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    Successful Corporate BlogsI’m currently writing a series called “The Diary of a Business Blog” (you can find part 2 here) which looks at an imaginary business owner going through the process of setting up and developing a blog for his business. One of the questions that the first couple of posts has elicited from BBB readers (thanks, by the way!) is “what makes a successful blog?” and I guess that this is probably a key question for any organisation looking to create their own business or corporate blog.

    My answer: a successful business blog is one which fulfils the purpose and achieves the results that it was created for.

    Now that may sound like a bit of a cop out on my part and I suppose that, in one way, it is. However, there is a good reason why.

    There’s more than ONE type of blog

    The issue is that there are so many different types of business blog, it’s simply not possible to give a single definitive definition of what success would look like or indeed a blueprint for creating one.

    To give a couple of examples: if we look at a CEO Blog (such as Jonathan Schwartz at Sun or Richard Edelman’s 6am blog) then the writing style, format and content are going to be very different from one designed as a product blog. So too will be its aims. Likewise a corporate blog which brings together a community of users and developers for market research or product development, will have a very different definition of “successful” from an “expert blog” written by a consultant or legal professional looking to directly improve his/her profile and reputation.

    However, what they will have in common is likely to be a clear set of objectives, albeit all different, which they are focused on achieving. These objectives would have been identified as part of the planning process and should always be in the back of your mind (or written on a postit in front of you!) when writing and promoting your business blog. [Aside: I’ll be looking at some possible objectives and metrics to measure them in a post next week.]

    Some pointers for your Business Blog

    However, having ducked the question once, I’ll try to make amends now. If I had to make some suggestions to organisations starting a blog that would help to achieve the goals that they have set for it, then I would recommend the following:
    • Don’t try to be everything to everyone: the best type of business blog will often be very targeted in nature. It will have identified the people that it wants to appeal to and should be written in such a way that it attracts, retains and develops that audience;

    • Plan, focus and stay true to your goals: you planned your objectives when you started, so try not to be distracted from them. If those are what you want to achieve, then make certain that you concentrate on them and don’t get pulled off in different directions;

    • Write interesting, compelling, focused content: you know the audience you wish to attract and hopefully you also know what will interest them. So try to present them with that information in a way which is authentic and which communicates the passion that you have for the subject;

    • Make it visually appealing: that doesn’t just mean images, although they certainly play a major role, but also break the text up with sub headings, use a header which supports and shows off your brand and ensure that above all it is easy on the eye. Don’t distract your readers from your content or make it difficult to take in;

    • Launch it properly: Plan the launch and make sure that you use all of the means at your disposal to tell people about it. Get your Foundation posts in place, use your mailing list, pre-announce it if applicable, create online press releases to support it and ensure that you put some weight behind the activities. If you believe it’s worth reading (and let’s hope you do!) then tell people and enthuse about it;

    • Vary the style of posts: while the content should be targetted, there are different ways in which you can present it from “expert pieces” to lists and from news stories to links to other key sources. Make sure that you break it up and present the information in different ways – it’ll help get across the points you are looking to communicate. [Some ideas on blog posts here might be of use];

    • Market it religiously: there is no point in having a blog and just letting it sit there – tell people about it. Use all the methods available both online and offline, generic and blog specific and then use all of them again! While your writing will hopefully attract readers over time, you should still “spread the word” at every opportunity.

    Ultimately, the person best placed to judge whether the blog you are running has been a success is … you! However, don’t make it hard for yourself – know what you want to achieve with it and then going all out to make it happen.

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    There are lots of different opinions and descriptions of what a blog is, so it would seem sensible to start with a brief overview.

    The name comes from a contraction of web log and it started life as a personal online publishing system. The blog would be a place on the internet where the author (normally an individual) could publish their thoughts and opinions on whatever subject they liked. These would then appear in chronological order.

    Start Point

    A good place to start for some background on blogs is Wikipedia. They describe a blog as:

    “The term blog is a shortened form of weblog or web log. Authoring a blog, maintaining a blog or adding an article to an existing blog is called “blogging”. Individual articles on a blog are called “blog posts,” “posts” or “entries”. A person who posts these entries is called a “blogger”.

    These are all true and yet only provide half the story. A blog is effectively a special type of website which has allowed people who previously had no real access to publishing on the web to write and express their own opinions. There are also now very important marketing tools for businesses (see below).

    Special Characteristics

    So what are the special characteristics that blogs have which make them so great both for personal use and for business use. Well, the main ones are:

    • No technical knowledge required: you dont need technical expertise to write a blog. You add pages or articles through a “Windows” type of interface so there is no need to rely on a web designer to update it for you.

    • Readers can leave comments: your readers can respond to your posts so that you can start see whos interested in the same areas as you or as a business open a conversation with potential clients, suppliers or partners. The perfect opener to developing a relationship and a network!

    • Automatically organised: ‘categories’ and ‘archives’ are integral parts of a blog and each post will automatically be placed correctly according to the selection you make. This gives great organisation and structure to a blog which is perfect for visitors and Search Engines alike and allow you to concentrate on the content

    • Search Engine magnets: with regular posts, categorised content and search engine friendly links and addresses, business blogs become ideal places for Search Engines to find the type of content they love and you can rank very highly!

    • Multiple Authors: not only can one person add content but you can allow access to any number of people so that you have several authors contributing to a topic or a series of topics. It also opens up the possibilities for blogs as tools ideally suited to internal communications within a company.
    • Internal and External Links: blogs thrive by links and referring to other articles so that conversations and ideas can be taken up and developed. At its best, this allows a viral effect in terms of promotion and helps develop both relationships and networks.

    • Permalinks: every post and every category has its own individual address, forever! This means that you can refer to them in articles, emails, newsletters etc safe in the knowledge that they will always be found. Another great feature for the Search Engines.

    Business Blogs

    However, over the past 12 – 18 months, this technology has been adopted to a much larger extent by businesses as a new and very powerful marketing tool which has allowed them to communicate with their customers, enter into dialogue with them and helped to create relationships and networks online. As a result, many companies has successfully used them to help to dominate their niche and market themselves more effectively to customers and prospects alike.

    To learn more about Business Blogs and how to use them, you may find our own Business Blogging email course to be useful. It’s free but very good! :)

    Personal Blogs

    A personal blog is generally set up to allow the author to discuss their views on anything and everything, so the topics change with each post according to mood or inclination. This is where blogs started and it is essentially a personal diary or scrapbook, which can be great fun to both read and write.

    There are now tools which are freely available to allow anyone to set up a personal blog quickly and simply – while these are not advised for a Business Blog simply because they offer less control over a tool which will become key to your business. The most well know is Blogger, owner by Google, though there are others which are as good if not as well known.

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