E-disclosure Information Project sponsor 7Safe has joined the growing number of businesses using a blog to pass on information about what it does and what is happening in the company. It is a powerful and cheap marketing medium whatever you are promoting.
It will not surprise you to know that I believe strongly in the role of blogging as a means of conveying business information. My blog began as a backup resource to my website, a place, as I pictured it, where I could drop snippets of information without the relative formality and structure which a website requires. It speedily became my main output platform, a place where I sometimes put thousands of words each week. Although I intended it primarily as a feeder for my website, most of the traffic in fact goes the other way, with my website acting as an index to recent blog articles. I do the same for a law firm client and am about to start another. It works.
There are multiple attractions. These are partly to do with ease of use; at its simplest, you make a single click to open a new item, paste in some text, add a heading, and press “Publish”. You can choose, as I do, to spend some time setting it up with an image header, categories and so on, and your content can range from a few lines of instant thought to an extended essay. Another advantage is that you can cover things not necessarily appropriate for a company’s formal website and adopt a different tone. Many companies employ external designers for their websites and there are implications of both cost and corporate image involved in providing off-the-cuff additions.
Information Security company 7Safe is the latest to add a blog to its informational armoury. Its website has all the marks of a professional job, bound into the company’s getup and image, a formal shop window for its skills in computer forensics, training, eDiscovery etc. Someone, and I suspect more than one person, devoted a great deal of time, thought and resource to its design and content.
I am sure that they can update it relatively easily, but not by just dropping some text into a box and pressing “Publish” as I have described above. Its formality, wholly appropriate for a website, does not lend itself to minor pieces which help to make a company more approachable.
CEO Alan Phillips doubtless had all this in mind when he began writing a blog. Like mine, it is hosted by WordPress and is used for a variety of purposes. The top post as I write this advertises a job opportunity with 7Safe. One from a few days ago describes a new batch conversion tool which the company has developed to turn e-mails in .msg format into html . There are a pieces on a new Mac forensics course. There are pictures and videos, both of which are easily added in WordPress. Any of these could, no doubt, have appeared on the website, but the blog gives Alan Phillips the ability to publish instantly and with relative informality.
You can still find people who are sniffy about blogs as a vehicle. “I make it a rule not to read anything on a blog” said one barrister, although I note that his own web site links to my blog. It is not an attractive word, and its origins as a “web log” encourage the perception that a blog’s primary function is stream-of-consciousness gabble about the cat and what one had for breakfast. So far as I am concerned, it is a cheap (actually free) means of reaching audiences from Melbourne to New York – a post which I put up late last night attracted a kind comment from New York this morning, for example – powerful stuff if you are launching a new product.
A blog’s marketing power extends beyond being a passive source of information about a business. If you follow some basic rules of search engine optimisation, a business blog can become a source of leads and introductions. Most of the articles I write trigger Google alerts set for terms like “e-discovery”, and if I get the notifications then so do others, often within minutes of my pressing the “Publish” button. A corporate blog pointing to a company’s primary website helps to steer hits and traffic in the right direction. A Google search for Mac forensics e-disclosure returns one of 7Safe’s blog pages at number 9 out of 18,300 hits.
Blogs are mainstream by now anyway. Having begun by using my blog as a means of drawing readers to my website, I have just started using Twitter to draw attention to new blog posts, discovering as I did so that others are already kind enough to do that for me. I do not anticipate that Twitter will become my primary form of output, but it is already an important source of readers.
My position differs from that of companies like 7Safe in that the words themselves are the main thing I sell, whereas 7Safe uses them to promote other services. The only real difference lies in the time spent writing the posts — I can justify spending hours on a single post whereas 7Safe merely want a quick forum for its news. The medium lends itself well to either approach.