How I Turned Engineers Into Bloggers With 50,000 Views
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B2B marketing writers are not boring -- they are bored. In the rat race for SEO, clicks and visibility, they’re pressured to write at a relentless pace. Consequently, they sacrifice clarity to jargon, experience to corporate-speak, the personal for the impersonal. In most cases, they don’t even put a name on the byline. Most B2B content out there is “Nothing” by No One.
Not surprisingly, marketers struggle to capture the passion, expertise, and experiences of their organization. The alternative is to mobilize your entire team -- engineers, designers, HR, salespeople, and marketers -- into an army of bloggers.
B2B content normally sterilizes the human experience. Companywide blogging restores it. When you liberate employees to write what they care about, the content can build your brand. Excited people tend to write exciting stuff.
That’s what I discovered at my company JotForm. 10 years ago, I started blogging. Whether I attracted readers or not, writing was intrinsically valuable. The blog became a place to untangle ideas. It was the mental equivalent of putting data into a graph. When I took the unstructured information from my brain and organized it in a meaningful form, I discovered its real essence. You don’t really know what you know until you attempt to communicate it.
You could come up with dozens of reasons why I shouldn’t ask my team members to blog. Aytekin, it’s a waste of their time – programmers should program and designers should design. Aytekin, who wants to read long blog posts these days? Aytekin, why not just keep that stream of mini-posts rolling through your Facebook and Twitter feeds? If you ask, who’s going to take up the challenge of blogging anyway?
Here’s my response: Who better to write about programming than programmers? Who better to talk design than designers? When experts on the ground share their craft with passion, people not only want but demand the details.
Sure, social content is easier, but it’s ephemeral. The social feed is like a fashion runway where all the models speed walk. And to the last objection, have you ever asked your employees to write? When I did, it went better than expected. Here’s what worked:
Ask people to brainstorm ideas from their day-to-day experiences. The internet is already full of opinions and tips divorced from knowledge. When your colleagues just write about what they’re doing, ‘smart’ ideas emerge naturally.
Make it concrete. Employees will all struggle with the same question: What should I write about? I ask them to pitch me three ideas, and I choose the most compelling one. That condenses an infinite list of possibilities into one, defined assignment.
Promote craftsmanship. Most B2B content is unusable. Often, you can’t implement the tips without buying the company’s product. Instead, ask your team to write about how they approach their craft. Specifically, tell your people to write what they want to read.
Beware the 4-1 Rule. If you encourage four employees to write blog posts by a particular deadline, one person is going to do it. That’s what I’ve observed, anyway. If you want six blog posts, bring it up to 24 people.
Let marketing handle edits and revisions. They will help your team members overcome the anxiety of writing with proper grammar, syntax, etc. Leave redlines to the pros.
Repeat winning themes. We find that readers gravitate towards similar types of articles. Some have chalked up more than 50,000 views. I’d label them under the following meta-topics:
Here’s something difficult I accomplished, and here’s how I did it.
Judgment call: Why you should do A or use B
Lessons learned: What X taught me about Y
Blogging builds your company brand by unveiling its human nature. In a competitive market, buyers can’t distinguish between products easily. They can, however, differentiate between the thoughts and personalities of the sellers.
Thus, blogging is a way to earn not just mindshare but trust and appreciation as well. It gives you a local, personal feel in an otherwise global, impersonal technology market. The process is also rewarding. Telling stories has been good for trust-building, morale, and teamwork.
Personally, I want to learn what the world’s most talented people know. So be generous. Spare a bored marketer, and let all of your employees share their passion.