If you’re serious about making your corporate blog succeed, your primary job is to create compelling, value-added content and posting on a regular schedule. Do that, and you’ll dramatically increase your chances of success. But that doesn’t mean you can avoid making one important decision: What blogging software will you use to power it?
Choosing the Right Tool for the Job
Chances are your visitors couldn’t care less what blogging platform you use. Unless your audience is the kind that follows internet trends, a link to the service on the front page of your site won’t register. Don’t expect to draw traffic solely because you shelled out big bucks for the most popular or cutting edge blogging software.
What the right blogging software can do for you is make publishing easier – and the easier it is for you to publish, the more likely you’ll be to do it on a regular schedule.
I tend to agree with Marijean’s stance: stay away from blogs hosted by one of the big blog services. True, if you need to get a site up yesterday, most of these services do allow you to use your own URL, and most allow you to export posts and associated comments. But in the long run, it’s in your best interest to self-host your blog. Services like Blogger and TypePad offer a limited number of site templates to choose from. If you want to make specific customizations, you’ll be limited by restrictions imposed by the service you’ve chosen.
At my day job, I routinely recommend one of three options for self-hosted blogging software. Which one you choose will largely depend on the needs and current state of your corporate site.
- WordPress – WordPress is open source (which roughly translates to “free” – at least for the software itself), plus it’s got a killer user interface that’s easy on the eyes and even easier to navigate. It’s got all of the features you need and expect from a blog built right in: comments and comment moderation, categories, static pages for “about us” information, tags, auto-generating RSS feeds … the list goes on. WordPress’ “themes” architecture also makes it easy to change the look and feel of your blog on the fly. There are many great free and paid themes out there, and making slight modifications to an existing theme can be the quickest way to get your custom-branded corporate blog off the ground.
- ExpressionEngine – If you need a blog and have a medium-to-large corporate site – maybe one that doesn’t get as much attention as it should – you may want to consider ExpressionEngine as part of a larger website rehab project. ExpressionEngine is used successfully by many bloggers, but it also excels at managing complex information from your main site – like event calendars, staff bio information, and the like. With ExpressionEngine, the management of that site information and your blog all happens in one place. The downside: a limited theme system means you’ll almost certainly need to hire a programmer or developer if you decide to go this route.
- Custom Built Applications – Likely more than you need, but worth a mention. If your company has big-time aspirations for the web – which, incidentally, also needs to include a blog – you’ll probably need to have a team of programmers build you a custom Content Management System (see below), and any programming team worth their salt will be able to build a blogging component into your custom web app. Of course, it can be tricky figuring out when your company needs to call in the big guns to build a custom web application for your site. Here’s a tip: If during that recent strategy session your boss uttered the phrase “the next Amazon,” you’re probably on this path already.
Throwing Content Management Systems (CMS) Into the Mix
Here’s the thing: Blogging software is essentially a simple Content Management System. A CMS is, according to bized.co.uk: “A collection of tools designed to allow the creation, modification organisation and removal of information from a Web site. It is common for a CMS to require users to have no knowledge of HTML in order to create new Web pages.”
Today’s blogging tools are often used to serve up entire websites. At Category 4, our development team uses WordPress for many of the sites we build – including some that are fairly complex. WordPress can easily exist right along side of your existing site; the two don’t have to seamlessly integrate. But if your site’s in need of an overhaul, this might be the perfect time to revamp it. Being able to blog and manage your site’s static content from one easy-to-use web interface means you’ll be able to update your content more frequently. And that is the undeniable first step in forming stronger connections with your customers on the web.
Matt Dawson is a web developer at Category 4, a design services, programming, eCommerce solutions and graphic design firm based in Charlottesville, Va. Standing Partnership, with offices in St. Louis, Mo. and Charlottesville, partnered with Category 4 to provide a comprehensive new Web site for Spring Creek Land Development, LLC. Standing Partnership provides comprehensive reputation management to Spring Creek, a golf course community located near Charlottesville.