Hi, everyone – I’m Bill Sheridan with the Maryland Association of CPAs and the Business Learning Institute.I’m here today to give you a really brief crash-course on blogs.In the interest of full disclosure, I love blogs. I co-write the MACPA’s blog, CPA Success, and nothing has been as important to my career and as personally satisfying as blogging. It has really changed the way in which I do my job, and I think it has changed the way in which the MACPA connects to its members in a really positive way.People’s views on blogs have evolved over the years. Early on, I think a lot of folks looked at blogs as these narcissistic outlets for people with inflated senses of self worth. Today, blogs have really gone mainstream and are considered entertaining and important sources of content and information. Bloggers themselves are now often afforded the same rights and privileges as mainstream journalists.And businesses are using blogs to great affect as a ways of informing and connecting with their audiences.We’re going to start at the beginning. Let’s take a look at our agenda..
We’re going to start by defining our terms – what is a blog? We’ll give a brief introduction to blogs and what they do.Next, we’ll look at some of the reasons by you should consider blogging – what’s in it for you? What are some of the benefits of blogging? And there are a lot of them.Next, I’m going to take a quick look at some examples of great business blogs. Who’s doing it right, and what are they trying to accomplish?Then it’s on to the nuts and bolts of getting started: What are the first steps you need to take to get started down the blogging path?I’ll take a look at some valuable resources that will help you as you get started.And then we’ll sum everything up as neatly as we can.
But let’s get started with a really easy-to-understand, simple explanation of blogs and blogging.
And if you don’t believe, listen to what Seth Godin and Tom Peters have to say.
Want to try your hand at a little crowdsourcing? Getting ideas from your customers for how you can better serve them?Take a look at My Starbucks Idea. Starbucks customers can submit ideas for new coffee and drinks, new beverages and teas, new food, new merchandise, new music, new technology – you name it. And Starbucks actually puts some of the best ideas into action.This is a great example of using a blog to make your customers feel like they have ownership in your company.
Looking to improve your customer service? Dell is the poster child for better customer service through blogging.In 2004, Dell faced a huge Internet backlash when it tried to force a former employee to remove a blog post that exposed some of the inner workings of Dell pricing models. In response, the company not only backed down, it reversed course and embraced the social web as a way of addressing customer issues.It’s blog, Direct2Dell, is the result. It gives customers a voice and lets the company address complaints in a very public way. It’s corporate transparency at its best. Best of all, it turned raving complainers into loyal fans.It’s amazing what can happen when you actually listen to your customers, isn’t it?
Do you have a CEO who is dying to start blogging?That’s fantastic! Encourage it! Some of the most successful corporate blogs are ones that are actually written by CEOs. It gives a very real human voice to what could otherwise be construed as yet another corporate megaphone. The more personal you can make your blog, the better – and who better to make it completely personal than your CEO?Marriott is a great example.Schaefer:Bill Marriott is one of the most famous corporate bloggers in the world. Yes, the company chairman actually does his own posts, dictating them on a weekly basis. This personal involvement has won the site loyal fans since they know they are getting the word from a real executive — a powerful point of differentiation. The company has reported generating millions in direct sales from this blog and has also used this as a platform to set the record straight in the event of a bombing or hostage situation involving one of their properties.
Goal: Thought leadershipSchaefer: Here’s how blogger Mark Toth describes the mission of the blog: “When we asked visitors to the Manpower US website what information they wanted most, the answer was employment law. This bLAWg is an attempt to meet that demand and engaging and educational content.” You mean they actually listened to customers and created a blog around their information needs? Seems like such a simple idea but unfortunately ignored by most companies.
This is according to the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts:One hundred-fifteen (23%) of the Fortune 500 companies have a public-facing blog. This is up from 16% in 2008.Blogging varied by industry type. As might be expected, companies in the computer industry like H-P, Dell and Oracle have the most blogs (11).The larger the Fortune 500 company, the more likely to blog. About 35% of the top 100 companies blog.The Fortune 500 companies are blogging at a lower rate (23%) than the fast-growing Inc. 500 companies (37%).
And CPAs are right there in the thick of things, too. There are hundreds of really good accounting-related blogs out there.
The first steps involve making some important decisions:What are your goals? What do you want to accomplish? Do you want to address customer service issues? Do you want to inform? Be very clear about what you want your blog to do.Be clear on the type of content you’ll give your readers. Choose something you know about and are passionate about and are excited about – and stick to that. Don’t vear off into a million different directions. It will only confuse your reader.Who will be your bloggers? Make sure it’s someone who wants to do it? If you try to bolt this task onto someone else’s job description, you are doomed to fail. It won’t get done.Are you committed to making it work? Because there’s a lot of work involved. Some experts claim that it takes up to three years of consistent blogging to gain the attention of your audience. Are you willing to put that kind of time in? Because that means making blogging part of your life.If the answer is no, don’t bother. The Internet is littered with the corpses of deserted, outdated blogs – and they will do your brand more harm than good.
It’s all a matter of personal preference, really.
These things aren’t easy even for the most gifted bloggers. The answer is practice, repetition, just doing it, making it part of your DNA. Some tips from successful bloggers:-- Update your blog frequently and consistently. More people will read it, more search engines will find it, and if they like what they see, people will keep coming back looking for more.-- Become a blogger. By that, I mean make blogging part of your day. Constantly scan and think about how you can turn everyday experiences into a good blog post. And write all the time – the more you write, the better a writer you become.-- Be human. Write conversationally. Write the way you talk. Avoid corporate-speak. Nobody wants to come to your blog to read a press release. They want to think, to be entertained, to be informed, and to hear what YOU think. Don’t be afraid to give your opinion. That’s how you become a thought leader.-- Be clear. Don’t confuse your readers. When they come to your blog, they should know instantly what they’re getting – who you are, who your company is, what you’re writing about. Use a clean, uncluttered design. Don’t clutter up the blog with a lot of bells and whistles. Keep it simple.-- Edit. Good grammar and spelling won’t win you legions of new fans, but bad grammar and typos will drive readers away FAST. Use spell check and have someone else read what you’ve written before you post it.-- Promote everywhere. Share your posts on Facebook and Twitter. Put your blog URL on business cards. Link to it on your home page. Leave comments on other related blogs. Put links to your blog posts in your e-newsletters. Remember, no one knows you have a blog until you tell them about it.
Advice for beginners:That first couple– Blogging Tips for Beginners, from ProBlogger, and How To Start A Blog, from WikiHow – are great. They include links to resources about designing your blogging, finding ideas to write about, choosing a domain name and a blogging platform. Just a ton of great stuff there.
1. Blogging 101: First steps to stardom Bill Sheridan, CAE Business Learning Institute
2. Today’s agenda Introduction to blogs Why should you blog? Benefits of blogging Examples of great business blogs First steps Resources for beginners The bottom line Bill Sheridan, CAEThe Business Learning Institute
3. Video: “Blogs in Plain English,” from CommonCraft.com: bit.ly/ft5NMJ Bill Sheridan, CAE The Business Learning Institute
4. What’s a blog? A Web site of news and commentary that allows readers to comment on what they are reading. Bill Sheridan, CAE The Business Learning Institute
5. Why blog? Establish yourcompany as a thoughtleader Reinvent yourmarketing strategy Build communitiesand improve customerrelations Control Expand your brand Bill Sheridan, CAE The Business Learning Institute
6. Companies that blog have …• 55 percent more visitors to their official Web sites.• 97 percent more links to their Web sites.• 434 percent more indexed pages. Source: HubSpot Bill Sheridan, CAE The Business Learning Institute
7. Video: “Seth Godin and Tom Peters on Blogging,” from Innerpreneur: bit.ly/fK1gUv Bill Sheridan, CAE The Business Learning Institute
8. Seth Godin’s BlogSethGodin.Typepad.com Source: HubSpot Bill Sheridan, CAE The Business Learning Institute
9. Southwest Airlines BlogSouthwest.comSource: HubSpot Bill Sheridan, CAE The Business Learning Institute
10. StarbucksMyStarbucksIdea.force.com Bill Sheridan, CAE The Business Learning Institute
11. DellDirect2Dell.com Bill Sheridan, CAE The Business Learning Institute
12. Marriottwww.blogs.marriott.com Bill Sheridan, CAE The Business Learning Institute
13. Manpower: www.manpowerblogs.com
14. Blogging: First steps1. Decide:• What are your goals?• What will you write about?• Who are your bloggers?• Are you committed? Bill Sheridan, CAE The Business Learning Institute
15. Blogging: First steps2. Decide:What platform should you use? • Typepad • Wordpress • Blogger • Tumblr • Create a unique URL. Bill Sheridan, CAE The Business Learning Institute
16. Blogging: First steps3. Understand:Blogging takes time and hard work. • Update frequently, consistently. • Become a blogger. • Be human. • Be clear. • Edit. • Promote everywhere. Bill Sheridan, CAE The Business Learning Institute
17. Advice for beginners• “Blogging tips for beginners,” from ProBlogger: cpa.tc/beginners• “How to start a blog,” from WikiHow: WikiHow.com/Start-a-Blog• “Top 10 blogging tips for beginners,” from BlogHer: cpa.tc/top10tips• “9 tips to start blogging successfully,” from ProBlogger: cpa.tc/9tips• “The Corporate Blogging Book,” by Debbie Weil: www.debbieweil.com/book• “Social Media Strategies for Professionals,” by Michelle Golden: amzn.to/e1N6VJBlogging platforms• Typepad: TypePad.com• WordPress: WordPress.org• Blogger: Blogger.com• Tumblr: Tumblr.comBlog readers• Google Reader: Google.com/Reader• Bloglines: BlogLines.com• FeedReader: FeedReader.com Bill Sheridan, CAE The Business Learning Institute
18. Keys to blogging successContent … … and commitment Bill Sheridan, CAE The Business Learning Institute
19. Download these slides: Slideshare.net/BillSheridanFollow me: MACPA’s blog: CPASuccess.com Facebook.com/BillSheridan LinkedIn.com/in/BillDSheridan Twitter.com/BillSheridan Gplus.to/BillSheridan YouTube.com/BillSheridan SlideShare.net/BillSheridan Flickr.com/photos/Sheridan Bill Sheridan, CAE The Business Learning Institute