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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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    Building your blogAnother nice piece from Seth Godin last week where he talked about his Seven tips to build for meaning and where he briefly (comme toujours!) talked about some tactical tips about how to add value online.

    One of them particularly struck a chord with me. Seth’s comment was:

    It’s a brick wall, not a balloon. This is a hard one for many people. We try to build something quickly and get it totally complete all in one go. If we can’t, we get frustrated and give up. But great blogs and lenses are built brick by brick, a little at a time. You learn what works and do it more.

    I liked the analogy and particularly in terms of the building of the brick wall.

    I find that it can sometimes be difficult for companies when they launch a blog – whether they are launching a business blog or a full blown corporate blog, I get the impression that they have a nagging feeling in the back of their mind that somehow it’s not really finished.

    When a website is launched, it should have everything there written and visible including all the relevant information and the pages completed, stored and in place. When a product is launched, it should have instructions, packaging etc. right from when the first one is shipped to customers. I think they feel that that’s what a business blog should be like too.

    But the launch of a blog is not the end of the process, it is the beginning. Granted there will be the main Foundation posts in place at launch but after that the content will develop and be kept fresh by the new articles being posted – that’s how it becomes successful. Building the information, reputation, trust etc and fufiling expectations.

    So have patience and take heed of Seth’s comments – put solid foundations down and then build your blog brick by brick.

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    I’m a great fan of RSS and all that it can do and I use it on a daily basis both to keep me up to date on a range of business topics that I’m interested in and also for writing my blog. However, I’m also realistic enough to know that RSS use by publishers is still relatively hit and miss, and so if I want to keep abreast of all information being published on the web, then I need to be looking at other tools as well.

    Enter Google Alerts. A great research tool and free to boot which can really help you with your blog posts, either to add additional reference sources to a topic that you have already written about or indeed to help you if you are searching for ideas of new topics to write about.

    It’s very easy to set up – just head along to Google Alerts and select the search terms that you are interested in. If you like, you can select new entries just from Google News, Google Search, Google Blogs or Google Groups, but by far the best option is the comprehensive search which checks all of them. Then when a new post hits the top 10 or 20 in your selected terms, you receive an email alert with description and link.

    So what different pieces of information might be of use to you when writing your blog? Well, anything that you think your readers would be interested in really, but here’s a few thoughts on the subject.

    • Industry information: news and announcements regarding the industry that is relevant to your readers including developments, company news and trends;

    • Competitor information: either new product or service releases or the different go-to-market strategies that your competitors are using. Forewarned is forearmed.

    • Exhibitions, seminars or other live events which might be of interest, either before they happen or to give reports afterwards on what happened there, announcements, who made the news etc.

    • New reports or surveys which might give you figures to add to your blog post and add additional credence to the points that you want to make

    Of course, you can also see what comes up with your own name or your company name as well – a lazy form of egosurfing, I guess.

    However, knowing who is talking about you and the areas you’re interested in as soon as it happens certainly puts you ahead of the game. So, alongside your RSS feed reader, make sure you have Google Alerts set up and get the comprehensive search sent over to you every day – you’ll be surprised how valuable it can be.

    If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

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    When it comes to Business Blogging, there are 5 Rs which we should focus our attention on if we want to create a successful and sustainable small business or corporate blog. Our aim should be to put all the necessary elements in place on our Blog to allow these 5 Rs to happen as smoothly and automatically as possible. When we manage this, well have created a Blog which fulfils both our readers requirements and our own business needs.

    These 5 Rs are:

    Read - Reply - Return - Recommend - RSS

    Simply put, we need to create and maintain a Blog which in the first instance will attract readers and then encourage them to participate by commenting on our posts or contacting us directly. We then need to make sure that it provides sufficient value or creates enough interest to make them return and become regular readers as well as recommend our Blog to others. The 5th R of RSS underpins all of the others by supporting the distribution and the promotion of the blog.

    If we want people to read our blog, then logically the quality of what we write in the posts will be important. However, we first have to attract readers to our blog – if they dont know about us or cant find us then we are going to fall at the first hurdle, no matter how good our content or services are!

    So promoting the blog is always going to be a critical phase in getting our posts read and its important that we make use of all the methods at our disposal to achieve the best results possible ideally this will combine offline marketing as well as online and blog specific marketing methods.

    As part of this, we need to consider the Search Engine aspects when we write. Its essential to focus on making the content interesting and useful to your readers but it also has to be written in such a way that it is appealing to Search Engines they are a key way to attract readers so we need to write with one eye on ensuring our search engine ranking is as good as possible.

    In addition, to make all of our other efforts as effective as possible, everything about the blog should be attractive and easy to use, from the general design to the layout of the blog and the positioning and display of our own marketing elements.

    The first step in engaging properly with your readers is to have them reply to one of your posts and allow them to voice their opinions, thoughts, ideas and concerns. This creates the interaction, conversations and ultimately the connections that business blogs need to develop and thrive.

    However, we cannot sit back and just rely on the comments simply appearing instead, we need to be actively encouraging them, either by the way in which we write the posts or by asking open questions as part of the text or even by specifically asking for them.

    Having encouraged people to want to reply, try to avoid putting barriers in their way getting people to fill in a form in order to leave a comment is never going to get good results! Its also important to listen and respond to the comments which are left, hence developing the conversation and working towards establishing and then building on a connection with the reader.

    Effectively, we need to get to love comments and make sure that we respond to as many as possible that we receive. We should ensure that we respond to any negative comments which arrive negative comments can often be the most important type!

    As a last thought, you might even consider adding a list of recent comments as part of your blog to highlight those who have made the effort to leave a comment and to encourage them further.

    If people are interested in what you are writing about and find value in it then the likelihood is that they will return to read more. By maintaining the quality of your posts and demonstrating your expertise on a consistent basis, you will be giving yourself the best chance of this happening.

    In the process, you will develop not only a loyal readership but you will also be developing a growing level of trust between yourself and those reading your Blog. Make your blog THE place to go to find information on your specialist subject area.

    Once readers return to your blog, make sure that they can explore all your posts as fully as possible let ALL of your content shine through. To help this, make sure that the navigation around the blog is as clear as possible, that you highlight your key articles (the Foundation articles) and that you include links to related articles at the end of each post.

    As a final point, try to keep an uncluttered look and feel make it easy on the readers eyes again so that they want to return. No-one will come back simply because it looks nice but you want to avoid people deciding to stay away because it doesnt.


    This might have been called Refer but I prefer the concept of recommending which has a more positive connotation and when someone recommends your Blog, that is a very positive thing!

    How do you recommend a blog? Well, clearly, you can tell people about it directly! Word of mouth (WOM) is the most widely used form of recommendation there is so use it to your advantage. When people are considering books to read, films to see or hotels to stay in, arguably the most important element in the decision making process will usually be recommendations from friends. The online world works in the same way and blogs really are the online equivalent of W.O.M.

    There are other online and blog specific ways which are just as important. The most frequent one is to simply reference a post or article from your a post on your own blog, as well as including a trackback. Another option is to include someone in your Blogroll, which is where bloggers highlight the blogs they recommend to their readers high praise indeed. When this does happen, then just like the replies to your posts, follow up and thank the person for the link and hence the recommendation.

    Dont forget that you also make it easy for people to tell a friend about it using an email a friend type of function or links to social bookmarking sites such as Digg or Del.icio.us which will automatically add the post to then be shared online.

    Lots of ways to be recommended so encourage them all!

    Communication and dissemination of information is key to achieving a successful blog and the RSS functionality is the way to achieve that. So the 5th R included here is RSS.

    When someone subscribes to your RSS Feed, it means that they have shown a commitment to continuing the interaction they are interested in receiving more information and with RSS you can provide them with immediate updates from your blog, cleanly and instantly. With so many benefits on offer for all parties, make sure that the RSS feeds are prominent on your blog to make it as easy as possible for visitors to find them.

    To cover all options, you should also give people the opportunity to subscribe to RSS by email – 3rd party services such as Feedblitz or Feedburner make this straightforward. In any case, as RSS is still an unknown quantity in many quarters, it may equally be wise to provide a link to a page which explains what RSS is and what RSS Readers are available.

    Once you have your RSS in place, use it to your benefit. Try to differentiate yourself in your feed and include branding elements such as your logo tools such as Feedburner can really help you to do this simply enough. RSS will also allow you to syndicate your content on a number of different sites immediately and, as a final comment, dont forget that you can create any number of individual RSS feeds to cover individual topics.

    But whether you work from a single RSS feed or develop multiple feeds, it is important that you make RSS a central part of your blog promotion and reader retention program. It is something which underpins the other elements and allows the Business Blog to reach its full potential by making the information we produce as widely available as possible.

    Summary

    If we can achieve each of these 5Rs successfully in our Business Blogging, then we are well on the way to creating a Business Blog which will achieve the goals that we set for it, whether they are focused on creating a network, improving our reputation or positioning, developing a solid base of subscribers, increasing our Search Engine Rankings or simply generating new business.

    If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

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    Blog Consultant questions: Ask the Blog CoachAsk the Blog Coach: Business Blogging FAQs

    Question: Who should be the main author of a corporate blog? Should it always be the MD or CEO?

    The Blog Coach’s Reply: Firstly, it’s important to stress that, even in corporate blogs, whoever does the writing, it needs to retain a personal tone and not drift towards corporate “marketing speak”. This personal aspect is one of the key business benefits that blogs offer. A personal writing style helps companies to put a human perspective on an often austere external corporate image and differentiate themselves by doing so. This is particularly effective for Professional Services companies where a key selling point has to be the people (as well as their expertise) carrying out the work a corporate site can state their qualifications but, unlike a blog, cannot give an insight as to who the people really are.

    Should only CEOs blog?
    As for whether CEOs should always blog no, not at all. I would certainly not recommend that all CEOs consider blogging themselves and nor should it generally be the CEO who blogs on a corporate blog. It’s important to remember that corporate blogs do not have a single purpose or format – rather it’s an umbrella term for many different types. For instance, a blog intended to help provide better customer service will be different to one aimed at helping to develop a brand and both will be different to a product focused blog.

    The so called “CEO Blog” is a different type again, I believe. As you would expect, an MD or CEO is going to write about the company in a very different way to someone in the Customer Services department because they have a different perspective on the issues and the industry. It is that perspective which is of interest to readers. A CEO is more likely to do a weekly State of the Nation type of post which looks at the industry, the company and factors affecting it from a helicopter perspective. Good examples are Jonathan Schwartz (CEO of Sun Microsystems) or Richard Edelman (Edelman PR).

    However, a product focused blog or a detailed information blog are more likely to be written by people specialist in those areas. In that way, the knowledge and the enthusiasm that they have for the subject they are writing about can really shine through.

    How to identify a potential company blogger
    In deciding who should blog, I would probably suggest that you consider someone who :

    • has a passion for what they are writing about

    • ideally enjoys writing (also it helps if they are good at it)

    • has expertise in the area (and ideally a good general knowledge base)

    • is a good listener and is open to feedback (including criticism)

    • is familiar with blogs and how to present yourself in them

    As you go through the planning process for your blog and identify what your goals are for it and who it is targeted at, you will find that there will be some ideal candidates who will be most appropriate to take on the role. You might also consider an internal blog as a good place to identify those people with a natural affinity for the medium.

    If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

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    Business Blog Design SeriesWell, this may not have been the quickest series that I’ve ever written, but over the past weeks I’ve written a series of posts looking at some of the business elements to consider when designing a Business Blog.

    As I’m no graphic designer, I’ve been focusing on blog design in terms of how to use the layout and key components of your Business blog to your best advantage from a business perspective.

    Anyway, here are links to the posts all together.

    Business Blog Design: Initial Post
    Business Blog Design: Profile and Contact Details
    Business Blog Design: Navigation and using your Content
    Business Blog Design: Generic Blog Templates
    Business Blog Design: RSS Feeds & Subscriptions
    Business Blog Design: Onpage Advertising
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    Business Blog Design: Categories, Archives and Search

    Do let me know if they’ve been useful and also what other things you considered when you set up your own blog and perhaps they can be included in a follow up post.

    If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

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    Blog Consultant questions: Ask the Blog CoachBusiness Blogging Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    “How often should I blog?” is a question which always crops up in the first conversation I have with anyone about Business Blogging and one to which I know that they are desperate for a simple answer, whether it is “once an hour”, “once a day”, “once a week” or just “once”.

    However, as you might have already guessed, there are no hard and fast rules for this Jonathan Schwartz posts on his blog at Sun once a week more or less, whereas Darren Rowse at Problogger serves up several posts on a daily basis. Both are well read, well respected and successful.

    What has made each of them so successful is that they have focused in on what their readers want from their individual blogs and provided them with it. They are intrinsically very different but perfectly in tune with the reason why they are blogging, the audience they are writing for and what that readership expects.

    If I were to offer some guidelines, then these are the ones that I would pass on:

    • Post as often as you can without compromising the quality
      Quality beats quantity every time in my opinion. Quality will get you noticed and is more likely to encourage people to develop relationships with you. Granted, a single post in a month had better be really really good, but you get my drift.

    • Post when you have something relevant/interesting/significant to say
      There is a lot of information being pumped out onto the web and much of it fails to make any sort of impact or contribution. So, when you post something, do all you can to ensure that it is worth reading and won’t just be making up the numbers.

    • Post as regularly as you have told your readers you are going to
      If you have made a commitment to your readers then try to stick to it if you need to change it then inform them and then stick to your new commitment. Its all about communication.

    • Post as regularly as your subject area / topic requires
      There are some subject areas where a constant flow of information is highly valued; other topics require fewer posts and more in depth analysis. When you write on your specialist area, judge your own rhythm of posting accordingly.

    Remember that one of the main benefits of a blog is the interaction it allows you with your readers – so use it and talk to them! Actually ask for their opinion on how often you should post and be guided by them (within reason!). Let them know what you are going to be doing and, if that changes, communicate that as well. If you won’t be posting for a while (and we all need a break from time to time), then let your readers know rather than just leaving the last post hanging unceremoniously.

    And dont forget that writing does not have to mean publishing you can write and then edit your posts over a number of days before ultimately pressing the publish button. Give yourself the time to hone and refine certain posts if you feel so inclined; alternatively, if you are feeling particularly creative, write a number of posts at one sitting and then schedule them to be published in line with your normal rhythm.

    Does this lose a little bit of the spontaneity of blogging? Perhaps … but better that and keeping the quality of your content high than pumping out average posts for the sake of publishing daily.

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