Sunday, November 2, 2008

Blogging for a startup

A lot of blogging resources recommend having a blog for your business. A blog can be useful for various reasons, the most important one being that you may promote your product.

I believe that for promoting the product, the content of the blog must be interesting enough for people which are not familiar with the product to come and read the posts. Then, they find out about the product and use it, fulfilling the mission of the blog and not the other way around, having the product sending readers to the blog.

Image by El Fotopakismo

Some of the general reasons mentioned for having a blog as a business include:
  • Announcing new features. This is good, but then your readers would be the users of your product. Who else is going to read a list of upcoming new stuff you worked a lot upon, other than the already existing users? In Teamness, we made a special page called News, where we're adding information about new features. There is also a RSS feed provided for this News page. This way, we spare the users who are only interested in the product to spend time going through our blog posts.
  • Frequently asked questions about the product. Why spread them around posts in a blog, when you can display all of them with a searchable feature in your website? In Teamness we gathered them all under the Help page. We also implemented a mechanism to offer contextual help, by sending the user directly to the questions in Help referring to the page she/he started from.
  • What are you working on. This is also related to announcing new features. It might be interesting only for existing users.
  • A mix of the above. Not such a good idea, in my opinion. As problogger describes it, writing about multiple topics on a blog makes users "became disillusioned with the blog". People wanting to know if a new feature is available will become annoyed by other types of posts.
Then, what's left to write about?

Many of the advices found on the web regarding blogging for business omit the fact that as a startup, you would want to maintain a blog in order to get users for your product. Therefore, we think that the blog has to become attractive, independently of the product.

We are continuously trying to find subjects to write about in order to keep this blog interesting. We found two interesting directions:

Writing about Teamness as a startup and the way we try to grow Teamness as a product. We often find blogs on the web for various products which write about their development process and it's an interesting and useful resource.

Writing about product collaboration and management methodologies and how can these be applied to small businesses. Teamness users are people working and collaborating on various projects. Having this topic on the blog could bring new insights for some and could introduce Teamness to them.

What's your opinion about blogs for businesses? Also, what subjects would be of interest to you on this blog?


Eduard said...

I think the the scope of "Business Blog" is to decouple somehow the business information from formal to informal. Maintaining a business blog is like going in short pants and Hawaiian shirt in the office. Also is a good way to market your product through a "trend line" like blog.

Paul Marculescu said...

Nice comparison, Eduard. :)

Costin G. Raiu said...

I think a blog is an essential PR tool that every startup should have. Posting on a regular basis and especially posting interesting information in a friendly manner is going to give you a fan base that can later help with suggestions and growth.
Despite the above, I believe a startup should not stop with just a blog; things like Twitter or Facebook are becoming more popular than blogs these days in terms of reach.
So, I'd say go balance and distribute the resources between blogs, Twitter and a friendly, interactive website.


Paul Marculescu said...

Costin, thanks for the comment.

I couldn't agree more with you. Microblogging platforms like Twitter help with making contacts, but you actually have to produce content to build the fan base, as you mentioned. They go hand in hand.

Violeta said...

I consider the blog as a marketing tool that allows to build relationships, create a community of readers and encourage feedback. The feedback received can help you in the future in improving the application.

Anonymous said...

In a business blog, interesting and very useful would be articles on how a product/feature came to be, not how it works put in a friendly manner.

I think also the friendly issue is a bit redundant. If articles were very tech oriented or encyclopaedia style, then we would call the idea “technical writing”. Blogging implies a certain degree of informal language use and personal ideas.

But returning to business blogging… let’s remember that the users of a product are … well… users! Not developers of that product. Even if the greatest developer from Oracle uses Microsoft Outlook, he is still a user. In that respect, imagine for a moment that his house is on fire and it takes only an email to save it. He would be more interested in how to use the program and not why & how was developed with a certain technology.
Users are users and a business blog should help them understand the reasons behind a program/feature. This has a great impact not only on the existing users but also in the prospective customers.

Imagine again, if you would, that Mr. Iulian, after reading several business articles from the company blog understands that dividing a large team in smaller groups with team leaders on each will greatly improve the chance of success in that project (just an idea, of course). If he is an existing user, then he will understand why the Teamness collaboration tool was designed that way and start using it more efficiently. If he is a prospective customer maybe he will understand that this is the tool he is looking for because it relates to his exact needs. Ultimately, and this is my favourite, since people are not skilled in every field, maybe Iulian realizes that what he wanted in the first place was wrong and this is the better way to do it. This means changing own needs.

Now it will be futile to suggest to the user a better way to do his job unless you back that up with supporting information. This can be anything from other articles from trusted sources to academic papers or in the end market research related to trends, statistics, best practices etc.

In the end, if you make me understand what you want to do and why you want to do it like that, then you can save us all some time. I can assess faster if this is the right tool for me or if it goes in the right direction, or … well… not. The “not” is very important to you because then you would not waste time developing a feature that doesn’t fit your idea for a user that in the end will drop the tool. Explaining why you don’t develop it also means time wasted for you. The business blog can explain it for everyone.

Now that is what I think it would make for a great business blog!

Paul Marculescu said...

Iulian, thanks for your opinion. It's nice to see comments longer than the post itself. :)

Your suggestion for blogging about design decisions for features is a good idea and we'll take it into account for future posts.

Anonymous said...

I'll keep it shorter next time

Paul Marculescu said...

Iulian, we are very happy to get your insights. Please post them as long as the comment textbox allows. :)

Olivia said...

Hi Paul & teamness team :)
I like the idea of your blog so far. It is honest, open, and talks about your challenges as a startup. This is not something that I see very often.

For me, it would be nice to read, like you suggested, posts about collaboration and project management.
Sometimes I believe that things that me and my team (spred around the world) are doing in an overly complicated way may have a very simple and stupid solution. I would like to get insight into some of this solutions :)
Thanks for the interesting topics! Again, a very fresh and interesting business blog.

Sorin Ostafiev said...

Thank you for the nice words. We'll do our best to focus on some aspects related to project management, from a small virtual team perspective like ours.

Maybe you'll also like this post: Working in a virtual team that I wrote about one week ago.