If you are starting out marketing yourself or your company on the social media or Web 2.0 trail you have probably considered Twitter and starting a Facebook fan page. However, if you want to seriously engage with your target audience/market the one vital weapon in your armoury is blogging.

A blog is a journal or company newsletter that you publish on the net and pass on your or your company’s news, views, etc. In common with all Web 2.0 or social media tools you must not abuse them and the key words in publishing a blog are honesty and integrity. Blow out on these two aspects and you are dead in the water. You may as well pack up and look for a new job.

Once you have got these concepts firmly engrained in the corporate or personal psyche you can move into the early stages of blogging. You really must want to engage with your customers, existing and potential, not just because you’ve been told to by some site on the net. So if you allocate this task to someone in your organisation make sure they really have the drive, almost a missionary passion to get out there and mix it up.

You need to establish who you want to engage with. Your existing and potential customers are two totally different markets needing different messages. You have to write for both sets and not alienate the other. Use a happy client as a case study to sell to someone who is thinking of coming on board. Use a conversation with a potential client as a Q&A that other possible punters can latch on to. Support existing customers with news that will confirm their faith in choosing you to provide those products or services.

Set clear objectives and frameworks, there is nothing worse than unfocused waffle that doesn’t go anywhere. It is a waste of everyone’s time.

Charlene Li and John Berkoff in that excellent source book Groundswell propose 10 suggestions on how you should start the dialogue:

  • Listen: Listen to what is being said about you and your marketplace
  • Determine a goal for the blog
  • Estimate the ROI: Make sure it doesn’t become a loss maker
  • Develop a plan: Will one person blog or is it a team effort
  • Rehearse: Write test blogs before letting them out into the wild
  • Develop an editorial process: who reviews blogs before they go live
  • Design the blog: make sure it links seamlessly into your main site
  • Develop a marketing plan: how are people going to find it
  • Blogging is more than writing: remember the feedback from comments
  • Be honest: as I said before, honesty and integrity are essential