Beginning To Blog

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If you’ve not yet started a company blog, why not? A blog is one of the easiest and quickest ways to jump aboard the social media bandwagon and lends itself to more or less any industry, product or topic. It’s also arguably the most diffused form of web 2.0 marketing, making it that much easier to profit from the endeavor in both SEO and bottom line terms.

The word ‘blog’ or web log was coined to describe the space regular internet users had commandeered to publish their thoughts, record their day-to-day lives and share their opinions and takes on the world with a virtual audience.

Now, the blogosphere is a global phenomenon with 94.1 million US blog readers in 2007 (50% of Internet users) and 22.6 million US bloggers in 2007 (12%) according to research by comScore MediaMetrix. Blogs are no longer the online diary of individuals. This ready and willing audience is unique to blogging and just one reason why it’s essential that blogging activity forms the cornerstone of any businesses’ online marketing mix.

Getting Started
There are hundreds of free or low-cost blogging programs available online. From Google’s Blogger to WordPress or Typepad (www.typepad.com) the subscription services are an inexpensive introduction to blogging and come ready equipped with suites of tools and resources developed specifically for blogging.

Deciding which blog software to use is a matter of personal preference. With so many free services clamouring to publish your commercial musings, it makes sense to try a number of different packages before settling on the one you feel most comfortable with. There are a number of off the shelf applications which can also be integrated with your own web site.

Using Your Blog To Connect With Your Clients

A blog is more informal than a web site, with some packages even offering comment and talk back facilities. That makes the medium a hugely powerful way of connecting with clients and potential clients. Especially when times are tough, a blog is a particularly savvy search marketing move as the format gives the blogger their own unique voice. Applied to a business environment, your blog can take on its own style which while complimentary to your overall brand identity, should be more accessible to your target demographic.

Humanizing your blog and using it to best effect is built over time but start out right and you’ll build a loyal following. Connecting with your clients via a blog can be something as simple as posting a message inviting their feedback or, asking them which of your products has made the biggest difference to their daily lives. It’s surprising the difference a regular monthly or bi-monthly post soliciting their opinions and requests for future products or promotions can make.

Addressing Customer Service Issues
The most potent example of a blog being used to address customer service issues is that of Dell, who found themselves under scathing attack by a disgruntled client. So upset was he with their treatment of him and failure to resolve problems with the product, he started his own blog called Dell Hell to vent his frustrations. Faced with snowballing bad PR, the firm were forced to join the blogosphere to defend their corner and have been stalwarts of social media ever since. The lesson to be learned is here is not to wait until your clients begin speaking to the media and bad mouthing you to other prospects but to use your blog as an opportunity to be pro-active about your customer service. If you’re a small business owner, you’ll likely be so busy running your business that client contacted is limited. Equally for growing or more established firms, clients and management very rarely interact. Changing that by providing a space for informal interaction is a chance to invite positive and constructive criticism that may otherwise have become buried in the annals of your customer support team. Consider your blog an interactive FAQ, or extension of your customer service responsibilities. Invite questions, respond to criticism and tackle complaints. You can also take a positive stance and provide news and updates on products, direct existing clients to more long-term solutions to their problems in the form of updated product manuals or useful articles. For potential clients, your blog will then underline your proximity to the front line and reassure prospects that there is a human face to the company willing and able to right wrongs should the worst happen.

Building Your Credibility
Don’t be afraid to use your blog to bolster your own public image. While nobody likes to read unsubstantiated claims of greatness, you can use your blog as a place to establish your credentials as an industry expert. Chances are no-one knows your business and products as well as you. You should also be well up on industry trends and be one of the first to know latest news and sector innovations. Pass on this knowledge through your blog by writing interesting articles, posting thoughtful opinion pieces and include valuable and relevant information. It could be something as simply as demystifying recent regulation changes by explaining them in plain English or something as complicated as a white paper on an area of particular personal interest. However you choose to do it, regular useful information will shore up your clients faith in you, encouraging both new and repeat business.

About the Author

Rebecca is the managing director of search engine optimization agency Dakota Digital a full-service agency offering SEO, online PR, web copywriting, media relationship management, and social media strategy. Rebecca works directly with each client to increase online visibility, brand profile, and search engine rankings. She has headed a number of international campaigns for large brands.

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