“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!”
Chances are, your business (be it big, small or in-between) has a Facebook page. You probably even have a Twitter. And I know, I know, between tweeting and posting and “Liking” and retweeting, you’re a little worn out on the two-way communication street. The idea of a blog for your business may seem pointless (“We already have a website!”), too much work (“I don’t have time for that.”) or overwhelming (“Do we even have anything to blog about?”). But what you may not have realized is, if you tweet, post on Facebook, share on LinkedIn, etc., you’re already micro-blogging. By now you’re used to the idea of letting customers in to the heart of your company, interacting with them, and showing who you really are. You’ve revealed the man behind the curtain on social media websites, now it’s time to take it up a notch, kick up the character count and get to writing.
There are many pathways your blog can go down. Taking the pulse of your company is the first step in determining what type of content you want to publish and what type of result you hope to achieve. Blogs are not company websites. Although increased interaction with your company means increased sales, blogs aren’t meant to be used as a sales pitch. When I say the “pulse of your company” I mean what really makes your company tick from the inside, out. Not what your consumers see. Once you determine that, you can decide on the goal and voice of your blog. It may be one of the following, or it may be some new concept your company develops.
1. Thought Leadership
Is your company comprised of employees who have very specific skills, are well-educated or have knowledge about certain topics that deserve sharing? If so, then a blog that promotes thought leadership may be the route your company should take. If you aren’t familiar with this particular term from my business jargon word set, thought leadership is basically the output of new, innovative ideas that spark conversation and, well…thought.
The important thing to remember when constructing a thought leadership blog, is that blogging is a form of two-way communication. This means customers will be able to share their own ideas on your blog. Don’t make the mistake of promoting only yourself as a thought leader, and ignore the “little people.” Your customers may have new or innovative ideas of their own. And they will want to be recognized for that. Your blog should be about your own thought leadership, as well as promoting the flow and ebb of ideas relating to your industry on a platform managed by your company—your blog.
2. Brand Awareness
If you’ve developed your business far enough along to be thinking about creating a blog for it (bravo!), then you are already very familiar with the term “brand awareness.” Creating a positive link between your product or service and your brand is one of the most important aspects of running a profitable business. And what better way than to be in total control of the content that your customer is seeing?
The best way to tackle a brand awareness-based blog, in my opinion, is to get personal. Tell your customers what drives the passion behind your company. Let employees write blog posts (submitted for approval first, of course) from their perspective. They can share what they love about working for your company, what charitable organizations they are a part of, what their dog’s names are, etc. While you may be thinking, “How is John in accounting’s love for table tennis going to sell home decor?”, I can tell you that it won’t. At least not directly. You will not be able to pinpoint a statistic of blog-to-store consumer. What it will do is provide a positive link between your brand and the potential customer who reads it and then realizes they need a new couch. Cindy in Iowa may also be a table tennis pro, and in the coming months, she may need a new bookshelf. What bookshelf-selling company will she remember when she decides to go shopping? That’s right. The one that has John in accounting who also loves table tennis. People like like-minded people. And like-minded people will represent your brand. And people will then like your brand. See the connection?
3. Customer Engagement
While you may have a score of employees who help your business run at its efficient, performance-producing pace, the people who really keep it up and running are the customers. Why not build a blog that incorporates their vision for your company? Run contests, put out polls, interact with them. In fact, you could even have them submit their own blog posts for your company. They could talk about an innovative way they’ve used your product or service, or a heartfelt story about how your company changed their life, or even something cute like a video of a household pet playing with your product. Whatever it is, telling your company’s story from the customer’s point of view could drastically change how you see your company and how other customers see your company. For example, Dove just released this advertisement where women described themselves to a forensic sketch artist who could not see them. Then, someone they had interacted with described them to the same artist. The result was dramatically different sketches. The point is, how you view your company from the inside, may not be how your customers view your company from the outside. Interacting with them on a blog, and letting them be a part of the company is crucial in finding a level playing field for your brand image.
While there are many other goals your blog could set, and in fact, each of these should be a small goal, if not the main one, the above three are the ones I feel are the most effective. Your company website is the face of your company; your company blog is the personality, the heart, the gut. Letting customers in to see who that man behind the curtain is, is the most important part. After all, the Wizard of Oz’s outer appearance is much more terrifying than the bumbling old man behind the curtain.