In a previous post, we talked at length about how creating a blog, creating quality content, and proper blog marketing can build your brand and drive sales. The key to this strategy was building a community around your blog and your company. In this post, we will focus more on what it means to build a blog community and why it is important.
Your company’s first priority with its blog is who it is trying to attract. The end goal of the blog is to attract new accounts, yet what is the best way to do this? In my opinion, you should focus on building a community around the professionals who work in the industry and building your brand through gaining the trust and respect of these individuals.
For example lets take a company in the IT industry like many of the firms we help increase sales and improve productivity. There are three market segments which I believe this firm could target; individuals who work in the tech industry, individuals who own small software businesses or work as freelancers, and other members of the tech business community.
The tech business community offers the greatest potential, but is also the most crowded and broadest field. One look at the TechMeme Leaderboard (which analyzes popularity of blogs covering tech related business), will show dozens of well established blogs with a monthly readership in the millions. Establishing this firm’s blog as an authority in this niche should be the ultimate goal, but is no easy task.
Instead, it should start by focusing on the IT industry and software developers niches. These are smaller, but easier to penetrate. They are also targeted and part of the “tech business niche” so establishing the blog in these smaller niches, can provide the groundwork for establishing it amongst the largest technology blogs on the web.
In the IT industry, there is no established group of prominent blogs. Instead, blogs in this niche are part of larger trade publications like InformationWeek or NetworkWorld. Hence, a personalized corporate blog which is not part of larger media organization could gain traction in the niche. In addition, most of these news sources focus on news related stories. It could differentiate itself through primarily providing advice, using its clients work as examples. This not only creates valuable content, but allows this firm to subtly market its business and show what it has to offer.
As far as the niche for blogs related to software developers, the blogosphere is pretty sparse. A blog called Noop.nl publishes a list of the Top Blogs for Software Developers and in Q2 2009, published a list of the Top 200 blogs in this niche. A quick look at this report shows that the niche is dominated by a group of about 10 or so decently sized blogs, with the rest simply being “personal” blogs with not much traction. Hence, heavily targeting users in this niche could also be a great way to build a blog community.
Now, I should note that there is a lot of overlap between these groups. Readers of blogs exclusively about coding and software development will also likely be readers of blogs about the IT niche as a whole and then the tech niche as a whole. Hence, building traction in the software development community will help build traction in the IT niche community which will in turn help do the same in the tech business niche.
How to Build/Measure Community Growth/Engagement
Visitors are great; however for a blog to have any real clout or branding value, it must have a community. This means that visitors need to comment on posts, subscribe to the blog’s RSS feed, become members of the blog’s newsletter and at the most basic level, come back to the blog to read new content. Visitors who come once and leave to never come back are of very little value.
Your firm’s blog should emphasize its RSS subscription icon and e-mail newsletter subscription box in the sidebar. It should also write posts asking for reader opinions and should start discussions on its own posts. Lastly, you should make sure content on your blog is always fresh and that the blog is constantly updated. If the blog is left stale for an extended period of time, any community will immediately disappear.