What separates a blog from a web page?
It isn’t RSS feeds or the author interface, but tone. If you want a real, organic audience you need to set your blog apart from your site’s standard copy. People read static web content for raw information, but they read blogs to learn more about people. If you use the same third person “corpspeak” that you’d put on any other page, potential readers will lose interest. There’s a time and place for aloof, formal business language, but in most companies, a blog should represent a chance to loosen your virtual tie, so to speak.
The key to projecting a relaxed, exciting attitude is sociability. A sociable blog puts a human face on your firm and highlights its busy, dynamic nature. There are lots of ways to add social qualities to your blog, but I’ll concentrate on five:
- Use Collaboration: Unless your company’s a solo operation, get as many employees posting as possible. Encourage them to talk about their jobs in a friendly, first person present style – but here’s a secret: You can give them a little help. Not everyone is cut out to write. Assign a head blogger to edit articles to conform to a high standard – or ghostwrite them from another employee’s point-form notes.
- Make Authors Visible: Instead of lazily letting everyone in on the same author account, create separate user IDs for each contributor. Develop a public profile for each user. A couple of sentences and an avatar should be fine. You’ll still need a “generic” user for press releases and other company-wide announcements, but whenever possible, give readers the chance to follow individual bloggers.
- Write in an Informal Tone: Use the first person present tense to speak as an individual and let readers feel they’re following the action as it happens. Indulge in a little slang but unless you’re trying to let everyone know you serve the bleeding-edge youth market, don’t overdo it. (If you’re over 30 and aren’t sure, then yes, you’re probably overdoing it). Engage the senses, and don’t be afraid of a little trivia. A sociable blog is the place to write about the great idea you got after finishing a really good cup of coffee.
- Integrate Social Media Tools: Well, you want to be sociable, don’t you? Add a Twitter feed and buttons for Sphinn, Digg and the rest. The more you add, the more interactive “handles” readers can use to respond – and when they take an action, they commit to your blog in at least a small way. Just don’t add elements to the point of clutter. In Twitter’s case, make sure you regularly update the feed. Old tweets make you look lazy.
- Don’t Forget the Basics: Okay, you’ve loosened your virtual tie – but keep your pants on! You still need to write well. Don’t neglect grammar, target keywords or search-friendly coding (strong, not bold, etc.). Unless your business warrants a little extra naughtiness, keep your content G-Rated, and check it for conformity to your policies. That’s why you need someone who bears ultimate responsibility for the blog.
These steps should help bring your blog out of the shadow of your company’s static web content. Instead of bumping up against a wall of impersonal marketing text, readers learn that your business is a busy, living entity – and something they want to get involved with.
About the Author: Malcolm Sheppard is a writer for GILL Media, an internet marketing firm with offices in Florida, California, Texas, Georgia, Ohio and Ontario.