In the last few years, blogging has emerged as a powerful way for businesses to inspire potential clients and convey brand values to the world. The rise of the digital space has meant that business owners can no longer take a back seat when it comes to driving customer engagement – a fact that has seen the ability to blog become an essential business skill.
The relationship between blogging and business growth is far from theoretical. A February 2012 study by marketing software firm HubSpot found that 25 per cent of users rate their company blog as critical to their business, while a further 56 per cent considered it important to long-term success.
But although starting a company blog might be easy, establishing and maintaining a blog that sparks dialogue with customers is a different matter altogether. Failure to adequately prepare before jumping on the blogging bandwagon can see businesses lose credibility before they can truly begin.
Don’t be afraid of commitment
For Michael Fox, Director and Founder of online shoe retailer Shoes of Prey, lack of commitment is the most common barrier to blogging success. Fox, who also runs 22 Michaels – a blog that successfully chronicles the highs and lows of running an online business – believes that businesses won’t reap the benefits of blogging unless they’re committed to doing so for the long haul.
“Many bloggers start with a flurry of posts, then their commitment wanes and the blog tails off,” Fox says. This lack of consistency can damage customer relationships and undo the time and effort invested in the process.
Fox also advises that worrying that competitors will steal blog content can work as an obstacle to cultivating authenticity and building a following.
“We're very open with what we write about on 22 Michaels and we’re sure our competitors read the blog and learn from what we write about there. On balance though, it's this open, honest sharing that readers love – it gives them a reason to subscribe. The benefits in hiring, marketing and PR we've received from having lots of engaged readers on the blog far outweigh the cost of sharing what we're working on with competitors.”
So, what does Fox recommend for businesses poised to take up blogging in 2013? Consistent posts coupled with relevant, engaging content should both be high on the agenda.
“We post two to three times per week, and keeping a backlog of drafted posts to cover you during periods when you're busy can be a big help.”
Relevance is key
He also believes that veering away from topics relevant to your business can damage audience loyalty and deter prospective customers from your site.
“People will subscribe to your blog because they’re interested in the topics you write about. Stick to those topics and don’t venture out too far.”
Strategy aside, businesses starting blogs in 2013 should also be wary of pitfalls such as failure to proof posts and respond to customer comments – factors that can affect credibility and engagement levels. Beginners can also fall into the trap of presenting marketing spin rather than publishing content that will deliver value to the customer. Fox advises that involving customers in honest, open dialogue about your business is a major catalyst for blogging success.
HubSpot State of Inbound Marketing Report 2012
Interview: Michael Fox, Shoes of Prey
This article represents the views of the author only and not those of American Express.
Neha Kale is a freelance writer and editor with over six years’ experience in the media and finance industries. She has held senior editorial positions at various business and technology publications and specialises in online strategy, innovation, creativity and management best practices.