In this two-part series, I analyze the steps for planning and implementing a corporate blog. The first article, on planning a blog, examines the key decisions on subject, mission, audience targeting, market survey, blogger selection, securing a corporate champion, and making the "go" decision.
This second article, on implementing a successful business blog, dissects the steps of selecting development tools, working out a content plan for launch, making a debut, developing a style and personality, handling responses, monitoring consumer discussion on your subject, and enjoying the process.
Herewith, nine tips for implementing and launching a blog.
Tip #1: Select tools/location/hosting service
Most bloggers use online services to create and publish their blogs. All the services provide the necessary tools to easily create a blog, write regular postings to it, and make your blog postings available for viewing on the Web. The following are the most popular services:
- Blogger (www.blogger.com) is Google's free blogging service.
- LiveJournal (www.livejournal.com) from SixApart is a free blogging service, largely used for creating personal journals.
- Typepad (www.typepad.com), another service from Six Apart, is used by many business blogs.
- Movable Type (www.sixapart.com/moveabletype/) provides more advanced site design and development capabilities.
- WordPress (www.wordpress.org) is a personal publishing platform for bloggers who want more sophisticated features.
Instead of creating a blog within one of the free public services, many companies host employee business blogs on their Web domain. Examples:
- Sun Microsystems: blogs.sun.com
- General Motors: www.gmblogs.com
- Microsoft: www.microsoft.com/Communities/blogs/PortalHome.mspx
Homegrown blogs require substantial technical support from a company's IT department.
Placement in search engines, links from other blogs, and publicity are the key methods to generate visits to your blog.
Tip #2: Develop a content plan for launch
Blogs gain audience, influence, and trust over time. Postings during the first few months should stake out the territory. The first 15-25 blog posts over the initial two to four weeks are designed to establish a presence, define the "subject" or "space" for the blog, and establish the credibility of the blogger. Like football coaches who script certain plays to start the game, the new business blogger is best advised to script the initial 25 posts before publishing the first one.
The initial posts also serve to develop a distinctive "voice" or style for the blog. Voice largely mirrors the real communications style of the blogger. Phony voices don't last on the Web. At least a few of the initial posts will begin to establish the blogger's positions on and attitudes toward corporate and industry issues. While both viewpoint and voice evolve over time, it's important to flash them early.
Tip #3: Make your debut
First, establish a presence and build relationships by responding to posts in other blogs—and use those responses to start establishing your expert credentials, positioning, viewpoint, and "voice" or personality.
The early posts are the rehearsals for the debut. The debut (the use of an entertainment term is intentional) is a posting designed specifically to attract widespread attention and generate buzz. A debut post—or series of posts—can accomplish that in myriad ways, including these:
- Important insight
- Touching story
- Far-out position
- Inside look
- And many more
The key to a successful debut is to connect with the target audience and engage them. The quickest way to connect is to hit a hot button or to give a peek behind the corporate curtain.
Tip #4: Churn out that content/get a rhythm
Worthwhile content—interesting ideas, insights, opinions, reports—is the heart of blogging. Ideally, you want to become a credible "go-to" blog—a recognized authority for your subject area. Keeping blog content substantive and fresh is critical to attracting and holding readers. Post frequently and consistently. Daily or even more frequently is best. Weekly at least.
Not all posts need to be deep—but all should be interesting to your audience. Short posts with musings can be very effective. Insights don't have to be long—just worthwhile. After all, this is the Web, where readers are scanners and "short" is welcome and appreciated.
Tip #5: Follow the blog style/use links/stay on track
An informal, conversational style dominates blog writing. It's what's expected—and corporate blogs that conform are more likely to succeed. Short, snappy sentences are in; long-winded "corporatese" is out. Concise is expected. Most bloggers use bullet points liberally.
The goal is to make reading quick and easy—enabling readers to scan content. And provide links to stories or ideas you reference. That's the blog etiquette. Stay relevant. Keep on topic and on track. Straying from the selected subject inevitably causes followers to depart—and not return.
Tip #6: Be better/play nice
Be better means:
- Have more interesting content than your competitors.
- Be more responsive than your competitors. Even marginally better often makes a big business difference (ref: iPod).
Play nice means:
- Always be civil. Bloggers thrive on strongly expressed opinion, but are put off by personal attacks. The blogosphere slices up and disposes of mean or rude people quickly.
- Never tell a lie and never try to hide information. You'll get caught, lose credibility, and never get it back.
- Say nice things about competitors. It disarms them and gains you points with others.
- Don't try to game the blogosphere. You're likely to lose. What's gaming? Creating a false personality, for one.
These basic rules have made the prolific Robert Scoble of Microsoft one of technology's most recognized and admired bloggers (http://scobleizer.wordpress.com).
Tip #7: Invite response
Enabling the target audience to respond is a defining characteristic of blogs. The key: Allow dissidents to participate but not dominate the discussion. In the give-and-take environment, bloggers need a thick skin and need to acknowledge mistakes—their own and their company's.
Think twice about erasing negative comments by others—and then think again. Openness is vital in successful blogging. Inviting response means giving up some control of the message. Owning the blog, however, ensures that you have the last word.
Tip #8: Monitor consumer discussion
Monitor regularly what the market is saying about your company, its products, people, competitors, and industry issues. Monitor not only blogs but also message boards, forums, and Usenet newsgroups.
You can use one of the blog search engines such as Technorati (www.technorati.com), PubSub (www.pubsub.org) , Google Blog Search (blogs.google.com), BlogPulse (www.blogpulse.com), and Feedster (www.feedster.com) . You can also use RSS tools such as Bloglines (www.bloglines.com) or NewsGator (www.newsgator.com).
Monitor Usenet with Google Groups (groups.google.com). Monitor message boards with BoardReader (www.boardreader.com) Or, for fully integrated media monitoring, you can subscribe to a service such as CyberAlert (www.cyberalert.com), Cymfony (www.cymfony.com), Carma (www.carmainternational.com), or KD Paine & Partners (www.kdpaine.com).
The subscription media monitoring and measurement services provide more comprehensive and consistent coverage of consumer discussion than any single search engine and enable you to automatically save the posts for media measurement and analysis.
Tip #9: Enjoy the ride
For most bloggers, blogging is a joy—and should be. For some bloggers, it's even a high. Companies are successfully deploying employee-written blogs to improve the corporate reputation and their connections to customers. Since many mainstream journalists monitor blogs, some companies have utilized their corporate blogs to get their message into the mainstream press. Bottom line: when approached correctly, business blogging does work!
Articles on Business Blogs:
- The Inside Story on Company Blogs
- Attack of the Blogs
- Why there's no escaping the blog
- Do's and don'ts of corporate blogging
Business Blogs for Reference:
- Micro Persuasion by Steve Rubel: http://www.micropersuasion.com
- Seth Godin's Blog: http://sethgodin.typepad.com
- Your Guide to Corporate Blogging (Sweden): http://www.corporateblogging.info/
- Jonathan Schwartz—Sun Microsystems: http://blogs.sun.com/jonathan
- Debbie Weil—Consultant on Business Writing and Blogging: http://www.MonaLisaofBlogging.com
- KDPaine's Media Measurement Blog: http://kdpaine.blogs.com
- Julie Woods—Cymfony Marketing Insight: http://www.cymfony.blogs.com/
- Bob Lutz—GM Fastlane Blog: http://fastlane.gmblogs.com/
Take the first step (it's free).
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