To blog, or not to blog?
Often, as I find myself talking with a client about improvements and additions they'd like for their website, they suddenly switch to a tired, resigned, and slightly self-deprecating tone, and sigh, “I know we really need to have a blog. It's ridiculous that we don't have one by now, everybody else does.”
I am here to tell you: you might not need a blog. Yes, you heard me right. I am an industry professional telling you that creating and maintaining a blog may not be the best use of your precious time, energy, and expertise.
Or maybe it is! Don't get me wrong, there are definite benefits to having a blog, which might explain why so many businesses and organizations are jumping on the bandwagon.
Show off your awesomeness. Assuming you can write compelling content that appeals to your target audience (and that is a big assumption—more on that in a minute), a blog is a great way to demonstrate your expertise.
Search engine rankings. If you're blogging about your industry, chances are your content is loaded with keywords that your target audience might search on. The more relevant content out there that points to your site, the better—and your blog gives you the ability to generate as much of that as you want to.
- Community-building. A blog is a great way to get your customers and constituents talking to you and to each other—again, assuming your content is compelling enough to provoke discussion. If visitors like it enough, they'll subscribe, and then you'll have that constant point of contact to build strong relationships and keep your business or organization front and center in their minds.
But it's not for everyone
That all sounds great, doesn't it? But here's the catch: none of these outcomes will happen unless you, or someone on your staff, have the time, motivation, and ability to write thought-provoking and useful content. And guess what? It is totally okay if you don't. Not everyone is a great writer. Not everyone enjoys writing. Not everyone has the time needed to commit to a blog.
Choosing the right tools
Think of it this way: a blog is one of many marketing tools, along with highway billboards, business cards, TV commercials, websites, magazine ads, door hangers, direct mail, viral videos, radio jingles, speaking engagements, tradeshow booths, online directories, word of mouth, and leaving flyers on people's windshields. Choosing which of these marketing tools to include in your arsenal depends on a few factors:
Your budget. A blog is relatively inexpensive compared with radio, TV, and direct mail but does have a cost. All those hours you pour into a writing and moderating a blog translate to a staff member's payroll or time you could be earning income.
Your audience. Not everyone's target audience reads blogs. If your target audience is senior citizens considering assisted living, they are probably not going to read your blog.
Your own skills and preferences. If your organization is full of social, gregarious folks who love to chat up customers, then going out to events and tradeshows might be an effective marketing strategy. For shy bookish types, it isn't. The same goes for a blog—don't start one if nobody in your organization likes to write or has the ability. Play to your strengths!
Questions to ask yourself
Trust me. . . the last thing we'd want to do is take your money to build you a blog that you never use. So I'd encourage you to use the following checklist if you are considering starting one.
Who is it for? Is your blog going to be directed toward your clients, other industry professionals, your board of directors? It's best if you narrow your focus and don't try to be all things to all people.
What does this audience care about? This is a little trickier, but you have to remember that the blog should be about what your audience finds interesting and useful, not what you do. One good way to start is to ask them—send a list of suggested topics to your audience and find out what they like. In our case, the reason we started writing these articles is that certain questions come up all the time when we talk to clients, so we thought it would be nice if we had some more in-depth information to give out.
Who will write it? Does the author (or authors) realistically have the time, motivation, and ability to generate content for a blog, at least a couple times a month? Here's a test if you're not sure. Challenge yourself to write a blog entry once a week for 6 weeks. If you can't do that, your blog is probably not going to work for you. (By the way, Ben and I have failed this test several times. That's why we write articles instead—there's less pressure to post content regularly).
Who will moderate it? If you're posting useful content on a regular basis, it's likely you'll start getting some traction in the form of comments and RSS subscriptions. Someone will have to keep an eye on comments to make sure they're appropriate (and are not spam), and respond to people's comments. If you require users to register before they comment, you might have to do some light tech support, for example, if they have trouble retrieving their password.
How will it work? Only after you've answered the previous questions should you start thinking about how to build the blog. Will it be integrated into your website, or use a 3rd party blogging service like Wordpress or Blogger? If the latter, how will you ensure it matches the look and feel of your site and supports your brand identity? How will you let your audience know about it? These are all questions we can help with.
In summary, if you are excited to start a blog and you or someone on your team have the time, budget, energy, and ability to get it going, then by all means, go for it! We're happy to help—just get in touch. If you don't, there are many other marketing tools that may suit you better. Don't feel like you need to have it just because everyone else does—your organization is unique and your marketing strategy should be tailored to suit it.