I was recently asked to give a presentation on blogging to a local business association. At first, I thought the presentation would be a nuts-and-bolts overview of blogging’s benefits and tactics (a topic I cover here). However, upon researching what other local business associations were doing with their blogs, I realized there were some larger issues to grapple with.
Namely, basic questions such as: What is the purpose of the blog? Who is the audience? What action do they want visitors to take?
I started off by doing a Google search on “business association blogs” and took the first 5 business associations I saw ranked in my search results. It follows that these 5 organizations should represent some of the strongest online marketing of business associations across the country. To the extent that is true, business associations certainly have room for improvement.
Specifically, these are the 5 business association blogs I examined (and I hope any potential “public shaming” is mitigated by the free publicity, inbound link, and my unsolicited insights – no ill will intended):
After reviewing these blogs, my overall impression was that they came across as very disjunctured. I was honestly surprised by how poorly some of them were presented, and it inspired a lot of thought about why that was.
The ability (or lack thereof) to effectively weave an array of elements into a cohesive package is what distinguishes art from a pile of trash. On the whole, these blogs were sadly closer to the latter.
General observations about the reviewed Biz Association blogs:
Posts tend to be written for other members / business association peers.
Lots of missed opportunities (failure to mention or link to member business, etc.)
Unclear, vague blog titles
Un-optimized blog titles (too long, no keywords)
Posts too brief (2 paragraphs or less does not a blog post make)
Infrequent blog posting (new content 1-2x month discourages visitors & subscribers)
Failure to spotlight business and community personality
Overall, questionable value
Lack of blog continuity – I’ll explain this more shortly.
Was it all bad? Of course not. There were things that were done well. Most of the websites seemed effective overall (I didn’t spend too much time exploring entire sites; this is just a first impression). I’m guessing the overall website strategies were forward-thinking and well-managed in order for these organizations to rank well in the SERPs; unfortunately, their blogs are probably not managed by their web designers. One thing in particular I saw well-done on these sites was the effective and impactful use of graphics (including within the blog posts) as well as conscientious use of local city keyword(s) in blog titles by some groups.
Kenton, Oregon’s business association is a great example of a creative website, for instance. They have a pic of a crocheted hitching post on the sidewalks of Kenton. (Oh, did I mention Kenton is a neighborhood in Portland, Oregon? That explains a lot…) Their choice of images could not be more perfect for successfully conveying the unique, quirky character of their neighborhood. Unfortunately, that hasn’t translated so well to their blog, but there is hope for them yet…..
Back to blog continuity…what do I mean by that? I’m sure that each of these organizations are approaching their blog content differently, but for the most part, the appearance is that posts are very random, based on members’ whimsy, without real rhyme or reason. (No doubt because members are out running their businesses, wearing many hats, and making money!) Many businesspeople don’t have time or interest to blog, and if they did, they’d blog on their own site rather than a shared community organization site. So the business organizations are left taking whatever scraps of content they can get.
Everything is approached at the individual post-level, nothing is considered at the overall blog level (based on what I’m seeing). That’s a mistake. Most people visit and view the blog from the blog’s home page, where all of the posts are listed, as opposed to finding an individual blog post in search (particularly when the blog posts and titles are not optimized for keywords or semantic search). You don’t want to neglect your blog’s overall impression.
Unfortunately, without any cohesion or unity of purpose, its difficult to leverage the potential benefits of a business blog. There has to be some thought given to the “why” of the blog in order to deliver a quality user experience. When that is missing, the question becomes “why are we even blogging”? Unfortunately, it seems no one is really asking that. The default assumption seems to be that “we just need a blog.” Even coming from the pro-content camp, I think it makes sense to question that assumption.
When your blog is not putting your best foot forward and is not driving traffic or encouraging readership or supporting new leads, then what is the point? Even a lousy blog requires an investment of time…..if the potential ROI is not there, why bother?
These business associations that I found in search results were found IN SPITE of their blogs, not because of them. As a proponent of content marketing, I can spout the benefits of website content all day long, but it has to be quality content. I’d argue these organizations may be just as well served (perhaps more so) by building their website pages with quality content that could be more easily produced by a contractor or delegated team. Instead of doing the blog half-baked, put the energy into building a highly-engaged social media group (such as on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and/or Google +).
Social media or email would be a better match for most members’ bandwidth, with shorter length and less emphasis on polish. Business association events could be created as individual content pages on the site and shared among members and their circles via social media. This would direct more traffic back to the business association site, where the quality page content would leave a better impression than a poorly-written blog post.
Another great way for community groups and business associations to leverage social media and convey the unique qualities of their neighborhood is to use Pinterest’s new place-specific boards. It’s possible to allow multiple users to post to a single board, which would simplify management. Here are two great examples of Pinterest boards for Lexington and Maysville, KY. You can even create the board and then embed it on your site like I did here.
So, ultimately what I’m saying is forget about blogging, then? Absolutely not! That would be next to blasphemous. I will have a lot more to say about that in my next blog post, which will further explore the potential benefits of business blogging. However, no single solution is right for everyone. There are situations in which business association blogs could be impactful and boost readership, membership, and leads for member businesses. But probably not in their current incarnation (as witnessed by the business association blogs I examined).
In sum: if you are going to blog, do so strategically, and with purpose. If you are not, seriously reconsider as it may not be the best use of your time nor deliver the benefits you may hope to receive.
Content marketing pros, do you agree with this assessment? Business association members, what do you think? Am I on point or am I missing something? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
If you are interested in business association blogging, check out the presentation slides.
Additional recommended resources for blog planning:
- Hubspot’s Blog Topic Generator
- Hubspot’s Blog Editorial Calendar
- 120 Marketing Tips for Blogs (via Pam Dyer at Social Media Today)
- Ultimate Guide to Blogging [ebook] (via the Content Marketing Institute)
- Hubspot’s 100 Tips & Tricks Professional Bloggers Use
- Hubspot’s Ultimate Editing Checklist
- Secrets of a Killer Blog Post [Infographic] (via Convince & Convert)
Written by Kirsten Meyer | Website
Kirsten Meyer is the owner of KM Strategic Content Marketing, an Inbound Marketing Agency. She designs and executes user-centric marketing strategies for business growth.