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Part I: Getting Started with Business Blogs
Doing the Prep Work
As you contemplate starting your business blog, you need to consider several nontechnical factors. For example, just who is going to write this blog? How often are they going to post an entry? Will the blogger be edited, and if so, how can it be done so that your blog doesnít lose immediacy and personality?
Most importantly, just what are you trying to achieve with this blog, anyway? Starting a blog just to have one is a waste of your time and your readers.
Before you begin to develop a business blog, define a purpose or goal for your blog. A good blog tells readers what they need to know and also tells you what they need to know.
As you contemplate starting a blog that can build buzz about your company, realize that what youíre really doing is creating a new relationship with your customers. By opening up this new form of communication, youíre agreeing to lay bare processes, motives, and knowledge that companies have traditionally kept closed off from the public. In exchange, youíre going to reap the benefit of customers who feel they understand your company and who therefore trust what you tell them. Think of a blog as a way of advertising your companyís attitude and values by demonstrating them. Can your companyís television spots, magazine ads, or product packaging do the same thing for you? Most of those techniques reinforce a brand ó they donít induce loyalty. Companies that create blogs to market their businesses accomplish the six following goals:
Inform or educate the public and your current customers.
This is the most common purpose of a business blog. Some companies are using blogs to let people know about changes in the company, new projects, and other events. Other companies have created blogs to help their readers gain knowledge ó tracking news, problems, encouraging idea exchanges. These blogs serve the immediate purpose of being a useful, practical service and of demonstrating expertise to the public.
Provide customer service or help using a product or service.
Blogs can be a great way to deal with customer service issues. Dealing with customersí problems in the open is scary, but everyone benefits from the availability of the information. As well, youíve just sent a message that your company cares about helping people resolve problems in a very public way. Be prepared to monitor a blog serving this purpose constantly, and respond quickly when people leave comments.
Convey a sense of company personality and culture.
The basic idea is that your blog demonstrates just how cool and fun and, well, human your company is. The blog begins to evoke emotional responses from its readers, and the final result is that your readers may actually start to like your company. I donít mean that they like your
Chapter 3: Building a Business Blog
products. I mean that they like you like they like their friends and their pets. Think about the fanatical loyalty in many Apple users: Their feelings about the products Apple makes have often pushed them into becoming fans of the company itself. Every company can use this kind of goodwill, even if it canít be measured in revenue growth or new customer numbers.
Entertain readers and customers.
As with the previous item, a blog devised to entertain the public pays off by building an ongoing, positive relationship with readers and customers. You donít need to find a comic to write your blog, but the addition of a joke here and there, and a generally humorous writing style, can keep readers coming back for more. A little bit of self-mockery can go a long way in this format. If the company seems to have a sense of humor about itself, its customers are more forgiving of mistakes later.
Drive users to take an action.
Political blogs have been in the news for the past couple of years, and itís pretty clear that candidates who keep a blog are hoping to convince people to take a specific action: Voting for the blogger. Blogs can definitely be used to drive people toward taking an action, but you need to use a delicate hand.
For instance, donít expect to start a blog in order to sell more units of your latest gizmo by blogging about how great the gizmo is. The public has seen a lot of ads, and they have no reason to seek out more. Start a blog that helps current owners of the gizmo do more and better things with it, though, and you get your current customers to talk about how theyíre using the product and how great it is. The result is likely to be more purchases, plus your company gets credit for caring about the consumers of its product.
Encourage dialogue with current and potential customers.
Another great use for a blog is to start an ongoing dialogue with your customers. After all, your customers are the people who know your products and services best, and they have definite opinions about how you can improve what youíre doing. A blog can elicit this kind of feedback with huge efficiency and more inexpensively than user surveys and focus group testing.