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Best practices for a killer corporate blog

Best practices for a killer corporate blog Sarah Hofstetter
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Has social media killed the corporate website? Probably not, but it has certainly changed the way marketers should approach their online hubs. The increased need for regular engagement and a value exchange between marketers and their customers has granted new importance to company blogs, which today serve as living, breathing reflections of a brand's mission, objectives, and overall character.


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Below are some strategies we utilize at digital marketing agency 360i in order to keep our audience of clients and digital marketing enthusiasts engaged and informed via our Digital Connections blog.


Writing


1. Choose the right topics. Sometimes pinpointing a topic can be more challenging than actually writing about it. We peruse dozens of other blogs each day -- as well as trade pubs and other outlets -- to find headlines most relevant to our business and our clients.


2. Create an editorial calendar. Coverage can be added on the fly, but it's always helpful to have a rough outline of planned assignments so you can maintain a regular cadence when it comes to the frequency of your posts. On our blog, recurring features like news roundups, interviews, and POVs ensure that our readers are getting continued value -- no matter what's going on in our industry's headlines.


3. Provide value. Corporate blogs shouldn't just be about company announcements; in fact, these types of posts form a very small percentage of our content. Our goal has always been to provide value through thought leadership -- inspiring conversations instead of creating monologues around company news.


4. Pool your resources. Our agency is comprised of hundreds of individuals that span several practice groups and areas of expertise -- social marketing, creative, media, search, and more. Tap into the power of your company's collective intellect by opening up your roster of contributors to include employees of diverse backgrounds and skill sets.


5. Have a brand voice. We maintain a consistent style and voice throughout all our posts. This helps ensure a cohesive experience -- no matter which topic we are covering, or who is writing about it.


6. Keep it concise. Blog posts are much shorter than traditional news articles. We try to keep our posts at a manageable length -- and posts longer than two or three paragraphs always include a "jump" so any one article doesn't take up too much real estate on the blog homepage.


7. Be conversational. As is the case with many blogs, our tone is generally conversational. We write the way we talk.


8. Give credit where it's due. If we're borrowing stats or referencing another source, we always link to the original source of the content. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it will help you avoid any unwanted legal squabbles that may arise from failing to properly source assets or information.


9. Incorporate visuals and multimedia. Eye-catching graphics and multimedia add-ins such as embedded videos and PDFs can go a long way in terms of capturing a reader's attention. Multimedia content is easier to share than ever and can often be incorporated by copying a line of HTML embed code into the post.



360i embeds each of its reports as PDFs directly on the blog using Scribd.


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10. Mix it up. Change up the format of posts to keep readers engaged. We alternate between full-scale reports, interviews, news recaps, and more to keep our content fresh.


11. Link back to previous posts. Since we cover several facets of the digital industry, we often write about topics that relate to previous posts we've published. When this happens, we link back to previous posts, which provides necessary context to the reader and also helps usher traffic to pages that might have been otherwise missed.


12. Tag your posts. Tagging posts with relevant keywords will help readers find content by topic. Categories serve a similar purpose and provide a layer of organization to your blog that becomes more important as you produce more and more content.


Management


13. Designate a point person. Our blog taps into the brainpower of several individuals across a company, so it's important that the buck stops at someone. Designate an editor with strong project management skills to keep assignments on track and keep content flowing.


14. Make posts shareable. Look at other blogs for ideas on how to make your content more shareable. We include links to share posts on all major social platforms, as well as a "Tweet This" button to simplify sharing across Twitter. Facebook's new "Like" button is also growing in popularity, and according to a recent TypePad study, is boosting referral traffic for some blogs by as much as 50 percent.



 
A re-tweet button makes it easy for readers to share articles with their followers. The share button at left has a similar function, and simplifies sharing across all major social networks.


15. Include a contributor's page. This gives proper credit to your authors and provides a human face to your articles. Our contributor's page includes photos and short bios about each member of our editorial team.


16. Incorporate relevant widgets. Most blogs have a handful of widgets or other add-ons used to enhance the blog experience. Ours include a button for registering for email distribution, a Facebook page widget, a dynamic Twitter feed, and a blog roll that links to other industry blogs as curated by us.


17. Set up an email distribution system. There are several services that will distribute your content directly into readers' inboxes for a nominal fee. You will need the help of your tech/design team to set this up, but it's worth it.


18. Make friends with your tech team. Although much of managing a blog is editorial, there are times when you need the aid of professionals with website design and/or development background. Some things your tech team will need to handle are SEO plugins, domain set-up and redirects (when needed), design/tech implementations, widget implementations, and any other changes to the backend of the site.


19. Learn some basic HTML. Blogging sometimes requires the use of basic HTML coding when it comes to formatting your posts. Most times you won't need this (most blog platforms allow you to edit via a "visual" view) -- but there will be times when you will need to tweak code. Learning basic code will help you overcome hiccups that might arise.

20. Learn from the best. We make close appraisals of leading blogs both in and outside of our industry to ensure we're continuously improving our own product. Pay attention to what's working for others and, when appropriate, integrate these strategies into your own efforts.


21. Track metrics and set goals. Using tools like Google Analytics, we create monthly reports outlining the progress of our blog over time. These reports include raw traffic figures as well as statistics that reflect top referrers, time on-site, and other information that helps guide our strategy moving forward. Looking at what posts receive the most traffic, Likes, and tweets can help you determine what type of content resonates with your audience and help focus your editorial efforts moving forward.


Promotion


22. Use social media channels. One of the most important things we did in terms of growing our blog was to implement a deliberate strategy for leveraging the social web to build traffic. Twitter is consistently one of our highest referral sources. We also share content via our Facebook page. Leveraging audiences on these and other social channels will help you get content to those people who have already demonstrated an interest in your brand. 




360i broadcasts new blog content to its fan-follower audiences on Facebook and Twitter, which together amount to several thousand people.


23. Make your blog prominent on your homepage. We pull in recent posts (and tweets) directly to our homepage to ensure people visiting our site don't miss the blog. We also grant the blog a significant spot on our main navigation bar. 




Visitors can view the latest blog headlines and even subscribe for email updates directly from the site's homepage (bottom left).


24. Include the blog URL in marketing language. We incorporate our blog URL in our company boilerplate and wherever we have a company description (other sites like Facebook, industry guides, etc.) so people interested in our company know where they can find our latest thought leadership.


25. Think outside the box. Be an innovator when it comes to promoting your blog across the web. For example, a designated paid search campaign drives traffic to our blog through relevant keywords such as "social marketing news' and "search marketing trends."


Conclusion


Social marketing and blogs aren't replacing the corporate website, which still serves as a valuable hub for key information about a brand and its products. Who you are as a brand doesn't change all that often, so a corporate website by definition is rather static. However, "what you think" and how (as well as how often) you engage with your customer is increasingly important.


Consumers have come to expect more interactive brand experiences that keep up with the overall pace of the social web. This means that marketers looking to engage audiences on and off their corporate sites must adapt to become more dynamic, more prolific, and more social.


Sarah Hofstetter is SVP Emerging Media & Brand Strategy, 360i.


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Sarah Hofstetter is President of 360i. During her seven years at the agency, 360i has developed industry leading practices that have helped cement its reputation as "A-List" agency and one of the "Best Places to Work" in Media & Marketing, per...

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Comments

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Commenter: Andy Stamer

2010, August 02

We haven't yet branched out to a Corporate Blog per se, instead we have done more issues-based blogging. The reason was to:
1) See if a blog was the right thing for us
2) Update as many "new" mediums as possible and see how we could exploit them

If anything, we've learned that our issue blog, along with other social media tools was successful. We may move this success to a Corporate Blog, but we're still not sure if that is the right approach.

Either way, the Company website is not dead. If anything, it is a more important and integral part of the overall communication strategy than it ever has been before. As we update our site for the US Army Corps of Engineers New England District, we use social media to inform our social media audiences on those changes. It's a way for us to engage our customers and come up with a website at the same time that will serve their needs.

A lot of your suggestions for the blog are directions we're actually moving in for our overall website. The blog and other social media, are just an extension of what is going on in the organization based on what the organization feels necessary to post via the Internet.

Commenter: Dylan Johnson

2010, July 28

A number of great suggestions - particularly #3 & #5. The blog can be a great way to demonstrate the company personality and values while highlighting meaningful trends, etc in a given industry.

Thats certainly our aim with our blog at Datapop, This Week in Relevance: http://bit.ly/blS1Vz

Commenter: Conor Brennan

2010, July 23

I agree with all your points, but I do think that more important, or perhaps as important as, any of them is to ensure that the person(s) doing the writing can actually write. Just because someone sends twenty or fifty emails a day does not mean he or she can write.

For instance, mixing up 'they're', 'there' and 'their' or 'your' and 'you're' are fundamental errors and when committed diminish the credibility of the blog. And while it might be easy enough to watch out for these errors, readability and good writing are more difficult to ensure.

A badly written blog, replete with grammatical errors and clunky, unreadable writing will undo much or all of the good work in the nine points above.