In TCWriter’s response to Ahmed’s post about what role Performancing Exchange might play, the idea of corporate blogging comes up. Obviously, companies are in business to make a profit, and it’s the wise business person that knows that happy customers make repeat customers. Those of you involved in technical or scientific fields may not have realized an opportunity for you to make your customers happy: publish a blog. (The advice below applies to non-technical companies; you just have to extrapolate to your industry.)
Exactly what would your company’s blog be about? Well, besides being about the industry you’re in, and general ongoing news and events, how about specific tips on using yourproducts?
As a long-time technical writer (interwoven with my experience as a programmer/ consultant/ webmaster), I found that some of the juiciest, valuable tips on using a particular product are often buried deep in a manual somewhere. Why not blog about these tips? Not necessarily everyday, but at least once a week.
Consider your product documentation from a customer’s viewpoint. Often, there are far too many manuals and their bulk is intimidating. From a business perspective, this reluctance to read probably means handling more support calls early on, for each new customer. While you’re not necessarily trying to replace this service, having a tips blog might reduce support calls as well as endear you to end users who may prefer to find things for themselves.
A good example of such a “tip” blog is the Google’s official Adsense blog. A lot of that same info is published elsewhere on Google website properties, but for the most part, it’s kind of buried because you’d have to search for it with appropriate terms.
A blog like this one, which is updated regularly, makes info easily accessible. A blog also make that info fresh with new examples, something a printed manual will not do. (That’s because, even if it’s published online and upated regularly, most end users are not going to hunt for changes. An RSS/ Atom web feed with update notices may help, but a blog is more personal and fresh.)
I’ll be bold enough to state that if a company does nothing more on their blog than publish fresh tips, they’ll have a readership if they already have customers. (Don’t forget to publish your blog URL, in addition to the main URL, on business cards, company newsletters, brochures, manuals, etc.) If you’re also writing about your industry general, you may find that you also get readers who are not yet customers. And isn’t that what your whole purpose for being online is?
P.S. Jonathan Kranz writes about turning techno-babble into commanding copy at Marketing Profs. (Older articles tend to get archived and you have to be a subscriber. So if you are a company decision-maker or a technoblogger read this article before it disappears.)
I think too much discussion about business blogging starts from the historical view of what a blog is all about, i.e. a personal online journal. If you consider the mechanics of a blog and the associated news feed, then you can see all kinds of other possibilities. That’s why both the Globe & Mail and the New York Times have adopted a blogging element in their redesigns this year. Equally if a business looks at the capabilities of blogging software, you may agree with me that Your Website Needs A Blog.
I’ve compared CamStudio to TechSmith’s great Camtasia screencasting product and, for a free product, CamStudio’s not bad. Not as many bells and whistles, but it’s young yet.
I haven’t tried it yet, but found CamStudio at source forge.
Sounds like the right tool for the job when the tips are in software form. I think some kind of extension of a Gizmodo review might also work when its a tip on a different device, like a PDA or MP3 player or some other gadget.
Wonderful advice. Videos are so viral these days. And with a free tool like Camstudio (available at sourceforge; i’ll look the URL up), screencasting’s a cinch. Love the idea of a tip video, just don’t know if it can compete with “where in the world is Matt dancing” or soda + candy gushers
Corporate blogging about tips is an excellent point.
Tipps also lend themselves to videos. A quick 60 second video with 1 or more tips, can make a great impact on customers as well.
A video might spell out something straight out of a manual, but dropping it into a low budget video and putting it up on the blog can help people take in the blog in a more passive way.
Lizsun mentioned the Word tips published and held tight in a 3 ring binder. Some tips especially with software, become training tools.
That same video can not only be posted in the company blog, but can be published to YouTube and Google Video where any company can embed a link to the video and now that tip can be stored in an online procedure manual or distributed via email or many more things.
Lets say I work for Motorola (previous employer) and I’m righting an SOP on performing a month end close procedure.
I come across a tip from the Microsoft blog with a description of how to run a vlookup function in excel. I right my SOP to be published to the intranet in html and embed the video and now when my employees at Motorola read the SOP, they not only know what they need to do, but if they aren’t familiar with a vlookup they can watch the tip video, plugged into the SOP.
Almost makes me wish I were still in the corporate world writing SOP’s and not working as a consultant. (Those were the Days!)
@Liz: Good advice deserves a link. And I’m a link leaker. (Didn’t The Monkees do a song like that
@Hendry: Don’t forget to tip?
@anyone: Jonathan Kranz PM’d me earlier to let me know that you can read his article without registration:
Tips are short.
Tips are useful.
The more I think about tips the more I like them.
Tips are actionable. The more people take action on the product, the more chances they like it — quality product is compulsory though.
The more they like it, the more they talk about it.
The more they talk about it, the more business you get.
All from tips, all from blogging with tips.
Of course, articles and other content types are important. But while we are talking about tips, they are just great.
That’s why one of the most powerful and easy email newsletter format is tips. It takes minimal time to write, but the open rate is often as high if not higher than other formats.
Because tips are useful…
(Thanks for thinking that post was worth sharing with your readers.)
This post comes with the amazing synchronicity that is often part of blogging. As I poured my coffee I was thinking, How many folks feel they have to post even when they have nothing to write about? That’s why there are so many blogs that have post after post that are just link lists and rarely a post with new thoughts.
Your idea is a gift and corporate bloggers and their readers. Product tips are quality content. They make quick posts of lasting value.
Back in the olden days, when MSWord was born, MS published a newletter called Inside Word. The entire document, 6 pages every month, was tips on how to use the product. It was the first subscription I bought for the editorial department when I started at a new publisher. It came 3-hole drilled to fit in a binder. You can bet we routed it and kept it. We also searched it to find answers.
Great idea, Raj.
from your friendly Dinosaur
@Hendry: excellent analysis. You should be writing here more often
@Ahmed: Wow. Never thought of that, but you’re absolutely right.
@anyone: TCWriter commented on one my other posts (about what to charge) and said spelling errors/ typos aren’t the biggest problem. Funny thing, though, how many typos you see AFTER your post has been published to the Performancing home page. Que sera sera.
Business blogs are, in one way or the other, CRM (customer relations management) tools. There’s a lot you can do with them, apart from tips and news.
Great idea on blogging about tips. While we are on the topic about leveraging and attracting more readers to the content, what I think important is the fact that a blog allows readers to consume bites and pieces instead of a while big chunk at once.
That’s why despite the “complete” help/support pages, Inside AdSense are still popular. Other benefits:
Of course, using a blog means it is searchable with tags, on blog and feed specific search engines, and also getting more readers through web feed/syndication.
Finally, tips are just one type of content. Mix and match, see what works. Inside AdSense features news too.
Suggestion: Also read Liz Strauss’ very relevant post, The Power of the Customer Creator.