Here’s the short answer: many companies blog exclusively about themselves.
Meanwhile, the web is loaded with prospective customers searching for useful and compelling information. They want information they can use to solve their problems.
Yet corporations continue to approach blogging as if it were simply another marketing channel. They clog their posts with news about their new product launch (really just rewritten press releases), the features on their software or gadget, or even where their CEO is speaking next. Why is this interesting to anyone outside of a narrow niche (the niche being the company’s marketing department)?
Is it any wonder that Forrester Research recently announced that only 16 percent of people it surveyed trusted the content found on corporate blogs? As Forrester Analyst Josh Bernoff noted in his blog about the findings: “Blogs exclusively about companies and products are what I think generate these low trust ratings.”
Here’s my take: Corporate blogs exist in a world of mirrors – a world that reflects back their own marketing efforts. Rarely do corporate blogs venture away from talking about themselves (have you ever had a dinner companion that talked exclusively about himself? Isn’t it boring?). To be successful corporate blogs need stop focusing inward and start to look outward. Focus on educating, entertaining and providing insight to the challenges and problems faced by customers. Write content aimed exclusively at your customers. What do they need? What do they want? And then give it to them.
Here are two examples of companies and their blogs. One struggling and the other succeeding.
If you venture over to IT hosting company Rackspace’s blog, you’ll immediately be assaulted by a pop-up window from a sales representative asking if they can help you. This is the absolutely wrong place to be using aggressive sales techniques. The Rackspace blog, like many other corporate blogs, is struggling to find an identity. It is a mix of employee news, links to its own media hits, and product announcements. There doesn’t appear to be a strategy. What is the blog for? Who are they trying to reach? What do they want to accomplish? (Note: Rackspace is a former client – and an excellent company despite the poorly executed blog).
Constant Contact, a email marketing company, does an excellent job with its blog — providing best practices for small and mid-size businesses on using email to connect with customers. The blog provides information to their customers by dispensing practical advice on a topic that Constant Contact is an expert on. It works well and some entries have been read by thousands of prospective customers. This a blog that is providing Constant Contact with a forum to showcase its thought leadership. It’s also giving its customers information they are hungry for. More corporate blogs should follow their lead.
Here are six HighTalk tips to improve corporate blogging:
- Don’t start a blog because your competitors have one or its the trendy thing to do. The first step is to put some strategy behind the launch of a blog. Is this really the right tool to reach customers? Does a blog help you fulfill your business objectives? Do you have something to say?
- Don’t write about yourself. A blog isn’t a place to dump your press releases. Write content for your customers. What do they want to read? What information can you provide them that will help them succeed?
- Write in plain, straight forward language using the voice appropriate for your readers. Cut out all the marketing and messaging jargon.
- Keep to an editorial calendar to make sure that you are updating regularly. 2-3 posts a week will keep the blog fresh. Nothing showcases failure more than a corporate blog that hasn’t been updated in months.
- Engage with your readers. Allow them to ask questions and leave behind links. Let them participate in the discussion (and disagree). Listen to what they are saying – especially listen to what they want.
- Be provocative. Be willing to be bold in your opinions and why you hold them. If you always play it down the middle – then blogging is probably not the right social media tool for your company