Corporate blogs: Useful marketing instrument or just a waste of time?

Do we really need corporate blogs, or do they merely squander our time? Although weblogs are written by many companies, those responsible repeatedly question whether there is any sense in them. A search for the right answer yields many different opinions. We can provide you with a certain amount of orientation in a discussion of how companies can benefit from a weblog, what are the advantages of corporate blogs and what should be avoided at all costs when writing a blog.

How companies benefit from a weblog

In general, with a little technical skill blogs can be integrated into the marketing strategy of any company in order to generate added value. However, some intentions can be implemented particularly well in a corporate blog:

Reveal the person behind the product

Service providers especially suffer from a certain lack of individual character. A blog can help to reveal the person behind the service on offer and create a more personal relationship between customers and partners. One successful example is the blog of the US company Southwest Airlines “Nuts about Southwest”, which has won several awards. Airline employees regularly add new material to the blog and customers & partners also report on their experiences with the airline as guest bloggers.

Establish and strengthen expert status

Do you have specialist knowledge in your area of expertise? Excellent! Then strengthen your status as an expert by regularly updating your blog, and establish a good reputation for your company. Collecting and publishing important links to industry knowledge or your focal area can also secure you a position as a leading source of information in your niche.

Obtain feedback from customers

During the product development phase, nothing is more valuable than direct and honest customer feedback. You could, of course, set up an expensive market research project. But an easier and probably less expensive way is to integrate interested customers into the development process via a corporate blog. At the same time, you establish mutual trust and become familiar with the “first movers” and “early adopters” among your customers – two groups that can be repeatedly activated at a later stage for innovation and marketing purposes, and whose support is almost invaluable.

Three good reasons why you should have a corporate blog

Well? Have you already found yourself in one of the situations described above? Or are you not yet entirely certain whether a weblog is really a valuable asset? Here are three more convincing reasons why you should have a corporate blog:

1. Active dialogue instead of static monologue

A blog is especially suitable as a supplement to your company website and a straightforward platform for offering varying, up-to-date content or additional information. You can respond promptly to developments or simply report on useful information from your sector with an active linguistic approach. Your expertise is underlined, and your customers, partners or investors are also given an opportunity to enter into a dialogue with you.

2. Search engine optimisation

If your weblog is hosted on a different server to your company website, you can create a link from there to your website – and vice versa. This can improve your search result: many search engines use the number of backlinks as a criterion for the importance of a website. With Google, for example, the backlinks have an influence on the page rank. Integrating the weblog into your company website can also have a positive effect on the search engine ranking because having a large quantity of content pages with qualified information also increases the status of a website for Google & its competitors.

3. Usability for mobile devices

Be honest with yourself: What does your company website look like on a smart phone or iPad? Has it been optimised to cater for the needs of the many visitors who require access to the latest information while they are out and about? A blog alone is naturally not the solution to the problem. However, it can be a good transitional arrangement until the complete website has been adapted. If you use a blogging service such as WordPress for your corporate blog, it will handle most of the issues concerned with the mobile look. There are ready-made layout templates that also work excellently on mobile devices and in many cases can be adapted relatively easily to your corporate design.

Bitter truths about corporate blogs

Paul Boag, author of the “Website Owner’s Manual”, summed this up not long ago in his article 10 Harsh Truths About Corporate Blogging in the Smashing Magazine: Many companies only have a blog because they think they should have one. As a result, the weblog plods along all alone, failing to attract any readers, and is at some point branded an ineffective marketing tool and subsequently banished from the corporate strategy. But there is a different solution! If you think seriously about a few basic principles and avoid making every mistake in the book, it is possible to develop a corporate blog that is worth reading and establishes a good following. Here are our top three unpleasant truths:

A blog does not generate traffic automatically

It can be compared with a shop window: some visitors find you by chance and will take a look around your shop. But the majority will need to be motivated by advertising, which will initially attract their attention to the shop and encourage them to become a regular customer. A blog needs a regular audience and the process involved in building up this group of readers sometimes requires a lot of patience. In order to generate a sustained volume of traffic, you should post your updates at regular intervals, enter into conversation with your readers from the outset, encourage them to submit comments and therefore establish a long-lasting relationship. A useful article on this topic was written by SEO blogger Rand Fishkin and is entitled 21 Tactics, which discusses how to build up and sustain traffic over a number of years.

Many blogs lack personality or topicality

What does your blog represent and who is responsible for it? The pillars of an efficiently used blog are its authors, the striking linguistic style, the characteristic humour or a recognisable text structure. How about adding a picture of the author who contributed the post or presenting the blog team on a subpage? People prefer to talk to other people, and not to organisations, companies or machines. It is therefore not a good idea to hide behind the anonymous facade of the Web and you should definitely not sound like a faceless corporation. The content discussed by authors in the posts is just as important. The topics of a blog do not have to be absolutely up to date, but they can certainly include the most important industry events or key developments.

Never put press releases in a blog

Of course, publishing press releases would be the easiest way to fill a blog with content. But as you already know, the simplest solution is not always the best one. Press releases are designed for the targeted communication of information about a company or a product to journalists. They have a more formal structure, whereas a blog post lives off the personal language of the author. Copy & paste is therefore not a good idea. However, if a topic from a press release would also be of interest to your blog readership, then there is nothing wrong with bloggers writing about the content in their own style.

And now it’s your turn. Do you already have a company blog or do you wish to set up a blog in the future? Can you recommend any successful blogs? Or do you consider corporate blogs as nothing more than something that is “nice to have”?