We've all seen company blogs dash out of the starting gate like an Olympian sprinter.
Then it's a slow jog. A walk. A crawl.
And, finally, a death. It stops entirely, and your latest blog post is from the days of the Bush Administration.
Blogging -- and blogging consistently -- is critical for businesses, Dorie Clark, CEO of Clark Strategic Communications and a Forbes and Harvard Business Review contributor, told us last year. It was an imperative for 2014, Clark said.
So how did businesses and marketers do? We caught up Clark to find out. (Check out yesterday's "2014 action item" catch-up with Carla Johnson on agile marketing).
CMSWire: You called blogging mandatory. Have you seen more and more businesses embrace this in 2014?
Clark: One of the biggest trends in blogging for individual professionals -- who are increasingly being tapped to be brand ambassadors for their companies -- is that LinkedIn rolled out functionality this year that allowed any account holder, not just their elite influencers, to blog on the site.
That’s brilliant from LinkedIn’s perspective, as it increases the content on their site and page views. But it also helps busy professionals and companies because launching your own blog used to be a real commitment: you had to blog at least weekly or risk looking like you’d abandoned the project, which can be a daunting indefinite commitment. Blogging on LinkedIn lowers the threshold because it’s not the end of the world if you do it only occasionally, so more people can feel free to dip a toe into the water.
CMSWire: Have any examples of a good business blog?
Clark: KISSMETRICS, run by my friend Neil Patel, is consistently thoughtful and informative. It’s content that’s absolutely worth sharing.
CMSWire: Did businesses in 2014 embrace the "educational" part of blogging, or did you still see too many "product-promotional" type of blogs?
Clark: I think marketers increasingly understand that “shareability” is crucial when it comes to online content, and, generally, no one wants to share an ad. The hard part comes when your business has been creating interesting content for a while and nothing seems to be happening.
The ROI of blogging is long term, not short term, and that can be enormously frustrating, because in the early days, it’s hard to tell the difference between something that is experiencing small but exponential growth and something that has limited appeal and is going to peter out. Sticking with content creation over time is a bit of an act of faith.
CMSWire: How about voices on blogs -- did businesses embrace champions of blogs, rather than dishing out "corporate" blogs?
Clark: Noah Kagan, who runs the company AppSumo, is a great example here. On his personal blog, OKDork (which serves as a great promotional tool for AppSumo), he has a lively and personal voice. You really feel you’re getting to know him. This has been enormously successful in building brand loyalty.
CMSWire: Did you see blogs being abandoned after that first overzealous week of blogging? Or are people nailing down a good rhythm where they're consistent but not overwhelmed?
Clark: As discussed above, blogging on LinkedIn makes “casual blogging” possible in a way that it really wasn’t before. But if you do want to establish a blog on your own corporate site and build a following for it, consistency is critical. There are still plenty of businesses creating and abandoning blogs, but my hope is that people can choose more strategically upfront and blog on LinkedIn if they are concerned they can only do it occasionally.
CMSWire: Did you see in 2014 more embracing of inbound marketing in general?
Clark: Content marketing is growing, but we’re still in the process of companies shifting from their traditional advertising-driven mindset. Today, an average of only 30 percent of marketing budgets are spent on content marketing, but 57 percent of marketers reported that custom content creation was their top priority for 2014. That gaps needs to, and will, close over time.
CMSWire: What are your predictions as far as blogging/inbound marketing in 2015 -- what will trend/be successful?
Clark: Creating great content will still be critical. But as more people enter the fray, the challenge becomes how to promote it and break through. As I discuss in my forthcoming book "Stand Out," great ideas are only half the battle. Companies will have to raise their game when it comes to reaching their audience (through techniques like email list-building) and building real communities around their product or service.