How Much Blog -- and How Often? | Page 3 | WebReference

How Much Blog -- and How Often? | Page 3

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Assessing Resources, Barriers, and Culture

Compared to other marketing and communications initiatives with worldwide reach, it doesn't take much to launch and maintain a successful business blog. You'll need to bring to the table your goals, a small team with a little time, good ideas for content, and the support of your organization.

Take some time to inventory what assets are available to you, and determine whether or not they are adequate to get the job done. The specifics of what you'll need are detailed below.

Regular and Ongoing Posting

A blog without posts is like a city without buildings—there isn't a whole lot of motivation to visit, and not much to see when you get there. For public sites, readers (and search engines!) need a reason to drop by. Multiple posts are that reason. If contributors aren't making frequent and interesting contributions to the site, you'll find much of the oft-touted benefits of blogging evaporate.

While the most important thing is to write posts that are relevant to your audience, it's also vital that you do it frequently enough that search engines see the blog as an actively updated site and your readers have a reason to come back.

The topic of how often is enough is actively discussed in the blogosphere, and there are differing opinions. Based on discussions with various bloggers receiving significant traffic, our opinion is that three posts a week is a nice minimum to target and three a day is what can get you into the big leagues.

Staff Availability and Dedication

Posting is essential, and posting means people. People with the time, energy, and desire to write about relevant subjects. Luckily, we're not talking about a huge commitment here. Many successful blogs thrive with just a single passionate individual working only a few hours a day. Are you that person?

Do you have people on staff (or who can be contracted) to contribute? We believe that most high-profile marketing-related blogs need at least two good hours a day of effort to stay viable, and highly recommend that a team be formally assembled to ensure those hours will be put in before any public launch of a blog.

Be aware that in our experience the vast majority of good-intentioned "volunteer posters" who say they are "happy to help out" and will post won't ever find the time. Have the commitment from contributors in writing, and have a designated manager or editor make sure posters are fulfilling their obligations. If the commitment and corporate buy-in are great enough, consider paying someone extra for their blogging or hiring a person just to blog.

Culture of Openness

Most of the companies known for having great success in the blogosphere have a culture of openness and transparency. These companies generally lean toward permitting "outsiders" to observe their operations—where practical— and even provide input. Open companies tend to let people see what they do and discuss themselves more openly.

With regard to blogging, Microsoft has a culture of openness. The company has embraced blogging as an important tool for reaching out to software developers, customers, and other partners. Microsoft now publishes over a thousand blogs on topics ranging from their new operating system to the minutiae of Internet Explorer's font rendering. Many of these blogs contain references to upcoming products and even tout opinions that differ with stated company positions.

While we believe that almost all companies can and should blog, it's clear that many of the corporate blogs we see today just won't work in many organizations. For those companies, the stereotypical employee or executive blog containing posts discussing projects the author is working on just won't cut it. In addition, openly accepting comments from outsiders critical of the company or their products is inconceivable to many managers.

With this in mind, one should gauge quickly how "open" their company might be to a dialog-style blog and reject the idea if the organization generally has a "loose lips sink ships" mindset. If your company is like Apple— who carefully guard their secrets (and send lawyers after bloggers who reveal them!)—you just can't blog the same way Sun or Microsoft does.

If you determine that you have a fairly closed culture, it does not mean blogging is impossible. There are many good options available to you. Even the tightly constricted Apple culture has enabled successful blogs, and you can use that as a potential model for your efforts.

One of Apple's blogs, shown in Figure 3.2, is for students with posts about campus life and using Apple products. The Apple Student Blog is about community, not about their corporation or Steve Jobs. Apple has also embraced blog-related technologies, like RSS. They have feeds available on most every page on their site, including technical note updates, Help files, and support forums available for subscription. Apple also publishes another blog about their .Mac service, which includes entries about how to best use the service. Apple is blogging in a manner that works for them and their culture.

Figure 3.2 Apple's blog is for the college lifestyle and discusses Apple's products.
Figure 3.2 Apple's blog is for the college lifestyle and discusses Apple's products. The key here is to plan and promote a realistic blog initiative that makes sense given the culture you have.

Financial Resources

While it's true that the hardware and software requirements to successfully run any single blog are minimal, maintaining a truly popular blog can become nearly a full-time job depending on the number of posts required, and the effort one wants to put in on monitoring comments. In other words, the time and opportunity costs can be significant.

In addition, those circumstances in which companies encourage all of their employees to blog may require the licensing of many copies of software or large-scale subscription costs.

Do your homework before picking a platform, and make sure you've factored in all costs. We'll get more specific about software and pricing in Chapter 5.

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