Last week, Blogware's Chris Baggott and I participated in a webinar about business blogging. As is so often the case with these things, we received more questions from the participants than we were able to respond to. Moreover, many of the questions are ones I've frequently heard over the years when presenting on business blogging at conferences and from readers.
So herewith, the FAQs on business blogging I hear most often...along with answers that will, hopefully, help move things along at organizations that want to blog, but are stymied by confusion, doubt and uncertainty around issues both technical and content-oriented.
Q: Is it better to have a blog on a corporate domain, or to have a corporate blog on a different domain? (i.e., is it better to have www.yourbusinesshere.com/blog or to have a site like www.yourbusinesshere.blogspot.com?)
A: It's always better for your blog to live on your corporate domain, or on an domain you own -- perhaps one that's been explicitly created for the blog itself. A proprietary domain lends legitimacy to both the blog and its contents. While it's fine to use commercially-available blog platforms for blogging, all the major players in the space will allow you to host a blog on your own domain, so really this decision is a no-brainer.
Q: A How do you represent the company on a blog? Persona? Real employees? If real person how do you keep the line between corporate life and personal life defined?
A: Unless a company has a really strong spokes-mascot (Col. Sanders? Aunt Jemima?), I'd advocate real-people blogging for you. Those real people don't have to be the CEO or head of corporate communications, either, but rather passionate and articulate employees from any level of the organization. Customer service is close to the customer. Someone in R&D knows what's in the product pipeline. Not only do a wide variety of employees offer different types of knowledge and insight, these real peoples' perspectives will help to humanize a company, which in itself is a valuable reason to blog.
Q: Won't Google diminish your link value when it's your blog site on a separate URL linking to your main domain? They'll think you're link farming.
A: No they won't -- and that's not what link farming is. Links are critically important to SEO. The more relevant the link the better. If a link from a site about brooms links to a site about mops, that's relevant. If it links to a site about beekeeping, it probably isn't relevant. Business blogs are a great source of relevant links (and you can work to make them as relevant as possible). That's why blogs are so integral a part of many a SEO strategy. A link farm is something practiced by unethical SEOs; they link dozens or hundred or thousands of totally unrelated sites together for "link juice." These efforts are often thwarted and all the link farm sites banned from organic search results forever. This is hardly something a legitimate business blogger need concern themselves about.
Q: if you have multiple blogs would you suggest having one master blog as well which aggregates all posts into one spot for frequent visitors interested in multiple topics?
A: Multiple blogs is a great idea: one for suppliers, one for customers, one for customer service, one on products, for example. If you're big enough, give people a choice. I don't see any real reason to aggregate these into a huge, master blog, though. Let your readers decide which, and how many, blogs they want to read. A really easy way to do this is to create RSS feeds for each individual blog.
Q: If we are looking to launch a blog, a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and so on and so forth, how do we make sure that each channel is not repeating the same content. My concern is that our followers/fans online will find the repeated content informational clutter if they subscribe to each of our channels.
A: Whoa - slow down a minute! Sure, you may need Facebook and MySpace and Twitter and a blog and so forth, but you may not. You may be drinking too much social media Kool-Ade. If your plan is to launch all that stuff without knowing what you're going to do when you get there, you don't have goals or a strategy. All the channels you mention are tools and platforms. How will you employ them? What will you use them for? What's the value to your business? Your customers and prospects? If you can't answer these questions now, maybe you shouldn't jump in with both feet until you have a clearer idea of what to do in the pool. Start slow, take it easy, experiment and learn. Then, assess what else you might need to do in social media.
Q: Many larger companies are afraid to allow employees to blog since they can't "control" the message so well. How can we overcome this fear? How can we mitigate the perceived risk?
A: You know that adage "There is no privacy. Get over it." Same thing applies to control on the web. You can't control what people say about you online, but you can manage it, and react to it, and respond to it. The same applies to your employees, only somewhat less so. After all, these people work for you. Why not create a corporate blogging policy? These have been common at companies big and small for years, and with good reason. They help guide employees in best blogging practices and help them to become better company spokespeople. Sometimes, there are blunders and mistakes. When that's the case, take ownership of slip-ups publicly. In the end, you may look all even better for being honest and transparent.