A ‘blog’ – short for web log – is a digital diary. It started off as a personal space for Joe Soap who used it to detail his daily grind and show off pics of his cat, but with over a decade of development and an ever-growing social media and tech-savvy customer base, blogs are now an invaluable tool that can reap great rewards for your business.
Why do you want a blog?
A blog is a more personal approach to doling out information. For corporates, it’s a complement to a conventional website – a way of turning those statistics into emotional followers.
People like dealing with people – this is the reason recorded call centres irk us so much. Confronted with a sales pitch from a call centre recording or a client liaison, which would you be more likely to take up?
How do you get a blog?
Hosts and downloadable options like WordPress (wordpress.org) and Movable Type (movabletype.org) allow the easy installation of turnkey blogs.
Free, open-source, expandable, easy-to-use and with a solid history of development by those who use it, it’s no wonder WordPress publishes the content found on many of the leading blogs worldwide.
Set-up is a breezy five minutes, after which you can get right to publishing your first post or spend a few moments picking from a myriad of ready-made plug-ins, which extend your blog’s functionality in every way possible, and themes, which you can customise to match your existing website’s style.
How do you blog?
In the traditional sense, blogging is done via an administrative panel online, but nowadays posting content via email is becoming commonplace too.
In its simplest form, a heading and body are all you need to get you on your way.
As you progress, you’ll gain the ability to categorise, prioritise and tag your articles, not to mention linking images, files and multimedia. Additional functionality, through the use of plug-ins, enable abilities such as simultaneous cross-platform posting (think Facebook and Twitter), complex layouts and SEO tweaks.
What you put on your blog?
The Internet has been described by numerous web gurus as a technological and social development that has allowed people to publish cute pictures of their cats for the world to see. So, with that in mind, no cats. Please.
Showcase new products, explain your policies, detail your case study achievements, discuss recent press releases and comment on industry news. Become an expert in your niche – be the person whose blog you would want to keep tabs on.
If you have relationships with partners, allied products or a supporter base on Facebook, this is the place to punt it too.
Interface with your respondents. A blog is not a forum, but no one likes being a lone voice – if visitors take the time to comment on posts, engage them constructively and acknowledge their actions.
Remember, while a blog is a platform for a press release or clipping, it’s informal, personal and generally targets a different audience. Maintain a dedicated press office or news section as a primary contact point for the media.
Who’ll contribute to your blog?
You’re not looking for an administrator, you’re looking for contributors who can add value to the content and strike a chord with your readers.
Content found online is typically eternal. You’re representing your business – make sure what you post is factually accurate, relevant and timeous.
Lastly, blogs are intrinsically linked to people. If you like a person, you want to know what’s going on in their life. It’s the same thing with a blog – it needs to be kept fresh. If you cannot maintain a steady stream of at least two high quality posts per week, your blog will wilt in favour.
Blogging in action
With 580 000 users, and currently ranked #7 in the top South African websites list, auction giant Bidorbuy is a household name. It’s maintained a blog since 2002 and publishes an average of 15 posts a month.
Chief technical officer (CTO), Gerd Naschenweng, says that although the “blog following is relatively small,” the company does “see value-add from blog posts resulting in additional revenue.”
Bidorbuy routinely sees noticeable rises in activity, thanks to content that “is topical to current events and/or seasonal (ie. buying tips for Valentines Day, holiday shopping etc).”
Fresh, original, relevant and current content that has “value to the reader” without being blatant marketing is the recipe to corporate blogging success, says Naschenweng.
Bidorbuy believes in active engagement with its blog readers and has a policy of dealing with gripes in the public realm rather than removing offending comments. This open door approach extends through its blog to other social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter – all of which feed off one another.
It’s customer support in the 21st century – quick, mobile, efficient and open.
“The blog and social media have improved customer relations and support,” says Naschenweng.
He leaves us with this closing thought: “Many competing sites do not seem to place much focus on maintaining (or even having) a blog. We consider this a missed opportunity as a blog offers a great opportunity to engage with customers, create brand awareness and enables a business to informally communicate with a customer base.”