Spring Inspirations 2010: Mack Collier on Business Blogging

You may remember our Spring Inspirations posts from last year when I interviewed Greg Cangialosi and David Meerman Scott for a a little pick-me-up last Spring. Well I am here again…my calendar says Spring but it is still awfully gray and gloomy outside. For this year’s Spring Inspiration series, I have some more very smart folks to cure our winter blues with some food for thought. I am going to kick off this series with the very smart and always helpful Mack Collier.

As the host of the popular #blogchat and blogger for the Viral Garden & MackCollier.com you have a lot of experience with blogging and social media. How do you see the relationship between a business’ blog and their social media strategy?

I think for many businesses, a blog is a logical ‘central hub’ for their social media strategy. Now if a company doesn’t want to or can’t blog, then that central presence could be a Facebook fan page, or Twitter presence, or even a Ning site. But I think that all the components of a social media strategy need to work together. What’s happening on Twitter should feed into the content on the blog, and vice versa. The efforts should work together as much as possible. And to extend that, what a company is doing via social media should also be in sync with its other marketing and communication efforts.

What are some of the biggest things to keep in mind when developing a blog for your business?

I think the biggest thing to remember that applies specifically to a blog is to realize that a blog is a long-term commitment. Blogging is probably the most time and labor-intensive social media channel a company can utilize, so they need to understand going in that the blog does not have an expiration date. If they can’t commit upfront to blogging from now on, then they probably shouldn’t launch the blog.

In your experience, what are some of the biggest challenges you see small businesses having to overcome to have a successful blog?

Usually with small businesses, the biggest obstacle is simply finding the time to create and maintain a successful blog. This is a big reason why you see Facebook being so popular with small businesses, because it offers some of the functionality of a blog, but is much easier to update, and takes less effort.

Speaking of successful, what do you think a company needs to measure and gauge to see if their blog is successful or not?

Ok, here is where I take a deep breath and pull out my heavy soapbox… (clunk!) Ok…

First, the company needs to establish WHY they are blogging and what their goals are. Some of the possibilities include:

  • Sell more stuff
  • Establish thought leadership
  • Increase company awareness
  • Provide customer service

Now once you’ve picked the goal for your blogging effort, then you can decide what you want to measure. Let’s say you decide you want to launch a blog to sell more stuff. Some of the things you could measure in that case would be:

  • Traffic referrals to a product page on the website from the blog
  • Including a special percent-off code on the blog, then tracking how many times that code is redeemed on the site when placing an order
  • Number of email requests or comments asking for more information about purchasing products

But even here, you need to be careful. Let’s say for example that you note that the blog is increasingly sending more traffic to a particular product page on the blog, but since you aren’t seeing any sales as a result, you might conclude that the blog isn’t doing its job. But if the product page on the website has no place to actually PLACE an order on that page, then the problem is likely with the product page, not the blog. So when determining the effectiveness of your blog, you have to take into account if any of your other marketing and communication efforts play a role as well.

Another quick example, if your goal is to increase company awareness via your blogging efforts, then you could track metrics like total number of online mentions and total number of inbound links.

But in general, this is not one ‘this is what your company should be measuring’ list to decide if your blogging efforts are successful. It all depends on what you are trying to accomplish via your blogging efforts. Then you track metrics associated with those goals.

I am just returning from SXSW and we are gearing up for a large industry conference next month. You attend lots of conferences and events speaking and participating. Do you have any advice for how people can use social media and their blog to get more out of the experience?

Oh I am jealous cause I had to miss SXSW this year! My advice is, and this might tick some people off, but forget about social media when you get to these events. Focus on connecting with the people you are AT the event with. You can always go back later and get on Twitter and trade key takeaways, but the best part of most social media conferences is the time you get to spend actually TALKING to speakers and attendees. Don’t take that time for granted. I rarely tweet sessions I attend anymore, simply because I want to pay attention to the speaker and what their message is. When I get back home, then I can blog about what I learned and share any key nuggets. But while I am there, I want to BE THERE. Social media will still be there when I get back home 😉

Since this is an inspirations post who is inspiring you lately? Who is putting out some really good work that inspires you and really makes you think?

I always love reading bloggers that talk about how companies can have passionate connections with their customers. I am a big fan of Jackie Huba and Ben McConnell at Church of the Customer. I also love the work Brains on Fire does, they are truly inspirational. And I think Kathy Sierra, who hasn’t blogged in three years, is absolutely brilliant. I still spend time going through her archives, she is such a genius, here’s an example – http://headrush.typepad.com/creating_passionate_users/2006/01/death_by_riskav.html

What exciting things do you have coming down the pipeline that we should keep an eye out for?

Well nothing I am ready to go public with, but I have a few side projects that should go live in the next 2-3 months, stay tuned 😉

I can’t thank Mack enough for taking the time to kick off this series. If you want to know more about Mack you can read all about him on his website.

Want to know more about business blogging or Mack Collier now?

Check out: #blogchat on Sunday nights at 9PM EST.
Check out: Mack’s 2 websites he blogs at frequently Viral Garden & MackCollier.com
Read: Any of our archived posts on Business Blogging

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