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    No, I really do mean it, why do you link to your blog?

    I’m thinking here of the people on business or social networking sites who insist on blindly linking to their blog (as well as their website) from their profile because they have been given a space to do so. Great if you have a blog which you keep updated but why do it when it hasnt been touched for several months? For me thats like proudly linking to your website, encouraging me to visit and then all I find is a big Under Construction sign or the hosting companys holding page. It looks bad and its bad for business.

    The whole point of having a business blog that it tells the reader more about you, markets what you do and opens up a conversation or connection, all of which is likely to reflect positively on you and your business. But a blog where the most recent entry is from the previous year not only doesnt add anything positive to peoples perception of you and your business, it can be distinctly negative.

    So why do people still do it is it that they think it’s still worth maintaining a link just in case it helps with Google? Maybe they just added it and forgot about it as part of a frenzied attempt to sign up with as many social networking sites and forums as possible. Bad move. Every profile you create adds to the pool of information about you on the internet its best to treat them with respect and keep track. The internet has a long memory, for good or for bad.

    From a professional perspective, its particularly disappointing because many of the profiles I read are in fact small business owners who are highly specialised in what they do and clearly have much to offer. Ideal candidates for a successful and focused business blog. More than that, by actively participating in networking sites theyve already shown a real understanding that building trust and confidence online can add so much to their business, leading to referrals and generating real partnership opportunities. All things which running a business blog can also offer in bucket loads.

    But not if its left to die. So even if its just once a week, keep your blog live and then make sure that you do link to it! If not, then please delete that link until you do seriously, its a lot better for your business that way.

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    I’d love to be able to describe a blog as an all powerful “magic wand” which will single-handedly solve all your marketing woes. Unfortunately, in spite of what some over eager blogging enthusiasts might have us believe, its simply not the case. What blogs are, however, are excellent tools which sit perfectly at the centre of your online marketing activity and which you can use to drive your business development efforts. Now thats not too shabby, is it?

    The problem is that that, all too often, a business blog is set up and run in isolation within the company rather than treated as part of a larger set of activities. No matter how successful you make your blog, it is still important to consider it as part of the overall mix – any company thinking of running one in splendid isolation is just guilty of actively stopping it from fulfilling its full potential. Running it in conjunction with other activities will prove to be far more effective both for the blog and your company.

    If, as is often the case, the blog is designed to help market the company and its offerings or enhance its branding efforts, then treat it as a part of the overall marketing mix. Make sure to link it with the other activities you are using or even use it as a hub to coordinate them online and gather the responses they generate.

    Ideally this coordination should happen at the planning stage so that the main interlinking set out in advance and all of the marketing strands can work in tandem. If not, then you will find that a blog is flexible enough to be able to adapt to a change in focus and direction later on if required. Employing this approach will give results which go far beyond those you could achieve using any of the activities on their own, boosting your blog and the overall campaign. The diagram above, while clearly only giving examples of the many online, offline and social media marketing methods available, tries to show the type of integrated approach that will produce the best results.

    Likewise, if you are using the blog for Customer Service or Product Development reasons, then again make sure that it is part of the overall process, integrated with your Call Centre, your Developers or your Product Marketing team and not stuck out on a limb under the control of a separate department. Use the information that your customers provide through it and share it with others. Treat it as the tool that it is, rather than a solution to all ills, and you will be able to tap into a collective resource that your readers and staff can jointly add to – you can then in turn make that available to all those who visit and use the blog, both internally to your company as well as externally.

    So, whatever the job you have in mind for your blog, make sure that from the planning phase onwards you run it in conjunction with the other activities you have in the same area. A blog can be a real hub for your customers, prospects and staff alike so dont isolate it connect to it and through it!

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    Balance in Blog Writing Ive always been a big advocate of planning your posts on a business blog but I was asked recently whether I felt that this would have the effect of stifling the spontaneity and authentic voice that blogs are supposed to have.

    For me, the answer is a categorical no. The issue, as I see it, stems from the belief that the two elements, planning and spontaneity, are diametrically opposed. Theyre not – in fact, they sit very comfortably alongside each other. From a blogging perspective, it’s good to be able to find a balance between the two while, from a business perspective, planning is all important not to stifle spontaneity and creativeness but to channel and focus it.

    Think of it like a river

    If I could use an analogy here, think of your business blog as a long winding river a river flows in a clear overall direction and has a destination which it moves towards; sometimes it meanders off but ultimately rejoins the main flow of the river and continues back on track. It also has its own boundaries in terms of its banks and encounters obstacles which it has to overcome.

    If you can achieve the same with your blog then you are doing well. Keep the blog moving along and focused; also make sure that the goals you outlined when you initially planned it are clear in your mind thats the ‘destination’ you want for your blog. You can go off at tangents where appropriate and display all the spontaneity you like, provided that you return to the main flow of your core topics. There lots of scope for flexibility but ultimately there are boundaries as well which you need to respect.

    Plan where you can

    So do plan your posts ahead of time where possible:

    • try to outline a week or even a month ahead, at least with some of the main topics and potential post titles that you want to cover;

    • have a themed series ready to go even if you then develop it more later once it is started;

    • make sure that you continue to add to your Foundation posts which will often add most value to the overall blog.

    But at the same time when you spot something in your RSS Reader that you feel is important to comment on, then do so. From a publishing point of view, blogs give you an exceptional speed of response, so take the chance to report on breaking news in your industry and voice your opinion on it ahead of your competitors.

    As a final key point: dont look at planning as a constraint, think of it more as giving a focus and direction.

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