So you’ve decided to start business blogging. Good move — just ask 40% of the Inc. 500 companies (pdf). When done properly, a company blog can be a convenient and cost-effective communication channel for your business. It establishes your online presence, builds your brand, encourages conversation with your customers, and generates better search results so that your market can find you more easily.
Keep in mind, however, that business blogging is not just a matter of setting up a new site and then scattering keywords and promotional jargon all over it. You need to invest time, effort, and human resources in order to ensure that your blog works effectively, and that it is aligned with your business goals.
If you are unsure of how to start, then read below the Top Ten Things you need to know about business blogging.
1. Don’t just start it. Stick to it. The difference between a website and a company blog is this: while the former is static, the latter is always fresh. So update your blog regularly. Dedicate yourself to writing interesting posts, sharing company and industry news, adding videos, and posting pictures, such that blogging becomes a habit. If you are able to generate activity in your blog frequently enough (ideally, about 4-6 posts a week), then syndicate your content by adding RSS feeds to your blog, so readers are notified immediately of updates and new content.
2. Here’s a not-so-well-kept secret: blogs can optimize your search engine performance. That’s why you should first secure a domain name and URL that aren’t only memorable, but also relevant to the subject matter of your blog. If a potential customer is typing in a search phrase in Google for a product or service that you are offering, wouldn’t you like to be at the top of the rankings? The title of your blog should already give an idea of what your content is about.
3. Define your objectives clearly. Ask yourself: what’s the blog for? What the subject matter in focus? Who are the target readers? Be sure to identify your audience and the topics that are relevant to them. Then develop content strategically — based on what your communication objectives are. A business blog can be used to achieve various goals: drive sales, manage PR crises, foster customer relationships, garner feedback, provide a forum for internal communications, or develop a client community. What’s yours? If possible, assemble a team of bloggers who are familiar with your business and who are passionate about what you are offering. These people are the best candidates to tell the story of your company.
4. Write creative quality content. You want to draw in readers and build a following; not keep them away. Misspellings and grammatical errors just cannot happen. Write clearly, concisely, and creatively, and be consistent with the writer’s voice that you are using. Be original in the way you articulate your thoughts, opinions, and perspectives. Conduct research whenever necessary, and use facts to support your views. Proofread and edit painstakingly. The way you write in your blog demonstrates to readers the way you think and the way you work.
5. Use a voice that is at once professional and personal. A professional voice in business blogging is critical in that it captures the essence of what you do and how you do it; it speaks volumes on how you run your business. Your customers don’t want to read about what you did last Sunday or the former classmate whose party you had recently attended. On the other hand, don’t be too thorough and grave to the point that your readers will not understand a word of your corporate cant. Feel free to share anecdotes, as long as they are relevant to the subject matter.
6. Blogs are meant to be interactive communication channels. So don’t fall into the practice of company-centric business blogging; instead, show that your brand cares about its customers as much as the customers care about your brand. When you blog, include your readers and potential customers in your thoughts. Ask them questions. Promote discussions. Encourage them to send their feedback. Understand their wants. Reply to their comments swiftly and satisfactorily. Don’t let an E-mailed inquiry go unanswered. Connect with you audience on an emotional level, such that a two-way conversation is being fostered.
7. Affiliate programs add a touch of professionalism to your blog. Aside from having a link to your company website, also be sure to link up with your affiliates, your partners, and even your stakeholders. Not only will this help your blog rank higher in the search engines; it can also be, according to the pay-per-click mantra, an additional source of revenue. Most importantly, linking generously shows your willingness to participate in a broader dialogue with other influential entities in your online community.
8. A blog isn’t just a promotional tool. It’s a channel through which you can give your brand a personal face, fresh and friendly. So dare to be different. In your About page, don’t just insert contact information; tell a story. Implement designs and color schemes that reflect the personality of your brand. Post pictures and videos and interactive content that offer a behind-the-scenes look into your business.
9. Blogs aren’t advertorials. Readers get turned off by blatant sales pitches, so stay away from that. Instead, you can stay relevant and interesting by being as objective as possible. Speak out on issues that customers care about. Share your opinion and expertise in the industry. Do the occasional guest blogging stint. The key is to establish your thought leadership and authority — and to earn the readers’ trust.
10. Don’t forget to have fun. Keywords and search engines are important, but they are not of utmost importance. So don’t let that get in the way of business blogging. If you are passionate about what you do, it will show in your writing. Blogging is a creative outlet through which you can reach out to the people who matter.