While your blog doesn’t necessarily have to be Pulitzer-prize worthy, it should certainly be value-laden. When readers finish the post, they should feel that they’ve either learned something from it or have been thoroughly entertained.
But with so many businesses now realising the value of blogging, we’re starting to see the same old stuff being churned out time and again. Recurring topics are hardly surprising given the amount of updates required of a well-maintained company blog.
Customer success stories
There’s nothing wrong with making testimonials available to users. But this practice turns into blatant advertising if you throw them in someone’s face. People often scoff when reading about how awesome your company is. It actually cheapens you. Remember, there’s great power in understatement.
On the surface, an article providing detailed instructions for a particular process is useful. However, it doesn’t always add value. This is especially true if the task is common or has a simple procedure. Think hard about where your specialities can really help, and subjects where the internet has failed to do so thus far.
Jason Kintzler, founder of the social media news release service PitchEngine, on why PR people still write and distribute worthless press releases:
“It’s the easy-button… In most cases, companies are still writing for their CEOs, not their audience. If they really consider it, they should write for them, not at them. Marketing speak is so 1950.”
In the social media age, press releases provide little value to readers. Since they’re blatant advertising, most people ignore them. Nobody likes a company who sings its own praises. Think twice before blogging about that new state-of-the-art factory. If it’s important enough, the local daily will surely cover it.
Press release submissions also tend to be frowned upon, SEO-wise. There’s very little link juice from many PR submission sites. Instead of a sales pitch, opt for a newsworthy story.
Industry news and trends
Trends are always interesting. The problem, though, is that everyone wants to write about them. Avoid the temptation to write about every single industry development that’s published. Stick to your expertise and discuss only those where you can add more value to the story.
Thought leadership articles
Advice from experts is always welcome. However, readers will think it dubious if you constantly feature your company’s executives in your blog. If possible, approach other experts in your industry, be they competitors or not, and ask for their opinions. This adds a nice big glowing halo around your business and shows the world you really do have your customers’ best interests at heart.
So what else can set you apart from the rest? With 500,000 new blog posts every day in the US alone, and 60% of all US businesses having a company blog, is it at all possible to distinguish yourself?
Yes, in fact.
First and foremost, write about what you’re passionate about. Now that most businesses realise that having a blog is so valuable, many will be forgetting, or not even knowing in the first place, what a blog can do for them. They will use it purely as a marketing tool. If you’re forcing out blog posts, it will show to your readers. Genuine passion brings a written piece to life like nothing else; it is impossible not to notice. If you truly believe in what you’re saying, so then can your readers.
Engage your community
Too many businesses tend to talk at customers instead of listening to them. Pose real questions on your blog that help your business and your customers equally. Actually listen and learn from what they have to say. It’s all too easy to just take note of the positives you hear and nothing else. Of course, you have the grand view of your company and know how to take it forward, but be mindful of everything your community is thinking.
Trust your community
Ever thought of setting up a community blog? Is your industry one where your customers can become experts or authority figures at using your product? If so, do not let this knowledge slip away. Ask them to be advisers to your wider customer base, and reward them as best you can. To have seasoned customers genuinely praising your products to newcomers is worth much more than any marketing tactic you can employ.
Announce a meet-up
Use your blog to arrange a virtual meet-up with your readers. You could host it on a social media platform like Google+ Hangouts. Or, you can have it on your website’s forum. Having such a public discussion can have its risks, but if your policies are genuine and your ethics watertight, this kind of transparency is priceless.
Start a debate
It’s good to pit your brains with other experts once a in a while. Pick a disputable topic. Spice up your blog by inviting someone with an opposing view to share their opinions in a write-up. Showing you can absorb and consider other views, whilst respectfully airing your own, opens you up as personable and amiable. Discourse is the key; you’re not out to win an argument here.
Pose a problem
The members of your online community can provide great solutions to challenging problems. Posting a genuine question you’re struggling to answer will allow your readers to actually contribute something to your business. Establish a relationship beyond the usual seller-buyer.
Fun in the Company
Because you’re not all business, business, business, are you? Well, if you are, remember that your customers certainly are not, and it’s nice from time to time for them to believe that you aren’t either.
Personalise your staff
Whether you represent an SME or a global corporation, customers appreciate being able to put a face to the brand. Steve Jobs; Richard Branson; Bill Gates, Donald Trump – all personalised and personified their businesses. The same effect applies to the IT department at a local start-up and the lady that’s served at the bakery for the last 25 years. Personal messages from these people on your blog are a nice touch.
Encourage your professional staff to have online profiles
If customers start to see your staff members cropping up around the web; their own personal blogs, G+ profiles, Twitter accounts etc, and they have the same enthusiasm for their line of work as customers have for their product, the authenticity and validity of your company will go sky-high.
Have a “day in the life of an intern” story
Interns tend to see things at the workplace in a different light. Interview one and share their experiences with your blog followers.
Report on company events
There might be a tendency to slip business-related info into this one, but resist! A short update on events such as company dinners and days out will give personality to your business and show the workforce as a sociable bunch and a tight unit.
Finally, always keep in mind that you aren’t writing merely to express personal opinions, provide commentary, or talk endlessly about how great your business is. Don’t overdo it, or blog for the sake of it. In today’s world of bitesized-information, little and often goes a long way.
This dose of blogging inspiration was written by Richard Eaves, a Digital Marketing Specialist at Smart Traffic, an SEO company with offices in Bristol, Australia, Thailand, and the Philippines.