Blogging is big business right now, everyone has a blog from the big guys at Microsoft to next-door’s angry teenager. It’s quick, it’s easy and it’s a great marketing tool for a business.
Business blogging can be used to keep customers and visitors up to date on what’s going on in a business, what’s coming up, general chit-chat that doesn’t fit anywhere else on the company site but might be interesting. It also brings a personal feel to the site when it’s done right.
No matter how corporate and professional the web site may be, business blogging should be kept on a conversational level postonmagazine.com. It’s an informal contact that can be used to communicate and to sell at the same time. Keep up with comments made from visitors and reply to them if necessary – it shows that their comments are valued and they’ll likely return.
It doesn’t always have to be the guy in IT who does the blog just because it’s a technical thing. Anyone can write it, it’s the person who knows what they are talking about on that particular subject that makes the blog work.
Link to other blogs and articles of interest around the web if it’s appropriate to. Linking is a big feature of blogs and it can encourage return links. Use trackbacking, if possible, a form of notifier between blogs to say they’ve been commented on. This kind of networking can provide both valuable visitors and some good links to feed the search engines with.
Linking the blog to an RSS feed is a good idea too, as it will automatically tell interested parties when it’s updated, to save them having to keep checking back. They may even forget to occasionally, so a gentle prod will bring them back to keep up with the news.
The regularity of a blog is important, therefore it needs to be thought out before setting it up to make sure there will be things to say. Try to set a regular sort of time for postings. Daily, every three days, every week, it doesn’t really matter as long as it is regularly updated – that is the point of a blog.
The search engines will read the blog and will like it for being kept up to date. So, make sure to get a few keywords in there without going overboard and it will know the content is relevant to the site, helping keep it’s spiders busy and listing positions as high as possible.
If a business blog should not work out for any reason, collect pertinent posts for a news archive and close the blog gracefully over a period of time rather than immediately, making sure to inform regular users.
And finally, enjoy it! People will know if the blog is enthusiastic or if it’s being done as a chore – guess which one they will prefer to read.
In the UK financial information space, the most notable exception to this dearth of innovation has been the Financial Times’ Alphaville which launched as a live financial blog for market professionals in 2006. This has been a huge success but it is interesting that it took a traditional media outlet to really popularise blogging. Whether that says something about the British respect for authority is debatable but indeed, the other finance blogs with significant readership are all based around traditional media (The Economist’s blog, Interactive Investor’s blog, Robert Peston). There are of course some exceptions to this – Cash and Burn springs to mind or specialist media focused finance blogs like Media Money.
Even the FT’s Alphaville has remained a phenomenon largely contained within the confines of traditional media, given that professional FT journalists have been driving the content. Interestingly, in October, the FT launched a new forums feature on Alphaville called “The Long Room” – named after a bar in Throgmorton Street that was once a notorious hub of financial chatter. The Long Room is designed to allow finance professionals to set up their own discussions. This part of the site is however something of a “closed shop” for the City of London, because the Long Room registration process requires users to demonstrate their finance credentials and then be invited into the Room in order to view and/or contribute to the discussions. It is hard to ascertain whether creating a kind of Morton’s members club for the UK online financial community was intended to: a) wall off the content to prevent it cannibalising the main site, or b) introduce a quality filter to prevent the conversation deteriorating to the level of the UK private investor bulletin boards. While one can sympathise with the second objective, it does seem a shame given that the US experience is increasingly showing that, if the right filters are applied, then investors outside of the traditional financial community can be as, or even more, insightful than professional investors or market commentators.