If there’s one thing that pulls you back to reality, it’s meeting with regional businesses to discuss blogging and social media.
Chances are, if you’re reading this, you understand blogging, social media, social bookmarking, search engine optimization, etc. You’re the exception!
Outside the ‘blogosphere’, corporate America is still wrestling with finding a domain name and putting up a web page. They really are! Many are still looking to the Classifieds, Yellow Pages, and Direct Mail to get the word out. If you have the money, maybe you even move into Radio or TV. These are easy mediums, aren’t they? Just put up a sign, a spot, an ad… and wait for people to see it. No analytics, page views, unique visitors, ranking, permalinks, pings, trackbacks, RSS, PPC, search engines, ranking, authority, placement – just hope and pray someone listens, watches, or looks up your company.
This web thing is not easy for the typical company. If you don’t believe me, stop by a regional Web Conference for beginners, a regional Marketing Conference, or a Chamber of Commerce event. If you really want to challenge yourself, take the opportunity to speak. It’s an eye-opener!
Top Ten Questions on Blogging from Companies:
- What’s blogging?
- Why should companies blog?
- What’s the difference between blogging and a website?
- What’s the difference between blogging and a web forum?
- How much does it cost?
- How often should we do it?
- Should we host our blog on our website or use a hosted solution?
- What about negative comments?
- Can more than one person blog?
- How do we control our brand?
Being mired in the industry, I was taken aback when I first heard these questions. Everyone didn’t know about blogging? Every marketer wasn’t entrenched in social media the way I was?
Here are My Responses:
- What’s blogging? The term blog is simply short for weblog, an online journal. Typically, a blog is composed of posts that are topically categorized and frequently published. Each post tends to have a unique web address where you can find it. Each post typically has a commenting mechanism to solicit feedback from the reader. Blogs are published via HTML (the site) and RSS feeds.
- Why should companies blog? Blogs also have unique underlying technologies that leverage search engine technologies and communication with other bloggers. Popular bloggers tend to be viewed as thought leaders in their industries – helping to propel their careers or their businesses. Blogs are transparent and communicative – helping businesses to create relationships with their customers and prospects.
- What’s the difference between blogging and a website? I like to compare a website to the sign outside your store and your blog is the handshake when the patron walks in the door. ‘Brochure’ style websites are important – they layout your products, services, and company history, and answer all the basic information that someone might be seeking about your company. The blog is where you actually introduce the personality behind your company though. The blog should be used to educate, communicate, react to criticism, drive enthusiasm and support the vision of your company. It’s typically a little less formal, less polished, and provides personal insight – not just a marketing spin.
- What’s the difference between blogging and a web forum? Perhaps the greatest thing about a blog is that the blogger drives the message, not the visitor. However, the visitor does get to react to it. A web forum allows anyone to start a conversation. I tend to see the goal of the two differently. IMHO, forums don’t replace blogs or vice versa – but I have seen successful implementations of both.
- How much does it cost? How does free sound? There are a ton of blogging applications out there – both hosted and software that you can run on your own blog. If your audience is huge, you could run into some bandwidth issues that might require you to buy into a better hosting package – but this is pretty rare. From a corporate standpoint, I would work with your web host or your development company to maximize your blogging strategies and integrate them with your brochure site or product, though! The two can complement each other quite nicely!
- How often should we publish? Frequency is not as important as consistency. Some folks ask how often I work on my blog, I don’t think I’m typical. I generally do 2 posts per day… one is in the evening and the other is a timed post (prewritten) that publishes during the day. Each evening and morning I typically spend 2 to 3 hours working on my blog outside my regular job. I’ve seen fantastic blogs that post every few minutes and others that post once a week. Just recognize that once you set expectations with regular posts you should maintain those expectations, otherwise you’ll lose readers.
- Should we host our blog on our website or use a hosted solution? If you’ve been a long-time reader of mine, you’ll know that I personally like to host my own blog because of the flexibility it provides me in design changes, adding other features, modifying the code myself, etc. Since writing those posts, though, hosted solutions really have lifted the bar. You can now work with a hosted solution, have your own domain name, customize your theme and add tools and features almost as well as if you were hosting your own. I first started my blog on Blogger but quickly moved it to a hosted solution using WordPress. I wanted to own my domain and customize the site further.
- What about negative comments? Some folks believe you can’t have an honest blog unless anyone and everyone can comment on it – even if it’s false or insulting. This is simply ridiculous. You can opt-out of comments altogether – but you’re losing valuable user-generated content! Folks commenting on your blog add information, resources, and advice – adding both value and content. Remember: Search engines love content. User-generated content is fantastic since it costs you nothing but provides your audience with more! Rather than no comments, simply moderate your comments and put a nice comment policy in place. Your comment policy can be short and simple, If you’re mean – I’m not posting your comment! Constructively negative comments can add to the conversation and show your readers what kind of company you are. I tend to approve all but the most ridiculous or the SPAM. When I do delete a comment – I usually email the person and tell them why.
- Can more than one person blog? Absolutely! Having Categories and Bloggers within each of those categories is fantastic. Why put all the pressure on one person? You’ve got an entire company of talent – put it to use. I think you’ll genuinely be surprised by who your strongest and most popular bloggers are (I’d be willing to bet they won’t be your marketing folks!)
- How do we control our brand? 80,000,000 blogs in the world with hundreds of thousands added every week… guess what? People are blogging about you. Create a Google Alert for your company or industry and you might find out that folks are talking about you. The question is whether you want them to control your brand or you to control your brand! Blogging provides a level of transparency that many companies are not comfortable with. We say we want to be transparent, we want to encourage transparency, but we’re scared to death of it. It’s something that your company is simply going to have to overcome. In all honesty, though, your clients and prospects already recognize you’re not perfect. You’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to make mistakes with your blog, too. The relationship of trust that you’re building with your customers and prospects will overcome any slip-ups you make.