Make Your Blog a Destination, Not a Bump in the Road
Social media, the internet, mobile phones, and e-commerce have permanently changed the way we all see our place in the world of buying and selling. As we have seen around the globe, the democratization of media and social power is at the root of social media. It has put bad governments, bad companies, and bad products under the microscope. It has helped good companies, good products tell their story. Social media has made it harder and harder to tell people what they want and must buy through repetition and psychological manipulation.
Each social medium has its strengths and weaknesses; and if there was one right, one best solution for every company, every executive life would be so simple. There isn’t! But as a business executive your blog is a tool that can benefit the company and you because it is you expressing/translating your organization’s thoughts, ideas, goals to people around the globe. True, it can get your brand more exposure and it humanizes the company/product; but more importantly, it can provide value to your customer and partner. It enables them to share information, ideas with you regarding the company, products, and plans. Done properly, you get more than you give. O.K., so you’ve decided it’s time to move your company, your thoughts into the blogosphere; but like any good professional, you want to know the guidelines, the rules of engagement. There aren’t any!
Have ideas, thoughts, information you want to share? You can use social media to share information not just about your products and your company, but about the industry and trends. It will allow people to understand what the company and the product or service you stand for. You do stand for something…right? Once you begin, there’s no turning back. Posting because you think its cool or the thing to do and then deciding you’ve had enough “fun” makes your company, your brand and you seem stale to people out there. Also, keep in mind, a quiet blog that doesn’t have new information, new news or new ideas says you’ve run out of gas and there’s nothing left. Start by remembering one humbling fact…your brand is not yours. You can’t control it, protect it, or even own it. Oh sure, you think you can, but you’re wrong. Your community owns your brand and you’re their custodian, their interpreter. Remember, it’s called social media for a reason; and the most important part of any social exchange is listening.
Don’t spend so much time deciding what you’re going to say (post) that you forget you’re their audience too. You can’t force your products onto folks anymore, so don’t even try. Instead, if you listen and acknowledge, people will help you be successful. The key to getting people to come to your blog is to provide timely, quality content. Keep your discussion relevant, well-written and insightful. Provide your readers with content that they desire, and they will show up. Don’t be afraid of being a person…its O.K. to express an opinion, idea and ask a question. Then, like a good brand steward, answer/respond in a professional personalized manner. The more you have an honest give/take, the more you will learn how to improve your company, your policies, your products, yourself. These people aren’t going to sift through boring press releases. Your blog should be a quick stop for anyone to check up on the latest company/product happenings. Share the company plans, ideas and don’t worry about your competition stealing your thunder. If they don’t already have their “sources,” then they probably aren’t smart enough to figure out where your blog is to steal ideas. Speaking of competition – and yes, we all have them – your blog isn’t a place to trash them or race them to the bottom of the price pile. Yes, everyone seems to be in a rush to sue the other guy; and the legal filings make your company/you sound like the scum of the earth, but that’s “normal” legal talk.
No Trash Talk
Trash and negative discussions in your blog aren’t appreciated by anyone…least of all your supportive leaders. If you must address issues, explore them in a positive manner from the company’s/your perspective. Taking the high ground and keeping a positive focus builds a world of goodwill. Everyone in the industry is faced with tremendous price competition and there’s always someone who is willing to sell “something” cheaper. Your blog provides an excellent opportunity to express/explain your selling proposition, the added value you provide to the customer in a friendly, conversational manner. Consumers aren’t really interested in a cheap something, they want something they can identify/bond with and your blog can help people do that. Remember the value lasts long after the price is forgotten.
Focus on getting people involved. That means showing there’s a human on the other side of the screen, not an automaton. Ask questions in every blog posting and give answers promptly, accurately, clearly (not in corporate or legal speak). Provide your readers with content that they want and they’ll show up…and keep coming back. We’ve had the occasional client whose product has received a less than four-star review…actually, there’s always something negative even in the most positive review. But good or bad, it’s out there and it will stay out there…forever. Don’t be afraid to link to the review – good, bad, mediocre – and use the opportunity to reinforce the strong points and discuss the weak points. Acknowledge the negatives, provide reasons why it was an inappropriate conclusion from your perspective – if it was – and acknowledge the criticisms as possible shortcomings. Then ask your readers if they had similar experiences or what they think you should do to correct the situation…short of hanging the reviewer. Showing that you’re listening and are willing to listen wins more loyalty points than berating the review.
Ask, They’ll Talk
It’s surprising how smart customers really are when they are simply asked. It is the least expensive market/product research you can do! If they feel they are heard, see the feedback incorporated or openly discussed with them, it’s surprising how they’ll support and bond with the company, the product and you. The really lightning strike ideas deserve to be recognized publicly; perhaps even rewarded with cash, product or service. Contests and giveaways are another way to give back to your readers. Do something unexpected once in a while, to keep readers excited about your blog so they’ll keep coming back and recommending it to their friends.
Before jumping in to your blog with both feet, figure out what your strategy will be and establish a tactical timetable (how often will you post) and keep to it. Your efforts will vary but can include tips, tricks of the trade, news, how-tos, interviews, business activities, industry activities and analysis of activities/trends. You can also invite guest posts from your best readers. Talk with your marketplace, your partners/publics. Be a part of the community…a prominent part of it.