During the twelve sessions I attended at BlogWorld in New York City last week, I learned a lot about the art of blogging. Blogs take many forms: some people use them as a sort of personal diary; others as a way to post stories for friends and family to read. Some blogs exist to impart information about a host of topics including cooking, gardening, parenting, sailing, reading, martial arts . . . really any topic that exists. Other blogs are created by companies as part of the company website.
No matter what the purpose, blogs are vehicles by which communities are created. Whether your blog’s community is a group of martial arts fanatics or a group of small business owners who need signage, here are a few hints to help make it shine.
1. Be patient
When you first start posting on your company blog, you might be dismayed to find that you have only three readers: your CEO, his secretary and your mom. The CEO is reading because he’s keeping an eye on this new blog project. His secretary reads in case the CEO asks about the latest post. And your mom, well, she’s reading because she hopes that you’re finally putting that English degree to good use.
Take heart. Your readership will grow, albeit slowly at first. Share your posts on your Facebook page and send out tweet updates to friends, family and colleagues. Get everyone in the company involved and send email reminders when posts go out. Make sure each post is searchable and use good SEO practices to help your posts show up in the search engines. There are many things you can do to be more visible, but in the end, it all comes back to patience. Jay Baer, who taught the workshop “12 Imperative Must Do’s for the Serious Blogger” at BlogWorld, noted that it took two years for his blog to reach a readership of 30,000 people. Post consistently and stick with it.
2. Use anchor posts to build your editorial calendar
In my article, “Seven Fabulous Tips to Make Your Company Blog Great” last week, I noted that consistency is key when attracting readers. Create an editorial calendar every month that lists topics you’ll write about. Whether you write twice per week or every day, it helps to incorporate anchor posts into your calendar. Anchor posts are recurring articles that fill in specific spots during the week or month. For instance, at Signs.com, we have an anchor post every Thursday when we feature an article by Harper Grey, our retail and shopping guru. So when I look at my editorial calendar, I know that I have Thursday covered. Readers also know to expect Harper’s insights that day, which adds further consistency to Signs.com’s blog.
You can create other kinds of anchor posts for your company blog. Many successful blogs feature something fun on Fridays – everything from cartoons to contests to pop culture articles. Use your imagination and choose an anchor post that is fun, informative and easy to generate content for every week.
3. Don’t be afraid to be human
A company blog doesn’t need to be stuffy and dry. In fact, you’ll have many more readers if you personalize your writing enough that people can identify with you. With so many companies offering an online presence, your customers have many, many choices for the product or service you offer. Don’t be afraid to let them know that your company is made up of people (it is, after all . . . unless your company is run by robots). In his workshop, Mr. Baer noted that some of his most popular posts were ones in which he showed some vulnerability. If your company’s numbers were down a bit last quarter, write an article about it. Ask your readers to submit their ideas and opinions about why your business might be slow. If you’re getting ready to launch a new product and are nervous about public reception, write about it. Your customers want you to be knowledgeable, but they don’t expect you to be perfect.
4. Make good use of comments
Once you have readers, you’ll have comments. Comments are a great way to have conversations with your blog community, so welcome and encourage them. When someone posts a comment, make sure you interact with the writer and thank him or her. In the beginning, when your readership is small enough that comments aren’t overwhelming, you can even send new commenters a personal welcome email.
Pay close attention to your comments; some may be questions about your products or services, or opinions about your topics. Address reader comments in future posts.
So, to take my own advice, I’ll ask you what you think. How can Signs.com improve our blog? What do you want to read about?