Monday, August 01, 2005

Why it makes good sense for companies to have good blogs.

I try not to use our blog for blatant self-promotion since, of course, I generally favor thinly veiled self-promotion. But following my post about the flaws of the typical agency business model, I want to feature one our less than typical services.

We develop and maintain company blogs and blog/podcasts. Sometimes it's part of web site development, but it certainly doesn't have to be that way. A blog can be easily — and inexpensively — linked to any existing web site.

Blog content is the kind of work that suits us. We know how to develop templates that match the needs of the audience, we know how to manage dialogue with consumers and, perhaps most importantly, we know how to create the kind of content that will bring a specific audience back again and again. We charge monthly fees based on the number of blog entries (we believe two blog entries per week are best, but some companies could benefit from daily entries) and the complexity of the topic. Right now, we're about to launch a podcast for one of our clients that is designed to drive traffic to an online store. I believe the investment versus the return will be extraordinary.

Why do blogs make sense as a way for companies to reach consumers? Well, consider your own interaction throughout a day. Do you enjoy talking to salespeople when they're making a pitch? Or individuals when they're discussing something that interests you? Blogs reach out to a specific group of readers or listeners and forge connections. They make a brand more human than even a great thirty second spot ever will. They're a vehicle for dialogue instead of a delivery system for an ad message.

As an agency, we now run two blogs and one blog/podcast of our own. We've invested in them so we'll understand how to make the medium most effective for our clients. We use our Urchin application to measure audience growth and to find out how changes affect behavior.

Our own blog — the one you're reading right now — averages about 2,000 readers each week and continues to grow. It's never been promoted by any means other than word-of-mouth, whether it's been in person or via the web.

Our blog at Local 59, started just a few weeks ago, is demonstrating how blogs make sites sticky. The numbers indicate that visitors to the Local 59 site spend between 9-10 minutes on our blog. Since there are only two entries right now, it means that people are either very interested or very slow readers. We'll go with the former.

The Curling Show, our first podcast, demonstrates the value of this medium. We've relied solely on web forums and viral email efforts to promote the site. After just three interviews, we're averaging nearly 1,200 unique listeners each week — and this during the sport's off-season. If I was a network TV or a radio guy in a sharp suit and tie, I would quadruple that number and claim that nobody listened to the show alone.

Interesting? We think so. When one considers the cost of entry against the return, blogs and podcasts are investments more companies should be considering. No, they won't deliver the sheer volume of mainstream media and they're not a replacement for larger brands. But if an interview show focused on the sport of curling has over 1,200 weekly listeners after a month and a half, there is surely opportunity for all kinds of companies with interesting products to sell.

Done well, blogs and podcasts create incredibly dedicated fans. Whether it's for a multinational or a smaller regional brand, these enthusiasts deliver the word-of-mouth that advertisers truly crave. A few years from now, I believe the companies that commit now to communicating through blogs will have audiences that others will envy.


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