There seems to be two schools of thought on blogging. One says that in the era of short-form social media, it is a waste of time and resources. The other says that if you don't blog, you are throwing away many dollars in sales or donations. As is true with most things, the answer to the question is somewhere in the middle. Before beginning a blog, ask yourself these questions.
What is your target audience?
If you are just blogging for your existing customer or donor base you are preaching to the choir. If they are already following you on social media or donating and volunteering, they may read the blog and even enjoy it, but it isn't going to tell them much they aren't going to hear or read anyway. Blogs should not only keep existing contacts connected, but generate new customers or donors. You can host your blog separately, or combine it with your website.
If your target audience is people who don't know about your product or mission yet, a blog can build customer interest or donor engagement. A 140-character tweet or a short Facebook post just doesn't have enough depth to truly engage a new reader. Business oriented blogs are both sales and educational tools. If you want the reader to support you, explaining why your mission, product or service deserves some of their dollars is easier on a blog. They have to be able to find you on the web, but after they find you they need a reason to stay connected.
What's different about a business blog?
Blogs have come a long way from an individual who is basically putting their personal diary online. Today, people use Twitter and Facebook for that. Blogs, at least business blogs ( nonprofits are businesses too!), are much more of a sales and educational tool than a blow-by-blow description of your day or week. They are a promotional tool. The purpose is to encourage the people who need a product or service to patronize your business or support your mission, without constantly interrupting their day with a constant rain of nonessential information. Your tweet or FB post is a headline, while the blog is the article.
Who should blog?
Blogging is a long-term strategy. Blogs don't normally immediately produce truckloads of money. Blog if:
1. You have the time and/or money to commit to it as part of your sales or fundraising strategy for a year or more. You can hire someone to do it, or do it yourself, but it should be done on a schedule. Think of the weekly TV program you just can't miss, rather than the occasional mini-series or special that comes on once, and then is gone. Plan on blogging no less than once a month, and maybe as often as once a week. This is relationship building, not an annual grant or loan application. Additionally, search engines tend to pick up on blogs well, probably because you are repeating the same words or themes, i.e. they are good SEO candidates, because you are repeating those same key words of phrases in a totally natural way.
2. You have something new or fresh to say or sell. Not every topic, mission or service can generate good content every week. If you have lots of programs, products, or services that you can "sell", or good stories that these things generate that you can share, then by all means go for the weekly schedule. Some highly successful bloggers even blog daily, but that is hard to do effectively. The daily posts become so short on new content and so repetitive that a tweet would work just as well. You ideally want to be the weekly can't-miss program, not a male enhancement commercial.
3. Commit to a blog if you believe in yourself, your business product or your mission. This is about generating passion and a need to buy into your concept. Whether it is a need for a product that you sell, or hungry people you want to feed, or anything in between, your blog needs to sell that feeling.
4. Commit to quality. You may be able to get away with internet shorthand on Twitter, but blogs are more akin to white papers than a tweet. If you are bored with good grammar, hire someone who will refine your raw material.
Interested in engaging more donors or customers? Give me a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would be happy to assist you in starting, maintaining or expanding your blog.
©R.L. Baisch Reprints with permission only