As the relationship between business and consumer changes, companies have looked for ways to evolve how they communicate value to their customers. One method of doing so that has taken off over the past several years is the business blog, and it shows no sign of slowing. 60% of businesses have blogs and several of the most popular websites in the world are blogs, demonstrating that not only is the format credible, it can have a potent impact in marketing your company. News sites have the market cornered on information, culture sites have a monopoly on distraction, and that leaves remaining outlets with the task of fulfilling more specialized roles for curious readers. In this way, business blogging creates a unique opportunity to engage, inform, and build a relationship with users.
This lies in the fact that business blogs have become the human face of modern companies. As companies capitalize on the new market axiom that service is essential, blogging becomes an extension of that. By giving company staff the chance to engage with customers (and potential customers), you can create a relationship of trust, enriching your readers and shaping your product and aims in the process.
Delivering Value, Not Selling Product
The first thing to understand about the topics you choose for your blog is that you are not selling to your customers. This cannot be stressed enough. Modern consumers are inundated with advertising language and sales pitches on a daily basis. Your blog, therefore, is a chance to sit down and have a conversation with your customers, delivering value in a real, personal, and knowledgeable way.
So what kind of topics communicate that intention and build that relationship? Let’s take Mint for example. The upstart darling, a web-based personal finance program, utilized its blog to deliver helpful budgeting tips and personal finance advice to its audience. In this way, users could easily recognize that the information was relevant to them and carried no pretense of sale or advertisement. IBM’s network of blogs covers a dizzying array of topics from building infrastructure to business strategy, all of which contributes value to their customers in some way other than a simple product pitch.
Know Your Readers
Part of what makes IBM’s blogs so strong is that the organization knows its audience. Notably missing from the corporate blog feed are recommendations for personal computing. IBM understands that its customers are IT, business, and analytics professionals and they deliver content based on this knowledge. Because of this, company blogging should never serve the purpose of issuing press releases. Focus should be directed toward delivering real value to your customers in ways that build a reputation of an organization that understands its base.
But knowing your audience takes more than demographic information. Information and news exists on an undercurrent of trends, changes, and evolution. For this reason, keeping an ear to the ground regarding current industry and consumer interests is particularly important. There are multiple ways of achieving this, but two simple ones include utilizing Technorati’s blog directory and reading RSS feeds of other influential blogs. Technorati’s tool provides a cross-section of current blogging trends, providing ample material for possible topics and interesting developments. Reading RSS feeds gives writers a real-time look at breaking news and industry trends allowing for quick and informed responses to news events relevant your market and timely consumer advice as these events unfold.
Are you blog topics genuinely valuable, or are you simply blogging for blogging’s sake? Consumers are well informed and know when they are being pandered to. Make blog topics substantial, and deliver information of value to your readers. Understand that superficial content is just as likely to hurt your reputation as a source of valuable information as useful topics are of helping it. That’s not to say that newsworthy company developments are not worth publishing, but it is important to recognize the specific role that your blog plays in the lives of your customers.
One key factor that will influence the integrity of your topics is originality. The Internet is a big place and there are plenty of second-rate sites happy to rehash the same tired topic over-and-over again, so consider whether your topic is a unique position or not. Instead of writing about how social media should be utilized by business, offer unique suggests on how to utilize the tool. When blogging about personal finance, suggest unique tools or budgeting strategies that have caught your attention.
How’s Your Hearing?
Listening to a human being is far more interesting than listening to a parrot. But if the human does not listen back, the parrot may make an equivalent companion. With each topic, pay attention to its social media impact. Look for trends and take note of popular posts. Today’s writers have the powerful opportunity to glean important information about their audience from social media and comments so reader engagement should be a high priority. In fact, developing topics can be as simple as listening to a suggestion or request from a reader and responding in kind. Listening to customers and building a community in the process is never a bad idea.
And feedback does not have to be limited to reading the tea leaves of Facebook likes and Twitter retweets. Polling sites like SurveyMonkey, accompanied with a link at the bottom of a post can provide readers with the opportunity to shape content. Take these responses and use them to both understand your audience and find inspiration for future topics. Since each readership is unique, this method provides real market knowledge of your specific community, allowing you to further personalize and strengthen your blog as a meaningful source of information.
With a combination of specialized knowledge, community feedback, and a little blogging etiquette, your blog can become as much a part of your marketing as your own marketing efforts, with the added opportunity to build a personal relationship with customers. Ensure that your topics are valuable to your customers and remember that your advice is not a sales-pitch. Understand trends and listen to reader feedback to keep your topics relevant and your customers engaged.
How do you come up with blog topics?