I talk to many companies in the digital forensics space, clients and prospects, who are considering blogging but are not sure how to go about doing it. Some have blogs, but only write entries once every few months. (Hint: this is not enough to drive traffic to your site.) Others’ blogs are little more than a series of press releases. (Hint: this is not enough to attract subscribers.)
Time is often cited as a factor for no or low blogging activity. Yes, blogging is time consuming. I also think that sometimes, would-be bloggers think they don’t have as much to contribute as, say, the members of the SANS community. And even if they do, worry that the competition will steal their hard-won intellectual property.
Blogging, however, has been shown to drive new sales. It can help build brand awareness for new companies, and give both customers and prospects an inside look at the thought leadership that drives the company’s product development or services. Depending on whether the support team jumps in, it can even be used to help resolve customer service issues, potentially driving down costs.
The in-site blog
The most common form of company blog. You’re reading one; the blog isn’t the site’s front page, but it is linked from the main menu, and the rest of the site is navigable from there. Good example: BlackBag’s new blog, which just began on January 1. (Interestingly, BlackBag has opened its blog up to anyone within the company — marketers, customer support, engineers — a move many companies hesitate to make for fear of losing control of their message.)
At first blush, iFrames are a professional-looking way to pull in blog content from off site (say, WordPress.com) and make it appear as if it is in-site. However, it doesn’t embed the content, and as a result, search engines won’t index an iFramed “Blog” page. If part of the reason you’re using your blog is to attract website visitors via search, iFrames won’t help.
Blogs-as-microsites are fairly common in the business-to-consumer space, often among businesses that want to generate community and conversation on some topic related to business. I blogged briefly for Family.com, a Disney microsite, and RaisingMaine, a site owned by MaineToday Media Inc.
Until AccessData debuted eDiscovery Insight, I hadn’t seen this in the digital forensics space. The blog is new. Technically it isn’t a microsite, because instead of drawing on a collective community, it relies on in-house subject matter experts (SMEs), including CEO Tim Leehealey. However, because it’s not a part of AccessData.com, it does maintain something of a microsite feel.
Following last year’s merger with CT Summation, AD’s microsite is a good way to keep customers’ focus solidly on e-discovery issues. In the coming months it will be interesting to see whether they blend it with more of their own branding, or reach out more to the e-discovery community at large. Depending on their goals, either one would work.
The individual representative
The sole proprietor or small-business engineer who wants to differentiate their own thoughts from their brand may choose to keep a personal-professional blog on a site like WordPress.com or Blogger. This may be similar to the many professional blogs, such as Harlan Carvey’s WindowsIR or Eric Huber’s A Fistful of Dongles; but it can help market a company as well.
Good example: Think Different, the blog of Commander Kristen Ziman of the Aurora (Ill.) Police Department. Hosted by Google’s Blogger, the blog isn’t APD’s official positioning — but it doesn’t disassociate Cmdr. Ziman from her department or her role in it. Instead, allowing her to be up front about who she is, what she does, and what she thinks about it helps bolster APD’s position as a professional law enforcement agency.
Both microsite and individual representative blogs can be good ways to “test” a blog before it goes official; even iFrames have a transitional place. If you see an uptick in page views after installing an iFrame, that’s a good time to consider bringing the separate blog under your company’s own identity.
In general, company blogs should:
- Include links to other content within the site, whether downloadable information or products. This helps with search engine ranking.
- Be written by in-house representatives, rather than outsourced. (I do help clients write blogs, but it’s a back and forth editorial process to allow for as much of their thinking as possible.)
- Never be ghostwritten. It is dishonest for a company leader to allow a professional blogger or PR person to misrepresent themselves.
- Have a comment policy. Don’t stifle criticism, but do block abusive or troll-ish comments. Be prepared to respond immediately if need be.
- Have a schedule. Sporadic and unpredictable posts happen, but they don’t look all that great. Commit to blogging as you would to an in-person event at which you’re speaking on similar topics. (Yes, I’m still working on this one.)
Do you have a company blog? What does it look like?
Image: Oriol M.J. via Flickr