Audio version of this posting is avaliable here (runtime - 2:25).
Today, companies have leveraged the increasing popularity and ease-of-use of blogs to promote their business, build a loyal readership, and educate their customer base.
There are hordes of blogs on the Internet, but like most things that have become cost-effective and easy to learn, few are done well. There are three keys to developing something that goes beyond your nephew's blog, or a page of links but becomes a valuable resource to your prospective customers. The three keys are: content, consistency and community.
Content is King
Most importantly, what makes a good blog is great content. Your content should be benefit-based, informative and, ideally, actionable by your target audience. Provide content links only when relevant and keep your sales pitches for your other marketing activities.
Consistency and Frequency
Building a level of consistency into your blog is also important in order to build a subscriber base. This is not to say that you should re-package the same content over and over again or publish your post just for the sake of it. Rather, identify expertise your audience is seeking and consistently be their resource.
Consistency is also important when it comes to the frequency of your posts. You don’t have to post daily or even weekly. However, you should set a content goal and stick to it. As an example, JDM’s content goals include at least two blog postings per month and if you look at our blog archive, you'll notice we've stayed pretty close to that goal for years. We aim to post content that is valuable to our readership on a consistent basis with relative frequency.
Beyond the Blog is a Community
You can make your blog go beyond the classification of a resource when you allow for it to become a meeting place for a discussion. You should not just allow for comments from your readers but you should welcome them with little or no moderation. After all, it isn't a discussion if the community can only hear what you let them hear. You should welcome criticism. Criticism is almost always more interesting than praise.
Another way to build this sense of community is adding interactive elements to your blog. These could be elements such as polls, and reference link list or they could be RSS syndication and email sign ups. The level of interactivity with your blog is up to you and how much time you want to put into the blog's development, but there are some easy, third-party, ways to add professional-level interactivity into your blog without learning a single line of code.
Easy Interactive Blogging
At JDM, we use Blogger as a content management platform for our blog. Platforms like Blogger allow you to post your content to your blog through a Word-like editor. Besides allowing for easy content management, platforms like Blogger also allow for pre-coded page elements such as polling, link lists, archives, and images to be added to your blog at the click of a mouse. Recently, they've also allowed for video or audio elements to be added via easy-to-use enclosure links.
Follow this enclosure link to listen to the audio podcast of this posting (runtime - 2:25).
There's a lot of talk about RSS or "real simple syndication", but unfortunately there's nothing simple about it. We use a third-party solution called FeedBlitz to handle both the syndication of our blog's content as well as handling email subscriptions and list management. They’re inexpensive (often free) and as easy to use as blogger.
Finally, implementing website statistics into your blog can also be a valuable way of judging traffic volume, visitor loyalty, and popular content. Implementing a free website statistics package is as easy as cut and paste. At JDM, we recommend Google Analytics.
For more information on Google Analytics and website statistics, check out our blog posting entitled, Web Stats :: Cause or Effect?
Marketing your Blog
There are those marketers who view promoting your company blog as analogous to promoting a promotion and spend little or no time marketing the blog. However, there's little point in spending the time and effort developing a really great company blog if little or no one sees it.
The answer is that you do, in fact, have to promote your blog albeit, it should account for only a fraction of your marketing budget.
Promotional activities like a low-budget pay-per-click campaign, search engine optimization, and inserting a link into your company's email signatures are inexpensive and a good start. As your blog grows you'll be able to determine how much more or less it will be worth to continue promoting it.
For more advanced promotional activities download our "2008 Marketing Trends" article.
Ultimately, the key to building a great company blog is to consistently provide valuable content to a community of readers. Everything else is just a widget—more on that later.
Learn more about JDM and our evolved approach to marketing on our webiste: www.MarketingHasEvolved.com.