How to Create a Company Blog That Customers Will Actually Give a Damn About

by Mack Collier

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?

Hardly.

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.

Pic via Flickr user Sister72

{ 11 comments }

Eric Fulwiler March 10, 2010 at 11:18 am

Great point, Mack. I think this ties into the larger idea of using social media (in this case a blog) to create added value for consumers. If you blog is simple reiterating the qualities of your business, there isn’t any added value in reading it. But if, as you said, you can tie your business blog into a larger idea/issue, you can create added value for consumers. That’s what it’s all about.

Great read, thanks.

Eric

Mack Collier March 10, 2010 at 2:06 pm

Great points Eric, and many companies struggle with this, because they want to use the blog as an advertising tool. It isn’t and shouldn’t be. The focus, especially for a B2C company blog, needs to be on the larger topic/subject that the product fits into.

Don’t blog about your cameras, blog about photography. Don’t blog about your decorative items for the home, blog about home decorating.

Tough concept for many companies to wrap their minds around, but very powerful for the ones that do.

BTW I will add the caveat that for some companies, their customers DO want to see more product and company-specific information. But in general, most customers will tune out if a blog is too self-promotional.

Davina K. Brewer March 10, 2010 at 5:28 pm

Mack, good example about cameras; IIRC that’s what Kodak does. I wrote a little bit about this today, about writing not just for where you want your audience to be, but where and who they actually are.

If you’re a travel agency, then the world is your blog topic and you can post a whole host of travel and adventure ideas. If you’re a B2B services provider, talk about customer experience, the benefits they get from your type of service, how outsourcing services like yours helps them do better, saves them money. Make it about your customers, no need to self promote.
.-= Davina K. Brewer´s last blog ..Pimp Your Business, Atlanta =-.

Davina K. Brewer March 10, 2010 at 5:29 pm

Oops, meant to type cameras (product) vs. photography (big picture), my bad.
.-= Davina K. Brewer´s last blog ..Pimp Your Business, Atlanta =-.

David Wang March 10, 2010 at 11:40 am

Hi Mack, I love the concept. I’m always telling my clients that their content strategy should aim to provide value to their audience, but creating something ‘bigger than yourself’ explains it so much more succinctly. You always manage to condense strategy into a useful analogy. Thanks, I really appreciate that.
.-= David Wang´s last blog ..WordPress for small business – even better with the Headway Premium WordPress Theme =-.

Mack Collier March 10, 2010 at 2:09 pm

Thanks David! It’s really about putting forth the effort to create customer-centric content as opposed to company-centric. You can have some of the latter, but too much actually defeats the purpose of the blog.

Heather Villa March 11, 2010 at 5:30 am

You just described what social media and internet interaction is all about. It has to be about the customers and what THEY want to hear/read about. Blogging is not advertising per se. You can do some advertising and promoting, but it can’t be the sole focus. Customers are wanting to build a relationship with companies. Especially on the web.

I love the way you have brought this across in such an easy to understand way.
.-= Heather Villa´s last blog ..22.5 Minutes is all You Really Need to Make a Big Difference =-.

Randy Murray March 11, 2010 at 12:43 pm

Great post – and I think you’re 100% correct. If all your blog is about is endless promotion of your products and yourself, no one is going to care.

What I tell my customers to blog about is this:

1. Their customers – and the pain they have.
2. The industry they serve, and the issues it faces
3. Anything they care deeply about

I also add: you’ve got a web site and an infinite number of pages to talk about your business. Use your blog to enlarge the discussion.

Thanks for the great post.
.-= Randy Murray´s last blog ..Product Review: Swiss-Tech Multi-Key =-.

Jamie Favreau March 15, 2010 at 6:01 pm

I totally agree.

I might have a client who is B2B but the frustrating thing about the blog they have now is that there is NOT a way for them to generate leads. They talk about themselves and the industry. Which is fine and dandy but there is NOT a way to communicate. They know they need to do so but they are NOT concerned about it really. This is where the silos happen. I am still waiting to find out if I have the job or not.
.-= Jamie Favreau´s last blog ..#DETChevySXSW challenge and why Detroit should win! =-.

Robyn from Sam's Web Guide March 31, 2010 at 1:50 am

Nice post Mack.

Gone are the days of companies boasting about how great they and their products are to gain consumer confidence and achieve sales. We are in the age where only the smart thinkers will survive. Consumers are looking for more “real” relationships with the brands they trust and thus will pay more attention to a blog that speaks about rich experiences rather than just promotions.
.-= Robyn from Sam’s Web Guide´s last blog ..Have You Ever Been Hacked? Simple Mistakes to Avoid & How to Recover =-.

Mack Collier March 31, 2010 at 12:58 pm

“will pay more attention to a blog that speaks about rich experiences rather than just promotions.”

Yes! Love the word ‘experience’ because that’s so true, it’s not that you should be blogging about your products, but how those products fit into some larger idea/experience that’s more relevant to me. Great point!

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