A blog is an ongoing series of editorial posts made by an individual or company on a dedicated platform (such as a website or blog program), usually covering a specific subject area.

The term “blog” is short for “web log.” Blogs originally began as tools for individuals to express themselves about a topic (music, politics, art), allowing them to give their opinions or provide information to the public. Many bloggers today continue to maintain non-commercial blogs as a creative outlet. Some bloggers use their posts to promote their books or part-time business services.

In the realm of branded content, blogs are used to position a company as an expert in its field.

Blogs can either attract potential customers and inform them of a company’s benefits, or provide a company’s existing customers with a valuable reason to come back to the business’s website. Blogs can provide information that’s specific to a company’s product or service, or offer more general information to support a company’s branding efforts.

Product-Specific Blogging

Some blogs focus on discussing a company’s product or service and how to use it. For example, a fitness center might use a blog to post articles for its customers that help clients use the gym more effectively. The blog content might focus on fitness, with articles on how to warm up before exercise, what to eat before and after going to the gym, what clothes to wear when exercising, how to do circuit-training workouts, and how to properly use dumbbells.

Customer-General Blogging

Some blogs provide a business’s target audience with more general content that makes these customers and potential customers associate the company with a certain feeling or level of expertise. A fitness center that wants to tell clients that the business is an important, connected part of the reader’s healthy lifestyle goals might use its blog in a broader brand-management strategy. This blog would contain articles about reducing stress, healthier dining-out choices, the best vacation resorts with fitness centers, grocery shopping tips, reviews of new nutritional products, the best running shoes, or the health benefits of fish oil.

Offer Premium Content

Most blogs are free to the public and you probably won’t be able to sell subscriptions to yours. For many businesses, generating direct revenue from a blog isn’t as valuable as getting a brand message in front of large numbers of customers and potential customers on a repeat basis.

One way to create added-value for existing customers, or to encourage potential customers who are reading your blog to become customers, is to offer extra content that’s password protected. You will need to create a second blog, or a second library of articles on your site, but you will now be offering content with a higher perceived value.

Blogs Can Damage Brands

A blog can hurt your business more than help you if you don’t use it correctly.

  • Blog posts appear regularly or semi-regularly, but should appear on a schedule (e.g., weekly, monthly or every Tuesday and Thursday). Updating your blog infrequently and on no particular schedule can damage your brand by making your business look disorganized.
  • If you abandon your blog, you’ll look as if you didn’t have the professional expertise to cover the subject, or the business expertise to manage your marketing. If you can’t maintain your blog, take it down and post the articles in a static library somewhere on your site.
  • If you use a blogging tool that lets the public leave comments, you might attract spammers or receive negative comments that can damage your business. These negative posts can remain unseen for months or years and show up in Google searches about your business.

Tips for Effective Blogging

  • Don’t start a blog without a one-year strategy. Decide how often you will post content and stick to your schedule. Daily might be too often, monthly might not be often enough.
  • Ask your customers what type of content they want. Their input will tell you what type of content you’ll need to post and the brand strategy you’ll need for your blog (e.g., product-specific or customer-general).
  • Create an editorial calendar to determine if you can generate enough content to maintain a blog. This will also help you decide how often you will post. Prime the pump with five or six posts to get you started.
  • Hire a content professional to at least edit your posts. Even if you can use a spelling and grammar checker to eliminate any errors or typos, your posts still might be written with poor structure and flow, weak or non-existent leads, vanilla headlines and a wandering tone that doesn’t get to the point (the information).
  • Work ahead. If you’ll update your blog every Friday, don’t wait until Thursday night to start or receive your content. Try to stay two or three posts ahead so you have content on hand if things get busy.
  • Create interesting headlines or post titles. Think about the newsfeed list you see on the right-hand side of your Facebook page when you login. Do you click on the articles with uninteresting headlines? Do you find yourself clicking on links to stories about subjects you normally don’t follow? Headlines are playing an increasingly important role in brand content strategies.
  • Keep your introduction, or lead, informational and provocative, if possible. Many people decide whether they will continue reading or leave your page based on your opening. Immediately tell readers in one or two short sentences, “If you read this post, you will get this benefit.”
  • Keep paragraphs short. Many people will be reading our blog posts on a smartphone or tablet and will leave if they see a wall of copy. Try to keep your grafs to two or three sentences. If a copy block is longer than five lines on your screen, think about breaking it up.
  • Stay consistent with your graphics. Don’t use different typefaces, colored fonts or use italics for long blocks of copy. You’ll look like a high school kid trying to create a website for the first time. Avoid flashing or blinking text or graphics, which will distract and irritate people trying to focus on what they are reading.
  • Add graphics, including photos of your store, products or people. Break up your copy with paragraph headings and bullet points.
  • Socialize your content. Use a program that puts Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and other buttons on each page so your readers can help your content go viral. Your Webmaster can help you do this. Post the opening graf of a blog post on your Facebook page and/or tweet it, directing your visitors to get the rest of the information at your blog.
  • Get your staff involved. Even if they can’t write well, your staff can be an excellent source of material (ghost-written by a freelancer you hire) and showcase the quality of your employees and business.
  • Review your posts monthly. Take down old or obsolete content, look for bad links in your posts and take steps to keep your blog professional and up to date.
  • Link to your website. If you maintain a blog that is not part of your website, such as using as using a separate WordPress site, create links to specific pages on your business website to drive traffic to it and get customers and potential customers to see information you want them to see.
  • Ask yourself before you write any post, “How will this post support my brand strategy?” Try to be specific, asking yourself why this blog post will make it more likely that your customers or potential customers will buy from you, or continue to buy from you. Blog posts don’t need to create immediate retails sales, but they should turn readers into eventual buyers.