I recently wrote a fairly lengthy post about Social Media and Social Networking Best Practices for Business, which talked about corporate blogging. While I was writing it, I kept thinking of many more tips for creating successful corporate blogging strategies, but you can only fit so much into one post. I thought it would be good to do a follow-up post to elaborate on corporate blogging. I wrote a similar post, Corporate Blogging 101, in October of 2006, during my time at Intel, but many things have changed since then, so I thought that I would talk about it again now.
I think we are finally moving past the era where people thought of blogs as a consumer phenomenon, where discussions focused on kids, pets, weekend excursions, and other personal topics rather than serious corporate content. Now most companies are past the question of should we blog and on to the discussion of how to write more effective corporate blogs.
If you haven’t already read my Social Media and Social Networking Best Practices for Business post, you should take a short break now to go back and read it. Specifically, I covered these guiding principles, which apply not just to blogging, but to other forms of social media as well:
- Be sincere
- Focus on the individuals
- Not all about you
- Be part of the community
- Everyone’s a peer
Each of these 5 guiding principles has already been described in detail in my other post, so I won’t spend much more time on them here, but they are important for corporate bloggers to keep in mind.
Strategy and Vision
Blogs are still just another piece of the corporate communications puzzle (although an increasingly important piece), so spending some quality time thinking about what you want to achieve with your overall communication strategy and how blogging fits into that strategy is a good place for companies to start. You don’t want to use your blog to just pimp your products or talk about press releases. A blog can be used for so much more. Think about the areas where you want to lead the industry and the topics that you want people to think about when they think of your company. Use your blog to become a thought leader in the industry by sharing your expertise on those broad topics that are important and relevant to your company.
Think about who should be blogging on your corporate blog. It is easy to pick your top 5 executives, and give them access to the blog. In some cases, they might be the perfect people, but they aren’t always the best choice when it comes to accomplishing your goals for the blog. Go back to your discussion about your strategy for the blog and the topics that you want people to think about when they think of your company or your products. Who in your company has expertise in those areas? Do you have someone with great ideas? Are there any evangelists or other employees passionate about those topics? If so, recruit those people to contribute to your blogs. Someone passionate and smart, but outside of the senior management ranks probably has more time to spend on the blog and might just come up with some innovative and interesting ideas.
You should also branch out a little into the realm of unofficial / personal blogs. Encourage your employees to have their own blogs where they talk about their areas of expertise. I frequently blog on various Jive blogs (Jivespace developer community blogs or our corporate Jive Talks blog), but I also blog here on Fast Wonder on various topics related to social media, online communities, and other technology topics. Having a personal blog has a number of benefits, including giving us an excuse to learn and research new ideas. Quite a few Jive employees have similar blogs, and I like to believe that some people think that we have interesting things to say, and Jive benefits from having smart people discussing their expertise outside of official work channels. There is also a caution to go along with this. You don’t want to create a personal blog that is too focused on your company. If all you talk about is your company and you cover all of the same topics as your official blog, it just looks forced and insincere. You need to branch out and cover additional topics; show that you are a real person and not just a corporate shill.
Making it Happen
After the initial excitement wears off, it is easy for companies to neglect the corporate blog. We just forget to blog, and before long, no one has posted in a month (or two or three …) In some companies this isn’t a problem. If you already have a bunch of prolific bloggers neglect may not be an issue, but for the rest of you, and you know who you are, it really helps to have someone “in charge” of the blog. This person isn’t responsible for writing all of the content, but they can responsible for herding and nagging in addition to making sure that some specific strategic topics are being addressed on the blog. Justin Kistner has recently been helping Jive by providing this service for us for Jive Talks (in addition to many other things), and I do this for our Jivespace developer blogs. The role is part strategist and part mother hen (it isn’t all that different from managing communities), so you have to find someone who can think strategically about your industry and the right topics while they follow up obsessively to make sure people are actually posting to the blog.
The Other Details
Blogroll. While the content of the posts is the most important part of the blog, do not neglect the other little details that can make a difference. Make sure your blog contains a blogroll linking to other bloggers you respect; not to have one is really bad form (refer back to the guidelines: Not all about you). Link to the people that you read, the other thought leaders in your industry, and other blogs that your employees write in your blogroll. This goes for your personal / unofficial blogs, too. All blogs should have one, and if you don’t want to put it in a sidebar, you can create a separate page devoted to your blogroll.
Sidebars. Spend some quality time thinking about your sidebars. Add items that make it easy for people to find older content on your blog: search, tag cloud, recent posts, popular posts, etc. Don’t forget to include links back to other key parts of your website including information about products, press releases or other news, and events where people can find you. Include some fun stuff in the sidebar, too (Flickr photos, twitter posts, etc.) Don’t let your sidebars get too cluttered, but do make sure that you include helpful, relevant, and interesting content in them.
Analytics. You will want to know how many people read your blog, and exactly what they are most interested in reading. Make sure that you install some kind of analytics package; for example, Google Analytics is free and easy to embed. This will tell you where your visitors came from and which posts they are reading. You can use this information to determine what people are most interested in. Don’t forget to also pay attention to your RSS feeds for those people seeing your content in RSS readers. Do not use your blogging tool’s default RSS feeds as your primary blog feeds. Always run them through a service that provides more information and statistics about who is reading your blog. Feedburner is a great (and free) tool to get more information about the people subscribing to your feeds.
Hopefully, these tips will help a few people make their corporate blogs even better. Keep in mind that you will make mistakes along the way. Learn from them, keep writing, and continue to make incremental improvements.
Corporate blogging is a complex topic, and there will never be one magic formula that applies to all companies. Based on my experience, these seem to be some of the most relevant tips, but I’ve probably missed a few things. What are your corporate blogging tips?