Contributed Column

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Online Tactics

by Elaine J. Young, Champlain College

How blogging and micro-blogging will help your bottom line

In tough economic times, the power of digital word-of-mouth can help a business with its marketing strategy and bottom line. Blogs and micro-blogs can provide a fast and easy way to help a business build its brand, connect with its customers on a personal level, and increase its overall online “find-ability” with little to no financial investment.

Blogging for a business

A blog provides an opportunity for a business to highlight its industry expertise. While a website is the place for product information, a blog is the place to showcase the personality and brand image of the organization. It can quickly become the “face” of the business if the right person is responsible for the blog. The key is to remember these best practices.

1. Don’t hard-sell. Your focus is to provide useful information and highlight your expertise in the industry, not to tell people about the sale you are having. However, if you have a unique product you want to talk about, that’s OK. For examples of this, see Number 6, below.

2. Keep it short and simple. You don’t need to write a great deal. Simple lists that are readable and make connection to important issues, or “How-To” tips make the foundation of a good blog post.

3. Link, link, link. Whenever you post something, help your reader connect with other information and make that process very easy. It may seem counter-intuitive that you would send people away from your blog, but when you help them, they will remember you and come back.

4. Be dependable. Probably the most difficult part of all this is trying to stick to a schedule, but traffic dries up if you aren’t posting. You don’t have to blog every day; you do need to be consistent.

5. Be strategic about choosing the author. Should it be the CEO? The person responsible for marketing? The receptionist? Maybe. Whatever you do, don’t hire some intern to do your blogging for you. As tempting as that may be, you need someone who knows your organization inside and out to be your blogger. Authenticity and credibility are the hallmarks of good blogs.

6. See what others are doing. Look to other local businesses for good examples. These should include The Inspired Protagonist (www.seventhgen eration.com/learn/inspiredprotagonist) by Seventh Generation’s Jeffrey Hollander (focuses on sustainability and the environment); The Union Street Media Blog (http://blog.unionstreetmedia.com), primarily maintained by Gahlord Dewald, the director of Web strategy (emphasis on Web tools and how to use them); and The Bevy B(eer)-Log (http://bwbeerlog.blogspot.com), written by Jeff Baker, the beer and wine manager at the Beverage Warehouse, highlights beers he has and beers he’s heard about.

Micro-blogging to build a following

A relatively new addition to the social media landscape is what some are calling “micro-blogging” and others call “social presence.” Tools such as Twitter (www.twitter.com), Plurk (www.plurk.com), and Yammer (www.yammer.com) allow individuals to post messages, in 140 characters or less, to people who follow them. Updates are received either on the Web, on a desktop client, a Blackberry client, or direct to a mobile phone (similar to a text message). Twitter and Plurk are for individuals, while Yammer is for all the people who have the same e-mail domain at an organization (for example, all the individuals at Champlain College who sign up for Yammer will be able to post messages that only individuals with the champlain.edu e-mail address can see).

The benefit is the ability for individuals to quickly and easily send short messages to those who “follow” them.  Information can spread quickly as individuals re-post and link to the information. It’s a great way to announce news items and new blog posts and to get answers to questions.

To blog or micro-blog

The answer is: It depends.  If your target market is online in some fashion and you have the staff resources to take the time to learn the tools, there is a strong possibility that your business can leverage these tools for success. •

Elaine Young is associate professor of marketing and e-business management at Champlain College.

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