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  • Warren: Blogging and Social Media definitely go hand in hand. Having a successful social presence can do a lot for a...
  • Jennifer Rai: All points mentioned above are very well put together. Blogs having purpose and a focus on certain...
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    Consultants: here are all the key posts


    While there is a growing recognition of the pivotal role that social media can play in business marketing and the key role of a business blogs at the very centre of that activity, I still get the feeling that some companies often wonder whether they could also benefit from this or if it’s just for others.

    Personally, I feel that there are very few cases where businesses cannot gain enormously from using a blog in the key area of interaction with their customers. Clearly they need to focus (and perhaps plan – heaven forbid!) to deliver real results and that, as always, is key. This applies whether they are using the blog as part of their marketing and business development activities, their customer support, their product development or as another key touchpoint. The benefit would then feed back into all parts of the business.

    There are also certain “company types” which would particularly benefit from elements that a blog could give them; a few examples include:

    Companies needing to differentiate themselves: on occasions, professional services organisations have been accused of all having a rather “grey” image, causing them to blend into the background. By using blogs to help break down these preconceptions, companies can really differentiate themselves as well as reveal some of the personalities carrying out the work together with their expertise – this can only help in developing greater trust with your potential clients in a generally very competitive and customer focused environment.

    Companies which rely on their specialist knowledge to attract clients: consistently demonstrating expertise in a chosen field can quickly help to build a positive reputation and encourage potential clients to contact you. Client case studies go part of the way, but displaying both your general and specialised knowledge over a period of time and giving the opportunity to interact helps develop this more than a sanitised case study can ever do. Think of it as multiple case studies on steroids if you like. This is particularly relevant for independent consultants and specialist consultancies.

    Companies which have progressed beyond the hard sell approach: direct advertising and the hard sell has become less and less successful as a business development approach. We tend to be put off by “interruption marketing” nowadays rather than be attracted by it. However, an educational marketing (or relationship marketing) approach, where you provide potential clients with information on which to make their own informed decision on their purchase, has gone from strength to strength. Help your customers decide they want to buy from you rather than go all out to sell to them.

    Companies wanting to become more of a partner than a supplier: engaging with potential clients through your Business Blog helps develop trust and a relationship which can position you as a partner rather than a simple supplier. People prefer to work with and buy from people and companies that they trust – a blog will allow you to achieve this.

    Companies wishing to be THE information resource for their market niche: most of the information that your prospective clients are looking for is available somewhere on the web. It’s just a case of finding it! So rather than let potential clients wander round the web looking for it and perhaps finding it on a competitors site, provide it yourself or provide links to it on your Blog. Become the preferred place to go for this type of information and let this attract anyone interested in your niche to your blog.

    Companies organising conferences, seminars and exhibitions: blogs are the ideal focal point for collating and distributing information to attendees pre-Conference and for gathering feedback from them during and after the Event. You can update the conference details and add new information yourself, and you automatically develop a powerful online Search Engine marketing tool as well.

    Companies looking to develop a network or community around themselves: as a networking tool, a business blog can help in many different ways but one of its most powerful is when it allows the creation of a network of like minded people interested in a particular area. It is particularly positive for the company setting this up and running it because they find themselves at the centre of this network and therefore in a high profile position.

    Companies developing new products or services: customer feedback and input is essential in the product development process. By taking the step to allow this feedback to take place on a Blog, you are allowing discussions and generating ideas which can be invaluable to the process. Added to this, you have a group of people who have contributed to the product and so are likely to be its strongest evangelists and advocates.

    Ah, so many options! What other types of companies would you consider to be ideal candidates to consider using blogs

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    It is great to see articles appear in major newspapers which extol the virtues of blogging and in particular business blogging. This is partly because it adds some additional (hopefully) useful information for companies looking at whether they are going to incorporate it into their own activities and partly because it is always hugely powerful when one information medium sticks its neck out and recommends another.

    So last week’s article in the New York Times entitled Bloggings a Low-Cost, High Return Marketing Tool was a good read particularly with an opening line which states that blogging is widely considered as “a low-cost, high-return tool that can handle marketing and public relations, raise the company profile and build the brand”. Good start point but that’s by no means all that they do!!

    As the article nicely points out, the benefits for small businesses range far and wide but need to be focused in order to be successful. To be truly effective, they need to form start of the business strategy which, after all, is what should be happening with all marketing activities. They can then be used to:

    • demonstrate expert opinion

    • develop a community around the business

    • become a respected source of information

    • create new relationships and partnerships for the business

    • develop greater awareness of the company and the brand

    • show a personal side to the company’s activities

    and many more activities, some of which are outlined in more detail in the document “An Introduction to Business Blogging“.

    There was, however, one small element that I disagreed with. Although I share the author’s opinion that blogs are not for all companies, I do believe that the opportunities they offer are more extensive than most people believe. To use an example given in the article, a restaurant may not consider blogging to be as important as serving great food but it can certainly benefit from the publicity and visibility it can offer.

    After all, blogs are the nearest thing to online Word of Mouth that we have and Word of Mouth is a key elements of a restaurant’s marketing opportunities. Additionally, a blog can also be used to run a ‘customer reactions’ area which can introduce the interactive element to a website, allowing diners to record their impressions, enhance Search Engine rankings and help to generate online word of mouth par excellence.

    The use of blogs is starting to be better understood by both small companies and corporates alike, but we are still only scratching the surface of what they can be used for and help businesses to achieve. Here’s hoping that, in 2008, we can help to push the boundaries even further.

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    Business Blog PostsI am confused.

    This wont come as a shock to some of you who know me and have watched the increased addling of my brain through sleep deprivation caused by fatherhood. Just at the moment, though, I feel wide awake and a little bit peeved (yet still confused) by Jakob Nielsen’s latest offering “Write Articles, Not Blog Postings“.

    As you might imagine, I was intrigued by the title, so I started to read. The summary of Nielsens article states:

    To demonstrate world-class expertise, avoid quickly written, shallow postings. Instead, invest your time in thorough value added content that attracts paying customers.

    So far so good. I agree totally – this is the basis of a good focused business blogging strategy, particularly for consultants, topic experts and professional services companies such as accountants and lawyers. Value added content is the perfect way to develop and enhance your reputation as well as encourage the spread the word about your expertise – in the same way, a blog is the perfect way to publish and distribute this information and engage with the people interested in it who respond to your ideas.

    So where’s the issue?

    Nielsen continues that “Blogs are … fine for websites that sell cheap products”. From this, there is a very clear implied conclusion that blogs are not fine for other types of website – though why the link with websites at all, I’m not sure.

    In any case, patently not true.

    Blogs are communication vehicles to be used as the author sees fit. To link them to low value products shows, I feel, a narrow and outdated view of how blogs can be used in business, ie. an approach which concentrates purely on search engine rankings as his Pistachio nut example does. Good search engine rankings should be the expected byproduct of any well written blog on a certain subject, rather than the main goal. The main elements should be the conversations and the connections they generate as well as a focus on community and collaboration.

    It was at this point that I started to wonder whether Nielsen might just be being ironic. Was he perhaps using this long article as an exercise in linkbaiting, a concept more normally associated with the short posting that he dislikes?

    I read on.

    “Blog postings will always be commodity content: theres a limit to the value you can provide with a short comment on somebody elses work.”

    Arghh! So all blogging is commenting on somebody elses stuff? So who does produce the content in the first place, only people and companies who don’t blog? I’m well aware that I am using a blog post to pass comment here, but that is only to support my stance on the use of corporate blogs in a business environment, which I do in the other articles that I offer here and in other forums.

    A mixture of content and post types is vitally important. If you are looking to show expertise in an area, then you do this not only through new thinking (leading edge if you like) but also through an understanding, appreciation and indeed appraisal of other ideas and debates in your field.

    Ok, a few deep breaths and I’m feeling calmer, just calm enough to write that I feel very insulted by the distinction that Nielsen makes between his interpretation of articles and blog posts. Perhaps he should read more blogs? Personally, I find that I am drawn to those which are indeed in-depth with original content and driven by the author’s expertise, all of the attributes that he considers blogs to be devoid of.

    Rant over. I would have liked to had the opportunity for an open discussion with the author about his article but, as you may have guessed, he doesn’t use a blog so that is a bit of a conversation stopper.

    However, I’ll finish by saying that, for me, blogs need to be written with their audience in mind and that they should therefore include posts of all types, from indepth articles, to commentary on others’ opinions, to links to useful resources and news articles. It is in this way that we best show our expertise and engage with others, and also the way in which we raise the profile of our business and develop its reputation.

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    Don't be an expert blogger... just be an expert who blogs.

    I cant be sure, but I have a sneaky suspicion that there are a number of people who start a professional blog not so much because they are looking for any business benefits or to inform, but rather because they want to be able to say that they are a “Blogger”.

    This really is looking at blogging back to front. Their focus should be to show themselves to be an expert in their field who communicates this expertise through the medium of a blog, rather than portray themselves as a blogger who writes on a particular subject area. It might seem like a mute point, but to me this is an important distinction which really affects how blogging works as a business tool.

    As a reader, I dont go out specifically searching for bloggers to read, what I do is look for people writing with authority on a subject that interests me. For example, I invariably read Jonathan Schwartzs blog, and I do so because of my interest in what he writes about in his position as CEO of Sun Microsystems, not in his role as a “CEO Blogger”. It is what he has to say about the company and the industry from his position of influence that draws me back and makes me read what he has to say.

    For him, his blog has given him the chance to communicate with a huge audience and receive comments and feedback directly without the filters of management or the PR department. For me, it has allowed me unprecedented access to what a leading figure in an industry of interest to me has to say.

    Equally, someone like Brian Carroll at B2B Lead Generation Blog is an expert in increasing sales leads in a complex sale. Thats his specialism and the one that he writes about in his blog. Or Thomas Mahon of English Cut fame a Savile Row tailor who writes a blog to market his skills (and his suits). Both have very different and wildly successful blogs which are based upon their expert knowledge in their field which they have chosen to market through a blog.

    In the same way, when a lawyer, accountant, recruitment consultant, real estate agent etc. decides to use blogs to support their business, they do not immediately undertake a magical metamorphosis from service professional to blogger, they simply engage in a great communications method. And, closer to home, when I play tennis, Im not suddenly transformed into a tennis player (believe me, I have many people wholl back me up on this one), Im just someone who plays tennis.

    So, while I recognise there are skills to learn if you want to blog well, my advice to professionals intending to start a blog is not to do so to get a “Blogger badge” but instead focus on showing your expertise in your field and let that shine through in your blog rather than allow yourself to fade into the masses as a blogger who merely writes on a particular subject.

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