|Once considered the golden child of social media, blogs have been seemingly nudged out of the picture in recent years with the growth of social networks. For consumers who have more communication tools at their fingertips than ever before, Facebook™ and Twitter™ have appeared to replace blogging as the go-to way to share.The truth is, however, blogs continue to be an important channel of communication for many businesses and most are continuing to see the benefits of customer engagement. In fact, it’s estimated that by 2012, 43 percent of businesses with an online presence will have a public-facing blog used specifically to drive online marketing efforts.|
eMarketer estimates that, by the end of 2010, more than half of all Internet users in the United States alone will read blogs at least monthly. By 2014, readership will rise to more than 150 million Americans, or 60 percent of the Internet population.
As a savvy marketer, blogs feel like“old news.” Your business probably has one, if not two or three! You probably even have one of your own. Your company is no longer seeking how-to tutorials outlining which platforms to use, which design to choose, how to write a blog post or how to optimize your blog for search engines. Instead you’re looking for the next step. You have the blog and the readers … but now what?
Focus on the content
If you’ve reached intermediate blogger status, you know that regularly pumping out posts that are interesting and entertaining is hard work. It’s easy to burn out or to lose inspiration. So, take a step back and add new methodology mixed with blogging trends to combat content development slow-down:
- Remind your bloggers what makes a good post. An honest perspective, a fresh point of view, provocative thinking about an issue, trend-spotting, technology commentary and real news all make good posts. Keep in mind that it’s not necessarily what’s interesting to you that will make a good post, but rather what your readers find interesting. What’s more, readers don’t come back if the content is stale, so your editorial calendar should also address the issue of frequency: Try to tackle multiple posts per week, based on the goals previously established.
- Have a purpose. A blog is a reflection of your company, but it’s a less formal communication medium, so you should experiment, take feedback and adapt your blog as you learn. It will be necessary to adjust content or voice from time to time to gauge what readers are interested in and respond most to. If something doesn’t work, move on. It’s not failure; it’s purposeful adaptation. Blog or Web analytics are key: Play around with topics, style and format, and carefully watch traffic and comments. You’ll know what flops and what doesn’t pretty quickly.
- Develop a content engine. It’s hard for just one writer to produce a lot of high-quality content. You’ll need help. Hold brainstorming sessions with various teams within your organization to flesh out potential topics. Ask for contributions from other staff members or solicit suggestions from readers themselves. Use journalistic-style interviews within your organization or Q-and-A interviews with employees, customers and vendors. Draft blog posts at a more frequent rate than they are actually posted to ensure that there is always content on deck, ready to roll. Consider instituting an incentive program for posts—those who post on a regularly basis are rewarded with quarterly gifts like a Coleman Party Stacker or a jumbo sipper mug.
- Watch your analytics like a hawk. Your blog stats don’t just show off how well (or not so well) your blog is doing—these insights also provide a window into what content your audiences are most interested in. Produce a graph reflecting data over the last year, and track topics in comparison with traffic, comments and links. Move forward with new content based on trends that you’ve identified.
- Revisit old posts. Go “back in time” and add new research, new perspective or a new voice to an old blog post. Not only does the resulting post meet the criteria of a new post, but it can illustrate how your business and/or industry changes and what you’re doing to keep up. Spice things up even more by making a contest out of it—ask readers to vote on their favorite past post or suggest an old post they’d like fresh perspective on. Each participant could be entered in a drawing to win a fun prize, such as a set of music download cards or a USB drive, for participating.
- Recruit guest posts. Approach industry thought leaders (or even clients!) to share a post on your blog. Take it a step further by finding guest bloggers with different views on the same topic. A little controversy goes a long way in creating interesting and popular content. Be sure to express your gratitude to guest posters—send them a handwritten thank-you note paired with a small token of appreciation, like a foil-wrapped chocolate heart or a logo’d tee.
- Outsource. Once your blog has a solid following and predictable content topics, a business may want to explore outsourcing blog posts to freelance writers. Going rates are often reasonable and these outsourced posts can supplement in-house posts for consistency. Going this route alleviates some of the stress and time placed on employees and can help mix things up temporarily of someone gets writer’s block.
It’s time to take the comfort zone you’ve created for your blog and begin to push the envelope. Try new things, become thoughtful with content creation and planning, and measure what works and what doesn’t to keep the cycle going and your blog growing. For an extended intermediate guide to blogging, check out our Blue Paper®.