The first rule of measurement is know your objectives so you know what to measure. That said, it’s a challenge to decide on objectives for a blog when you don’t know what the possibilities are. At Lion Brand Yarn Company, we outlined objectives before we launched our blog in 2008, but what we discovered was that we would benefit in ways that we did not imagine.
Of all forms of social media, blogging can be the most time intensive. It is also a tool that requires a sustained, long-term effort. But therein lies the power of this tool. Developing a rich bank of content that serves our audience has been an important asset to our company. Here are five benefits of blogging that we have enjoyed:
We have learned a great deal about what our customers want from looking at the results of our blog. And if you can figure out what your customer wants and deliver it, everything else tends to work out. The blog shows us what excites them and what they want more of. How has our blog taught us this?
- We literally hear their voices in the comments—the tone, the language, the attitude, and their reactions. Reading comments tells us as much as analytics about our readers. We can visualize the people who make up our audience and this informs how we communicate with them.
- Surveys and polls imbedded in a blog post help us answer questions directly about what is important and how choices are made. Asking readers for input shows them that they have the opportunity co-create the content with us.
- We find out what’s hot and what’s not by looking at traffic, comments and inbound links. The traffic peaks and valleys help inform decisions about many of our other marketing efforts. We now look to blog results when deciding what to feature in our newsletter or how to present information in our catalog that will help us better sell our products.
Trust, like a blog, develops over a long span of time so a blog is a great platform for building trust. The trust we earn is built on four pillars: authority, generosity, reliability and humanity.
- Authority. A blog helps position us as the seat of authority by giving us the space and multi-media opportunities for educating people to become better users of the product and to inspire them. Our goal is not to directly sell products but to share helpful information and ideas about how to enhance a person’s life by using our product. We also gain authority by curating content from around the web and from our website to surface what we think our readers want to know.
- Generosity. You can toss out a coupon on your blog but that’s not the kind of generosity that builds trust. We offer information, education and inspiration that helps them enjoy the lifestyle that our product embodies—the kind of content that they would have to pay to get from a magazine.
- Reliability. We publish consistently and often, using a calendar of varied types of content that people have come to expect and tune into. I believe that many individuals and businesses give up on their blog too soon. Of course the content has to be good, but the benefits of blogging accrue to those who stick with it. Chris Brogan has been blogging for over 10 years and most of the top blogs are written by people who have been plugging away for several years.
- Humanity. A blog is a great way to bring the people behind the logo forward to face the public. Employees write about how they personally use the product, what inspires them or what they learned at a conference. Each blogger’s interests and personality shines through. After all, people prefer to buy from people, not from corporations, and the blog is a way of presenting the real people behind the brand who are passionate about our product, just like our customers.
The blog has become a significant and growing source of traffic . One of the surprise benefits of our corporate blog is the traffic that it draws to us by virtue of the depth of content and the SEO. Long tail search terms are helping people discover us who might never have found our website. A year ago, one of the sites that used to send us a lot of traffic changed their focus and we lost an important traffic source, which thankfully, was more than matched by growing traffic from our blog, a source we also control.
Ultimately, blogging needs to lead to revenue. If you’ve benefited by consumer insight, and developed trust, you are already contributing to the process of making a sale.
For a more direct link from blogging to sales, we look at Google analytics, which tells us the rate at which people who visit our site convert to buyers. Although we don’t expect the same conversion rate from our blog as from our newsletter, we find that our social media, including the blog, convert at a higher rate than other referring sites.
Results, of course do vary. I recently spoke on a panel with the director of digital for Marriott, who shared the fact that his CEO, Bill Marriott’s blog, generates 12 million visitors per year and $4 million in revenue from readers who click-throughs to book rooms.
Cost savings from a blog also contribute directly to the bottom line. Answering customer questions and addressing concerns reduces the more expensive customer service phone calls and digital information can eliminate or reduce printing needs.
Your blog is part of your marketing ecosystem. It does not operate in a vacuum. You can drive traffic to and from your blog by way of your newsletter, your website, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and your offline marketing efforts. A corporate blog is integral part of a media system that accelerates your message.
What have you gained from your corporate blog? Has there been any positive or negative result that you didn’t expect? I welcome you to add to and elaborate on this list.