This week, The 365 Guide has looked at basic considerations for incorporating a blog into your travel agency’s marketing plan. Let’s wrap up with a few basic concepts and tips that can put you on the road to having a blogging program that can be one of your most important client acquisition and retention tactics. A bit of planning early on will generate big returns as your blog begins to grow and your approach becomes more demanding of your blogging system and setup.
Blogging requires much less knowledge of programming and HTML than building and maintaining a website. Nevertheless, the initial setup is greatly facilitated by a hosting company or technical assistant with experience in setting up a blog. Most blog programs offer a variety of templates from which to choose. One of the first decisions is to either set up your own independent blog software on your own servers or to use a hosted solution where the blogging software remains on the servers of your provider. Hosted solutions are easier to use and manage. Some good places to begin are WordPress (www.wordpress.org) and Blogger (www.blogger.com). These sites will get you up and running very quickly. You may want to begin with a hosted solution for the sake of convenience and a quick start and later move to an independent platform if you feel constrained.
Most hosting companies have all types of “blogging freebies” you can add to your blog. Use these cautiously as they can really make your blog look like Times Square and detract from your content. Buttons, images, tag clouds, maps, guestbooks and dozens of other add-ons are available. Again, my suggestion is to obtain some professional design assistance and stay as clean and professional in your look and feel as possible.
Most blogging consultants will tell you there are five types of blog for organizing the blog perspective:
- CEO – the top dog speaks for the company
- Aggregate – several people write at various times
- Staff – one or more company employees are the posters
- Specialist – a super-expert/niche theme and author
- Customer evangelist – You allow clients to blog about your company
While these lines are far from absolute, they do provide good, general guidelines about the style of blog you want to present to the world. Most agency blogs work best using the CEO or Staff approach. Make sure that the person who has the posting responsibilities understands company guidelines and permissible topics.
Be sure to proofread and spell check. Almost daily I find spelling errors and grammatical faults in our articles here on TRO ….ouch. I wish I could blame the daily editorial schedule and our deadline pressures, but those are not excuses. Typos do nothing for the professionalism of your blog, so search and destroy.
Blog on a regular schedule. Fresh content draws your readership in. Whatever you do, don’t allow your blog to go unattended for extended periods of time. People like routines they can predict and rely upon and will give up on your blog if you neglect it.
Search engines love blogs. The content is often original and unique to the blog. In addition, most blogging programs generate URLs for stories that are very search engine friendly. Note, for example, the URL’s used here for TRO articles.
Have a thick skin. When you open your blog up to comments, not everyone will be a fan. You will have a group of “Angels” and “Devils” that will likely appear from time to time. Incorporate your Angels by sending them off-blog emails from time to time about upcoming stories and ask for their input or comments. Let the Devils be devils and moderate as lightly as possible.
A well thought-out blog is a tremendous asset to your company’s marketing strategy, but is also a serious commitment of time and energy – precious resources. Once you have opted to create a company blog, the time you spend planning and organizing your blog in its earliest conception is a terrific investment.