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25 August 2011

Why B2B blogging is important in the social media age

Tim Gibbon, director Elemental By Tim Gibbon

Business-to-business (B2B) blogging is possibly more important than ever before, especially as the number of social channels continues to be a challenge for brands. We’ve been delivering guidance on content strategy and production work for both business and consumer blogs for the last 10 years, so can draw comparisons from both perspectives.

Blogger Google Nissan logo
Marketers, PRs and SEOs usually jump on the blog bandwagon from a search perspective. Unwisely, some are under the impression that consistent new content will boost search visibility (which is not often managed properly) without realising the overall impact upon the brand a blog can have. This can manifest itself in sales driven content, or worse, uninteresting content that turns audiences off - when the blog can be much more than this for a business and marketing it undertakes.


Why are blogs useful for B2B marketing, and do they still have a place in such socially driven environments?

Blogs are great for brands regardless of their stature in communicating a range of different content and messaging. For a period, blogs seemed to slip under the radar and this was compounded due to the rise of social networks such as Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and in particular microblogging sites such as Twitter. Unfortunately, blogs were a victim of search engine optimisation (SEO) tactics, certainly a way to create new regular content when their objectives and purpose should be more involved than that. Instead of farming out press releases, news company product and services continually linking to the aforementioned to the main site, they can be a rich platform to present and share more than the run of the mill information – instead they can steer debate.

Blogs can have more of a role in socially driven environments because most blog software (off the shelf) is compatible with any number of social software, particularly through slick plug-ins. If built bespoke as we’ve done, then it would be prudent to incorporate this functionality. Intelligent use of social media across a blog whether via plug-in or embedding code e.g. Flickr, SlideShare, YouTube et al would present many flexible opportunities to create dynamic, interesting and sharable content.


The difference between B2B and business-to-consumer (B2C) blogs. What can learnt from consumer blogs?

B2C blogs can be interesting and current. Just because the audience and environment is B2B, this doesn’t mean approach and content can’t be interesting. It’s often perceived that business-to-consumer (B2C) content would be more appealing, but ultimately what will make the difference are factors such as the audience, brand, products, and/or services. This is not to say the blog should push product and services, quite the opposite. Any such approach and links should be a more subtle affair and on a limited basis.

There will be a number of other channels and ways to manage the communication of products and services, including opportunities without being heavy handed. In fact there could be equally a number of approaches that can be adopted by businesses to either create or source relevant content based upon what happens at the company, its consumers in particular environmental, seasonal and trend demands - the impact factors such as these may have upon it.


Is your business ready to blog?

Just because a blog may be relatively easy and quick to add for a business, it doesn’t mean that it should be. Determining whether this may be the greater challenge for a business. To assess whether a blog is the right move for a business, a degree of soul searching is required and a few simple questions (such as the below) could help it arrive at the right decision.

Given the blog can be an additional face to the brand and make it more personable, it’s critical that this is addressed to avoid brand dilution. This could be compounded by driving traffic to a blog isn’t ready to receive an audience, and could have a long-term impact for the brand.

The below is not an exhausting list but just the beginning in a direction of what can assist a brand on this voyage of discovery. Time and resources to manage the blog are just two factors; brands need to consider how the technologies (social technologies in particular) that drive the blog also have to be aligned with overall desired activity.

  • What are the goals and objectives of the blog (e.g. communications, sales, sharing knowledge, thought leadership and so on)?
  • Which departments will be involved and which bloggers will be assigned to write for it?
  • Who will manage the direction, updates and drive ideas of the blog?
  • Is the adoption of the blog positively accepted across the whole company and is support likely from individuals?
  • Is there time to invest into the management of the blog and adopt what the business will need culturally to sustain longevity of it?

 

Creating content strategies for a blog

Creating a content strategy for the blog is essential as it maintains a consistency, direction and flow of a blog. One of the main areas where brands can fall foul of maintaining the consistency is lack input and content, which can have audiences leave as they arise, presenting an impossible task of winning them over again. It may sound contrived, but a content strategy unifies internal and external communications and will ensure that content across the blog is fluid – and indeed for the whole business. It’s a subject that we will revisit, because if aims are high, the content strategy can be involved and shouldn’t be underestimated. It should certainly strive to address some of the following whilst being incorporated into the overall strategy for the brand.


Content strategy approaches for blogs

  • Stay on the path of the aims and objectives; to present a personable and useful presence of the brand without overwhelming audiences with sales
  • Create and maintain the consistent voice (positioning, style and tone)
  • Align the blog with other marketing, PR and sales initiatives, but don’t this define the blog. Do it subtly if it’s a ‘must’
  • Incorporate social media marketing into the management of the blog (beyond the use of Twitter. Think mobile coupons)
  • Make the blog more visible via communications, PR, search and social search. Mention and present the blog in off and online media


Dos and don'ts to consider with blog content

Dos for business blogging

  • Add tracking code to understand how the blog is interacting with the main site and how audiences are responding to posts
  • Make your blog visual and break up text with images, infographics, audio and especially video
  • Link sensibly to other blogs and give credit where it is due (along with photograph and image or any other credits)
  • Try different approaches and content to discover what audiences enjoy reading and sharing
  • Incorporate social media across the blog and use it to communicate the blog posts ethically


Don’ts in managing a business blog

  • Use the blog as a products and service mouthpiece where the audience are sold at
  • Create posts that are solely search driven; instead create content that is interesting, practical and relevant
  • Don’t forget to preview and check the posts written to ensure that are legible in order to get points across easily
  • Include current and topical information as this is blog gold dust. Be prepared for new data, research and above all offer analysis and ‘opinion’ (something B2B bloggers can shy away from)
  • Don’t ignore audience and other blogger comments. If they have taken time to engage with you, interact with them. Also, ethically consider commenting on other blogs


How is the blogging space developing?

Bloggers worldwide

Bloggers worldwide image from Technorati

The survey was in English with bloggers responding from 24 countries, with nearly half from the United States.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gender and types of blogger

Image of gender and types of blogger from Technorati

Brands and the Blogosphere

42% of respondents say they blog about brands they love or hate, while 34% say they never talk about brands on their blog. Among respondents who do blog about brands, 51% said they rarely review products, services, brands, or companies. Among Corporates who talk about brands on their blog, 48% say they post reviews on a weekly basis.

 

Reviewing products, services, brand or companies

Reviewing products, services, brand or companies from Technorati

Around a third of bloggers (33%) and almost a third of Hobbyists (28%) have been approached by a brand to write about or review products on their blog, and 41% say that a brand's overall reputation affects their willingness to write about it. Among respondents who are influenced by a brand's reputation, 13% say they boycott products and 71% say they write only about brands whose reputation they approve of.

How to bloggers and talk about brands and businesses

How do bloggers talk about brands and businesses from Technorati

Technorati’s State of the blogosphere is a really interesting read, it’s worth looking at the many statistics and graphs we didn’t publish feature here.  


Overall top tips for B2B blogging

  • Ensure the business is ready for a blog; assign contributors externally and internally, knowing how and when the content will be sourced
  • Research competitors to get a feel for what they cover and write about; analyse what works for audiences and why
  • Build a content strategy to create regular and rich content on a consistent basis beyond anniversaries and major milestones
  • Define style and tone (which should be jargon free); incorporate into the overall media guidelines for the business
  • Think about regular features setting reminders to manage this content, but also allow flexibility to keep them fresh and don’t be resistant to evolve them
  • Incorporate company news, but make it personable encouraging audience to participate and share feedback where relevant
  • Ensure content is interesting, rich and is socially driven so it can be shared
  • Consider how SEO will have an impact in search engines, blog directories and how aggregators can be useful. However, don’t let it define the blog
  • Keep blog current, updated and flexible to use a range of dynamic content such as images, audio and video
  • Check your research, facts, figures and grammar. Your content maybe great so don’t fall down at the last hurdle from not proofreading


Again, it’s not an exhaustive list, but certainly a heads up guide on what to initially consider when starting about.

We’ll get around to more on blogging, reaching out to bloggers and content strategy for brands at some point.


Image credits: Technorati
, Nissan Blogger Google from The Flosbury Flop thefosburyflop.com

Categories: Technology, Social media, News, Marketing, Elemental

Tags: blog, Blogging, blogopshere, business blogs, business blogging, B2B, B2B blogging, business-to-business blogging, Elemental blog, B2C blogs, smes

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