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20dec 2011

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New Year, New Blog? To Blog or Not to Blog

by in Online Marketing

There has been a trend of late for many businesses to start blogs. The new year may seem like the perfect time to do so. But before your business starts publishing a blog, think about why you want to do it and what you are going to use it for. Too many business people say they want a blog, and when asked what their strategies are, they say, “Huh?”

First of all, blogging is not for everyone. I would just like to get this out in the open air. There are a few things that you should take into account before jumping into one of those all-too-easy-to-use programs.

Expectations are key in this effort, as in just about any other area of marketing or PR. First of all, expectations have to match effort. You cannot write a blog post once a week – without posting it anywhere, without talking with other bloggers, without telling people about it elsewhere – and expect to get loads of followers.

You will probably not generate a sizable income stream from your blog. However, you may find that it is a good avenue to get to know your customers, to generate a conversation with them, and to use as a PR tool. But that’s not all it should be.

Think of it as a way to interact. Because that’s what it is. If you start there, you will have a lot less frustration and disappointment. This is not to say that you should not have some idea of how you might someday make money from your blog – just that it should not be the first consideration, and it’s likely to take some time. The ROI is akin to public relations – hard to measure, but there.

Consider how much time you can commit to this endeavor, the opportunity cost. Are you allowing for the fact that any time spent on the blog will actually take away from doing other work? If you want to see real results from the effort, readers should be able to expect regular updates. If you cannot commit to at least one or two blog posts a week, you are probably better off spending the effort on something else.

Be in it for the long haul. You may not see a ton of followers at first. This is where strategy comes in. How are you going to get followers? Not by sitting there staring at the screen. You will need to get the blog out there, let others know you are there, and find out where your customers and other industry professionals hang out. It can take a year or more to really see any results of your hard work.

Also look around at other blogs that might attract similar readers – you do know your audience, don’t you? Post comments on those blogs. Don’t – I repeat, do not – be overly sales-pitchy. Saying, hey, this is a great blog, now come read mine is no way to make friends. Look around and find what you like, and when you find it, tell them so. Get to know some other bloggers and maybe you can trade guest posts. In fact you should be doing the looking around long before you actually start your blog. You need to know what’s out there before you can say you are adding to it in a meaningful way.

So think about: how much time you can spend, how often you can post, and most of all, think about what you have to say. Most people don’t have something pithy and witty to say every week, and certainly not multiple times a week. Maybe your blog should have a head writer, and guest writers elsewhere in the company every so often. Keep it lively.

Think seriously about who should write your company blog. Successful blogs all have one thing in common: they are writing about something they love. They have experience in that area that goes beyond their blog. They would probably write this if no one read it. A good idea is to have at least ten posts ready to go before you even go live. Then keep at it. Once you get followers, you want to keep them coming back.

Be prepared to toss the editorial calendar to the curb once in a while, too. React to industry news, the latest trends, or current events. Be seasonal, or anti-seasonal. Be nostalgic, share your company history, let your readers get to know you.

As much fun as it might look to do, blogging with no clear commitment or aim is fruitless. There are so many bloggers out there, you had better have something pretty darn interesting to say to be able to stand out. Do it for the same reason you do the rest of your work – because you love what you do, you love sharing it with people, and you Do it for the love of it. But think it through before you start, or you may end up being a very frustrated and lonely blogger.