A few months ago I attended a Guardian Master Class on Data Visualisation hosted by Tobias Sturt, Head of creative at Guardian Digital Agency and Adam Frost, Data Visualisation Manager at Guardian Digital Agency. Both were incredibly friendly, down-to-earth and made the class very enjoyable. I highly recommend checking them (and their work) out. Data ...
Everywhere that you look online you can come across blog content; from deeply personal diary accounts, to small business blogs, to professional media blogs. It may feel at times that if you are not sharing your work and personal activities with the world, then it's you that has the personality disorder.
Blogging isn't for everyone and every business, and there are perfectly good reasons not to blog. Additionally, 'having' a blog is only the functional and logistical requirement taken care of; it is you, or a willing (and somewhat talented) member of your team that needs to commit to blogging, for your brand and online business to benefit.
If you think your business website needs a blog, (or perhaps you're being advised to add a blog but you're not really clear as to why;) if you have the content and the commitment here's some of the upsides.
Adding relevant and original content to your website is a very good thing to do. As a general rule, the more content you have, the more chance you have of someone finding your online business. As an example, let's imagine your online business offers a specific product, e.g. vacuum cleaner bags. Many people in the UK may habitually and colloquially search using 'hoover bags' to see if they can find an online ordering service. You might not want to reference a specific brand in your formal messaging; however such variations can easily be referenced in a blog post about "the strength of brand in the vacuum cleaner industry". Of course other factors affect how and when your website pages may show up in search engines, but certainly the more relevant and original content you can add to your site the better.
As we already know a blog can help increase your audience from a discoverability perspective. Blogging affords you a certain amount of freedom that you likely won't have on the core pages of your site. Such freedom to explore your topic can help you tap into a whole new market!
As an example; imagine my online business is a vegetarian resource, focusing on the individual health benefits of a vegetarian diet. I choose to write a post on 'vegetarianism as a green lifestyle choice', given that this is a current news topic. If my post receives good volumes of traffic, agreement in the comments and links to my post from green-lifestyle resources; this would indicate to me that deliberately targeting and messaging my product to an environmentally conscious audience; would be worth exploring.
If you think this seems a little hopeful, I can think of any number of products that have exploded in popularity, due to the discovery of a completely different application of the product *coughs* Anusol, *coughs* Viagra.
A blog is a social communication tool. Save controlled-message, formal announcements for your press releases. Allowing comments on your blog opens up the benefit of discourse and feedback, as your readers can tell you what they think of your topics and points, and also add their own opinion and perspective too.
So what if you get a negative comment? If it is downright rude, silly or offensive then you can spam it. If a negative comment is a disagreement with a point you have made, you can either defend yourself with further evidence; or if they have a valid argument, talk about how you will consider that argument and what you might take from it. Either response will show that you have listened, considered, engaged and acted. Would you buy something from a brand that listens, engages, considers and acts? I would!
One of the best ways to establish reputation is to do a bloody-good job for your customers. Word does spread and referrals will come; however if you're a start-up, it is only natural that this will take a bit of time. Another way to help establish reputation quickly is by writing interesting, knowledgeable and well-researched blog content. Your peers and competitors will begin to notice (many companies routinely monitor competitor information and may even subscribe to your blog) - so here's your chance to show them that you know what you're talking about.
We may differ in some ways, in how best we learn. Some people can absorb information very successfully from a two hour 4pm lecture. Others may benefit more from practical experimentation, role play and such-like. One common factor for most of us is repetition. We tend to learn a little more, or a little faster if we repeat what we have learned through writing it down, re-enacting it or speaking about it.
Blogging can be a great learning process for the blogger as well as the reader. Regardless of the type of post I may be writing, there will always be some degree of reflection, recall and research. I personally find that to construct a blog post, I'm collating a number of points that I feel I know the way on, and organising them into a constructive narrative (I hope). I find this helps me reflect on my own knowledge, as well as encouraging me to keep learning, as I will seek recent information and resources, when doing my research.
I've deliberately kept these points and benefits one-sided, in that the above references only the benefits to site owner, rather than visitor. I want to address this quite seperately, looking at what your blog can do for your audience (and how this will also, indirectly boost your business.) If anyone wants to get me started with some thoughts on that, please comment away!