July 2009


There have been a number of comments over recent weeks (and indeed months) about the imminent death of blogging, to be generally replaced it seems with newer tools such as Twitter and lifestreaming.

For a small minority, it’s possible that this may well be on the cards – however, for the vast majority, and particularly those using these tools for primarily business purposes, I would say that this prediction is premature in the extreme.

Indeed, with the growing presence of social media as a marketing and comms tool in its own right, are we going to be seeing a decline in the role of blogging as one part of that? My answer is a resounding no and I’ll explain why.

Blogs will play a central role

It is true that there are major changes afoot – the industry is currently developing quickly ahead of an undoubted period of consolidation. As a result, I am constantly looking at the variety of social media which now exist, of which a business blog is certainly one. In the future, while the number of potential avenues for social media continues to expand, I still see a blog playing the central role for companies wanting to engage with customers and prospects using social media and general online methods.

For instance, if we take some of the more popular social media tools as examples:

  • Microblogging in the current guise of Twitter is great but a little restrictive – it’s difficult to save evrything in 140 characters, so is often used to make people aware of other sources of information or to initiate connections;

  • Social networks are proliferating in many different forms from the monsters such as Facebook to the niche forums on systems like Ning – they come and go (some quicker than others obviously) but each time a new one takes hold you need to establish a whole new infrastructure and set of contacts;

  • Podcasts and video have their own key sites like YouTube or iTunes but in most cases, businesses fail to achieve an independent identity or forum with them alone, although cases such as “Will it Blend?” from Blendtech prove that it is possible.

A blog, however, allows a business to bring all of these other elements together, creates a focal point for a community of customers, provides the company with its own social network hub whatever else goes on in the market and allows it to expand on the information disseminated on Twitter, YouTube or iTunes.

Business BLog as your online home

A personal analogy

To put it another way, if I make a personal analogy, if I meet friends in a bar or a coffee shop, then they will get a certain picture of me through a number of different factors: what I am wearing, what I look like, where we are meeting, what I’m drinking, who I am talking to and about what etc. All of these things give a certain picture of me as a person but it is still a superficial one.

However, if you come and have dinner at my home then you have a much more complete view of me. You see where I live, the type of house, the décor, the books and music I’m interested in, the decoration and style of fixtures and furniture, what I cook and what I serve for drinks etc etc. In short, you get a much more complete sense of me when you visit my home because it is much more multifaceted.

To my mind, social networking sites, discussion forums, Twitter etc are all types of coffee houses where you can a first image of me. My blog, however, offers much more of an insight and is essentially the online equivalent of my home.

You need a place to invite people to online

Don’t take this as putting down the other social media tools or indeed other general online marketing tactics – it is just the opposite. All the other elements are great when used in line with a business’ commercial aims, but you still then need to have somewhere to “invite” friends back to online rather than always meet in proverbial bars / coffee houses. That’s where a blog comes to the fore, bringing all the other elements together as well as contributing in its own right.

Think also that as you engage with other bloggers on their own blogs, there is only so much that you can convey when you leave comments, no matter how erudite and pertinent they are. What you need to have in conjunction is a place to develop your ideas further. A place to continue that conversation that you have started – once again, a role that your own blog would ideally fulfil.

Effectively, as you look at the world of social media and the innumerable opportunities that it brings with it, to me it is clear that a blog sits solidly at the core of this activity. Personally, I see it as driving and conducting the online activity that a company undertakes and as the place to develop a community of readers that links from other social media will help grow and promote.

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Building a successful blogYou want to have a blog which benefits your business – yes?

You want a blog which people are going to want to come back to time and time again – yes?

Essentially, you want a blog which is going to be successful – yes again?

Well, to give you the best chance of a successful business blog, then you’re going to need to make sure that you tick all the boxes to ensure that all of the underlying elements are in place to make that happen. It’s not difficult but it is important.

For me, there are 5 elements which are like building blocks that make a blog what it is, 5 layers if you like that constitute the makeup of a blog and so 5 key aspects that you need to keep in mind as you plan and develop your blog.

1. Philosophy
Underpinning everything else are the general philosophy needed for blogging – you’ve got to be comfortable with the basic ideals of what people expect from blogs or else you’re going to fall at the first hurdle. The key one is that of openness – if you, or your company, are not willing to be open and honest in dealing with the readers of your blog then the likelihood is it will not achieve the goals you have for it. Be transparent and honest, and you’re off on the right foot.

2. Technology
You need to build the blog on the right technology base so that it supports what you want to do with it. It has to be one that will help your blog achieve the requirements that you have for it, both now and in the future. Making sure that it can grow with your ongoing needs is key to effectively future proof all the work and effort that you’ll be putting in. There are a number of excellent blogging platforms available – my own preference being for the full self hosted WordPress – but just ensure that you pick one that will be able to grow with you.

3. Business
Getting the business elements right means that you are treating the blog as the business and marketing tool that it is rather than as a piece of technology divorced from the company’s aims and requirements. Getting the business part right means that you’ve planned your objectives and aims for the blog, know how you intend to promote it (including with social media tools in place) and have answered the 3 key questions in the planning phase which are:

  • i) What do you want the blog to be used for

  • ii) Who is your target audience and what do you want to attract to your blog

  • iii) What you want to achieve with it and how to measure that?

4. Layout and Graphics
The so called “look and feel” layer focuses on how the blog will be laid out and takes into account not only the graphical elements and branding but also how the layout and structure can reflect the goals of the blog and the company. In addition, the layout should support the business goals by ensuring that the key “real estate” areas are used as effectively as possible and navigation remain intuitive and compelling giving a “stickiness” to the blog.

5. Content
Finally the content is ultimately where your ongoing focus needs to be, with all of the other elements essentially being there in place to support and market what you write about. This is of course the key part which needs to have our ongoing focus since all of the other elements will ideally be planned and implemented in the planning and preparation phases.

While the content element does rightly get the lion’s share of our attention and much of the online advice on setting up and writing blogs, the content will only work to its full potential in a blog built with a foundation of the other elements outlined above. They are what ensures that the content is correctly focused, distributed, read and shared – essentially delivering you a successful blog in the process.

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