Top 5 corporate blogging mistakes and how to avoid them

I write about strategies to turn fans into customers and customers into fans. I also share ways to use real-time strategies to spread ideas, influence minds, and build business.

Worst Practices  |  Buyer Persona  |  Public Relations  |  Business to Business  |  Corporate blogging

Like many of you, I regularly follow a bunch of business-related blogs and check out dozens of others each week. Most of the new ones I check out have no value (for me) so I never return. I've been thinking about why I choose to pay attention to a blog vs. just cruise by after a quick check.

I've come up with my top 5 corporate blogging mistakes. These are the mistakes that I see again and again.

1. Start a blog without first following other similar blogs (and commenting on them)

Many people start a blog for the wrong reasons. They read an article in BusinessWeek or The Wall Street Journal about the power of blogs and want to write one of their own. Or a CEO will hear about someone like Jonathan Schwartz at Sun and want to do the same. These newbies create their own blog before they have read and commented on other similar blogs. That's like trying to write a thriller without having read hundreds of thrillers to see how they are put together.

I suggest a 3-step plan to start a blog. 1) Enthusiastic blogger wannabes should follow a bunch of blogs for a month or two. 2) Then begin commenting on blogs for another month or so to "exercise your blog voice" (using someone else's blog real estate). 3) Finally, and only if you have done steps 1 and 2, you will discover what you like to blog about and you should begin your own blog.

Interestingly, the majority of people who follow my suggested 3-step process quickly learn that blogging is not for them and never start a blog. Good information to know before you actually start a blog!

2. Write excessively about their company's products and services

Many marketers steeped in the tradition of product advertising naturally feel drawn to start a blog to prattle on and on about their damn products and services. But I have news for you. Nobody cares about your products and services (except you). When I visit a product-oriented blog, I immediately leave. And judging from the lack of comments on these blogs, most everyone else leaves too.

You must resist the urge to blog about what your company offers. Instead blog about a subject of interest to the people you are trying to reach. What problems do your buyer have that you can write about? How can you create content that informs and educates and entertains?

3. Focus on one-way propaganda and don't involve other blogs and bloggers

Many corporate blogs are nothing more than an alternative channel for the PR department or product marketers to spew their "messages" and "product vision." Yuk. The telltale signs of this sort of corporate blogging mistake are the lack of links to other blogs. Any links that are there tend to point to stuff on their own site and to articles about them in the media or analysts. It's like going to a cocktail party and only talking to your spouse.

Become part of the online community by linking to other blogs and leaving comments on other blogs. Let someone else start a conversation that you add to in your blog. You'll generate much more interest in what you're doing if you are inclusive.

4. Accept all the defaults in the blogging software package

You know how when you open a new PowerPoint presentation, the software prompts you with a white background and then encourages you to "Click to add title" and "Click to add subtitle"? How boring are the presentations where the presenter actually accepts all those defaults? Well that’s exactly what many bloggers do, establishing their blog look and feel with cookie-cutter blandness. Boring, boring, boring!

You need to pimp out your blog to show your personality. One of the best ways to do this is to hire a great graphic artist to create a killer blog masthead. Once you’ve got a custom masthead, you're totally unique in the world of the web.

5. Fail to realize the importance of the "About" page.

I've found that more than half of the blogs I look at for the first time have a crappy "about" page. That's the place on a blog where you tell the world who you are, what you blog about, your company and job (if appropriate) and contact information. Yet what the majority of bloggers have is something like "I'm Suzie. I'm a Sagittarius and I love to garden." This is just plain silly. (For some reason, I've found that blogs built in Google Blogger have the worst "About" pages.)

If you care enough to blog, you should care about letting people know who you are. At a minimum, you should have your full name, information about what you blog about, and some contact information. Beyond that, you might want a photo, some details on your job, employer, and career as well as other relevant details. When people get to know you, they are more likely to engage.