By Srinivas Rao, Contributing Writer

As director of social media for Flightster one of my very first assignments was to create and maintain our company blog.  When I researched other blogs in our industry and compared them with all of the personal blogs I read on a daily basis I was amazed at how bad they were. An individual could command an audience of over 10,000 people with hundreds of readers commenting on every post, while corporations with millions of dollars in resources behind them had blogs that seemed like digital graveyards. Most of them didn’t have a single comment.

It wasn’t long before I stopped reading those blogs. In fact the advice from my boss was:

“You know what our competitors have done? I want you to do the exact opposite. I don’t want another boring corporate blog.”

As a result I decided to model how people had built successful personal blogs instead of paying attention to how companies had done things. This is what I learned along the way.

Put a blogger in charge: One of the biggest advantages I had in the process of creating my company blog was that I had experience with my own bog and built a trusted personal network. On my BlogcastFM site, I’ve interviewed over 100 of the most successful content creators in the blogosphere. I also have a semi-successful personal development blog with a little over 1000 subscribers. To this day these experiences prove to be the greatest tools in my social media arsenal.  When the person in charge of social media at your company, doesn’t have a personal blog, it’s like putting a fry chef at Mcdonald’s in charge of brain surgery.

As a result of an extensive personal network, I could hand-pick the writers for the Flightster Blog. Prior to leveraging my personal network, I attempted to use job boards to recruit potential writers and the quality of submissions was mediocre.  Being a writer of my own blog gave me experience creating content that resonated with readers. This had a significant impact on how I approached content and recruited writers.

Choose Interesting Writers: While having outside writers may not be feasible for every single company, I do think there’s something to be said for finding people with interesting stories to write for your blog. Blogs are not just glorified marketing brochures. They give us an opportunity to share the human touch behind our organizations and we should embrace that opportunity. I believe that blogging is about people first and marketing second. I work in the travel industry, but rather than look for a travel writer or somebody to write about 10 touristy things to do in some city, I looked for people with interesting stories who happen to be traveling.  What separates most successful personal blogs from a typical corporate blog is the human touch. I’ve kept it my mission to maintain that human touch with the Flightster blog. Each writer has his or her own story and I’ve given each of them the freedom to share it.

Pay Writers Well: We pay each of our writers $100 per post which probably seems crazy to some people. But I can confidently say, you get what you pay for. The perception that content creators are slave labor really needs to end. These people work hard to produce content and the truth is they can often figure out a way to make money without the support of a company. Considering that many large companies have multimillion dollar advertising budgets, spending roughly $500 a week to have quality writers doesn’t seem like it should make much of a dent in the budget. If you have a smaller company, even one very good blogger can make a huge difference.

Look for People With Established Audiences: One thing that gave us tremendous leverage out of the gate was that every person we hired already had an established audience that loved them. I knew that people would tend to follow what they did, no matter where their content was published. If they shared it on Twitter, their current followers would read it. If they linked it on their own blog, we would get the referral traffic. Our team is staffed with five bloggers, and myself all of who have personal blogs with established audiences.

Supportive Editorial Policies: To say my editorial policy is loose would be putting it lightly. It’s almost non-existent. The reason I believe in this approach so strongly is because when you motivate people by freedom, they do their best work. Part of the reason I think individual blogs are so incredibly interesting is that they give somebody complete freedom of creative expression. To take that away just because they are writing for a company blog would defeat the purpose of hiring them in the first place.

Individuals have more leverage today than ever before. We’ve gone from the age of the corporation to the age of the individual. If companies really want get value out of their blogging efforts, then they’ll need to embrace the power of the individual.

Srinivas Rao is a contributing writer to {grow}. You can read more of his original writing at The Skool of Life blog or listen to his podcast at BlogcastFM. Follow him on Twitter at @skooloflife

Illustration courtesy of Toothpaste for Dinner

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