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 — 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 customers’ problems in the open is scary, but everyone benefits from the availability of the information. As well, you’ve 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 don’t mean that they like your 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 can’t 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 don’t 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 it’s 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, don’t 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 they’re 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 you’re doing. A blog can elicit this kind of feedback with huge efficiency and more inexpensively than user surveys and focus group testing.
Most business blogs combine several of these purposes into one blog, but don’t fall into the trap of trying to do everything at once because it might be can dilute rather than strengthen each other. If you do have several purposes in mind, consider starting several blogs. Users understand that each blog is a different conversation and gravitate toward the one that serves them best. Be sure to keep your end of the conversation similarly segregated, however, or you dilute the effectiveness of what you’re doing yourself.
Setting the Scene
You need to set the stage for success by putting the resources in place for a good blog. Each of the following elements contributes to the overall success of your blog and should be planned carefully before you launch the blog into the world.
- Finding a blogger
Your blogger need to be reliable, conscientious, accurate, and trustworthy. Besides that, you need to find a blogger that is thoroughly knowledgeable about the subject of the blog — and who is genuinely interested in passing that information on.
- Deciding to edit
Your blog need to check grammar, spelling and also edited for content. However, maintaining the spontaneity and fresh feeling of a blog when every post has to go through an editor or committee for content approval is difficult. A better technique is to set policies for appropriate blogging practices and leave your blogger to it. If you have faith in your blogger, check his or her spelling, and let the content take care of itself.
You will no doubt find yourself rereading your own postings and thinking of ways you could have done a better job with them. Resist the urge to go back in and edit old posts, unless you’re making a factual correction. Even then, be sure to leave the original error and indicate the correction. Blog readers are hypersensitive to this kind of editing, and it’s almost universally condemned, even when you’re changing something simple and fairly inconsequential.
- Setting policies for your business blog
For business blogs, establishing some guidelines to blog by is important. You need to create a climate where the blog can flourish that won’t also turn your hair gray and keep you awake at night worrying. The guidelines needn’t be lengthy or very formal, but they should establish some working principles for the role of the blogger; an editor, if there is one; and anyone else involved in overseeing the blog. You also need to do some thinking about how to handle mistakes and corrections, preferably before they happen.
Your blog editorial policies should also include a linking policy — do you allow links to competitors or to news stories that include criticism of your products or services?
- Becoming familiar with the blogosphere
By starting a blog, you join a whole new community — one that has no more in common with your business than random strangers off the street. So you need to pay attention to the conventions of the blogging world and become familiar with prominent blogs and bloggers. Spend some time reading blogs, even those that don’t have anything to do with your industry but are successful. Try to take note of good practices and conventions, and appropriate ways to take part in the conversations going on in the blogosphere. The payoff just may be some good buzz about your efforts from other bloggers that can send readers your way!
- Choosing a memorable name
Find a name that is easily remembered and one that won’t be confused with other blogs and Web sites. You may find that incorporating some form of your company’s name into the blog name is useful. Use these tips to make your decisions as you brainstorm:
- Do choose a name that doesn’t require you to use spaces or that can becollapsed (as in domain names) and still make sense.
- Do make sure your domain name won’t inadvertently be a double entendre. Lumber Jack’s Exchange becomes an entirely different site when the punctuation and spaces are dropped in a URL.
- Do look for a name that includes an identifying noun. For example, if you’re blogging about mobile phones, using the word “phone” in the name would be a good idea.
- Don’t choose a name that is hard to spell or to pronounce.
- Don’t use hyphens — they are inaudible and not so useful for advertising that relies on verbal identification.
Designing a Business Blog
- Customizing your design
Design plays a big part in how your readers think about your blog. Branding is just as important here as it is on your company’s business cards, stationery, and Web site. A well-designed blog typically includes:
- A distinctive logo or banner that clearly conveys the name of the blog.
- A limited color palette designed to increase the readability and attractiveness of the blog.
- Branding that matches your existing corporate identity, especially styles established by other Web sites.
- Incorporating HTML
As a blogger, you simply must be able to do a few things with HTML:
- Create bold or italicized text.
- Create a link to another Web page.
- Adding photographs
Photographs can add interest, information, candor, and color — and hopefully generate some business. Not every photo is worth 1,000 words in the blog world, but they can sometimes be the fastest, simplest way to explain something to your audience, and photos sometimes get more reaction or attention. You can use or adapt a number of good resources for stock photography and clip art for your blog design: Creative Commons, Comstock, Flickr, Getty Images, Photos, Clipart.
- Hiring Outside Designers and Coders
You’ll note that the phrase is not "anyone can publish well." For somethings, however, you may want to hire a professional, and setting up the HTML templates or creating the site design are the usual candidates for outsourcing.
Source: Buzz Marketing with Blogs For Dummies