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Blogging in Hard Times
Marketers miss the fundamentals.
Posted Aug 21, 2009
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When the going gets tough, the tough get blogging.

Or, at least, they should.

The number of reasons for starting a blog in good times multiply in bad times. Luckily, blogging is a low-cost communication tool that allows businesses to:

  • put a human face on the organization;
  • home in on a niche market;
  • build trust and rapport;
  • solicit and respond to feedback; and
  • participate in conversations about their market.

These days, people value personal connections and want to get more out of the relationships that they have: A blog offers the opportunity to establish that connection.

Many companies launch blogs with the best intentions, but abandon them when traffic doesn't immediately appear. Or, they use blogs to post press releases, which don't interest anyone. Companies have to make a long-term commitment, and by following these basic guidelines they can see the benefits of blogging.

Know the Lay of the Land
Start by identifying the five to 10 top bloggers in your field. Take note of how they approach the subject, what they add to the conversation, and how they interact with their audience. Think about who you want your blog to speak to and how you will keep readers interested.

It's Not All About You or Your Product
If you went to a networking event, it would be tactless and pointless to approach person after person performing a sales pitch. Similarly, in blogging, the idea is to connect with people, not trumpet marketing messages. Talk about your company, product, or service, but in a way that addresses the needs or interests of your audience.

The tone of the blog should be professional but informal, and the content should target a specific audience with relevant information. Think about using blogposts to relate experiences in a way that helps others -- even seemingly banal information can be framed in a way that's useful. For example, the task of writing a report can be turned into your next blogpost titled "Five Ways to Make Report Writing Fun."

Ideas for Noncorporate Corporate Blogposts

  • Productivity solutions: Has your company found a more productive or fun way to do things?
  • Resource posts: Share your knowledge in the form of "how to" or "explainer" posts.
  • Industry news digests: Round up and condense relevant news or blogposts.
  • Respond to current events: Reinforce your philosophy by responding to current events relevant to your industry. In the same way that newspapers and magazines have editorials, your company could outline its response or opinion to something topical.
  • Alternative uses and new features: If new uses for your services or products evolve, show readers how it will make their lives easier or save them time.
  • A day in the life of the company: What's it like to be an intern, a manager, or a CEO in your company? Choose particular employees to write "a day in the life of" posts that reveal something about the profession or industry.
  • Social initiatives: Show readers your company has a social conscience and share with them your experience working on a fundraiser, a recycling effort, or a mentoring program.
  • Solicit feedback: If the company is trying to make a decision about a new feature or service, reach out to readers and ask for their opinion. If questions come up over the course of writing the blog, use blogposts to address them.

Plan an Editorial Calendar
Sketching out a blogpost plan several months in advance can help keep the momentum up. Plan to write at least two posts per week that vary in subject and tone: One weekly post may be news-related, another could be reader-related. Posts can also vary in terms of length: A short post can make a simple, yet effective, point; a long, authoritative post that acts as an evergreen resource could attract long-term traffic. Launch the blog after there are several weeks' worth of posts for people to look at.

Linking and Commenting
Linking to other bloggers and commenting on others' posts is essential to building a reputation and community in the blogosphere. When you read posts you like, make references to them in your own blogposts. Other bloggers will see that you've linked to them and, in turn, check out your blog. Commenting on posts is another way to establish your profile, because (in most cases) your comment will be hyperlinked to your blog URL. Comments should follow the same principles as blogposts:

  • Add something to the discussion.
  • Point out a relevant post you or someone else has written.
  • Bring up an experience that shows a different point of view.
  • Don't sell.

When people link to and comment on your blog, reciprocate.

Twitter and Bookmarking Sites
A lot of online dialogue has shifted to Twitter, and having a Twitter presence is a great complement to blogging. Since many people now prefer to communicate on Twitter -- rather than via email or in blog comments -- it's another place to catch and engage your audience. You can use it to mention new blog content or to participate in the community discussion. You can also help spike traffic to the blog by strategically posting your best content on bookmarking sites like Reddit, Digg, and StumbleUpon.

About the Authors
Justin Evans (justin@stresslimitdesign.com) is the founding partner, creative director, and senior strategist for stresslimitdesign, a Webby Awardwinning, Montreal-based boutique social media agency founded in 1999.

Jessica Howard (jessica@stresslimitdesign.com) has worked as an editor and freelance writer for the Montreal Gazette for the past eight years. More recently, she has worked as a blog consultant for stresslimitdesign.

Please note that the Viewpoints listed in CRM magazine and appearing on destinationCRM.com represent the perspective of the authors, and not necessarily those of the magazine or its editors. You may leave a public comment regarding this article by clicking on "Comments" at the top.
To contact the editors, please email editor@destinationCRM.com
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For the rest of the August 2009 issue of CRM magazine please click here.

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To contact the editors, please email editor@destinationCRM.com
Every month, CRM magazine covers the customer relationship management industry and beyond. To subscribe, please visit http://www.destinationCRM.com/subscribe/.
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