Experts say blogging still one of the best ways to reach new customers
Bloggers were surprised this week when an editor at The Huffington Post tweeted that the online newspaper was ending its popular Download Squad blog. Though puzzled, bloggers insisted the move was not a sign that theirs is a dying art form. In fact, a blog on your company’s website is still one of the best ways to show potential customers that you really know what you’re talking about.
Download Squad was part of the prolific Weblogs, Inc., which AOL purchased about five years ago. According to a Mashable report, the network also included the popular TechCrunch and Engadget. Download Squad was known for its timely reports about the release of new desktop software and bloggers speculated that the advent of cloud computing chewed into the blog’s bottom line.
Regardless, my background is in newspaper journalism and as the papers I wrote for claw for a bigger audience online, editors are embracing social media, electronic editions and, yes, blogs, to reach those who haven’t had ink on their fingers in years.
Blogging is tough. If you’re not willing to work hard to produce quality content, don’t bother. After the Download Squad downfall, PRMarketing.com asked some bloggers about their secrets for success. Here is what we were told:
Stacy Acevero is a blogger for Vocus/PRWeb. As the company’s social media community manager, Acevero said companies must have blogs for interacting with customers.
“ I don’t think blogging is going away anytime soon, although social media seems to be a substitute for customer engagement, it is a supplement, not a replacement,” Acevero said. “Company blogs allow you to position your company as the expert in the field and provide more than just short tweets of information.”
Blogs influence when creativity is paramount.
“Blogging involves much more commitment, a deeper thought process, and the ability to come up with something that is useful to your audience — a huge benefit of writing blogs. This is why blogs are so effective,” Acevero said. “Our blogs are appreciated by our dedicated readers as tutorials and jumping off points for PR pros and small businesses just dipping their toes in the business world, and they find us to be a valuable resource.”
Your blog must have original content and posts that are updated often.
Mike Sprouse is the chief marketing officer for Epic Media Group. His company started a second blog after its first project became successful. Sprouse said every company needs a blog.
“Our blog has very positively impacted our business and it allows us to communicate to a segment of the business population who are most receptive to our message. I think something that is very en vogue these days is to basically substitute a company blog for a Facebook page. In my opinion, this is a bad idea,” Sprouse said. “I want traffic coming to a property that our company manages, not to Facebook. I want to build our brand, not someone else’s.”
The number of visitors to the company’s blog has increased 500 percent in the past six months, he added.
Shannon M. Wilkinson at Reputation Communications in New York City said blogging helps convince journalists and prospective clients that the company has experts on staff. Now guest blogging is a top priority:
“After having established a voice and experimented with approaches to blogging that work for me, I am now preparing to expand the readership of the blog by participating in other, relevant blogs and inviting guest bloggers to post,” Wilkinson said.
But company blogs cannot be too promotional.
“Blogs can be invaluable for companies, but only if they are written to help readers. If they are just written to market services and products, they are a waste of time,” Wilkinson said.
Michael Feiman is president of PoolDawg.com, Inc. He said the company uses its blogs to “show our customers that we’re much more than just another website that sells pool cues and billiard supplies.”
“We currently have two blogs that we manage, each with a different purpose,” Feiman said. “The first is our company blog that talks about the goings on within the company as well as product news and industry information. The second is a blog for our mascot Frank, a ceramic bulldog that travels to pro and amateur events. Frank’s blog is written in Frank’s ‘voice’ and we upload pictures of him with players and fans. In both cases, we use blogging to show our company’s personality. Because the web can be such an anonymous place, it is vital for companies to create an emotional connection with their customers. Blogging is one of the easiest ways for us to do this.”
Kelly Daugherty is the managing partner of Smashing, a line of golf and tennis apparel that launched in March. Daugherty began blogging about the company’s products nearly two years ago.
“Our blog has been the single most effective marketing tactic we have used to date,” Daugherty said.
The company posts new articles about three times per week.
“Our blog is unique because we are honest. We don’t cover up any problems — as a matter of fact, when something goes wrong and we blog about it, we get
the highest traffic to the site,” Daugherty said.
Chase Fitzgerald is the social strategist at MAXBORGESAGENCY in Miami. The primary goal of a blog should be driving traffic to your company’s website, he said.
“With the correct keyword research and content mix, you should be able to drive traffic to your site through successful [search engine optimization] practices and leverage your social media presence,” he explained.
Companies should research how customers are finding their website today.
“Are they using terms like ‘affordable’ as opposed to ‘inexpensive’?” Fitzgerald asked. “Language in your blog post must mirror how the majority of people are finding you now. After you hold a strong stance in a few desirable keywords, take on more.”
Keeping fresh content on your blog is the best way to bump up your rankings in search engines, he added.
“Add polls or quizzes as blog posts that users will share through their social channels. This will encourage readers’ friends to come to your blog as well,” Fitzgerald said. “With each sentence you write, ask yourself ‘Would I share this?’ If the answer comes close to ‘No,’ stop writing.”
Ferris Stith manages the blog for PostcardMania.com. The firm is currently redesigning its blog for its 40,000 subscribers, most of whom are clients or potential customers.
“I’ve found that our blog is a great tool for real-time marketing education and posting news, updates, etc. I think it’s important for companies to have a blog if they have a relevant topic, angle or niche for their blog,” Stith advised. “Don’t just have one to have one. Figure out what the purpose of the blog will be for the company and then gear all your actions, posts, content, design towards achieving that goal.”
Candace Talmadge is a blogger at Talmadge Writing Services. She warned that an effective blog is a serious time commitment.
“To blog or not to blog, that is one question,” she said. “So don’t start unless you have the interest and resources to follow through.”
Even more critical is where to blog, she said.
“An ongoing blog on a company’s Facebook page is far more likely to be seen by new potential customers than a blog on a company’s website. Or be a guest contributor on a heavily trafficked site related to what your company does,” Talmadge said. “My point is to blog where the customers are, and use other social media like Twitter to talk about the blog, when appropriate.”
Jim Etherington is vice president of the Advocacy Group Inc., which is based in Washington, D.C. The firm handles campaigns for political and corporate clients.
“We do not have a corporate blog of our own, but do encourage our small staff to blog elsewhere. I, for instance, have a personal blog and try to guest blog on other sites as frequently as possible,” Etherington said. “Corporate blogs can be good when regularly updated with useful, fresh content. If your audience is already coming to you for information, such as product information or updates, a corporate blog allows a degree of control over brand identity.”
When used as promotional tools, however, company blogs fall short.
“Guest blogging on other sites is a better way to get in front of new audiences and demonstrate credibility as an industry leader,” Etherington said.
Alexis A. Moore is vice president of Town Center Realty Group in El Dorado Hills, Calif. Blogging can be extremely effective for Realtors, she said.
“I find that readers find the businesses faster from the blog sites more frequently than web sites because of the availability to keep updating them easily on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. It allows more key words to be utilized to increase traffic,” Moore said. “It allows businesses to engage and interact with the audience easily and with simple posts, images and key words. The repetition is key.”
David Howard is a marketing consultant in Alameda, Calif. For corporate blogs, “content is definitely king,” he stressed.
“Managing a blog is a way to create that content, and get it indexed. So, yes, companies need blogs. Creating blog articles that are useful also gives readers something they can share and re-post to friends on social networking sites,” Howard said. “Blogging about topics relevant to your business gives customer prospects an alternate avenue to your online presence – from the search bar, to your article, and back to your website and your product and services list. It can be a back door way to get people into your business.”
Companies that blog well become thought leaders.
“Demonstrated thought leadership builds and enhances the reputation of the firm and the stated author of the blog, typically a technical executive or senior executive,” Howard said. “Learn how to ghost write for executives. Pick a niche – high tech, biotech, health care, whatever — and learn the language and how senior execs speak to their audience. Focus on the niche … When writing, think about how your content might be re-purposed or condensed across other online presences, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.”
Finally, Lisa Ann Schreier, a blogger at The Timeshare Crusader, said “too many companies are blogging for merely the sake of blogging, without having a plan in place about what to say, who to say it to and of course how to respond to comments.”
Corporate bloggers must know their audience, be authentic and blog regularly, she said.
Great advice, but there is so much more to know. Please join the conversation by commenting about what works and doesn’t work for your company’s blog.