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A guest post by Ian Greenleigh, Social Media Manager, Bazaarvoice.

Most corporate blogs are ghost towns, in terms of both content and reader engagement. Abandoned blogs litter the web, making the businesses that own them look lazy, uncommitted and anything but current. The reality is that keeping a blog fresh involves more time and effort than most brands are willing to invest, which only makes the few that do succeed look even better. So what are they doing that most others are not?

Start slowly, perfect your pace.

It’s true; the best blogs are updated often. A 2009 study found that blogs with high Technorati Authority rankings post about 300 times more often than those with low Authority rankings, and keeping a blog fresh is the only way to grow readership, boost conversions and develop thought leadership. But getting there takes long-term planning and discipline. Don’t be the showoff that starts with a sprint and fails to finish. Instead, begin with a posts-per-week goal that you’re certain to hit before you dial it up. During this time, refine your related activities---content distribution, establishing baselines for measurement, trending and reporting---to get an idea of the impact a blog post can have on your existing marketing efforts. Get the process down cold first, and then gradually increase content volume until you’ve hit a manageable stride that’s still producing desired results.

Like any good publisher, you’ll need an editorial calendar. Plan several weeks in advance, but realize that you’ll also need the flexibility to blog about business-relevant hot topics as they come up. Use calendars that integrate with your existing project management tools whenever possible. Basecamp is an excellent option, allowing multi-user commenting, attachment uploads and task assignments. If you use WordPress, you can choose from a healthy array of plugins designed specifically for multi-author blog management, including scheduling, calendar and task reminder tools. Some of the most prolific bloggers I know simply use Excel spreadsheets or Google Docs. Don’t get lost in selecting between shiny objects; pick something and focus on the planning process.

Reject often; don’t pity-post.

Cultivating a vibrant blog with a diversity of perspectives doesn’t mean those perspectives can’t be polished up, or that all content should be considered equal. An editor’s job often entails just as much rejection as it does approval. Your blog is a highly visible, externally facing extension of your brand, and it requires a measure of selectivity. Establish official content guidelines and an approval process that your employees can reference during content creation, and use this to inform and explain your approval decisions. Everyone at your company must understand (and you should champion) the fact that your blogging efforts need to map to measurable business goals, and content that doesn’t fit won’t be published---no hard feelings. Don’t ever post something because you don’t want to offend its author. You’ll regret it!

Nothing is good enough without edits.

Dumb typos are the Achilles’ heel of otherwise killer corporate content. As political journalist Theodore White said, “There are two kinds of editors, those who correct your copy and those who say it's wonderful.” Businesses with successful blogs employ the former.
Word or another word processer should be used until the post is ready to go up; not only do you then have backup copies, but Word’s editing features are more robust than those of WordPress and most other platforms. Keep track of versions by using “save as” rather than “save,” and appending your initials and the date to the latest version, then sharing via Dropbox or Google Docs. Once finalized, place the post in a folder separate from previous drafts (so you avoid confusing them).

Always know what you’re asking for.

“What action do I want my visitors to take after reading this post?” This question should be top of mind throughout every stage of the content-planning process. Whatever your primary goal, reading the post should entice visitors to click on a related call to action you’ve intentionally placed in their path. The call to action can be anything from links to related posts, to an ad for an upcoming webinar you’re hosting. If you can’t think of a logical next step you’d like readers to take, the post probably doesn’t belong in front of them.

Ian Greenleigh is social media manager at Bazaarvoice, the market and technology leader in hosted social commerce applications. He oversees and contributes to The Social Commerce Blog .

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