One of the most challenging aspects of blogging that hold many companies and individuals back from jumping into starting their own blog is the ongoing commitment that blogs often require. Creating a blog and posting frequently for a month - and then letting it slowly die is sadly common for corporate blogging initiatives. Clearly starting a blog is easier than maintaining one. The reasons are relatively well known ... sometimes it is a lack of commitment or leadership, other times it is simply that the group blog is not considered a priority or is not clearly outlined as a job related responsibility of an individual or a group of individuals. The least understood reason, however, is that perhaps the blog should never have been created as a permanent effort in the first place.
Having had our fair share of shorter term blogging experiences for client engagements (including one current one for the Pandemic Flu blog which will end tomorrow and our recent live blogging experience for the CCR event in London) - there are a host of lessons we have learned about the role of short term blogging and when to use it effectively for marketing and promotion. For reference, I consider a short term blog to be a blog that is intended to live and be actively maintained for anything less than 3 months (not including time when it might be live but abandoned). Below is a guide to help you determine when to use a short term blog and tips for doing it effectively.
When to Use a Short Term Blog:
- Situation #1: Event Blogging - This is by far the most common situation for short term blogging and involves creating a blog either for live blogging an event or to create anticipation in advance of an event. Typically these blogs are run by the organizers or main sponsors of an event and include voices from participants and speakers from the event. On a non-business level, this could include blogs launched to get ready for a family reunion or any other type of personal event.
- Situation #2: Product or Service Launch Blogging - As it sounds, this type of blogging involves sharing insights, backstories, or any other type of information to help inform customers and enthusiasts as well as build a buzz about a soon to be launched product or service. This type of blogging can also be a great way to solicit feedback in advance of a big launch.
- Situation #3: Marketing Campaign Blogging - Efforts in this category range from short term blogs as part of online sites or microsites that are launched for marketing campaigns. Blogs in this category typically allow for real time updates, more interaction and add a conversational element to what might otherwise be a static site. We are working on several of these projects at the moment, and they can work extremely well for engaging consumers.
How to Make Your Short Term Blog Successful:
- Be clear about the "run dates" - Whenever a big new theater production comes to town, it always comes with run dates. You know when the show will premiere and you know when it will leave town. This creates an expectation, and though it can often be changed with "extended runs" (and often is if a show is popular) - theater goers usually know what to expect. A short term blog should be treated in the same way.
- Promote the fact that you are posting on a bell curve - With any short term blogging effort, you are likely to see posts and activity resemble the traditional bell curve of activity. This is particularly true when short term blogging happens around an event. Regardless, the fact that there may be one post per week until the time of the "main event" where you have 6 posts per day is ok. In fact, it can even be a selling point if used as an incentive to get readers to return at a particular time when activity on the blog is likely to be at a peak (during an event, close to product/service launch, or another relevant moment).
- Get ready to move in real time - A short term blog is something like a sprint, where momentum is critical to keep up because you only have a limited time to make it work. In a sprint, you need to move fast and be ready to actively monitor and engage users in real time. This means approving comments fast, responding to queries quickly and paying attention to the blog 24/7. When it comes to short term blogging, get ready to live and breath everything about the blog during the time it is live.
- Turn off your comments when you stop listening - It may seem counterintuitive as a recommendation in the context of social media, but if you won't be listening, turn off your comments. In an ideal situation, its important to note that you should never stop listening, but the reality is usually less than ideal. Think of it as the equivalent of the "gone fishing" sign that hangs outside local stores if the owner had to step out. Of course, this will produce frustration from some users who expect to be able to comment forever ... but when it comes to short term blogging, if you are going to abandon the blog or leave it in a static state - you need to act like it.
- Have a good exit strategy - You always need to have an exit strategy. Most likely, your exit strategy for the short term blog will go in one of two directions. Either the blog will run its course and then live on as a static site but not be actively maintained anymore, or you will transition the blog to a more permanent entity. There is no single right answer for what to do with a short term blog ... but you may likely find that the smartest way of leveraging the initial traffic you build for the blog is to convert it into a more permanent online property. A good exit strategy means knowing when to abandon and when to transition.
If you have recently launched or worked on a short term blogging effort, how did your experience compare to these notes? Any other lessons to share?
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