The world of blogging was once ruled by a globally-distributed hoard of anguished teenagers, computer geeks and wannabe writers in need of an anonymous outlet for their deepest darkest secrets and all-consuming passions for Very Important Things like video games, computers and wizards.
Today almost every business in the FTSE 250 has its own blog. And they’re not – as far as I know, about dragons, orks, or how to score girls. At some point in the mid-2000s, businesses started to realise something. People – actual real people with actual real money, were reading blogs. Those spotty adolescents writing feverishly about World of Warcraft back in the noughties were amassing huge audiences – and not just any old passing crowd but a crowd who cared enough to engage, to share their opinions and allow their choices to be influenced by these faceless, distant strangers. People were using blogs to determine the choices they should make, the things they should try and the products they should buy.
Blogs had real commercial clout, and that’s what savvy businesses like Microsoft and Macromedia hooked onto. In a Wired magazine article published online in 2002, American journalist Farhad Manjoo wrote:
“This year, Macromedia – the company that makes Flash and Shockwave – has posted a $305 million quarterly loss, laid off 110 people and lost a $2.8 million copyright infringement suit to Adobe.
But for all the company’s apparent troubles, in the last week there’s been a lot of good feeling directed toward the firm, with people saying that Macromedia is one of the few companies to appreciate the new topography of the Web.
“That’s because Macromedia is blogging.
Not only has the company started to tailor its software to the needs of people who run their own weblogs, but it’s also dived headlong into the much-hyped “blogosphere” itself, setting up its own weblogs as a way to nurture ties with its customers.”
Well over a decade has passed since the birth of the corporate blog and today a whole industry exists around it (luckily for writers like me). The big businesses can often afford to hire a whole fleet of content writers and bloggers to produce enticing content for them but when it comes to starting up, you might wonder if your business really needs a blog. Is starting a blog is really worth your time and money when there’s a billion other things to think about? Let’s start by looking at some of the benefits of having a business blog, and then I’ll try to answer the question of whether or not YOU need one.
1. A blog makes Google like you
There’s no point having a website if no-one can find it. To help people find it, you’ve got to be picked up by search engines like Google and Bing. There are content marketers out there who dedicate their entire working lives to figuring out the algorithms these engines use to crawl and rank websites. The truth is: nobody knows exactly how to get a website to the golden number 1 spot – there are all sorts of magical factors that affect it. One thing we do know is that sites are rewarded when they are regularly updated and refreshed with new, relevant content.
It makes sense, doesn’t it? If you’re searching for something, say – what kind of shoes you should buy, you don’t want to be offered some tired old website that hasn’t been updated since glittery jelly sandals were all the rage (or DO you?). The likelihood is, you want to know what shoes all the cool exciting people are wearing right NOW.
A blog is a great way to keep your site fresh and dynamic. The more (good) content you upload, the higher your chances are of being crawled and indexed by the search engine spiders, and the more likely it is that you’ll be found by the people searching for you.
2. A blog expresses your brand personality
Your blog is your chance to diverge from the more formal day-to-day information on the rest of your website and let your hair down a bit (depending on your brand identity, of course). It’s a great opportunity to get your brand personality and values across, introduce your team and invite customers backstage to see how things work.
3. A blog provides knowledge value
What do you do when you want to find out about something? Do you go to a library and dust off a leather-bound encyclopaedia? Probably not. It’s much easier to reach into your pocket for a quick Google. The way to attract customers to your website is to provide them with the information they want to know. You can do this via your blog. Be their encyclopaedia. Be the voice of wisdom. After all, it’s your business – you must know a thing or two about it.
4. A blog is a talking point
Having a blog is a great way to start conversations and garner interest on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. But it’s not all about virtual reality. If your business requires you to deal with customers face-to-face, why not bring your blog up in conversation? Mention a post they might find useful. Ask them to follow it and tell their friends about it.
5. A blog encourages audience engagement
Most blogs have a comments feature. This means you can use your blog to ask your audience what they think. It’s a chance to get them involved, to make them care, to voice their opinions. It only takes a small amount of buzz to draw in a crowd. The best thing about having a business blog is that it can be democratic. It can be the basis of a community. As long as you plan well and have a solid distribution plan (i.e. know how to get your blog seen), your blog could become a respected go-to destination for those interested in subjects related to your business.
So, do you need a blog?
We’ve looked at some of the key benefits of having a business blog – but do YOU need one? Let’s face it, running a blog takes time. Running a good, successful blog that people actually want to read takes a lot more time – and a bit of skill too. There are certain SEO and writing-for-the-web rules to follow. There’s also the small issue of being able to write well, which – while not exactly a requisite, is quite useful if you want your business to have any credibility.
Hire a professional blogger
Don’t leave it to chance. A professional blogger or content writer knows what they’re doing. Ask one (preferably me) to draw you up a list of blog ideas and a strategy for growing an audience. Get them to blog once or twice a month on subjects you know your customers are interested in and monitor the reception over time. Do you notice a spike in site traffic? A sudden surge of followers on social media? A flurry of online purchases? Often the changes are subtle and gradual, but in my experience blogs are highly valuable in the long term and well worth the investment.
Need help starting a blog or writing content for it? I’d love to help you. Simply get in touch to get started.