideally, both. Relating to people is a lot easier than relating to a brand — which makes it important to pick people within your organization that you want people to associate with your brand.
At the same time, don’t stifle your writers by commanding them to behave like a brand — that’s unnatural, and it’ll cause them to alter their way of communicating, which is ostensibly the reason you chose them in the first place. A lot of corporate blogs read as though someone’s constantly telling the writer not to say anything stupid, with the resulting effect that the writer never really says much of anything. If you think someone’s going to write something inappropriate, don’t select him or her as a blogger. If you think someone’s a good blogger, don’t get in his way once he or she’s started.
Once you have people writing, make sure you tell the world about it. The blog should get at least a little space on your home page; it’s a quick, low-pressure way to get your customers to engage with you, but surprisingly few businesses ever think to include a link to their blogs in any prominent manner on their home pages.
Audience development doesn’t end there — Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn groups are three fairly simple channels to make people aware of your blog and to foster conversations about it.
Never forget the comments section of your blog. Check it daily to strain out blog spam (blam?) and, more crucially, to respond to legitimate comments. Doing so spurs conversations, and conversations in the comments areas of blogs can add a second level of energy to your efforts — and, depending on the nature of the blog, could signal new prospects or upsell opportunities.
Finally, as you should with everything in your business, measure your results. Most blogging software includes an analytics component that allows you to see raw traffic numbers, sources of incoming links, links within the blog that were clicked on, and the percentage of new readers of the blog. Keeping track of this is a great way to get a view of the impact your blog’s having beyond the walls of your website and can reveal nuggets of data you can act on quickly.
Perhaps the best part of establishing and nurturing a blog, especially for smaller businesses, is that it can be introduced gradually and that your strategy and approach can evolve over time. You don’t necessarily need all the pieces in place at the start, but you’ll quickly realize the roles those pieces play in getting business results from the blog.
At the very least, a blog is great for conveying the human side of your company to the public. Even if you never get into using the blog to look for prospects, engage in product cocreation, supplement your service department or broadcast your technology roadmap, your blog can help you build a closer relationship with your customers — and isn’t that the basic idea of CRM?
CRM Buyer columnist Chris Bucholtz blogs about CRM at Forecasting Clouds. He has been a technology journalist for 15 years and has immersed himself in the world of CRM since 2006. When he’s not wearing his business and technology geek hat, he’s wearing his airplane geek hat; he’s written two books on World War II aviation, and his next two are slated for publication in 2010.