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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...
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    Public Face with Blogging: here are all the key posts


    Unless we are in a very fortunate position, then when we start a business blog we are likely to be faced with the challenge of how to attract visitors to it, how to encourage them to become readers and then how to build their trust and confidence in us and our blog over time.

    This comes through building, developing and of course maintaining a relationship with our blog readers and it’s a process that Ive been trying to represent visually for a while. Recently, I came across something that I feel comes very close while flicking through some books at home and one in particular called How to Succeed as an Independent Consultant which is written by Timothy RV Foster.

    In it, I found a diagram and section entitled the ‘Ladder of Goodwill’ which the author had developed to explain the developing relationship a supplier has with its clients. The various rungs on the ladder were described as ranging from ‘Nowhere’ at the start where a customer has no knowledge of you or indeed that you even exist, through to ‘In Position’ where you have the total trust of the customer and you are the primary supplier in your area or field. The goal of course is climb as high as possible up the ladder in your relationship with each of your clients.

    For me, I can see a lot of similarities with the way that we have to develop a business blog as well, particularly in the case of a small business or individual where there is not already a significant offline or online presence to act as a springboard.

    First of all, it is a case of creating awareness that the blog exists and developing its visibility through marketing or word of mouth, Then you need to get people to come to read it and have their first experience of what you are writing about and what topics you cover. To get a positive first reaction you need to make sure you deliver, ideally every time. Follow up on this by providing something (perhaps a newsletter or white paper) so you have the opportunity to reinforce the first positive experience. Building on this means being consistent in your writing and content thereby encouraging people to recommend your blog to others and share their experience. From there the positive experience can be developed further over time resulting in a loyal reader and, from a business perspective, perhaps a potential future customer as well.

    Each rung of the ladder represents another building block as you build a sense of confidence and trust in what you do and, at the same time, you are gaining the active involvement of your readers in your blog and your business.

    Of course, for a really active blog, youll be looking to have readers at all levels, hopefully all moving upwards! So how many readers do YOU have on each rung on the ladder?

    Ladder of Goodwill diagram is copyright to Timothy R. V. Foster

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    There was a TV program called Faking It which ran for 5 series on Channel 4 here in the UK.

    A person from one walk of life is given the challenge of becoming expert in a totally different field with the help of an expert who trains them. At the end of a month, the volunteer takes part in a contest against experienced participants in the new field. A panel of expert judges then give their verdict on which participant is the “faker”.

    I sometimes get the feeling that some PR agencies watch too much TV. It also seems that there are companies still willing to face a similar type of Faking It challenge and risk damaging their brand by creating fake blogs and trying to pass them off as real marketing.

    Following the episode with Edelman and WalMart, I personally thought that that would probably be the end of fake blogs or flogs as they were coined. But lo and behold, up steps Sony and their agency Zipatoni to fill the gap with their excruciatingly bad AllIWantforXmasisaPsp.com.

    The really bad elements (and there were some REALLY bad elements) were taken down and replaced with a short acknowledgement from Sony, rather in the air of a naughty schoolboy which has been caught cheating. That too now seems to have disappeared along with the site. However, if you want some detail of what was previously there then you will find some views on it at ZDNet and PC Doctor.

    I’d like to re-iterate a couple of points that were made after the WalMart flog, but which still seem to be ignored by some:

    1. trying to fake a blog is likely to end in disaster, whether you have expert help or not. It is quite simply not a good idea there are too many “expert judges” able to spot exactly whats going on;

    2. if you are going to use blogging in a marketing or PR perspective, then it’s always good to get the right specialists in who are going to be able to help you;

    3. blogs need to be authentic – authenticity and genuine interest (as Ryan Anderson points out here) is best left to those who aren’t faking it.

    So please let’s leave Faking It to Reality TV and the television companies.

    And to any businesses looking to engage in blogging as part of their marketing activities great decision! There are so many excellent ways in which you can use online marketing in general and blogs in particular to get your message across and create a buzz around a product … however, creating fake blogs is not one of them.

    To summarise:

    1. If you are even vaguely considering perhaps at some point in the future potentially using a fake blog, then don’t;

    2. See point 1.

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    Everyone loves a story. Stories are part and parcel of our history and have their roots in the “oral tradition” which spans all cultures, when news and tales alike were passed down by word of mouth, and storytellers were as important to the fabric of society as any of the professions that we know today.

    Even now, in a world where there is a multitude of different media to choose from, we still love to read or listen to a good story. We are brought up on them and we remember them. With stories, we identify much more easily with what we are being told and get involved more than we would with a simple stream of information. In turn, this allows us to remember it much more easily as well.

    So what’s your point, Mark?

    Well, blogging is just another of those media, albeit a relatively new one. The keys to its success are content and the way that we present it … and our goal is that people should remember what we say and pass it on to others. So give them a helping hand, and communicate your message with a story. Even at its simplest level, you can frame a story with a context and personality or at least set the scene, so that our imagination can take over.

    In any case, we even have huge advantages over our story-telling predecessors because:

    • when we post to our blog, people can go back to it time and time again because our story and its message is always available;
    • it can be easily distributed and won’t suffer from “Chinese Whispers” because people can refer directly to our original version;
    • we don’t need to gather an audience around us in order to tell our story, there is always one accessible online.

    Now if I’d been ultra clever, I would have presented this post as a story … weaving my web and luring you in to make my point, rather than stating it as plainly as I have done. Ah well, such is life – next time perhaps! However, open your minds to a great post, or indeed two posts, from The CopyBlogger who demonstrates this far more eloquently than I could, so, if you haven’t already had the pleasure, drop by The most powerful blogging technique there is and then read the follow up post.

    Then come back and tell me I’m wrong if you like. Bet you won’t! Do come back, though, for the next gripping instalment …! ;)

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    It seems to me that, while most businesses could benefit from using a Business Blog as part of their marketing and business development activities, there are some types of companies which would find them particularly beneficial.

    Companies which need to present a human face to their activities: some professional services organisations have been known to suffer from a bland image. Using a blog, you can break down some of these preconceptions and reveal some of the personalities carrying out the work which will help to engender greater trust in what is a 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 gravitate towards you. Client case studies go part of the way, but displaying both your general and specialised knowledge over a period of time in a Business blog helps 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 an approach. However, an educational 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.

    Companies wanting to become more of a partner than a supplier: as you engage potential clients through your Business Blog, you 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 and a blog will help 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 on the web, it is just a case of finding it. So rather than let potential clients find it on a competitors site, provide it yourself or provide links to it on your Blog. You will become the preferred place to go for this type of information and so attract anyone interested in your niche to your blog. This is turn provides you with the ideal opportunity to open a dialogue with them.

    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.

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