April 7, 2014

How to use a blog to personalize your brand


Or, how to make a large entity more relatable for the public

Target audience: Marketing professionals, business bloggers, PR pros, brand managers, businesses, nonprofits, educators, Web publishers, journalists.

Post by Erin Steiner

Erin-SteinerIn the past decade, blogs have gone from personal diary sites to must-have social media tools for people of every professional stripe. They’re how big companies, celebrities and even political figures help make themselves relatable, share information and connect with their audiences and markets. Today, as you surf through the blogosphere, it often looks more like a billboard highway than authentic communication.

As a blogger myself (and one who started just before the “blog boom” of mid-2004), this makes me sad. I love blogging. I love the connections it can forge when it’s done right. I love the communities social marketing can build.

So it’s time to do a reality check about why your brand has a blog. Blogging is more about engaging with the reader than shoving marketing messages in their faces. Let’s take a look at a few examples of businesses that are getting it right.

The Whole Foods Blog

The Whole Foods Market blog.

The Whole Foods Market blog.

I love the Whole Foods Blog. Why? Because even though it’s filled with recipes and product placements, the blog is set up to feel like it is written by a single person. The style is conversational, and the posts are interesting and helpful. When I read it, I feel like someone is talking to me, not at me. That’s important.

The Google Blog

The Google Blog exists solely to keep readers updated about the goings on at Google. Far from a standard “press release a day” blog that so many other corporations blogs use, the bloggers at Google show readers the minutiae that might have gone into a decision to make something or explore something.

They also invite participation in their comments section and make a point to tell readers when their input has played a role in decision making within the company. The reader feels like his comment is read and taken to heart – something that a lot of other blogs neglect when it comes to this type of social marketing tool.

Yousef Al Otaiba

Yousef Al Otaiba, ambassador of United Arab Emirates to the United States, has been working to get a blog up and off the ground for a while. Obviously the blog is written about him by someone else, but that’s not what caught my attention when I checked it out. When you read through his entries, you can see that he’s finding his footing, and I appreciate that. It’s rare that someone in the public eye doesn’t try to pretend that they are perfect right out of the gate.

John Scazli

John Scalzi is an award-winning writer and his blog, Whatever, is a great example of a blog with a cult following. People (myself included) flock to Whatever every day to see Scalzi’s photos and to read his musings on…well, it’s named Whatever for a reason.

What you love reading on your favorite blogs is what you should be aiming for on your own company’s blog

What makes this blog great is its randomness. Instead of focusing on just one part of his image, or on social marketing at all, Scalzi – who has been blogging since long before it was cool or even called blogging – lets readers in on whatever he’s thinking about that day. His blog also has one of the more thoughtful and eloquent comments sections out there. This is thanks to Scalzi’s own rigorous moderation (he calls it his mallet of loving correction).

There are dozens of examples of corporations, public figures and celebrities getting the blogging thing right. But what you can take away from them is this:

What you love reading on your favorite blogs is what you should be aiming for on your own company’s blog. If you want people to relate to you, you have to make yourself available to them. This means that you have to let them see you find your voice. It means that you have to let them in on what you’re thinking and share your actual opinions with them. Your readers want to know what’s happening, sure, but they’re more interested in why it’s happening.

Basically, your readers don’t want The Great and Powerful Oz. They want the guy behind the curtain. Let that guy come out and show off a little bit!

Erin Steiner writes, blogs and vlogs from her home base in Portland, Oregon. Web-based communication is her favorite type of communication.
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