Successful Blogs from the study
- Authors and Bios
- Blogger Interviews
- Blogging Glossary
- Blogging Research Methodology
- Blogging Success Study
- Choosing the Right Blogger
- Company Blog
- Company Culture
- Deciding to Blog or Not
- Generating Dialogue
- Interview Questions
- Online PR
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Marketing
- Social Media Strategy
- Starting a Blog
- The Time Investment
- Top Content Strategies
- Top Habits
- Top Success Factors
- Writing Style
Top Content Strategies Archive
1.0 Executive Summary
posted: November 2, 2006 10:07 AM
The Blogging Success Study was conducted by Dr. Walter Carl; the students in his Advanced Organizational Communications class (Spring 2006) at Northeastern University and John Cass and his colleagues at Backbone Media, Inc. The objective of this research was to determine the reasons, conditions and factors that make a blog successful, and to create a list of criteria to help companies assess whether and how they should engage in blogging.
In order to identify the elements of a successful blog, the research team interviewed twenty corporate bloggers from companies of varied size and industry, and asked each blogger a series of standardized questions. (See Appendix 2.0) Only bloggers who had been blogging for over one year and considered their blogging efforts successful were eligible to participate. While the selection of participants was, therefore, somewhat subjective and limiting (without the resources to determine the most successful bloggers on the Web), the research team was able to identify common elements among the subject group and distinguish a number of factors for blogging success. These elements are discussed at length in sections two and three of this paper. Herein you will also find case studies detailing how the twenty corporate blogs achieved success. New and veteran bloggers alike will find the case studies and anecdotes enlightening, as they reveal a variety of different paths to success. Thus, we have included summaries of all twenty blogger interviews within the study’s appendix.
Interview results were transcribed and summarized in twenty separate case studies. Each was then studied and analyzed with three questions in mind:
- How does the set up of a blog contribute to a blog’s success?
- What is it about how you blog that makes the blog a success?
- What is it about the content on a blog that makes the blog a success?
After careful review, the research team identified five factors for success. The majority of the twenty participant bloggers pointed to these factors as important to the success of their blog. We focus in on these factors in Section Three.
The five factors identified by the participants were:
A company should carefully consider all of these factors before making a decision to blog:
Culture: If a company has particular cultural traits worth revealing, or conversely, a bad reputation they want to repudiate, blogging could be an attractive option. A great example of the latter is Microsoft. Microsoft had a distinct problem—distrust on the part of many customers. The company was seen as being very big and unresponsive to customers. Microsoft used blogs to reveal that individual employees do care about customers, and they are willing to provide a lot of value by way of product and developer information. Blogging at Microsoft has worked well because Microsoft and Microsoft bloggers were able to show the public what Microsoft's culture was really like behind the big company image.
Transparency: Transparency is crucial to establishing credibility and trust with an audience. While you do not have to be completely open—it is okay to set boundaries—people want to see an honest picture of a company, and know there are not ulterior motives behind the posts bloggers write. Blog audiences respect a willingness to disclose all points of view on a subject. Thoughtful consideration of all viewpoints demonstrates an expertise, and it shows a willingness to engage in a dialogue rather than just pressing an agenda. Successful corporate blogs are those that establish their credibility well. The level of transparency depends on the industry and audience, but citing other sources of knowledge and perspectives will always bring more credibility to a blog.
Time: It takes a lot of time to set up, research and write a quality blog and engage the blogging community effectively. A company that wants a successful blog needs to identify a person who has the time or free up that person’s time, or needs to leverage its resources so the responsibility is shared among a group of bloggers.
Dialogue: A company’s ability and willingness to engage in a greater dialogue with the blogging community is an important determinant in the success of their blog. The Stonyfield Farm blog is a perfect example of a corporate blog used to engage an audience through discussing topics not just related to their products but also, related to organic farming, healthy lifestyle and other germane subject matter. Despite the fact that these topics are not directly related to the yogurt they sell, Stonyfield demonstrates an expertise in areas of importance to their customer base.
Entertaining Writing Style and Personalization: The writing style and how much a blogger is prepared to reveal about their life, experience and opinions in a blog post bring a human side to a blog. This helps a company build personal connections with their audience. Entertaining content, especially content that contains humor, will also bridge the gap between writer and reader. Personal connections and entertaining content help turn casual readers into return customers.
We believe that the study has identified many factors that will make a blog a success. We provide a more in-depth analysis of these and other factors in sections two and three of this paper. The reader can use this list of factors to determine the readiness of their own company to start blogging and as a roadmap to plan a strategy that will bring them the most success in current and future blogging endeavors.
2.3 What Is It About The Content On A Blog That Makes A Blog Successful?
posted: November 2, 2006 2:09 AM
Content is very important to the success of a blog. We asked the bloggers what it was about the content on a blog that contributed to the success of a corporate blog. Two very important factors that the bloggers mentioned the most were writing transparently and writing content that is entertaining and/or personal. This issue is discussed in greater detain in Section Three.
Compelling Content Comes from Unique Experiences
Content that is unique and gives readers a view of the world they would not gain from anywhere else is an important factor in the success of many blogs.
Tim Jackson, writing for the Masi Bikes blog, writes about the Tour de France. The irony of the success of his posts about the Tour de France is that he writes about what is happening on the Tour from his office in San Diego. Tim reads news reports about the race and gives his updates and opinions about what’s happening. Readers in the bicycle world appreciate Tim’s insight highly, even if Tim Jackson is not even attending the major cycling event.
The Stonyfield Farm blog was the most successful blog run by Stonyfield Farm. Jonathan the farmer, Stonyfield’s organic farming blogger, writes about whatever is happening in his life, the calving season or maple sugar season. The success of the Stonyfield Farm organic farming blog is because it is all about a farmer’s unique experiences in farming an organic farm. What must seem mundane to the farmer is refreshing, compelling and entertaining content to most readers.
The content on the Masi biking blog and the Stonyfield Farm organic farming blog really defines and reinforces the stature of each company brand. Masi is associated with the most famous cycle race in the world, and from reading the organic farming blog it is pretty clear that Stonyfield makes its yogurt with organic milk because you can read all about how the milk is produced on the farmer’s organic farming blog.
Industry Content Provides Great Relevancy for Audiences
Content that is industry related on a blog can be the content that brings success to a blog. Several bloggers interviewed described how their blogs’ themes changed over time to relate even more to their industry. Content can be very compelling to an audience when a blog author writes about their industry in general as opposed to just their own product line.
Eric Anderson of Adobe writes unique industry content for his audience, who are developers interested in reading about Adobe’s technology. Deborah Franke and Jim Cahill of Emerson Process Management and Dr. Ron Lasky of Indium Corporation focus most of their blog content on their industries (process automation technology and electronic assembly materials, respectively), and in the process hope to demonstrate the skills and expertise of their bloggers through the good coverage of their industry, thereby associating their company’s brands with a blogger who is a thought leader in their communities. In contrast Zane Safrit of Conference Calls Unlimited makes sure he specifically does not write about his company’s industry, rather Zane writes about his customer’s marketplace, the small business environment.
Eric Anderson from Adobe said that publishing content that people need is very important to building a successful blog. Eric said the posts that generate the most traffic are those posts that discuss Adobe's competitors and content about a product’s future direction. Eric said that his style of blog writing has progressed over time. He used to write about new releases etc., all content he had not written, and he got tired of referencing this type of material. Now Eric writes about technical information not covered anywhere else.
Rick Short from Indium Corporation explained the biggest reason their blogs are successful is because of the stature of Dr. Ron Lasky in the industry. He also said that controversial subjects garnered more interest on the blog, but that is not what the Indium blogs aim for in terms of content. As time has progressed, Dr. Lasky has grown in his blog writing; he is now more comfortable writing in this medium. His posts are longer and more detailed. Rick thought he was more comfortable because Dr. Lasky had a better idea of what people wanted to read on his blog. Rick said, "You need to know what people want to hear. You know, you need to know what interests people."
David Paull at MSInteractive described how he started a blog at his company and quickly realized that to be authentic he had to write about more than just his company's products and services. David writes about his clients’ markets and industry, he ensures that the blog provides useful information for his customers. David stated that it took a few iterations before he found the right voice for his blog.
Max Goldman of SuccessFactors stated that he stays on topic about the human resources industry in his blog. He does not post a lot of articles about personal issues because his audience would not be interested.
Deborah Franke and Jim Cahill of Emerson Process Management keep their blog focused on making it as easy as possible for customers in the process-manufacturing world to talk to experts at Emerson Process Management. Deb said, "The best way to get visibility to your expertise message, we believe, is to blog." Both Deb and Jim said that the posts that have generated the most interest are those where there is already some discussion and interest on the web. The Emerson Process blog has added something to the discussion through the bloggers perspective on an issue.
Sometimes The Most Random Content Generates The Most Interest
A common theme discussed by the bloggers was that it is not always predictable which blog posts will attract the most attention. Oftentimes, they are not the posts one would expect, and sometimes not even related to the industry or company at all. Many bloggers described how it was often personal posts unrelated to the main topic of the blog that generated a lot of comments and traffic. A post that is about unrelated subject matter demonstrates the connections between an audience member and a blogger, and so builds a closer connection between blogger and their readership, precisely because the post is less about business and more about living life.
The content that generates the most comments can be very random on Janet Johnson’s blog at Marqui, and she has been surprised that her personal posts have generated some of the most surprising comments.
Put Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Marketing at the Center of Your Blogging Content Strategy
A blog can be a great way to develop a lot of content, but also a way to help a company achieve top rankings on search engine keywords their audience uses to find a company on the web. Many companies hope to gain a lot of traffic from search engines and aim to achieve higher search engine rankings in order to get more traffic. In addition, customers sometimes perceive a top ranking on a search engine to indicate that a company is a stronger brand than their competitors. Thus, to the extent that high search engine rankings help with brand perception it could be stated that blogs help with brand perception.
Both the quantity of Web content and the proper use of keywords used for search are important factors in achieving a high-ranking search engines. Donna makes SEO strategy really pay off for her blog. She is diligent about writing content that targets the keywords her audience finds relevant. The payoff is top rankings on search engines for the keywords she targets. Donna stated that her blog has achieved a number two ranking on the keyword "gourmet dinners" in Yahoo! The Gourmet Station blog has played a big part in helping Donna’s company to achieve those high rankings.
The topic that generates the most conversation and interaction from readers on the Gourmet Station blog is romance. Donna said the reason for traffic success with romance-related keywords is the high search engine volumes for romance, and that romance is so closely associated with dinner in terms of romantic dinners.
Seasonality can also be a factor in search engine marketing. Searches on particular keywords rise and fall with the season depending on the industry and products. As seasons change, Donna changes the content on her blog to target the interests of her audience by targeting different related keywords. Timely publishing can also have an effect on the rankings of a web page related to a keyword. Donna makes sure each of the 14 categories on the Gourmet Station blog has a fresh recent post in each of the categories, so that she can generate a volume of content around a set of keywords.