Is your company about to launch a blog? Great, but before you do, make sure you have asked (and answered) these ten questions:
1 – Why start a blog? Why not join Twitter, or set up a page of Facebook, or do nothing at all? Before you launch a blog, make sure that it makes sense for your unique situation. You need to be able to give an answer to this question based on your findings about your customers, your company, your competitors, and your industry. Saying ’cause everyone is launching one’ is NOT a viable reason.
2 – Who will do the blogging? Will your marketing department handle the writing, or will it be spread out over several areas of your company? How many writers will you have? It’s a big job for one person, 2-3 writers is much better. Or will you let your customer evangelists write the blog for you? This is a gutsy move but often results in a far more interesting blog. But training time must be considered. Make sure you know who and how many people will be writing for your blog.
3 – What will be the focus of your blog? ‘Well we’ll blog about our company, of course!’ Stop for a minute and think about how interesting that would REALLY be to your customers. Think about how you can create content around/about your company’s products and services, instead of the product/service itself. Don’t blog about cameras, blog about photography, don’t blog about dog shampoo, blog about pet grooming. The point is, make sure your blog will create valuable content for your readers. Get your focus set before your start.
4 – What will be your blog’s comment policy? Get this down so your readers will know what’s expected of them, and when their comments will appear. Will you moderate comments, or let them go through immediately? If you’ll moderate, who is going to approve comments, and how will you ensure that it’s done in a timely basis? What specific terms will go into your policy?
5 – How will you measure the effectiveness of your blog? What metrics will you track to determine if your blog is a success? It could be traffic, or traffic sent back to your website, or reader engagement such as comments and/or links. But find some way to hold your blog accountable.
6 – Can you devote time to interacting with readers OFF your blog? This is almost never considered, but is vital to growing your blog. Once you figure out the amount of time that you will need to spend on your blog (writing posts, moderating comments, replying to comments) you need to spend at LEAST that much time off your blog reading other blogs and commenting on other blogs. Don’t sell yourself short here, as the more time you spend connecting with your readers in their space, the quicker your blogging efforts will succeed.
7 – Will your blog be on your main website, or have its own URL? Two or three years ago, I would have strongly advised you to put your blog on a seperate URL away from your website. This was because in 2006 or so, blogs hosted away from the company’s main website were seen as being more credible than those hosted on the company’s main website. Today, this isn’t as big of a concern. If you host the blog on your website, you’ll get a bit of a traffic and SEO benefit, while if you host your blog seperately, it will likely be seen as a bit more credible, but your website won’t get as much of a traffic or SEO benefit. So it’s up to you, and feel fine choosing either alternative.
8 – Which blogging platform will you choose? When you ask this question, also consider if your company can handle setting up your blog and working with the coding. Most larger companies have a web team on staff that can handle this easily, but a smaller company/business might have to outsource this. In general, consider if you want to have a blog that you ‘launch and forget’ or if you want to customize your blog to add functionality for your readers. Certain platforms, like Blogger and WordPress.com are more of the ‘plug n play’ variety, while ones like WordPress.org and Movable Type offer you the ability to greatly customize the blogging experience, assuming you have the staff in place to get the blog set up correctly for you. If not, this will be an expense you’ll likely have to outsource.
9 – Will you need to outsource in order to get your blog off the ground? If you need to hire a firm/consultant to help you launch your blog, make SURE that the firm/consultant provides your company with training on what they will be doing to help you get the blog off the ground. They should train you on how to craft content, write compelling blog posts, respond to comments, interact with readers on other sites, everything. Don’t outsource the actual blogging to others, instead have them TEACH YOU how to do this. This is exactly why I stress teaching in the blog consulting services I provide.
10 – Ask yourself if you are ready to launch a blog. After you’ve answered the first nine questions, you need to stop and ask yourself one last time if you are really ready to launch a blog. This way you’ve done your homework, and know that a blog is right for you, instead of just launching one because of the hype.
Good luck, and remember if you need some help along the way to consult the Blogging 101 section of the Social Media Library. If you have questions about getting your company’s blogging efforts off the ground, please email me.