What role does a blog play in your organization’s web presence? While your website may take the formal, straight-laced, good-foot-forward posture, a blog usually plays it more casual. A website provides a one-way communication link “squawking the corporate line," a blog can draw the reader into the conversation. People can read the blog postings and make their comments. They can also read what others are saying.
Building a company blog requires much planning and many steps. You must decide what blogging platform to use, what type of content to post, who will post it, how often items are posted, and who exactly you are trying to reach. You should develop a clear, concise, compelling, timely, relevant and well-written style. You should decide if calls to action are out of place or not.
And consistency is key. This isn't a project you can abandon after a few months. If you want keep visitors coming back to the well, you must offer new insights, fresh materials, and new announcements. Develop an editorial schedule whereby a small group of people shares in the blogging activity.
Finally, you launch. But now you face the question that has stymied webmasters and blog creators alike since the 1990s: You have built it—now will they come?
Here are four ways you can build your blog readership. Like blogging itself, some will take work and consistency but you'll see results in your traffic.
Email Reminders and Newsletters
One way to encourage return visits is an email reminder. You can add an opt-in form to your site so people can sign up to receive an e-mail every time a new post is published or a weekly email listing all the prior week’s blog posts. This is an unintimidating way to build a readership base. By signing up for the e-mail, people do not have to continuously come back to your blog to see what’s been written. If you send out regular email newsletters, you should also consider linking to popular blog entries from it. It's just one more way to spread the word.
Another tried-and-true way to help people subscribe to your blog is an RSS feed. RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is just that: A really simple way to syndicate your content. Readers enter the URL of your feed into a feed reader like Google Reader, and every time you update your site, they can access either a headline and short description of the content or the full post. You can even serve ads in a feed. It’s one of the coolest ways to pass information along to your blog subscribers.
Make sure you include an RSS feed icon on your site, preferably close to your other "share" buttons (more on that below). But, this "simple" syndication service has actually gotten very sophisticated. Today, many blog providers like WordPress and Tumblr automatically offer RSS feeds and all users have to do is plug your URL in a reader to subscribe.
The benefit for your readers is that when subscribing to a feed, they receive the information they desire, automatically downloaded to a browser, without having to check each site individually.
Sharing tools abound on the internet. Add to Any (www.addtoany.com) and ShareThis (www.sharethis.com) offer buttons you can easily publish on your site (with specific codes for WordPress, Drupal, Tublr, Blogger and other blogging platforms).
They allow you and your visitors to quickly share your posts with a number of social networking sites and community sites where people are trolling for news items. In addition to typical social networks like Twitter and Facebook, you can add crowd-sourced news aggregators like StumbleUpon, Delicious, Reddit, Technorati and Digg, as well as offer an “email this” function.
While you can and should take a few extra seconds to share each of your blog entries each time you publish to communities where people are looking for information on that topic, the ultimate goal is to write such intriguing blog entries that your readers will share them as well. In link-sharing communities like Reddit, it's more legitimate and authenticate for a fan to share than the owner or author of a site.
Updating All Your Communities at Once
There are also sites that you log in to so that you can update several of your social networking communities at once, like Ping.fm and Hootsuite.com. Let’s say you belong to a half dozen social networking communities. These free services allow you to easily update all your networks at once with a link to your latest blog post--which you should do every time. Some allow you to schedule posts in advance, which can be helpful during busy times or when you're out of town. Note that while you can post to all of them at once, you may not always want to post the same message. For example, if you have to truncate your Twitter message to 140 characters, spell out all of your words on Facebook. It's more professional.
This article is an edited excerpt from Outcome-Based Marketing: New Rules for Marketing on the Web from Entrepreneur Press.
John D. Leavy is president of InPlainSite Marketing, a Divide, Colo.-based digital-marketing strategy company, and author of Outcome-Based Marketing: New Rules for Marketing on the Web (Entrepreneur Press, 2011), a finalist for Marketing & Advertising Book of 2011 by USA Book News. Connect with him on LinkedIn.com/in/JohnDLeavy.