Twitter and Facebook may have overtaken blogs in the headlines, but blogs still remain one of the best ways to generate new audiences for your organisation.
In fact, you could say that social media wouldn’t work without blogs. People are constantly telling their friends on Facebook or followers on Twitter about what they’re reading online. Blogs provide that reading material, and if you’re the one writing it, you can get massive numbers of visitors engaging with your cause or charity as a result.
In this series of articles we’re going to be telling you everything you need to know about the blog: what it actually is, why you should set one up, how to do it, and how to deal with the fallout if something goes wrong.
What is a blog anyway?
If your website is like a well edited book with content that is often quite static, then a blog is like a magazine or newspaper.
A blog is a regularly updated website (or section of a website) with one or more people providing commentary on an issue, or as more of a personal online diary.
The newest content is shown at the top of the page, because the blog is meant to be visited by the same readers regularly – often daily. Each of these items is called a blog ‘post’.
The posts are organised by ‘tags’, which are just a bunch of words used to organise content. It means you can classify your posts organically, without needing to plan the categories in advance. When a reader clicks on a tag like ‘politics’ they can see everything else you’ve ever tagged with politics.
Blogs encourage interaction and have commenting features so readers can interact with the writers. They often encourage the sharing of their content through social media tools, such as ‘liking’ a blog post on Facebook, or retweeting it to share with their friends on Twitter.
There’s around 175 million public blogs, although most of these are unused or have negligible numbers of readers. Popular examples of blogs include sites like culture blogBoing Boing, society blog Good Magazine, news blog Huffington Post, food blog Serious Eats and ambulance driver’s blog Random Acts of Reality.
People who write blogs refer to themselves as ‘bloggers’. There’s a strong sense of camaraderie within the blogging community – otherwise known as the blog-o-sphere – with blogs helping promote the stories on each others sites.
Blogs often feature the views of individuals or their experiences so they tend to be written in an informal, first person style.
Many websites have news or article sections which could be considered ‘blogs’, despite not being labeled explicitly in that way. In fact, one of the most successful blogs in the UK is the Daily Mail newspaper’s website which meets all the criteria of a blog above.
Do they work?
Blogs undoubtedly play a profound role in modern communications. By allowing almost anyone to publish their experiences online, the information floodgates have opened. It’s never been easier to follow niche topics, to read personal experiences from around the world, or just look at pictures of funny cats.
Blog posts also give you something to shout about on your newsletter, Twitter and Facebook feeds, and boosts traffic from search engines.
22.7% of people’s time online is spent on social media and blogs, more than e-mail, games and chat put together. This is clearly the place to focus your energies if you’re looking to engage new audiences.
Starting a new blog takes work, but is it more time and cost effective than the old-fashioned alternatives? Let’s take the trusty press release as an example.
Blog posts differ firstly because everything you write gets published, no matter how niche the potential audience. You control the story, so you won’t see your charity’s message get edited out. Also, you can insert calls to action to persuade people to sign up to a newsletter or make a donation there and then, something which is not possible in a newspaper article.
Much like press releases, some blog posts will flop, most will be average, and a few will snowball and attract tens of thousands of new people and spark valuable relationships with other writers.
Unlike press releases, blog posts keep working for your charity for years after they’re published. The initial spike in interest from a new post will subside, but be replaced be a steady stream of regular traffic from search engines. This can add up to tens of thousands of new visitors over a period of a couple of years.
Does writing a blog sound like something you or your colleagues would be interested in? It really is quite simple, and it can generate great results for your charity with less effort than you might think. If you’d like some more information or advice on the subject, feel free to get in touch, or subscribe to our newsletter.
Also, we’re publishing many blog posts as a follow on to this topic on our website, so stay tuned!