Recently, Blogware's Chris Baggott and I participated in a webinar about business blogging. As is so often the case with these things, we received more questions from the participants than we were able to respond to. Moreover, many questions are ones I've frequently heard over the years when presenting on business blogging at conferences and from readers.
I responded to some of the overflow questions here, but they represent just the tip of the iceberg. So herewith, more of the FAQs on business blogging I hear most often...along with answers that will, hopefully, help move things along at organizations that want to blog, but are stymied by confusion, doubt, and uncertainty around issues both technical and content-oriented.
Q: An empty or outdated blog is worse than no blog at all. What kind of resources or time does it take to maintain a business blog to keep it fresh and relevant?
A: What you need is a content strategy, just as you did for that company newsletter 20 years ago. Start thinking like an editor...or a producer. Develop regular features you can repeat, such as personality profiles, Q&As, product close-ups, or industry news analysis. Developing a framework for ongoing content helps to give you blogging "assignments" that will keep content fresh and ongoing.
Q: How would you apply blogging best practices to B2B or enterprise marketing?
A: Best practices are best practices. In fact, it's often easier to blog for a professional audience than for the general consumer. You have a better sense of their interests, background, and skill set. You can go deeper with technical information than you could, say, for a new shampoo or brand of dog food. Yes, it's true that most of the news and case studies that emerge about blogging and social media are consumer rather than business oriented. But the takeaways remain the same 99 percent of the time.
Q: From an SEO (define) standpoint, is it better to use an off-the-shelf product such as WordPress or Blogger, or your own site?
A: All blog platforms are by nature, very highly optimized for SEO, which is great. You can further optimize blog entries by focusing on important keywords and phrases, and by tagging. For business blogging, however, I'd stay away from Blogger, which is a free platform you can't host on your own site. Consider instead, a minimal investment in one of the more professional commercial blog platform solutions.
Q: Time and resources are needed to get involved in social media, where do you suggest a company start?
A: Always, always start with a strategy and with goals. What's the purpose of the blog? Who do you want to reach? What are the success metrics? Sales? Branding? Customer service? PR? All these (and more) are legitimate goals. But you should never venture willy-nilly into social media because it's there...and because it's cheap. Do it for business reasons.
Q: What if you are a B2B company and have a very long sales cycle in a niche market? My management team is not convinced that there is a lot to "blog" about.
A: If you have a very long sales cycle, it's probably that your product or service has a very high learning curve. Blogging can help to address that. An authoritative blog can also help to position your company or its executives as thought leaders. If your industry is very niche or specialized, this will be even easier to achieve with a blog than it would be in a very broad-based field. A company such as yours can use a blog to influence potential customers to consider your offerings, to ease them through the long sales cycle, and to educate them about your highly specialized industry.
Q: So am I hearing you correctly: business blogging without a search strategy is, if not a waste of time, certainly less effective?
A: Unless you have a compelling reason not to be found online (which is pretty darn unlikely if you're blogging in the first place), why wouldn't you take advantage of blogging's SEO benefits?
Q: I work for a B2B tech company. Executives have been blogging for the past few months, but they don't blog frequently/regularly enough. How can I convince them that all employees should have a voice on our blog? (Like you said, these are the employees talking to our customers on a daily basis anyway.)
A: Customer-facing employees would discuss very different things on a blog, and likely, a different blog than your executives are on, directed at a different audience. Why not identify some of the strongest employee blogging candidates, train them, and launch an experimental, non-public blog? That way you can finesse it before it goes live, while building ammunition to prove to senior management that it should go live.
Q: When starting a blogging strategy, should you start on your site or participate on an established blog where conversation is already happening about your products and expertise (such as on a publication blog).
A: Both. And you should practice both on an ongoing basis. Visiting and commenting on other blogs gets your name and URL out there, and helps keeps you abreast of what's topical. It will encourage people to visit your blog and share their feedback. This give-and-take is what keeps the blogosphere so exciting and vital.
Q: How do you measure RSS feeds?
A: You can insert transparent GIFs in your posts and do it that way. More sophisticated commercial solutions are offered by companies such as FeedBurner, Pheedo, and Syndicate IQ.
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Rebecca was previously VP, U.S. operations of Econsultancy, an independent source of advice and insight on digital marketing and e-commerce. Earlier, she held executive marketing and communications positions at strategic e-services companies, including Siegel & Gale, and has worked in the same capacity for global entertainment and media companies, including Universal Television & Networks Group (formerly USA Networks International) and Bertelsmann's RTL Television. As a journalist, she's written on media for numerous publications, including "The New York Times" and "The Wall Street Journal." Rebecca spent five years as Variety's Berlin-based German/Eastern European bureau chief. Rebecca also taught at New York University's Center for Publishing, where she also served on the Electronic Publishing Advisory Group. Rebecca, author of "The Truth About Search Engine Optimization," was ClickZ's editor-in-chief for over seven years.
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