Weblogs, or blogs, are being used more and more by businesses as a marketing tool. For franchisors, blogs create opportunity to market their product to potential franchisees, and potential customers. While traditional advertising uses a more direct form of selling, blogging is more about brand building. Direct selling is where the benefits of a product or service are “pitched” and the consumer is asked to make an informed decision. It is in this type of selling where an advertiser tries to draw the customer in. Blogs generally provide information on topics that are relevant to the audience.
The purpose of a blog is to develop a fan base, which is done by positioning the writing as an expert on the topic of choice. If a reader has trust in the writer, than the reader will be more likely to spread the message through word of mouth, which is still undeniably one of the hardest forms of advertising to master.
A corporate blog should always begin with a goal. What do you want to accomplish? Increased sales? Do you want to communicate better with franchisees? Once these goals are defined, the content of a blog becomes easier to generate and the tone is more easily defined. Goals will also help develop a theme. A blog that has consistent and timely posts will surely be more successful than one that is not focused.
It is important to note, however, that although blogs are known to be much less formal than other types of writing, informal writing is not always necessarily the most appropriate.
Comments from readers have been known to be just as, if not more than, important than the entries themselves. A positive comment can facilitate advertising, while a negative comment can be detrimental to a company.
Before a company decides to create a blog there must be a clear dedication to defining goals and a clear commitment to up to date content.
Anybody with access to a computer with an Internet connection has the ability to view a blog. There are four different ways in which readers hone in on blogs. The first way is through word of mouth. The second way is through links posted on related or sister sites. The third is through the use of a search engine, and the last is when traditional media covers a blog.
Only a small amount of readers subscribe to receive e-mail updates from a blog. The largest amount of readership typically visits the blog’s website. There is a growing group that uses Really Simple Syndication, RSS. RSS allows readers to subscribe to blogs and read all postings through a single interface.
In terms of measuring the traditional marketing initiative in reference to cost, the process can be difficult. The cost structure for a blog is much different than that of traditional advertising. Just because a blog exists does not mean that anyone knows it’s there. Additionally, measuring frequency and reach can be difficult to do with blogs because while it’s possible to measure click-through traffic, it’s more difficult to track RSS readers or email recipients. Traditional advertising also tends to influence consumers at a fast pace, while blogging usually affects people on a more gradual level.
The goal of a blog may also not be the same as the goal of the advertising. A blog whose goal is to solicit feedback may not be rating themselves on the number of readers, rather than the amount of feedback obtained. This is more qualitative feedback, and is harder to measure.
It is highly important to remember how powerful a blog can be since it has such a widespread range of communication. Franchisors should take certain precautions when creating corporate blogs. A franchisor should create a policy regarding the content and use of the blogs. The policy should be legally comprehensive, but should be, “presented in a way that does not unduly stifle the creativity of those posting or commenting on the blog.” Franchisors should also consider obtaining written transfers of copyrights. If someone who is not an employee of the franchisor provides a posting, the writer will own the copyright to that particular posting. Franchisors should also consider a disclaimer on the blog explaining certain content is being provided by a third party in order avoid accidental attribution.
The bottom line is that blogs offer franchisors a way to communicate effectively with franchisees, potential franchisees, and customers. It is critical that franchisors only blog if they are committed to updated content. Just because success of a blog cannot be measured does mean it does not exist (return on investment). Blogging is a tool that has enormous potential for a franchisor and the growth of a company.
Source: “Easy to start, hard to measure, but potentially an effective marketing tool.”