One of the questions I often field comes from business owners and marketers who are thinking of launching a blog but are wondering, "What can I write about...?"

A recent post by Poynter contributor Vince Maher does an excellent job of giving some guidance on what businesses can write about, and, more importantly, how they can write it.
Vincent, who is also a lecturer in the School of Journalism & Media Studies at Rhodes University in South Africa, wrote his post to advise journalists-turned-bloggers. But it's also great inspiration for any organization looking to launch or improve a blog.
I particularly like Vince's take on a blogger's being more like a community manager than a writer (although I'd argue that the best bloggers are both). Since readers and other bloggers will comment real-time on your words, "the process only gets going once the blog post is published," Vince writes.
All 11 tips are here–be sure to check out the full list. But here are the seven points I think are most critical for businesses:

  1. A blog entry is a stub for conversation. "One of the key ways to create a loyal audience for your blog is to create a community of readers who interact with each other," writes Vince. Think about creating posts that start conversations, have a point of view, and appeal to the interests of your readers. All writing must consider the audience, but for bloggers, it's critical.

  2. Write tight headlines that pique interest. Think punchy, short, descriptive headlines that will pique a reader's curiosity.

  3. Be scan-friendly. Bullet points (like these!) are easy to scan and have the useful by-product of lending structure to your thoughts.

  4. Link to the context. This is really important: if you write about something that other blogs are talking about in a post or conversation, offer links back to their conversations to give your post some context. Master Maher writes: "Linking to other sites is a plus rather than a minus because it will help your readers understand where you're coming from."

  5. Troll the blogosphere for secondary conversation. Tools like Google BlogSearch, Bloglines and Technorati will help you track what other bloggers are saying about your post. Try to update your blog with links to those conversations if they add or augment yours.

  6. Be active in your own conversations. Comment back to your readers. " Unlike traditional journalists, the blogger's role is to steer and be part of the conversations they start," Vince writes. As blogger Greg Verdino wrote this week, "Blogging (or broadly, all of social media) is a conversation among people, and it although takes place in the ether and may be widely distributed (unfettered by geography and timezone) this conversation is every bit as real as one that takes place between two people standing around a watercooler. Social media is all about relationships - real, virtual or somewhere in between."

  7. Create buzz everywhere. Include lots of relevant inbound links to your post. Via Technorati or other search tools, seek out other blogs that are discussing the same or similar issues, and participate in the conversation there.

So what do you think? Did I miss anything or can you expand on any of these guidelines?
(Thanks to Amy Gahran for the tip.)

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image of Ann Handley

Ann Handley is a Wall Street Journal best-selling author who recently published Everybody Writes 2. She speaks worldwide about how businesses can escape marketing mediocrity to ignite tangible results. IBM named her one of the 7 people shaping modern marketing. Ann is the Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs, a LinkedIn Influencer, a keynote speaker, mom, dog person, and writer.