I’ve got to give this presentation to a company on something tomorrow. I think business blogging would be it. PowerPoint stresses me out so I’m not doing it. Let’s say this is about Business Blogging. There’s a big divide between the geek and business community. Stuff that’s obvious online makes about as much sense as mentioning the Arctic Monkeys in a boardroom. Blogging is obviously good for publishing – it’s easy-to-use, reliable and has reached a critical mass of support and technology. Blogging is also ugly, messy, random and full of spam and trolls. Business blogging requires a mind-shift from business, but also an equal technological give from blogging. Businesses need the ease of blogging, but also the security and reliability of print. This thing attempts to work this out by presenting the two words, in turn. Business. Blogging.
In my business experience, there is one client. Either the CEO or the General Manager. Everybody else flails around, but until the boss signs off on a design, it’s worthless. Pleasing that client usually means A) It doesn’t break and get me sued/fired/woken-up on-a-Sunday and B) It looks pretty in a 5 minute meeting. Businesses are different than bloggers in that identity is everything, so any Business Blog requires a sophisticated look-and-feel and lots of static pages.
This is a problem you can throw money at. The only caveat here is that any business must demand Web Standards. I know that most sites online are not up to Web Standards (including this), but as a business decision it’s a no-brainer. You wouldn’t pay for a building that doesn’t meet Engineering Code and you shouldn’t pay for a website that doesn’t meet basic standards. Another word that businesses must learn is CMS – Content Management System. In all honesty, you don’t even need to know what this stuff means. Just say it when you’re briefing the Web Designers and don’t blink. If you must know, Web Standards (like xHTML, CSS, XML) are just a standard way of writing code such that other machines and people can read it. A CMS is like iTunes for text, it just makes it easy to find and read information. If you mention those two things you’ll get a stable website that takes care of basic business needs and won’t need an expensive re-design in 6 months. One caveat, is that the CMS should follow standards to, and that the Design Firm shouldn’t be writing it from scratch. That’s like a contractor cutting trees and manufacturing cement. Just get an Open Source CMS like WordPress, Drupal, ModX or Joomla and pay someone to customize it.
That should get you a basic business-card site that tells who you are, runs smoothly, and can grow with your business. Three words – Web Standards, Content Management System, Open Source.
In Blogging there’s one big client, and that’s Google. Blogs blow up fast (and make money) through Google, so you have to understand that client. Google just wants standard data, updated frequently, and very linky. Now, if your site follows Web Standards and uses a standard Open Source CMS, then the data should be clean. The only thing is to update frequently and have lots of links. Now, a blogger does this cause they’re obsessive. More likely than not your employees aren’t obsessive about work. If you want to use blogging to push your Google visibility, then you need to manage your human resources.
Now, maybe your business only produces professional outputs (documents, presentations) once a month, or less. The first step is to upload those documents. Literally post the text, link the PDFs, put the slides on Slide Share. That, however is pretty boring and likely doesn’t happen much. Not that I said three words – standard, updated and linky. Now, a lot of people think that Google is about having lots of people link to you, but it’s more than that. Google works by sending out spiders that literally follow every link on a page, then follow every link on that page, etc. If you link to interesting stuff to eat then the spiders will keep coming back.
In practice, that means that employees can just be briefed to read your industry news for 30 minutes each morning and write a few lines linking to the interesting stuff. You just literally need people to read more, write more and link more. If your people are smart, well-read and have a bit of wit then the site will grow naturally. It’s 30 minutes a day, or less if you use a Feed Reader like Bloglines or Google Reader. Or whatever, just read more, write more, link more. That’s all successful bloggers do.
In time you’ll find that a popular industry link-blog gives you a great platform for your own work. Reading and writing are pretty basic ways to create a successful site. If you do both often it should be fine.
So, in summary, a successful website isn’t about servers or ‘Search Engine Optimization’ or code or whatever. It’s just reading, writing, and doing both frequently. That makes your site interesting to people, and it makes it interesting to Google. To do this on a professional level you just need to be conservative and demand Web Standards and an Open Source CMS – both of which are tested and true. From there it’s a matter of focusing on your core business and team and making it part of their job-description to contribute to the website. It’s really more a human-resources and management problem than anything, so you should keep the website simple and focus on that. So there we are.