Recently, a ten-year veteran of company blogging said he was throwing in the towel on his company blog. So when Joel on Software goes up in smoke, does that mean that it’s finally time to pronounce that company blogging is dead?
What it means, is that there are now a LOT more companies blogging. And unfortunately, that also means that there are a lot more very crappy company blogs out there.
But a well-written and positioned company blog is just as effective now as it was 10 years ago. Probably moreso. The key then, as now, is to create a company blog that your customers will actually read.
I loved this quote from Joel’s article where is points out a discussion he had with one of my heroes, Kathy Sierra:
So, what’s the formula for a blog that actually generates leads, sales, and business success? I didn’t even understand it myself until last year at the Business of Software conference, when one of the speakers, a well-known game developer and author named Kathy Sierra, blew me away with an incredibly simple idea that explains why my blog successfully promoted my company while so many other blogging founders foundered.
To really work, Sierra observed, an entrepreneur’s blog has to be about something bigger than his or her company and his or her product. This sounds simple, but it isn’t. It takes real discipline to not talk about yourself and your company. Blogging as a medium seems so personal, and often it is. But when you’re using a blog to promote a business, that blog can’t be about you, Sierra said. It has to be about your readers, who will, it’s hoped, become your customers. It has to be about making them awesome.
Bingo. Your company blog has to tap into the ‘bigger idea’ that makes your content more relevant and valuable to your customers.
For example, recently I did a social media strategy audit for a client that sells western wear. Part of the audit involves assessing how the company, as well as its competitors, is using social media. The company in question had a blog, but it was primarily being used as a vehicle to promote product giveaways. So the only people reading the blog were people hoping to win a ‘free prize’.
But as I started looking at this company’s Facebook Fan Page, and those of its competitors, I noticed something. All of the people that were posting on the wall of these Facebook pages were talking about how they loved western wear, but more importantly, how the clothes fit into the larger western lifestyle. These people were talking about how they loved attending rodeos, riding horses, wearing cowboy hats and boots, being in touch with nature.
In other words, this company shouldn’t be focusing its social media efforts on directly promoting its products, but on the LARGER LIFESTYLE that its customers had fallen in love with. As I explained to them, by shifting the focus to the ‘western lifestyle’, the content you create for your customers becomes much more valuable and relevant. And the kicker is, you can STILL promote your products, because those products ARE a part of this lifestyle.
A perfect example of a company already doing this with their blog is Patagonia. Here is what it says on the About page for Patagonia’s The Cleanest Line blog:
The goal of The Cleanest Line is to further Patagonia’s mission by encouraging dialogue about the products we build, the sports we love and the environmental issues we’re concerned about. By talking openly about the products we build, Patagonia users can help us achieve ever greater standards of quality and functionality. By spreading the word about specific environmental issues, we can increase awareness and take action as quickly as possible. By sharing field reports, we can inspire one another to keep experiencing the natural wonders of our precious planet.
Notice the focus. It’s not completely on Patagonia’s products, although they will be discussed. The focus is on the environment, sustainability, and the planet. Patagonia understands that these are the topics that its customers are most passionate about. They don’t want to talk just about their products, but how Patagonia’s products fit into these larger issues that their customers care about. So Patagonia focuses on those larger issues, or the ‘Bigger Idea’.
What’s your blog’s bigger idea? What is the larger idea or concept that your products are a part of? Because that is where your blog should likely be focused if you want your customers to actually care about your blog.