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The Power of Blogging

Saturday, May 1st, 2010

For the uninitiated, blogging is a personal journal or a web log that allows you to creatively express yourself. Blogging is free, easy to begin and does not require you to invest anything more than your time and energy. Your blog can be about anything – a study of a topic, viewpoints on the world around you, your personal experiences, a photo feature, a travel diary or even a daily update of your life.

So why should you care? Today, blogging is one of the fastest growing modes of communication and is changing the landscape of how organizations and employees exchange ideas and collaborate. You have different kinds of blogging options – the usual blog which allows you to post any number of words, images and videos and the micro blog like Twitter, which accepts up to 140 characters.

According to social media experts there are over 200,000,000 blogs and a large majority of bloggers post content or tweet daily. It is important to note that bloggers who post about products & brands can influence peoples’ opinions. With the growing importance of blogging, companies are tapping this channel to share information about their products or services to build awareness and equity among their consumers.

How I started

I began blogging on internal communications in 2006 to articulate trends, best practices and involve business communicators in a dialogue. Little did I know that blogging would one day open a world of possibilities for me.

In my interactions with fellow communicators and students at business schools where I teach, I often heard the need for understanding internal communications as a discipline and a career. My interest in this subject stemmed from my experience in employee relations and engagement, which I began early in my career.

Arriving at your blog’s positioning and strategy

This is often the toughest, but essentially the most important, aspect of blogging.

To begin blogging I first needed to be sure of my topic and theme. I asked myself pertinent questions on tone of voice, expectations, language, audiences to target, blog marketing, frequency of posting and promoting the link, among others.

It took me a while to arrive at the appropriate positioning and theme to showcase internal communications as they evolve from my personal daily work. My intention to link perspectives from the industry and opinion of leaders helped this blog get a mindshare of its own. In India, internal communication is relatively unknown or rarely acknowledged as an area of expertise. It is also perceived to be secondary to other corporate communication functions and, hence, I spotted an opportunity to also lead awareness building and change in the industry.

Over time, I have received comments and feedback from people from around the world, fueling my belief that this medium indeed has a global impact and that blogging is well received.

Before commencing, I browsed the Internet for information on best practices in blogging. It led to my understanding of the blogging formula for success. From an employee-engagement perspective, individual tone, openness, context and timely information led to greater commitment. I read that Jonathan Schwartz (former President & CEO of Sun Microsystems), Paul Ottelini (Intel) and John Dragoon (CMO , Novell) were among the noteworthy corporate leaders whose blogs have a fan following. I began regularly poring over their posts to understand their success mantra. What emerged were parameters that can help other bloggers chart their blog’s growth. I found that the successful blogs were spontaneous, conversational and disruptive. Spontaneity referred to the author’s ability to spur debate. Conversational meant how engaging the posts were and disruptive indicated the uniqueness and appropriateness to a specific need.

Getting started with your blog

It is important to cultivate a ‘personality’ that is consistent and that emerges from the tone of voice, style of writing and responding to queries and posts. The blogger needs to demonstrate respect for his reader base and build opportunities for interaction. Try and understand your measures of success as well.

How will you know if your blog is making a mark? Some believe hit rates are a good measure while others vouch for a readership base.

To me, the quality of interaction and the direct feedback which readers post gives a good sense of what they think of the blog.

Before you begin, choose a good blog solution that will give you all the essential tools to manage posts, track and analyze your blog visitors. I use Wordpress, due to its user-friendly features, excellent reporting abilities and options to cross link from your Flickr and Twitter accounts. With convergence the way forward it helps to integrate all your tools into one common channel. There are other blogging solutions such as Blogger, which allows advertising and revenue generation. However, when I began I personally felt the ads were distracting to the reader.

Making your posts relevant

To decide on my topics I first polled my peers and colleagues. Based on their first inputs I drafted a list of areas I needed to address. Then armed with this knowledge I read various research reports, trend analysis, engagement metrics and local news. From this emerged my understanding of the topic and my perspectives that I posted on the blog.

How to involve your readers

Apart from sharing timely, relevant information, it is vital to involve and encourage dialogue among your readers. For example, poll their thoughts, ask for opinions, post questions which increase discussion and share other similar news that they may like to read.

As a blogger you must be constantly aware of thought leaders in the domain whose opinions matter. However, you need to be well versed in your domain knowledge to hold your ground in any discussion.

To improve my connection to my readers, I included content for students, practitioners and educators. This meant I added insights from India-centric great places for work, studies, job market reports and B-school updates, among others.

How to market your blog

Before marketing the blog, I ensured I had over 50 posts to my credit as well as many regular readers. I reached out to various publications to share my blog along with a covering note on the uniqueness of the medium, the domain and how readers can benefit. It helps to include relevant tags in each of your posts so that Google and other search engines can pick and cross link.

On your own it works wonders to allow ‘incoming’ links from other blogs or websites for increased page views.

I make it a point to share any new posts with my reader base via an e-mail so that they get to read it first. Also register your blog with blogging sites and on search engines.

Measuring the success of your blog

In my opinion, your blog is as good as your last post. This, in effect, means that unless you are consistent, relevant and engaging, your blog will soon become extinct.

I measure the success of my blog on the following parameters – a) quality of content b) depth of dialogue c) value add to readers d) reach.

For example, I know the blog is working when, for example, a student writes in saying she found the posts interesting and will use the insights to rewrite her CV. Or when an educator explains how a recent blog post got her thinking about a job change.

If I receive a comment from Chile that informs me that my blog is translated in the local language due its relevance, that is surely a big boost.

Of course the number of page views and clicks are other tangible measures of ‘visible’ success. At last count my blog had 162 posts, over 200 comments and 33,500 views – modest numbers for a blog of five years.

How to sustain interest

Like any online medium the blogger needs to reinvent and sustain interest among readers. You can sustain interest by keeping in touch with your readers, sharing relevant links and information and sometimes going to the extent of ‘coaching’ or ‘guiding’ readers on issues.

For example, a lot of my readers have asked me questions offline or via e-mail since they found it easier to communicate that way. The issues ranged from skills, competencies and career opportunities they wanted to get a better sense of. Some wanted me to play the role of a mentor and support their growth. There are also educators who connected to jointly write papers, conduct workshops and implement freelance assignments.

The blog’s success will also draw journalists who want ‘opinions’ for stories they are writing. Many such opportunities have come my way from the U.K. and the United States.

It is important to be quick to respond and to appreciate the efforts readers are taking to understand internal communications better.

Beware of online Tricksters

Before I sign off I wanted to share one piece of advice on blogging. While your blogging tool may provide you ‘apps’ that filter out spam mails, beware of online tricksters who post comments that are irrelevant but ‘sound’ similar to the content you are posting.

If you by mistake approve those comments you can end up compromising not just your blog but also your reputation.

There are others who will try to leverage the success of your blog by piggybacking on the page views and readership. For example, they may insert links and website URLs in comments that lead to their own personal pages. Use your best judgment while editing comments.

Final Word – Enjoy What You Do!

In the end, what matters is that you enjoy your blogging experience and the interaction with your readers. Give it your best and savor the pleasure of blogging.

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