Posted on 07 Sep 10
In Insurance Unplugged, we’ve been consistently promoting the need for insurance agencies to embrace and implement a game plan that incorporates social media into their branding, marketing and communication strategy. That plan includes blogging. Many of our featured “Face Time” guests have been those in the industry who have provided tremendous insight into creating an agency blog.
What we find time and time again is that creating and maintaining a corporate blog isn't always the easiest of tasks and doesn't come naturally to many people, but once they start, it opens up a whole new medium of communication. When blogging, there are a lot of considerations to take into account -- theme, topics, audience, content, design, writers, multimedia, promotion, writing style, comment policies, etc.
Here are several excellent corporate blogs we found in an article by Mashable writer Erica Swallow, which was originally featured in American Express’ OPEN Forum, that we felt would be helpful for your agency when creating blog:
1. Squarespace: Choose a Fitting Blog Design
Web design is one of the most important factors in creating a blog that is user-friendly and visually appealing. Corporate blogs are notorious for lacking in design. Whether they are über-branded, overwhelming or uninspiring, business blogs often fall short in the design department.
Squarespace, a web publishing platform, is "one of the best designed corporate blogs around," according to Grace Smith, a freelance web and graphic designer and contributing writer to Mashable. Smith elaborates:
"Squarespace is a fine example of a creative, yet brand aware corporate blog design. The subtle details of the ruler marks and slight transparency are small but beautiful details. It perfectly sits within the Squarespace brand, with attention to great typography and a simple yet engaging layout. The blog is beautiful, uncomplicated, subtle and successfully engages the reader with a strong company voice."
2. Dell: Use a Landing Page to Organize Multiple Blogs
Some corporations have more than one blog -- this could be a solution that's useful for you, especially if you have a large business with multiple arms. One of the difficulties of managing multiple blogs is finding a place to house them all. This is where a landing page can come in handy.
Dell has a number of corporate blogs, focusing on many specific topics, including technology, investor relations, products, education, and health information technology. Dell organizes all of its blogs under one landing page, which is used to curate featured content from across the blogs, while also including a feed of the latest blog posts, a directory of blogs, and a search bar that scours content from all the blogs.
3. Zillow: Provide Valuable Insights on Your Area of Expertise
When creating any property on the Internet, you must always consider your audience. Think about their needs and put forth content that they would consider valuable. If you stick to your core competency, you should do just fine.
Zillow, a free real estate valuation website, maintains a blog that publishes information on real estate, mortgages, and celebrity real estate. By focusing on their core strength, Zillow creates high quality posts that act as resources for the blog's audience. For example, they recently posted on top-tweeting real estate pros, questions to ask mortgage lenders, and Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne’s oceanfront Malibu home rumored to be up for rent for $40,000 per month. They cover the difficult real estate and mortgage questions, but also keep it light with interesting stories about the high-end real estate market.
4. BBC's The Editors Blog: Bring Readers Into the Process
Just as behind-the-scenes exclusives give readers a new perspective on your company, posts that allow readers to be a part of the process provide unique value for dedicated supporters.
BBC maintains a blog called The Editors that "aims to explain the editorial decisions and dilemmas faced by the teams running the BBC's news service -- radio, TV, and interactive."
The blog allows readers to voice their opinions on the way news is being covered, while also weighing in on issues that the BBC News editors are facing. This is something that readers can't get anywhere else. When planning your content strategy, strive for unique information that others are unable to create.
5. GM FastLane Blog: Keep a Focus
Don't try to be something that you're not. If your business is selling cars, talk about cars. It sounds obvious, but without strict content guidelines, a blog can quickly derail into the great abyss. GM's FastLane blog is a great example of a blog that keeps a niche focus.
6. Evernote: Mix It Up
You can maintain focus on a particular topic while still mixing up your content, especially when it comes to adding multimedia to your blog.
Evernote has streamlined their web design to incorporate a number of categories, including product updates, tips and stories, friends and partners, podcast and general business updates, which they call their "notes." All of these sections are segmented into tabs for easy browsing. Furthermore, the blog utilizes a variety of multimedia including photos, videos, and podcasts.
7. Flickr: Highlight Your Community
People love participating in projects that feature their work. Try to emphasize your community's strengths and contributions to your site by highlighting community members and groups on your blog. For example, on its company blog, Flickr curates photos and videos from around their community. A recent post showcased the vibrant insect shots taken by Flickr member urtica.
8. Marriott On the Move: Put Your Leader in Charge
Influential leaders make it their profession to gain a following, so blogging isn't too much of a stretch. A small number of founders and CEOs are taking their company's online strategy into their own hands. One of those leaders is Bill Marriott, chairman and CEO of Marriott International, a worldwide hotel franchiser and operator. Via the company blog, Marriott on the Move, Marriott posts about the company's recent activities and gives readers a look into the various offerings at hotels around the world, while also incorporating updates about his travels, family life, and interests. The blog allows readers to interact directly with Marriott, bringing them closer to the man at the top.
9. eBay Ink: Embrace Social Media
One way to increase traffic to and interaction with your blog is to develop a social media strategy for connecting with readers and sharing your latest content.
Richard Brewer-Hay, chief blogger behind eBay Ink, eBay's corporate blog, believes that Ink and other social media platforms are key to connecting eBay employees with eBay users. Through Ink, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr, Brewer-Hay acts as a facilitator for telling stories and sharing experiences from around eBay. He explained why social media is such an important focus for eBay: "Social media is in the DNA of our company [and is] the foundation of our business model. Back in the mid-late nineties, eBay [then called AuctionWeb] was the first online tool that connected buyers and sellers -- individuals that had never met before -- to one another through a transaction-based relationship. The success of [individual constituents using our tools and platforms] hinges on personal relationships. It’s only natural that our success hinges on a similar foundation."