While engineering, technical and industrial professionals have fully embraced the Internet for work-related purposes, their use of some of the newest online media is lagging. In a recent GlobalSpec survey, only 4% of engineers use podcasts for work-related purposes, and only 3% use RSS feeds. On the other hand, blogs are starting to gain some traction among this audience, with 13% using blogs for work related purposes.
With the new year underway, now is a good time to evaluate whether launching a corporate blog is a good strategy for your business.
What is a blog?
The word “blog” is derived from “Web log,” a Web page that serves as an online journal and invites interaction and feedback from its audience. Typically, a corporate blog has one — or at most a few — writers, called “posters.” It can have many readers, who are free to post comments to the writers’ blog entries.
The primary purpose of a blog is to share your knowledge or expertise and position your company as a thought leader, without appearing as if you are only hawking your own products and services. While traditional marketing tactics are one-way monologues from company to prospect, a blog is more of a two-way conversation, where different points of view are discussed.
Benefits abound, but be careful
Blog tracking firm Technorati (www.technorati.com) tracks more than 112 million blogs and states that 175,000 new blogs come online every day. Clearly, this new media has momentum and offers a number of potential business benefits, among them:
- The ability to engage your customers and prospects in an informal, non-traditional way. With a blog, you can communicate the expertise of your executives and the strength of your products and services through thoughtful, timely posts.
- Because blogs are interactive and invite audience feedback, you can gain insight into the interests and needs of your customers and prospects.
- You can develop a “voice” for your company that provides a human and personal touch, helping to promote customer interest and loyalty.
- Blogs cost little and are easy to set up through third-party service providers if you don’t have your own IT resources.
- Blogs that use keywords can help improve search engine rankings.
While the benefits of having a blog are significant, you also should be aware of a few challenges and what you want to avoid:
- Don’t use your blog to re-purpose brochures, press releases or other marketing content. Your readers will sniff out any blatant marketing pitches, leading to negative comments and potential harm to your reputation.
- You need to post regularly and keep content fresh. Frequency will largely depend on your industry and audience. While you may not need to post every day, once a month isn’t enough to keep your audience engaged or coming back. Anything less than once a week may give off a stale air. Short, frequent updates are preferable to long, infrequent ones.
- Blogging requires a time commitment. Someone has to write those regular posts. You might consider signing up several writers who can commit to posting at scheduled intervals.
- You need to be thick-skinned. Readers may disagree with what you have to say and will not be afraid to let you know in their comments. Accept their points of view with respect. You can defend your positions but do not become argumentative with readers. Remember, you can learn a lot from your readers’ opinions.
If you’re ready to try, follow these tips
If your company decides it’s ready to go ahead with a blog, the most important thing to keep in mind is that essentially they are just another means of business communication for your company. Like any other business communication, common sense and honesty go a long way toward determining your success.
Here are a few other tips you should follow as you delve into blogging:
- Set goals at the beginning. Decide the purpose of your company blog and what you want to accomplish. Are you trying to establish your company or an executive as a thought leader in the industry? Boost your search engine rankings? Stand out from your competitors? Let the answer guide your decisions.
- Establish a tone and voice for your blog. Casual, formal, irreverent — a blog needs to have a recognizable and engaging voice if you want to attract and keep readers. Your audience wants a clue to the “personality” of your company. If you have several people contributing posts to the blog, you might have one individual serve as a blog editor to check entries for tone, grammar and consistency.
- Be relevant and useful to your readers. Know your audience and their interests — and craft your posts accordingly. Add links to other useful content on the Web and to other blogs. If you become a trusted resource for your audience and industry, other bloggers and Web sites will be more likely to link to your blog, helping increase your visibility and search engine rankings.
- Promote your blog. You need to drive readers to your blog and should develop a marketing plan to do so. You could list your blog on blog sites such as Technorati (www.technorati.com) or iBlogBusiness (www.iblogbusiness.com), both of which have categories for industrial blogs. Link to your blog from your Web site and e-mail communications. Even promote your blog to editors of other blogs and relevant industry publications. Make sure you provide a way for readers to subscribe to your blog, such as through RSS.
- Stick with it. Before you launch your blog, commit for a certain length of time — at least a year. Keep up the regular postings and promote your blog. A blog that appears and then disappears quickly can create an unfavorable impression of your company.
If your company is not ready to blog
If you don’t have the time or resources to get into blogging right now, or if it doesn’t fit your current marketing strategy, it’s still a good idea to keep track of blogs relevant to your industry. Choose some that you can read on a regular basis and comment on their postings. This way, you can get into the game without too much effort and still gain exposure for your company in the blog world.
Share your feedback
Post a comment about this article below. Let us know whether or not your company is doing a blog yet. Do you have a blogging success story? Or want to share how blogging fits in with your marketing strategy? We’d love to hear from you.