How to Make Connections with Customers through Blogging

By Amy Lupold Bair, Susannah Gardner

You might be thinking about how you, as a blogger, can make connections with potential customers by using your blog. Words are a great start, but technology can also be your friend! A lot of the standard blog bells and whistles are designed to get people involved or to make it easy for them to consume your blog.

Enable comments

Comments are a double-edged sword for companies that start blogs. On the one hand, they do a great job of starting conversation and interaction. On the other hand, they can be a source of a lot of work because you have to keep them free of spam or inappropriate conversation.

Many businesses are tempted to start a blog and keep comments turned off, but that cuts out a huge part of the benefit of a blog: hearing from your readers and interacting directly with them.

Turn on the comments! But take precautions by setting up a good policy about what kinds of comments are acceptable and implement good spam-fighting tools.

Create RSS/web feeds

Before the advent of web feeds, blog readers had to remember to visit the blog periodically to see whether the blogger had posted a new entry. This dangerous method made it easy for people to forget to visit.

Web feeds, or RSS feeds, give you a way to let people know quickly, easily, and automatically that you have new content available on your blog. Blog visitors simply subscribe to the feed by using a newsreader, which tracks the feed and updates it every time you update the blog, giving instant notification to the reader.

Users can set up web feeds, usually formatted as RSS (Really Simple Syndication), quickly and easily. In fact, most blog software packages automatically include an RSS tool, so you can set it up once and never think about it again.

Create podcasts

Podcasting is a relative newcomer to the blogosphere, but it’s proving to be a powerful blog ally. Podcasting, the recording and distribution of audio and video files to subscribers, has a tremendous potential to give your business blog a boost by providing multimedia presentations to your readers.

You can add personality and a face to your blog. Posting interviews, discoveries, tutorials, and other adventures that your company has had can boost your visibility higher than a text-only blog can.

HBO produces podcasts to accompany many of its top shows. A quick run through the selection reveals interviews with directors, stars, on-set interviews, episode clips, and more.

Start a wiki

Wikis are collaboratively built websites that any visitor can edit. Although this collaborative format may unfortunately allow for misinformed information, businesses and organizations have found that wikis can complement blog sites nicely. Blogs allow for comments, but a wiki can provide a little more flexibility because visitors can both post pages and leave updates in a wiki, contributing to everything from documentation to news coverage.

Wikis are terrific collaborative tools, and if you’ve been trying to figure out a good way to share knowledge within an organization, you might want to use this approach. Many companies have found wikis useful for group learning purposes, such as building documentation or setting up procedural tasks.

One of the most well-known examples of a successful wiki is Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia to which anyone can contribute content or edit existing content. You can even find it available in multiple languages.

Join a social network

Adding your company to a variety of social networks can also help to boost your visibility in the blogosphere. Businesses tend to shy away from social networking as a valid form of online advertising, but using these mediums properly can add a viral component to your communication strategy.

Viral marketing is advertising that consumers actually spread themselves. For example, when you forward a funny video created by a company, you’ve spread the “virus.”

A lot of social networks exist, so be sure to choose those that are most pertinent for your industry and approach, not those frequented by 14-year-old girls (unless that suits your business!). LinkedIn and XING are good places to get started.

To get started with LinkedIn, follow these steps:

  1. Use your web browser to go to www.linkedin.com.

  2. Fill out the registration form and click the Join Now button.

    LinkedIn loads the sign-up continuation screen.

  3. Fill out the required fields, including your name, business information, and where you went to school.

  4. Click Join LinkedIn.

    LinkedIn creates an account for you.

    After you’re a LinkedIn member, be sure to click the Expand Your Network button at the top-right of any page in order to invite colleagues or see who in your e-mail address book already uses LinkedIn.

Be sure to check out the social media platforms where your customers are spending much of their online time, namely Twitter and Facebook. Ready for the next step? Head over to Google+ and Instagram. And if you have a product and want customers, run, don’t walk to Pinterest.