Of all the killer social media engagement tools out there, none beats the blog. As the song from Disney’s Cinderella claims, it’s “the thingmabob that does the job.” If you’re at all in doubt, check your dubiousness at the door. Businesses that write on their blog regularly receive 55% more website visitors and have 437% more indexed pages in Google than business that do not.
Done right, a blog is a great way to get your audiences to come to you. In Start Building Your Audience Today Bret Wagner talks about how non-profits can grow their network of supporters by blogging with messages their constituents want to hear. If you provide valuable content you’ll slowly and surely build a loyal fan base. And since Google loves blogs too, try to incorporate key words into your posts on which you think your audiences will search (Don’t stress over this part however; it’s far more important to create great content your audiences will want to share. Check out 4 Signs That You’re Blogging for the Wrong Reasons for some great perspective).
Non-profit Blogging Checklist
- Who is this blog for? Recommendation: Have a primary target audience in mind before you start. If you have truly distinct audiences that don’t overlap much, you may consider more than one blog. Remember that you want the blog to build bonds with existing fans and also create new ones.
- How do I get started? Recommendation: Use a simple blog template such as WordPress, Blogger or Typepad. Ideally you’ll use a design that is similar to your main website, with tabs that mimic that site and which can be clicked on to take your readers back to the website. They won’t even realize they’re on a different site if this is done right.
- What will you post about? Recommendation: Develop a three- month editorial calendar with topics of interest to your target constituencies. What are your most frequently asked questions? Which programs generate the greatest number of earmarked donations? What’s fresh and new and exciting? Include topics that are in the news and/or breaking news for your organization. And cover a range of topics so you appeal to those who prefer vanilla as well as the chocolate lovers.
- How often you will post? Recommendation: One blog post per week.
- When will you post? Recommendation: Initially you can play around with different days of the week and times of the day; monitor which posts get the most page views. Ultimately you’ll want to develop a schedule and stick to it. Blog fans come to expect their updates on certain days and even at certain times. Fans who get disappointed a few times often stop showing up and stop recommending your blog.
- How long should the post be? Recommendation: It’s a post; not a book. 500 – 700 words is a good average. Aim for something you can accomplish. If that’s shorter, then try for a useful top ten list; or post an event photo and add a commentary, or excerpt from a workshop and talk about the desired outcomes for those who involved. Be creative, and keep it simple.
- Who will create the post? Recommendation: Spread the wealth and ask a range of folks on your staff to create content. Or ask board, volunteers or colleagues to do “guest” posts. Make sure you ask only those who are excited by the task, and who have the skills and knowledge. Keep it personal, yet have one person serve as “editor” to assure that everything meets the criteria set forth in your editorial calendar, adheres to your brand guidelines and doesn’t look sloppy.
- Should I include graphics? Recommendation: YES. People engage more and retain more when images are incorporated into text. Check out Should your blog posts look more like this? for more data on how this works.
- Why are you blogging? Always remember: You’re doing this for a reason; not simply to fill airspace. What do you want your readers to think/feel/do as a result of reading your post? Ask them to do it, and make it easy for them to do so. Encourage readers to engage by commenting. And always respond to comments. This humanizes your blog so you don’t seem like a faceless internet “robot.”
- Where else can this blog content be useful? Consider the blog as the hub of your marketing communications strategy. Information in your post can also be shared on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social media sites. You can link to your blog from your e-newsletter, enabling you to create succinct e-news emails with everything ‘above the fold’. For areas that interest them, fans simply have to “click”. No more scrolling for them, and you don’t have to create fresh copy. It’s already been written!
Point 3 resonates for me. I call it a pipeline, but I wonder how many bloggers build a calendar. My hypothesis is they don't and that is why so many blogs fall by the wayside.
Thanks Jim. It is indeed a pipeline. But it's not just about having content ready to move. It's about having content that will really resonate with your readers. That's why I call it a calendar. And, I agree, most folks don't stop to plan ahead. Even I must confess to being better at preaching than practicing. That's why I'm asking folks for feedback regarding the content they'd like to see in future posts. 😉
This is terrific and so clear. Request for a future post – the nuts and bolts of one blog post – like the narrative story of what happens before and after posting. (Meaning something like: the post on content "x" is part of the 3- month calendar scripted in advanced, it is posted on Monday because Nonprofit X has tracked the data and analyzed that Monday is its best day for garnering comments. Once the post is on the blog, what are the next steps – step by step on how to incorporate in facebook, twitter and LinkedIn (both status and groups), then as the post gets any comments, likes, retweets, exactly what should Nonprofit X do, how to use those comments to drive traffic back to the blog, etc.).
Thanks Julia. It's on the list!