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Monday Mornings with Madison

MADISON COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE SERVICES MADISON COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE SERVICES
#88

BLOGGING FOR BUSINESS

Did you ever imagine that businesses could be launched, fortunes built and careers made or lost as a result of something called the blogosphere? The word blog didn’t even exist ten years ago.  A college student named Justin Hall is credited with being one of the world’s first bloggers, thanks to the online personal diary he began to keep in 1994. Today, there are too many blogs to even count. The last attempt by Technocrati.com in 2007 found 133 million blogs but this clearly didn’t take into account the 73 million blogs estimated to be in existence in China alone. With the number of blogs growing exponentially, many businesses are now waking up to the realization that their marketing and communications programs should include a corporate blog.

Let’s take a quick look at what exactly we’re talking about. A blog (short for “web log”) is a type of website that contains original text, excerpts, links to other blogs, and materials such as graphics or videos. Entries are commonly displayed in reverse-chronological order.  An important aspect is that blogs provide a way for readers to leave comments in an interactive format. People use their sites to express opinions, share hobbies and communicate with their readers, or in the case of businesses, with their  customer base.  It is this last type of blog that interests us here.

Business blogs can exist as an attachment to the company’s website or as a separate communication board on the World Wide Web. They can be used internally to enhance communication and culture in a corporation or externally for marketing, branding, public relations, sales and customer service purposes. The basic benefits of blogging for business include:

Market positioning: A blog gives you the opportunity to position yourself or your company as a trusted authority in your field. Regularly posting pertinent industry news and information attracts potential customers, who begin to look to you or your company as the market leader.

Relationship building: The main goal of your blog is not to directly or overtly sell your products or services. It is, instead, an opportunity to engage people in meaningful conversations on important topics related to your industry. This helps to build a positive relationship between you and your customers or prospects.

Media exposure: A blog gives you the opportunity to connect with any media outlet that seeks information about your industry or the products and services you provide. Reporters are in constant need of solid, credible sources of material and bloggers want to link to other blogs that they admire or endorse. These media connections mean you can benefit from free publicity and a lot of new business.

Internal communication: Some companies use a blog to keep staff up to date with industry developments or corporate news. If a comment section is included, the blog can allow information to flow both ways, with employees providing feedback and insights to their colleagues and the company leadership.

Talent and investor recruitment: Using a blog to establish your company as an industry leader allows you to attract talented new hires as well as investors who may want to buy into the vision that you share in your blog.

Improve search engine rankings: Search engines such as Google or Yahoo give ranking preference to web sites that offer information as opposed to those that are simply sales and marketing sites. A blog that includes lots of relevant information is likely to improve the company’s page rankings and thus increase the amount of traffic directed to that web site.

Getting Started
One reason the world is so full of blogs is because they are easy to create. It can take less than five minutes to set up a blog and post your first article, but if you are entering the blogosphere for business reasons, it is essential to have a clear plan before you start. Here are some points to consider:

Decide on your goals: What you are trying to achieve with your blog? Readers want to know what to expect from a blog, so it is important for you to determine your goals and topics beforehand. Be consistent and informative, and people who stumble on one post will be likely to come back again and again.

Pick a platform: When it comes to free blogging, there are two main platform choices. You can pick Blogger, which is owned by Google, or WordPress, which is an open-source platform. Blogger is easy to learn and use; WordPress offers more options and flexibility but takes more time to set up and design. If you are not an IT expert, you might want to start off with Blogger. Once you get a sense of what you need and what your readers expect, you can then decide whether or not to create a more sophisticated site.

Choose a name: The best approach when choosing a name for a corporate blog is to use exactly the same name as your company. This will ensure that your business comes up when people search for your blog. The only exception to this is if you offer a unique or niche product, in which case you may want to consider naming your blog with the product name.

Write regularly: There are no rules about how often to update your blog with new posts but consistency is important. When readers come to expect something new and then are disappointed, they quickly stop visiting. Decide on a frequency, whether it is weekly or daily, and then stick to that schedule. Write a few postings to keep in reserve so in case you get busy, you still have something new to upload.

Find a genuine voice: A blog is not a marketing brochure nor is it a newspaper article. It’s a way to open up a dialogue with target consumers and stimulate their engagement with you and your company.  Write as you would talk, but if blogging for the company, be sure the language, spelling, and syntax reflect well on the organization.

Let the world know: You might have a great blog but it’s useless if no one knows about it. Once you’ve posted a few articles, you should start publicizing the link to your blog. You can do this by adding the link to your web site, to your e-mail signature line, and to all your business marketing materials, including your business card. Visit other websites that are relevant to yours, and leave informative and interesting comments that include the link to your blog. Create a consistent, useful blog, keep it updated and keep spreading the word. It may take time to penetrate the blogosphere, but eventually the people who want what you offer will discover your blog.

Part 4 of our series on using social networking for business will discuss the role of FaceBook and Twitter.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“If you build it, they will come.”   From the movie Field of Dreams.

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