“Time is the only thing you need to invest in when starting a company blog”

At Twingly, almost everything we do has somehow to do with blogs. And while our products and services mainly focus personal blogs, there is the ongoing question for companies whether they should launch their own corporate blog.

We wanted to know: Who should have a corporate blog, and how should the content look like? To get the answers, we asked Anna Loverus from the Gothenburg-based agency Matter a couple of questions. As Content Strategist and Creative, she works with these kind of topics on a daily basis and as seen both the good and the bad of corporate blogging. She offers some great insights which might be inspiring for our very own Twingly blog as well.

It’s 2013 and there are many different ways for companies to reach out via social media. What part can a company blog play in that communication mix?
I often feel that a lot of communication in social media takes place because it’s possible, not necessary or valuable. Just because we have the opportunity to talk doesn’t mean we have to say something. I believe that most companies who are blogging today shouldn’t have a blog considering what they publish. Because of the Internet we now have access to pretty much everything we want, any time. This means that your customers, users or fans have the whole Internet to choose from when they consume content.

Communication today is not about your brand; it’s about your readers. You have to find something that is of true value for the people you want to reach, and if you do, you will build a long-term relationship. Find out what your readers really care about and think of content they would find valuable. Sometimes this can be quite far from your field, but it’s still valuable for the people you want to reach with your communication.

The blog format has amazing qualities. Compared to other communication tools a blog can handle many types of content like photo, video, sound and illustrations. It’s easy to create interaction and you don’t need any advanced applications to get started. If you keep in mind that no one will care about your company as long as you’re only a company, you can create real relationships with the blog as a powerful tool.

Anna Loverus
Anna Loverus

What distinguishes a good from a bad company blog? 
If you’re not able to publish regularly, don’t start a blog. How many times a month you must publish content depends on the type of zontent but two times a month is an absolute minimum. Visiting a blog where the latest post was written three months ago won’t make anyone want to come back. Like I said, readers choose their consumption of media on the Internet today. It’s not too likely that posts about your new collaboration or employee will become a traffic magnet. A really good company blog isn’t about or for the company. The good company blogs know their audience; they publish relevant content for the audience at a regular speed that suits their readers.

What’s the best and most cost-efficient way to get started, if a company decides to try it?
Finding out what is valuable for your audience takes time. Producing valuable content takes time. But time is pretty much the only thing you need to invest in when starting a blog. Start with asking your organization if they have any experience of blogging or writing, photography, video making or any other content production. There are many free and easy tools for anyone who wants to start a blog. WordPress is a blogging platform that can be either self-hosted or hosted by WordPress.com, Blogger is another free tool and Tumblr and Squarespace are other alternatives. Make sure to choose a tool that is easy to work with even if you’re just testing.

Start with asking yourself why your company wants a blog? Is it because you always get the same questions to your support? Because you want to find new customers? Is it because you need to get your team to work more together? When you have an answer, focus on that particular cause. You should get yourself a publishing plan and some simple blog formats. Blogging isn’t just about what’s in your head when you feel like writing, especially not when it’s a company blog used as a communication tool.

One large difference between communications in social media compared to traditional media is that we often lack a plan or format. Just because you can publish directly into social media when you have an idea doesn’t mean you should. Make a list with subjects you think people actually want to know about from your company. It could be everything from common support questions to how your web shop products look on real people. Use this list and create some simple formats with guidelines that make it easy for all writers to contribute easily. Instead of giving one person at your company the responsibility to write the blog, give them the responsibility to be the editor of the blog. Engage people from different parts of your organization when you’re collecting and creating content for your blog.

What are the risks of having a company blog and how to handle them?
I would say there are several risks with blogging. There’s always a risk to get negative comments or people not liking what you do, but as long as you meet them with respect, it’s not too much to worry about. But one thing that many companies are afraid of is the lack of control over a blog, just like with all social media, since you can publish directly and without thought. I think this is why it’s important to create some formats and a publishing plan instead of just telling someone to post whatever they want.
Another risk with blogging is that you start to measure success in numbers of readers. Your company blog shouldn’t focus on lots of readers; try instead to focus on the value for your audience. Try to measure the value in other KPIs than readers only.

Do you have some examples of really outstanding company blogs?
I have two company blogs that I believe do a great job in targeting their audiences. Mutewatch is a small start-up company that has created a nice balance between valuable content and business focus in their blog. The blog, called Timetank, focuses on time management and behavioural psychology.

IKEA has a very successful blog called Livet Hemma (life at home) where they post high quality interior photos with IKEA products. The goal is to inspire people to decorate with IKEA products. The design blog community is Livet Hemma’s target audience. IKEA creates great content for the bloggers to share. Take a look at livethemma.ikea.se.

Blogging is more popular than ever before

Even though millions of people publish in blogs, and despite the fact that blogs actually have a bigger influence on purchase decisions than Facebook, it’s an ongoing meme that people supposedly have moved on from blogging to other social media channels. While it is true that there is more fragmentation in the social media sphere and that the occasional Twitter or Facebook post from today might have ended up as a very short blog post a few years ago, blogging itself could not be more far away from outdated or irrelevant. And we have numbers to prove that:

Blog posts in Swedish per year

Being based in Sweden, a country of early adopters where blogging took of many years ago, we wanted to know whether blogging has peaked here or not. So we used our blog data to find out. The clear answer: It hasn’t! With almost 17 million posts published on blogs in Swedish in 2012, blogging activity has been tremendously bigger than in the year before, when less than 14 million posts appeared on Swedish blogs. The highest number of blog posts per month was published in October, with about 1,8 million.

Blog posts in Swedish per month

Analysing the number of bloggers we found that almost 400.000 people wrote at least one blog post in Swedish in 2012. Among them, 172.178 were active bloggers, meaning that they wrote at least one blog post per quarter.

Number of active bloggers in Sweden

We also had a look at how 2013 started compared to 2012, and even there we witnessed an increase in blogging activity: The number of blog posts published in the beginning of 2013 was almost 26 percent higher than in early 2012, and we saw more active bloggers during the first month of 2013 than in the same period of last year.

All in all, at least when focusing on Sweden, blogging as a phenomenon might not create the same headlines anymore as some years ago, but the actual activity is still on the rise. Blogging can be seen as the foundation of social media, with all the other communication channels and tools based around it. That was the case back in 2009, and that’s even more the case today.

If you understand Swedish, here are some more thoughts about the state of blogging in Sweden.

Let’s blog!