It’s almost hard to believe that a little less than a decade ago, you could actually keep up with the blogosphere. In the years between the dot-com bust and the Web 2.0 explosion, you could count the number of blogs devoted to, say, music or movies on one or two hands. A few years ago, as blogging exploded across the Internet, many companies saw an in-house blog as a cheap and easy way to promote their businesses.
The social media sphere quickly became glutted, however, with some pundits now arguing that there may be “too many” blogs. Some companies have even begun cutting blogs and professional bloggers from their budgets, as online ad sales shrink due to poor economic conditions. Even if you’re targeting a niche audience, now could be a critical time to see if you’re doing all you can to make your blog stand out from the pack.
Readers are savvy enough to spot a blog that’s little more than a promotional tool for a company. Unless readers are already interested in your products or services, they won’t be adding your company’s blog to their bookmarks or RSS reader simply to read bland product announcements or company-related news. Even as budgets shrink and competition for readers’ eyes becomes fierce, you have to treat your blog less as an advertising dump, and more as a venue for original content — one that happens to be attached to the website that sells your product or service.
Entertaining and informative posts are your best bets for hooking readers, keeping them coming back, and hopefully converting them to customers. Readers become attached to blogs because of their unique, idiosyncratic voices — especially when they’re humorous voices unafraid to share controversial opinions. If your readers are receiving a daily dose of industry editorializing, plus a side of jokes, it will certainly help your blog stand out from the hundreds of boring blogs that are content to cut and paste dry press releases or that offer up a list of links without any original content.
Many companies and entrepreneurs are afraid to offer up public opinions about the state of their industries, current events, or even popular culture. But you want your blog to develop a community of commenters, eager to discuss your posts. “Safe” posts or bland news items won’t spark much debate in your comments box. If you can’t afford to hire an outside blogger, see if someone on staff has a knack for witty, attention-grabbing prose. With time and the right blogger, your readers may be doing half your work for you, attracting new readers and maintaining lively comments-box back-and-forth.
But how do you attract those commenters in the first place? Well, are you taking advantage of all the cheap/free marketing opportunities offered in the social media sphere? Do you have a Facebook group or MySpace page devoted to your company? Links, or even whole blog posts, can easily be posted to social media groups and pages. Does your company have a Twitter account? Customers “following” your Twitter account can receive instant notification of new blog updates.
If your company already has a list of opt-in subscribers who want to receive email or snail mail news updates about your company, you can send out an invitation to them to join that Facebook group or follow your company’s Twitter updates. You can also send them regular links to posts of interest on your blog. (And if your company doesn’t have an opt-in list of email subscribers, now is the time to start building one, via online submissions forms, advertising circulars, or in-store sign-up sheets for brick-and-mortar businesses.)
Make sure the person in charge of your blog is also commenting on other blogs and developing online relationships with other bloggers; a quick link to your blog in a comments box or a friendly bit of reciprocal link-swapping can send more new readers your way than you might think. News aggregators, though they’re often dependent on readers re-posting your blog updates to sites like Digg, are also valuable. Adding buttons and links to news aggregator and social networking sites like Digg, Stumbleupon, and others to your blog will certainly help the process along.
While newspapers may be in dire straits and magazines may be folding, don’t discount the role traditional media can play in promoting your blog. While a press release about a new blog isn’t going to attract quite as much attention as it might have a few years ago, a press release about a new feature like a podcast, a blog-only promotion or giveaway, or a major overhaul to your online presence is still a very worthwhile expenditure. Make sure a brief mention of your blog and its unique content goes in the “About” section of every press release you send out, regardless of what news you are announcing.
Despite the industry doomsayers, blogs are still a valuable promotional tool for any company. With more blogs debuting every day, however, they’re not quite as effortless as they once seemed. With a strong, unique blogging voice, and a little extra work promoting your blog around the web and beyond, you can help prevent being buried in the blogalanche.
This article was written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (http://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit: http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel/subscribe/.