The word blog is becoming ubiquitous, but what is it really all about? And can it be used to get that all important business advantage? Simon Wharton, managing director of online search marketing specialists PushON certainly thinks it can. In this in-depth article he explains how any business can profit from a little blogging.
Most of the readers of Talking Business have heard of blogs. Indeed, when I talk to businesses many have heard of the ubiquitous term, but have never really even considered it as an integral part of their marketing strategy.
Why is that?
Well, the media has portrayed the world of blogging as the domain of techies and bedroom closeted teenagers. It is hardly surprising that many businesses never give blogging a second thought. Moreover, many in the business world fail to grasp the real impact and benefits of technology. How many readers of Talking Business, I wonder, value the Internet? Everyone? But, how many have invested not only money but also real thought into their online strategy: the online face of their company for the whole world? Not as many I suspect.
So what is a blog?
Simply put it is an online diary: a series of regular entries or posts on a theme or subject of real interest to the writer. The blog may reside online by itself or better still as a feature within a website.
Blogs are not the preserve of the technical genius. They are very simple to use. They are also very cheap to set-up; in some cases the simpler versions are free.
The question still remains – what is the value to business?
Blogs give businesses value in a number of ways. Firstly, a company that blogs with intelligent and insightful comments about their industry has the potential to become the voice of their industry. Other professionals within the field of the blogger will consult the blog to compare views or learn about a ground breaking aspect of their industry.
The result of using a blog to achieve this aim is building relationships with notable industry professionals. So, if you are a specialist accountancy practice you might wish to work in partnership with more general accountancy companies that do not offer your particular knowledge base. The general accountancy practice might want a reliable partner with say, the specialist tax expertise you possess. This will allow it to service its clients’ needs without the customer looking elsewhere. How can they find out who knows about this specialism and your expertise? By following your blog the level of your expertise will be displayed.
If you blog with the tips I have outlined then you will be found by those you wish to interact with – you are being proactive with little effort.
There are many other benefits: the possibility of attracting a greater number of higher calibre candidates wishing to work for the blogger’s company – a real cost saving for some enterprises.
And of course attracting clients directly.
Blogging in the real world
But does that work in the real world? One of my clients Artisan Marketing Communications is one example of where the results are starting to filter through.
When we were approached, Artisan wanted PushON to build a simple static website – we said “no!” We advised them that a blog was better suited to their aims. After initial reluctance they agreed with our approach despite a slight case of technophobia, which was soon overcome.
Why did we insist on a blog? Well, a static website would have given this new PR agency no competitive advantage whatsoever. Once a potential client had come to the site there would have been nothing to attract them back. To use an analogy: if a newspaper had the same stories every day, who would read it a second time? So many websites have this effect and it can actually be detrimental to a business.
Artisan, at first, posted an entry every two to three days now they post at least five times a week. The subject matter covers media relations, the PR industry and the influence of new technology on business communications. They can be found at www.artisanmc.co.uk
The results after only six months are encouraging. Very few PR agencies in Manchester blog, this has immediately marked Artisan in their industry. It has also brought some interesting results. One such example is when NW Business Insider magazine contacted Artisan to discuss blogging for a business feature. The magazine was one that Artisan had had little contact with but by supplying interesting comments it broke the ice. This was a key contact for Artisan and will enable them to provide an even better service to clients.
Blogs are not confined to techies or chief executives of big business, many businesses of all sizes and sectors have something to say of interest. I have included a collection of brief tips, if you think you can follow them you should consider a blog.
10 quick tips to being a successful business blogger:
1. Post entries regularly
2. Post entries that have purpose and focus, do not write for the sake of it
3. Give comment of interest and value to your readers
4. Be transparent and honest – readers will be able to determine when a blog is phoney
5. Use simple easy to read English; if your audience do not understand industry jargon do not use it
6. Be concise – get to your point and make it well. Even fans of your blog will have limited time
7. Use links in your body copy to give you more visibility on search engines
8. Use reciprocal links to partner websites and blogs, which also aid search engine rankings
9. Ensure a RSS feed is available on your blog: RSS feeds allow you to distribute alerts and information direct to a subscriber’s PC without the need for them to come back to your blog. This eases communication and builds a relationship between the blogger and the reader.
10. Leave comments on other industry blogs to build relationships within your industry and get your name out
Simon Wharton, managing director of online search marketing specialists PushON welcomes comments and questions and can be contacted on 0870 757 4888 or firstname.lastname@example.org