I'm a huge advocate for blogging tools as anyone which has listened to one of my presentations will tell you. It's an incredible opportunity to engage members. I was pleasantly surprised recently to receive an email from Lisa Junker from ASAE & The Center asking me to guest blog while at the Great Ideas conference (what a Great Idea!). While I'm under no illusion this was most likely a personalize blast email to all speakers (that's what I would have done), I am none-the-less compelled and honored to take up the challenge. Lisa's strategy was simple, yet very effective.
While this is my first blog entry, a couple of questions/concerns immediately jump to mind which should be considered as part of any blog launching strategy:
1. Are access restrictions imposed on the blog entries? (is it member's only or open to the public?)
When considering permissions, the above two options are usually the only options associations consider. I would challenge any association to think a little more broadly and allow the person posting the blog to select their permissions. For example, if this blog entry was bashing vendors, I might want to restrict who can view it somehow. Usually however, I would want the blog entry open to the whole world - specifically the search engines.
Blogs are a tool in which members can build their own brand and recognize immediate ROI from their membership dollars. Ben Martin a good friend of mine recently took a job at the Virginia Association of Realtors. Heâ€™s blog was a key contributor towards being offered this new position as he had clearly built his brand which had established him as an expert in the social web arena. Same goes for Maddie Grant, another great association blogger with tremendous vision who unfortunately for her current association is bound to be snapped up by a larger association with more opportunities.
So why is opening the blog to the search engines so important to me? Two key driving factors to higher organic positioning (organic = not paid links, natural placement) in the SERPs (SERPs = search engine results pages) and relevant, inbound links. Blogs give us both of these. People will link to the blog (mostly other bloggers) and the combination of the blog and the associated comments make sure a nice chunk of unique text which is a huge traffic driver and a great way to capture more of the long tail (email me if you don't know the story of the long tail).
As a side note, if you want to check out how unique your content is, try copying it into www.copytester.com and evaluate the text (Full disclosure: I built and own that site â€“ itâ€™s free though â€“ just a fun tool).
2. Can any member blog at any time or is this just for the conference?
I haven't really looked around yet, but I sincerely hope ASAE & The Center is offering all its members a chance to blog. If not, why not? It's such an easy win as far as member benefits are concerned. My only warning is not to send members off to a free site like blogger.com or wordpress.com as the association loses all control as well as a huge potential member benefit.
Although 95% of people are likely to blog and leave it open to the world, the reality is that members will have a higher level of access than none members. This in turn means we have another member benefit. The other more important member benefit is that you can really start building your own brand through your association by using its blogging platform. It's such a win-win, it's a no-brainer. I dare anyone to argue to the contrary (please, if Iâ€™m missing something, let me know!)
3. Has the association added "Blog This!" links all over its website?
Why would they do that I hear you ask? Assuming all members have the ability to blog on the ASAE & The Center website, we all have a great new member benefit (as long as we use it). With the right blog launch strategy, it can easily turn into a huge success.
One way of being proactive and instantly cross marketing different parts of your site is to add a "Blog This!" icon next to all key pieces of content (magazine, conference sessions, course titles, daily news, listserv postings, committee newsletters etc.) The idea is to make it really, really simple for people to blog. One click to blog about anything. The blog automatically knows which piece of content it is referencing and will automatically link to it and tag it. The member blog will automatically appear in the "Latest Blog Postings" (known as a blogroll) on the home page. It will also be embedded in the users much more dynamic profile page (they will have their own "Latest Blogs" built into their profile).
This is such a natural way of cross marketing, in some respects it is too obvious - as well as easy to do. RIMS is in the process of launching its social web platform from www.higherlogic.com which I know will be a tremendous success. We are also tying it into our eGroups and Resource Library tools which allows us to receive the (nicely formatted) listserv emails with linked attachments and prompts us to blog about the postings or the attachments. Since some listservs are confidential, in this instance the blogs inherit the same access permissions of the listserv (eGroups) - although normally we allow members to choose the access permissions to each one of their blog postings.
If ASAE & The Center emailed you (what looked like) a personal note, asking you to add a short blog about a course you recently attended or a webinar you listened in to, wouldn't you be compelled to do it? After you do, you'll have a great sense of satisfaction which will mostly likely start you thinking along the lines of "What can I blog about next?"
Chief Information Officer
Risk & Insurance Management Society, Inc. (RIMS)