Posted on Aug. 28, 2008

With Web 2.0 and new media, many companies embraced blogging. But only a few are doing it right.

When executed correctly with a strategic and credible approach, blogging can build thought leadership online and foster dialog between customers and brands.

In this post, I'll discuss some of the ways you can use blogging to reach these business goals. But first, what are most companies doing wrong?

The biggest mistakes I see are corporate blogs created merely for the sake of doing so. "Other companies are blogging, so we should too" (even if we have nothing to say). And then there are the blogs that function as thinly veiled undercover marketing tools, fake blogs or "flogs."

In the blogosphere, there is nothing more important than credibility. What's more, social media communities will turn quickly upon disingenuous and self-serving attempts at blogging. Worse, they won't forgive and they won't forget, so don't shoot your blog in its digital foot.

So how should you blog if you want to create thought leadership? Corporate and executive blogs are communication platforms, and to get noticed and stand out writers need to share provocative ideas. Whether that means new perspectives on industry issues or discussing strategic concerns, thought leadership happens when you post original and relevant ideas.

Still, having great ideas is only half of the equation. With no attention or readers, your ideas will fall on deaf ears no matter how revolutionary they are.

In order to maximize your visibility and reach, start by researching the most popular bloggers in whatever vertical your going to be writing about. Then, comment on their posts and start a conversation. This helps you get your foot in the door and gain credibility by association. Chances are they'll link to your blog too, which is a big help from a what marketers call an "influencer."

As you write, make sure your posts utilize search-engine friendly titles, keywords, and links. A little SEO can go a long way propelling your blog to the top of the rankings, which lends further credibility to your words.

Add video and sound to your blog as well. Studies show that blogs with interactive media, especially video and podcasts, capture more returning visitors and offer a "stickier" user experience.

Don't overlook social media channels either. By adding social bookmarking buttons, readers can digg, del.i.cio.us, Facebook, etc. your content and expose it to their networks. Again, being connected to these key influencers is a proven and effective method to build thought leadership.

None of this will happen overnight, however. It may take months of blogging before you start to build readership and gain recognition. Monitoring your blog with web analytics will provide further insight into your efforts while showing you what content is the most popular with readers.

Remember that a corporate or executive blog must create dialog between management, customers, and readers. Companies and brands can leverage blogs successfully to share information that otherwise would remain internal. Blogs humanize companies by giving a face to an organization, and well-written content can create loyal brand supporters. Always enable comments on your blog to foster conversation.

Allocate the resources for your blog before you start writing. If it's a company blog, make sure you or whomever manages the blog has time to update it frequently, ideally posting new content every two or three days. Nothing looks worse than a blog that hasn't been updated in three months.

Creating thought leadership online is tricky business. As you can see, many companies are prone to the mistakes and mishaps that arise when their blogs are used for the wrong reasons. In the blogosphere, credibility is paramount.

Developing thought leadership is about gaining credibility with readers and establishing yourself as the authority on whatever topic you write about. Do this and you'll become one of the "influencers" I mentioned above. Key influencers are, by definition, thought leaders.


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