B2B companies have had mixed experiences with blogs. In fact, we’ve seen countless blog deaths among our B2B clients. These unfortunate blogs were usually started by enthusiastic marketing departments keen to display a vibrant corporate culture—a more human side of the company—to stakeholders in an attempt to build trust and engagement. That’s a great aim, but there are many challenges and pitfalls to using blogging in business contexts.
So what types of business blogs are really effective? First and foremost, blogs that work are generally created by individual, highly motivated bloggers, not as a result of a strategic decision by a corporation with thousands of employees. Understanding this is key to developing blogs that will survive past the initial few months of existence.
Here’s another key point: blogging is best done by blogger types. If you have people within your company who love to write and enjoy communicating with others online (e.g. via LinkedIn or Facebook), then you have a real chance of creating and maintaining a thriving blog. But if you construct a blog platform and then attempt to encourage, threaten or otherwise motivate your employees to write comments with any reasonable frequency, you will likely fail.
Another key point is that blogs have to be about something. Most people have encountered blogs whose owners view them as places to dump all sorts of different ideas, impressions, references and so on without a particular theme. This is, of course, a recipe for disaster, as readers or viewers of blogs connect best with those that have a singular purpose or topic area.
So don’t go setting up a blog that is just “our company’s blog”. Instead, start at the other end. Find out who in your company likes to write, or who may consent to appearing in a video-style blog, and what he or she would like to and is able to communicate about. Then figure out how that person’s urge to communicate can be turned to your company’s advantage (in line with your business strategy) and give her all the support she needs to get things off the ground.
Don’t forget to identify what value this new blog should bring to a specific audience. Define its mission in life. Give it a clear verbal and visual personality consistent with the company’s style and personality. But also encourage your blogger to bring her own personality quirks to the table (as long as they’re appropriate, of course).
Treat each new blog as an experiment. Don’t use vast resources on planning and setting up the ultimate solution, then launching it in a tidal wave of promotional messages to all your stakeholders. Just set up a basic content management system and encourage your would-be blogger to begin shaping her ideas and writing the first articles. Help her to work out her editorial mission and provide constructive feedback from the company’s point of view.
While you’re doing this, remember the old adage that, while trying to add five percent more value to a project, managers often run the risk of removing fifty percent of the employee’s motivation. This applies particularly strongly to blogging, where it is crucial that the blog owner’s personal priorities, ideas and style consistently make themselves felt. Ignore these aspects and you’ll likely be left holding the baby as your disgruntled blogger beats a hasty retreat.
Most likely, however, you will be able to find an employee or two keen to take on the responsibility of building and maintaining a blog—at least from content and community perspectives. Make it clear to them that they have a greater level of freedom than other forms of corporate communication, but that the blog is, in essence, a corporate platform rather than their own, personal soap box. As such, each blog will require a document that lays out the reasons for its existence and a set of guidelines that cover what is and what is not considered good blogging both from social networking practices and corporate points of view (Social Media Guidelines).
Also make clear to your employee bloggers the context in which they’ll be expected to blog. Voice of Industry bloggers will be expected to wax lyrical about the solution category in general, whilst Voice of Company bloggers will be much more focused on the goings-on at your organization (although in a manner that’s not overtly commercial).
Blogs, in particular, can create large followings for their authors—so you might find yourself in an unlucky situation where you have helped a key employee to build her blog platform and accumulate hundreds or even thousands of followers, only to have them leave the company and take almost all of this carefully nurtured audience with them. That’s show business, folks—at least in today’s world. You can indeed lose the investment you’ve made—although if the blogger’s new employers don’t have the same perspective on the importance of removing propaganda, you might find your audiences slipping back to you after being hit over the head one too many times with a blatant sales pitch.
On the other hand, you may be the one luring well-followed bloggers into your organization. Give careful thought to the implications if you encourage them to continue their blogging under your banner. Bringing such people into the corporate fold may be risky, but there are also significant marketing rewards. In our experience, people who have established successful blogs are highly aware of their own abilities and “market price”, and this may have implications for the level to which they can be successfully integrated within your company. You’ll also need to consider the possible subscriber fallout if your corporate blogging philosophies are significantly at odds with what these bloggers have been covering in the past.
If you’re hungry for more guidance to ensure your new blog won’t fail – or to get more out of an existing one, you can also check out firstsiteguide.com, an educational website where you can find helpful free online and PDF guides, video tutorials, as well as handy blogging tools.
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