There are plenty of blogs and articles out there with advice on how to blog but not many that answer the most important question – Why should you blog? Blogs have become as ubiquitous as websites but in all the hype, blogging is losing its purpose, which is to provide a medium for two-way communication and engagement (via comments).
It’s very easy to set up a blog and therein lies the problem. If it was complex and expensive to set one up, then everyone would think long and hard about whether they should invest resources in it. New bloggers underestimate the time and effort it takes to consistently churn out great content. Without interesting content, you can’t keep your audience engaged and if there’s no engagement, then we’re back to my original question – why have a blog? Why not just have a static website and keep it updated with content?
Here are some good reasons, why having company blog/s is valuable:
– To provide unique insights on the company and connect with external stakeholders. Ex: J&J – Interviews with employees
– Provide unique point of view that your users would find interesting. Ex: Sun Microsystems – CEO blog
– Get product feedback, feature suggestions, and test new product ideas. Ex: Tweetdeck – Product updates and feedback
– Engage users by sharing expertise and information on some interesting and relevant topic. Ex: Intel – Software Network blogs
– Answer questions related to the company’s products and explain service disruptions. Ex: WordPress – Product blog
What I haven’t called out explicitly is that all these are also good reasons for your community to engage with you. Of course, you can start a blog just because you want to or everyone else is doing it. While that might be a good reason for a personal blog, that’s not a valid justification for a business decision.
Before launching a new blog, start by ‘listening’ and ‘participating’ in your target community. Evaluate if your blog will add value or just add to the noise in the blogosphere. Let’s take my favorite and most commonly used analogy, say you’re at a cocktail party, do you want to join some ongoing conversation or do you want to start a new one in the corner, even if it means you end up talking to yourself? Chances are that as you start listening to your audience, you’ll know the right way to engage with them. You may soon find that some have started conversing with you directly because what you are talking about topics that are interesting and relevant to them.
Here are some ways to listen and participate:
– Follow discussions that are relevant to your users
– Start sharing interesting content with your community
– Contribute to discussions on social aggregators and blogs
– Participate in Q&As on professional forums
These are just a few ways, but the bottomline is that there are many other ways to engage with your community without setting up a blog. Also, thanks to social networks like LinkedIn, micro-blogging sites like Twitter and social aggregators like Friendfeed, two-way engagement has become so much more easier and efficient. While you can build a sizeable Twitter community in a month, it can take years to build a loyal subscriber base of comparable size for your blog.
Given that there are only so many working hours in a day, do you want to spend it engaging in a meaningful discussion with your users on their preferred forum or would you rather spend that time working on a blog post that only a handful of people might actually read. A bit more introspection and some research on your target audience, you may even find that some other social channel might be a better fit for your company’s needs.
However, if you find that blogging is the way to go, then extra effort upfront will help guide your blog in the right direction and get it off to a good start.