Blogging for Business: How to Humanize Your Business and Connect with Customers
By Daniel Kosir | July 4, 2011
The scenario is all too common: you have a question for company X, you call their "customer service" number, and you struggle to yell instructions at a pseudo-human recording for half-an-hour.
The ubiquity of the process reinforces my position that robots will one day completely colonize all interactions between businesses and their clientele. Already, so many businesses seem like impersonal monoliths: flat, boring and impenetrable.
But a remedy to this alienating distance is readily available to even the smallest business. It can help make your business more human, more engaging, and more interactive for your customers.
It's called blogging.
CanadaOne had a chance to speak with Tara Hunt, a blogger, author, social media expert, serial entrepreneur, CEO and co-founder of Buyosphere, a website devoted to giving consumers more control over their shopping history.
She gave us some tips on how to use blogging as a tool to interact, engage with and increase your customer base.
Blogging is more personal
For Hunt, blogging stands apart from other forms of media because it allows for a more engaging relationship between business and consumer.
"Blogging is unique because it gives you the chance to really make a human connection with your customers," says Hunt.
It also allows you to communicate in ways that aren't possible on most social media platforms.
"While tweets are short and sweet and good for quick blasts of thought or news, blogging allows you to go deep into a subject and really show your passion," she says. "It also allows you to add all sorts of media – video, photos, music – to make it really interesting."
Hunt also says that while she uses many different forms of media to run her business, she finds blogging gives her the flexibility to really express herself.
Blogging is a good promotional tool
Because blogging allows businesses and customers to establish more personal connections, it can also create exposure and build brand loyalty.
"The nice thing about blogging is it can give people a ‘behind the scenes' at a business," says Hunt. "You can show how knowledgeable you are in your industry."
Hunt has found that a blog can make a business more transparent and give it a personality that might not come across on other platforms.
"You can let customers see who you are as the person behind the business. I try to write more from the heart and talk about my personal growth than anything."
For Hunt, this more humanizing approach has been essential to building and maintaining an audience.
"The more human your customers see you, the more loyalty it will bring."
Bringing your blog to life
One of the advantages of blogging is its accessibility. Creating a basic blog is relatively inexpensive and doesn't require extensive technical knowledge.
There are also many different options available for those who are looking to get a blog up and running. When asked what the best path is, Hunt said that it ultimately depends on how much control you want over your own content.
"I used Wordpress.org, downloaded the software and installed it on my own server...the advantage to using Wordpress or another self-hosted software package is that you can control and own your own content easily," says Hunt.
She also notes that software packages like Wordpress have many templates available, some free and some paid, and allow for the creation of custom templates.
For those who aren't extremely sensitive about controlling content, there are a variety of options available.
"If you don't care about controlling your own content, there are some great lightweight options like Posterous and Tumblr to choose from," says Hunt.
"They are free and you can start blogging immediately without any technical knowledge. You can still do custom templates and you get hooked into their blogging networks."
However, she warns that there are some things to consider before choosing options such as Tumblr or Posterous.
"One issue that arises is if one of them go down in service (and it happens more often than you'd realize), then you can't do anything about it," Hunt says.
Another issue is exporting posts and content. Though you can export content on both Tumblr and Posterous, you will lose formatting if you do.
"I started with Tumblr and moved to Wordpress and it created a good amount of work for me in reformatting the posts and searching for images," Hunt says.
According to Hunt, the non-technical part of creating a blog, particularly content development, is more difficult than the technical.
She recommends people start with a bit of an editorial schedule to provide consistency and spark interest.
"We started with creating weekly posts like Stores We Heart, Bloggers We Heart and Products We Heart – highlighting great finds people were posting on Buyosphere," says Hunt. "Think of how you can celebrate your community as well as position yourself as knowledgeable about your industry."
Ultimately, what you want to accomplish is interesting content that is relevant to your brand and your customers.
Being dynamic and exciting
A blog that isn't exciting will not help you attract an audience, promote your business, or connect with your customers.
To keep content both engaging and dynamic, Hunt suggests the following:
- Don't just write about your business, write about the ‘why' behind your business
- Share your own experiences: this will help you connect with your customers
- Think about the content from this perspective: how can you help others connect, laugh, or learn?
Basically, don't be boring. No one wants to read a blog that feels like a press release. Blogs are often more quirky, personal and informal yet still provide the reader with some use-value.
If properly executed, a blog can be an invaluable marketing and promotional tool for your business. Considering how simple a blog can be to create, both financially and logistically, it's worth taking a whack at.
For a very good example of an engaging, personality-filled blog, visit Tara Hunt's own HorsePigCow.