Rubbing Shoulders in the Blogosphere – strategies and ideas for companies.
In my last article I gave an overview of the emerging power of consumer bloggers and their ability to form powerful social networks that spread news quickly. For those feeling uneasy about this change, there is much good news. Public relations, customer service, and project communications are all enhanced using these tools. Some examples and tips:
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Journalists love blogs, and with good reason. It provides a ready source of information delivered to their desktop. It digs beyond the press release while making their job easier during early research. Companies that are blogging receive more journalistic interest, and some PR experts are calling blogging the “transformation of PR.” With news coverage, an existing blog can be your first line of communication with the newly-curious public. If you utilize the techniques I’ve mentioned earlier in RSS: One big happy brain you can scan ahead for items you may want to respond to in your blog.
Customers, investors, and partners will see you as pro-active and dynamic through your rapid responses. The openness and honesty gives customers little reason to continue a negative message, rather, these are often praised in highly visible places producing a form of PR that money cannot buy.
But don’t wait until then. I advice you become familiar with this before you need to join in. It offers an opportunity to make important connections, but not a chance for the company line. Nobody on the blogosphere wants a pitch or a “refer to our website” in place of a thoughtful answer. It’s a person-to-person style, not a podium. It’s okay to express emotion and to give the world a peek into your company’s culture. Still, one should be thoughtful enough not to embarrass the firm – and some firms are establishing blogging policies to enforce certain restrictions.
What to expect after your blog is live is the next question. This varies, and you should watch blogs to see what seems to interest people in your line of business. Unfortunately, many are abandoned, and the most common reason is a lack of time. This is unfortunate, because they aren’t supposed to be long and drawn out. Even posting a new paragraph a week is going to achieve many of these goals. Timeliness, regularity, relevance, and use of important keywords are more important than perfection in blogging. Nobody is going to slam you for it when you post a fuzzy “sneak peek” of the latest product or a less-than-formal writing style.
Blogs can build important contacts. Ben Cowgill, a legal ethics attorney in Lexington, says of his very popular blog “It has been far more successful than I could have imagined. The regular subscribers include lawyers throughout the United States, Canada, Great Britain and Europe. It has also received visits from lawyers in Japan, China, Russia, Africa and South America. I have established relationships with a number of other experts in my field of practice.” Ben Cowgill’s blog can be found at legalethicsblog.com .
Don’t forget…. Google loves blogs. When people create regularly updated entries it increases the frequency of the Googlebot (Google’s “scan”.) For me, changes to my website (which holds my blog) are now visible to Google within a half day, letting me try new techniques, fix mistakes, or react to news. If a hot new topic hits the web, I can post my thoughts so they become part of the buzz early – while people are still searching for it.
Whether it’s about products, services, any company with motivation can create one that has real value to their visibility. Even restaurants can blog about new menus, for example, and horse farms about new foals. And no, you do not have to call it a “Blog.” You can call it “Chef’s diary,” “The Chalkboard” or “Paddock 9.”
One growing use is the extending FAQ, or Frequently Asked Questions. On websites, this is frequently the most visited page, often receiving more visitors than the home page. These “blogged” FAQs can be a fast, spontaneous Q&A, answering questions like “Are there any tables left for the Blue Grass Stakes Preview Dinner next week?” you’d probably not post on your permanent FAQ page.
Lastly, don’t neglect the value of “private” blogs. These are simply password-protected types meant for one known audience, such as members of a project. They maintain context, and unlike email, can be corrected if an error is posted. Some customers will subscribe via RSS and others will just hit the private webpage to read them. Everyone stays in the loop, while Email volume is reduced as well, which we all can appreciate.
I hope to have expanded your view on the benifits of blogging and encouraged you to look at your own business for ideas how it might work for you.
Blogger image (cc) John Loo on Flickr used under creative commons license