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How weblogs add value to corporate communication

March 10, 2017

Digital media tip

Male hands writing in a diary on a wooden table. A laptop and coffee are on the table.
Photo: © Peshkov; https://de.fotolia.com/id/105288946

The relevancy of weblogs has been and still is growing. The disruptive power of digital media, which experts have been pointing out for years, is entering the mainstream right now. Content marketing, social media optimization, conversion analytics – these are strategies and tools. Yet the underlying pattern of change can be easily explained without resorting to technical terms: Communication is becoming faster, more individual – and more experimental.

Weblogs foster and strengthen all of these elements. While running a blog is quite cheap in terms of infrastructure, the possibilities are virtually limitless. Practically everyone is consuming blog content these days – sometimes consciously, sometimes even unknowingly, as the mechanisms of distribution have changed mainly thanks to Facebook and other social media platforms.

Most users do not care if an article which turns up in their newsfeed is hosted on a blog or on a corporate website: The focus lies on the content. So why should a company already running a website complement the official site with a blog?

The lines between the two forms are blurred indeed. All modern content management systems support blog functionalities, while by far not every website hosted on WordPress qualifies as a blog. Let’s take a look at the history and development of blogging for clarity.

Where did blogs come from and where are they heading?

The first weblog came into virtual existence in 1994 when Justin Hall, a student at the Swarthmore College, began to write about his life chronologically on links.net (http://links.net). This time, 23 years ago, the proliferation of his professional career and very private issues, such as his father’s suicide or his divorce, was all new to the web.

Picture of world's first blog with many tiny pictures and lots of text on a plain white website
The world’s first blog is still online – even the design hasn’t changed.

This happened three years before Jorn Bargers coined the label for this kind of personal publishing format. Mister Barger called his former site “Robot Wisdom” a weblog because to him, his writing was all about “logging the web”: He would simply surf the internet and comment on the various URLs he had visited. Just one year later Jonathan Dube launched “Hurricane Bonnie” for the Charlotte Observer – the first weblog operated by a media publishing house. In 1999, programmer Peter Merholz shortened the name to “blog”. It was not before five years later when Merriam-Webster voted blog the word of the year.

In these early years authors often updated their blogs manually. The first mainstream boom came with blogging platforms such as Blogger (later acquired by Google) and Twoday.net in the DACH region. Back then, experts claimed that in the future, everyone was going to be a publisher. The numbers seemed to back this prediction: In June 2006, Technorati counted 50 million blogs worldwide. The release of WordPress in 2003 gave an additional push of popularity, and in January 2005 a tenth of the US population was reading weblogs on a regular basis.

Then Facebook entered the equation – and the blogosphere turned from a layman’s game into a more professional format. While an increasing number of noncorporate users favored social media platforms as their prime publishing tool, many companies recognized the potential of blogs. With WordPress’ rising popularity, a huge ecosystems developed around Auttomatic, the company behind the open source cms. Separating core system, design (themes) and plugins turned out to be an excellent decision. Combined with WordPress’ excellent SEO properties, a new publishing multi-tool was born.

What can a business blog achieve in 2017?

Traditional cms systems force their users into a rather rigid regimen, where even small tweaks and changes require a lot of resources. The blog has multiple advantages: mobile friendliness, social media integration and, last but not least, the comment function will work right away long before commercial competitors for websites can offer the same level of feature-richness. However, these are merely the technical reasons to run a corporate blog.

There’s much more to it. There’s this special aura that surrounds the format: Call it a blog and reads will instantly expect a more personalized way of communication as well as the option to enter the discussion.

While classic corporate website are a great tool to present (mostly static) product-related information, a blog can act as a “behind-the-scenes” media, allowing CEOs to spread their visions, explain specific backgrounds or elaborate on topics which only a fraction of potential customers is interested in – but it’s exactly this fraction which wants to know every little details and is passionate about your products and services. Yes, we are talking about influencers here. The flexibility of blogs caters for a wide range of different scenarios and strategic corporate goals.

Content marketing has spread from b2c communication into other fields: Human resources, personal marketing, networking or lead generation: a new weblog resembles a wet piece of clay that can take almost any form and shape.

Important tips for your corporate blog

In case you are planning to extend your online portfolio with a blog, you need to define an editorial concept first and you should ask yourself these questions:

  • Which goals is my blog supposed to support and how is the content going to be different from other channels?
  • Who is going to author the blog, how often am I going to do an update?
  • Do I want to spread background information or is my blog a tool to start a dialogue with (potential) customers?

The success of a corporate blog is closely linked the quality of its content. Mastering the art of blogging means understanding one’s target audience’s needs. If you are aware of what your customers are passionate about, a blog is the perfect multi-tool to spread your message in an authentic and convincing way.

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