Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Business Blogs - What Works and Blogging Mistakes to Avoid
Jonathan Ginsberg

Does it make sense for you to create a blog for your business? Because blogs are in the news and because they are much easier to create and update than web sites, you may be tempted to jump aboard the bandwagon. When you browse the blogosphere, however, you will discover that many business blogs serve little purpose. Your blog is only valuable if potential customers or clients read what you have written. A boring or silly blog will waste your time, your customers' time and may cost you credibility.
Ideas for Blog Posts That Work
As a lawyer who blogs regularly for my own practice and as a consultant working with other law firms and small businesses, I believe that an effective blog needs to have a "voice" and the posts need to fit within certain guidelines. Here are the approaches that I believe are most effective:
1) Use your blog to chronicle case studies. Everyone likes stories and you can use your blog to describe both positive and negative experiences. At my Social Security disability blog, for example, I frequently discuss my experiences representing clients in Social Security hearings. I speak about both positive and negative experiences and I use these case studies to explain what I am learning from my experiences.
If you are in sales, you might describe a sales call or a presentation. What went well and what surprises did you encounter? If you are writing about an experience that did not go well, describe your errors or problems in terms of a learning experience. Humbleness and a willingness to learn from mistakes can be an appealing trait and a blog can be an appropriate platform for addressing your experiences.
Be aware that all of your case studies should not describe negative experiences, but do not feel that your blog has to paint you only in a positive light.
2) Use your blog to report and comment upon current news in your industry. No doubt your subscribe to one or more industry trade journals or online news sources. You can use your blog to summarize news reports from other places (with appropriate credit) and to offer your own commentary.
In my Consumer Bankruptcy Blog, for example, I frequently discuss new developments in bankruptcy laws and I frequently reference posts from other bloggers. Most blogging software allows you to notify another blogger about your use of his material through something called a "trackback." Since blogging tends to be a cooperative activity, appropriate borrowing of content usually will be appreciated and encouraged. You will end up creating ongoing relationships with fellow bloggers in your content niche.
3) Use your blog to make your readers aware of other resources. Think of your blog as a digest service and share what you discover. Remember, blogs have a subscription feature called RSS, which mans that your blog readers are probably consuming your blog posts on their custom home page (such as My Yahoo, or Personalized Google). They will only stay subscribed if you offer useful content. Unlike regular web sites, your blog readers may have only visited the home page for your blog once. You want them to subscribe to a feed of your posts; you do not need them to bookmark your site.
Blogs That Do Not Make Sense
By contrast, a blog does not make sense if you plan to use your blog to vent about topics unrelated to your business. There is nothing more painful than to see a business owner using a business titled blog to discuss politics, religion or his personal taste in restaurants or movies. If you want to write about these things, set up a personal blog for that purpose.
Similarly, a business blog that exists only to sell something will likely garner very few readers. Blogs are about sharing ideas - potential customers are not going to give you valuable space on their custom home page or RSS readers and subject themselves to a hard sell. You can certainly mention what you do and what you sell, but doing so within a case study or a news update post will be much more palatable to your blog readers.
Finally a business blog that you do not update frequently - at least once a week - will founder. I use my personalized Google page as the home page for my browser and at any one time I may be subscribed to 20 to 30 blogs. If I don't see some activity in a blog over the course of a month, I delete the feed.
Blogs can be a valuable component to your marketing arsenal but only if you publish interesting, relevant and timely material. Blogging for the sake of blogging will waste your time and possibly create resentment within your target market. Your blog is not something that you finish - it is an on-going process that requires regular care and attention.
Jonathan Ginsberg has practiced consumer bankruptcy law in Atlanta, Georgia for over 20 years. In addition to representing debtors in Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases, Jonathan serves as a continuing education instructor, assisting other lawyers learn about new bankruptcy law developments and practice management skills.
His consumer bankruptcy web sites include
http://www.atlanta-bankruptcy-attorney.com
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