5 blogging tips for small business

Many moons ago the authors of the book Citizen Marketers posted a list of reasons why small businesses of all stripes — either b-to-c or b-to-b — should consider blogging.


Equally valuable in their post were these tips for the business blogger once the thing is up and running. Here they are:

  1. Do not have someone else write your blog. Write it yourself.
  2. Blogs should not be managed by the PR department or ad agency. Blogs are best when they’re authentic, which may include run-on sentences, detailed analysis or critical opinions. Typically, those qualities run counter to the sensibilities of traditional public relations.
  3. Do not have a thin skin. Comments to your posts may bite or sting, especially while other people watch. But a strong benefit of blogs: unwarranted criticism often causes other customers often to spring to your defense. Trust-based relationships emanate from taking the bad with the good.
  4. Do not let your blog go unattended for weeks at a time. Focus on several posts per week, even if they’re just a few paragraphs.
  5. Do not make your blog a branding exercise of self-centeredness. If you endlessly promote yourself and your services, no one will care.

Much of what followed in their post is dated. But re-reading it just now, I see these five tips as withstanding the test of time. Violate them at your own risk.

ProjectStars CEO describes how this new site blends job board with social networking

I’m returning from a holiday hiatus with recharged batteries and major content changes to Digital Solid. Come back often or subscribe to find exclusive interviews with online news-makers, plus more news and tips you’ve told me you appreciate as marketers in an increasingly technological world.

Michael Beddows - CEO - ProjectStarsTo kick things off in 2008, I’m thrilled to bring you an interview with Michael Beddows, CEO of the new projectstars b-to-b online social network. This site is part project board, part social network and part blogging cooperative. It’s a novel mix that has already attracted an impressive critical mass of participants.

Q: projectstars has been around for almost four months. Has the growth you’ve seen in that time surprised you, or was it about what you were expecting?

MB: Considering that our marketing over the past few months has consisted entirely of word-of-mouth, we’re very pleased with both the quantity and quality of our membership growth. This organic growth has also provided us with some great feedback on how we can refine our equity blogging approach.

Q: In a blog entry you mention that there are generally three types of online communities, and they mirror the Malcolm Gladwell The Tipping Point connector types. Of the three, projectstars is a “Maven” network, where you’ve written, “Content is king … For those who are knowledgeable, these [Maven] sites are a great place to showcase expertise and get discovered.” Can you name other communities that follow this “maven model,” where members are encouraged to promote themselves and their expertise?

MB: LinkedIn has an Answers section where members can vie to be nominated as the “Top Expert.” The difference with projectstars is that our members are not restricted to a Q&A format and can participate in more engaging conversations. projectstars is also more amenable to search engine optimization, which means that our member contributions are more discoverable in search engines. It’s one thing to be seen as an expert within the confines of LinkedIn, quite another to be seen as an expert on the Internet at large.

Q: Your site says that you’re “blurring the line” between job sites and business/social communities. This is extraordinary enough, in that I’ve never seen another site that is certifiably both, as yours is. But what has struck me as more novel is that your business model sounds a lot like a cooperative. A week ago you conducted your first share giveaway, where 100 members with the most earned points receive their shares in the business. This sounds unique for a social network site. Is there any other community that you’ve modeled this against?

MB: We believe we are the first social network to offer members shares. We think this is the way any online community should operate as it’s the members who make the community. It’s quite possible that someday, many social networks and blog communities will become equity blogs, where members band together to form a cooperative.

Q: Speaking of blurred lines, I like the Facebook login feature, which allows anyone who is already part of Facebook to register with projectstars from a page within Facebook. I was curious how the tie-in would benefit me, and saw that friends in Facebook who are also on projectstars are immediately identified and added as a projectstars buddy. What a cool way to tie the two communities together. Has this Facebook connection helped spread the word about projectstars?

MB: With so many sites out there, anything which makes registration easier is good in our books, so the Facebook login helps in that respect. We are also developing a Facebook application so that your projectstars blogs will show up on your profile and others can vote on them – once this is completed we do expect that will help spread the word.

Q: Are you optimistic about future tie-ins with other social networks through OpenSocial? How is this work progressing?

MB: We are members of the OpenSocial development lists and are tracking progress closely, however OpenSocial specifications are still in development so we expect it will be later in Q1 2008 before we see anything from projectstars on this front. We are also investigating the possibility of projectstars itself being an OpenSocial container. projectstars members can already set up their own personalized page of projectstars content, RSS feeds, and widgets at my.projectstars.com so this would be an ideal place to host OpenSocial apps.

Q: Blogging is a great way for domain experts to show off their knowledge. On the other hand, many of these same people already have one or more blogs. Are you looking at ways to port “outside” blog content into your site, or do you simply want to encourage bloggers to move their tent within the walls of projectstars?

MB: We did investigate linking members blogs to the system, however there were two problems with this. First, the projectstars community structure means that automating where posts appear is not easily possible, and second we realize that although people do have their own blogs, they don’t always blog about one subject, and sometimes blog about personal/life issues. As we want to keep projectstars content focused on the topics provided by the 300 communities, we decided to enable blogging within the system.

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Four frivolous blogs for One Positive Day

I interrupt this Labor Day holiday weekend with something totally frivolous. It’s the first day of the month, and in honor of Kevin Hillstrom’s One Positive Day concept I’d like to praise a group of people, instead of a single business or individual. Today, in this warm and sunny Midwestern Saturday, I’d like to tip a glass of something cold in the direction of the millions of people who’ve made the Internet richer by sharing their lives and their talents with the world.

I write a professional blog, for purely professional reasons. I love it. I hope that comes through and takes some of the starch out of these posts. But there is always a level of propriety. The web may be freewheeling, but at least within these virtual office walls, I’ve placed limits on the topics covered and how they are discussed.

Blogging For The Fun of It

Most of the tens of millions of active bloggers have quite different standards and approaches. To my surprise, many are friends. I did a mental count yesterday, and realized that four of these friends who “blog for fun” were friends before they started blogging. (Full disclosure: One of them is more than just a friend. Hi, Julie. I’ll be home shortly — promise!)

A favorite of Max Estes’ blog so far

And here, I’ve defined a friend in less the Friendster definition of a close connection on a profile, and more as a “real world” friend. In other words, I’ve shot the breeze with all of them, without a business connection or prior blogging relationship. Here are their blogs, listed from most recently founded to most established:

  1. My Life As A Bunny As I write this in a coffee shop, Max Estes is sitting at the neighboring table. His newly-launched daily blog (Wow! I can’t believe he’s so prolific!) is an absolute treat (example shown above). You may notice his style. He gave me permission to use a piece of his artwork to adorn the home page of this blog. I pray he wasn’t drawing me, but I’m too chicken to ask.
  2. Marty Feldmanize Me I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Augie for years. We first bonded over geek stuff, and the store for pet lovers he operates with his wife. And yes, we’re also professional colleagues. But I hope we’re friends first. Lately, his blog has shown me a new side to this complicated individual. Similar to the original Sienfeld show, I’d define this as a blog about nothing. I’ve enjoyed taking a break with it quite a bit.
  3. Bad Ass Birds The only blog in this list with a mildly vulgar title is also coincidentally the only one I would give a solid “G” rating, in terms of content and profanity. It amazes me how a mixture of made-up birds, odd reviews of even odder films, and semi-serious summaries of 1970s Dark Shadows TV episodes could add up to something so compelling. Man! As I look around, these bloggers are making me feel so boring!
  4. The Song In My Head Today This blog is lovingly written by a talented and passionate music reviewer (who also has excellent musical taste, in my humble opinion — she and I agree so often on her selections!). You’ll be challenged and entertained by Holly’s reviews. And God bless anyone who has on her blog an Elvis Costello Week!

Could you think of a better time than now, during this sultry long weekend, to amble through some new and perfectly frivolous blogs? Go for it. Subscribe to the ones you like, and be sure to comment on them as you see fit. (Comments keep us bloggers from feeling like we’re wasting our breath!)

And if any of your friends come to you and say, “I’m thinking of starting a blog,” tell them you know someone who has seen several of his friends — mostly non-tech types – take the plunge and revel in the world they found on the other side. Give your friend plenty of encouragement and watch what happens. It’s a blast for all involved.