We have an extraordinary opportunity today! Thanks to Christina Pappas, a blogger with Zmags.com, we’re going to dissect her blog as a case study!  Christina came to me with this familiar question:

I joined my company in September of 2010 and one of my “missions” was to start and maintain a consistent blogging schedule.  I am posting regularly (at least 1x per day) and am sticking to themes that my audience would relate to.  But I cannot reach two goals: getting subscribers and getting comments.  We have 2,500 customers and only 170 blog subscribers. Why such a big disconnect? Why am I creating great content for no results?

OK, let’s start digging into the problem! What do you do when your blog is in the fog?

I’m a data guy so first let’s look at the some numbers.  Here are the page views of the blog B.C. (Before Christina) and A.C. (After Christina):

There are two obvious trends we can observe. Christina has had a dramatic impact on this blog, and something really weird happened in December to cause a big drop.

What happened over the holidays? The company has no idea. I have seen that kind of crazy data from Feedburner before but usually Google Analytics is pretty solid.  Any opinions?

Let’s look at the blog itself.

The blog design is clean, attractive, and easy to navigate. The content is relevant, timely and well-written. The headlines are strong and Christina generally punctuates her text with sub-headings and graphics to capture attention and add visual appeal. Overall, this is a strong blog.

How is Christina promoting the blog?  In a conversation with me she reported that she is:

  • Commenting on relevant customer and industry blogs
  • Engaging with potential readers on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and a monthly eNewsletter.
  • Worked to get her blog posts syndicated on other sites. One of her posts received 2,000 views.

The company has also retained an outside company to try to advise her on ideas to drive more readership and comments. The consultant recommends she take two steps:

1) Cut the number of posts she is writing from five to two and spend the extra time promoting the blog.

2) Create specific industry-specific customer “personas” and tailor posts to each persona over a period of time.

OK, the blog doctor is IN DA HOUSE!  (Where is my theme music?) What should Christina do?

1) Exercise patience — First, let’s put this in perspective. Christina has increased page views on the blog by more than 100 percent and subscriptions by 28 percent in four months. Take a bow, young lady!  Building a company blog is painstaking work. Be patient and tell your management not to panic. It will be OK. You’re on the right track. If you’re still stalled six months from now we can review, but for now, let’s stay the course … with a few tweaks!

2) Goals and strategy — Everything starts with strategy.  All we know is that the goal is to increase comments and readership … but why?  Goals should reflect the target behavior you are trying to change or influence.  So I have to ask — why is getting a comment a goal?  How does that move the needle for your company?

Getting comments on a company blog is extremely difficult. For example, GE has one of the best B2B blogs in the world, with dozens of people contributing to it.  They get about two comments a month. So I think you need to seriously re-evaluate whether “comments” is a realistic and desirable goal. The engagement may be taking place outside of the blog.

Remember that there are many important business benefits of blogging even if you have very few comments. Don’t overlook SEO benefits, PR opportunities and other valuable benefits of your content.

3) Where are your customers? As I look at your blog, there is very little that has to do with direct customers here.  Where are the articles about your customers?  Case studies? Successes? Best practices? Pictures?

When I was a young PR guy, my boss made me work the midnight shift at our plant for two weeks. Why? Because I was writing a newsletter, those were my “customers,” and I had to understand them. I think Christina should follow some sales people around on calls for a week, maybe two.  If that’s not practical, talk to them on the phone. Find out what the customers love, what they hate. What do the WANT to read about? What questions do they have? Answer them in blog posts. Just asking your customers about the blog will make them INTERESTED in your blog!

One of the best way to get customers to engaged is to feature them IN your blog. Make your blog a customer celebration.

4) Where are your employees? Don’t overlook the opportunity to get employees engaged and excited about your blog. Feature them too.  Also, it’s time for Christina to ask for their help. There is this issue called social validation that I discuss at length in a post called Building Social Media Momentum. In short, customers are more likely to join in on engagement and comments if they see they’re not all alone on your blog. Ask your fellow employees to support you and “prime the pump” with tweets and comments.

5) Where are you? There are two conditions that usually drive comments on corporate blogs 1) involving customers and 2) having a single, strong personality write the blog. Christina is doing a good job with the content but is not putting much of her personality into it. I recommend putting Christina’s picture out there on the blog some place. Let people know who is behind the blog. That should make a difference with engagement!

6) Where’s the sizzle? The blog has the beef but it needs a little sizzle. What can Zmags do to shake it up and grab attention? How about a contest? A blog-only special? Video? Humor? A celebrity guest blogger that your customers would recognize?

Now, about those consultants. The quality of the company blog is solid.  Christina seems to be handling the 4-5 posts a week easily but dropping back to 3-4 would not hurt much.  Personally I would scrap the persona idea at this stage. Just talk to your customers. Get to know them. That’s a lot more fun and effective than following a script.

Well, that’s my take on it. What does the community think? What would you do if you were Christina? What did I miss?

Many thanks to Christina Pappas and the management of Zmags for allowing me to dissect their blog with no strings attached. Christina submitted this question through MLT Creative’s blogging seminar.

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