Calling all business bloggers! If you blog for your business, no matter what size, we want to hear more about your experience. We would like to gauge the effectiveness of blogging for business, start collecting data about trends, the costs involved, your target audiences and the benefits. We look forward to sharing the anonymised results of this survey and analysis of the data with you in due course.
This is an initiative of the Irish Internet Association’s Social Media Working Group to gather information about blogging for business in Ireland. This survey was run last year (results available online) and formed part of the data for the guide “Join the Conversation: A Guide to Blogging for Business” Your response will be completely anonymous and the survey takes about 10 minutes to complete.
Did you complete the survey last year? Please take the time to complete it again; it will help us gauge developing trends in blogging for businesses in Ireland.
A while ago now myself and Damien Mulley participated in a podcast for Enterprise Ireland about blogging for business. The interview was conducted by Ralph Averbuch who was shortlisted in the Best Business Podcaster category in the Net Visionary Awards earlier this year.
I hope you find it useful.
Garrendenny Lane Interiors is a home business based in Carlow. Owned and run by Lorna Sixsmith, it offers a new and unique way to shop for your home. Rather than browsing in a standard shop in town, Lorna’s background in Interior Design allows her to provide a personal service where products can be displayed in a relaxed “home” environment. Not having a shop front in the town does mean that Lorna faces some additional challenges in promoting the business.
Interior design is a relatively new career choice for Lorna, having worked as a teacher, lecturer and head of department previously. Within those roles, she had to plan, deliver, work to targets, (persuade teenagers to complete coursework – easier said than done!), work to time scales and lead teams. While her current business has many of the same requirements – working from home means that these tasks are all done by her and at any hour of the day (or night).
The website was launched in late 2007 and the online shop (www.garrendennylane.ie) opened in August 2008. It stocks items such as kitchenware, bed linen, accessories for children, gifts, tea sets, clocks and candleholders. Such a wide variety of products can make search engine optimisation tricky on a small site.
Lorna first heard about blogging via an Enterprise Board training course and had her web developer integrate the blog into the website to get the most benefit from incoming links. Lorna freely admits that IT is not her strong point – but this does not hold her back from running a successful blog.
Some of the benefits of blogging provides for her business are:
- A better opportunity to reflect her expertise in the Interior Design business on a regular basis
- Information is available to customers 24 hours a day
- Customers have the opportunity to see some of the latest projects
- Constantly updated content keeps customers returning
- The blog and twitter account provides direct access to customers in a way that is difficult with static web pages
- It’s easy to post photos and descriptions of new products without producing a catalogue type interface
- Products can be promoted in a more personal way – without the bland description a traditional online shop may have
- The blog offers more opportunities for search engine optimisation
- Twitter allows customers comments and questions to be dealt with immediately
Lorna spends up to one and a half hours per week writing for her blog (circa three posts per week) and spends about the same time following other people’s blogs. This will be good news for business bloggers that are concerned blogging will take up too much time. Almost 32% of the respondents to the IIA Business Blogger Survey noted that they spent four to eight hours per week on their blogging activities. Lorna recently appeared on RTE’s Not Enough Hours program – where she claims the amount of blogging she does was exaggerated. The program did highlight the difficulty of balancing a work and home environment.
From the first day the blog articles were a mix of personal items, product reviews and tips. Lorna felt that this mix would be most suitable for her target customers because it enhances the personal service she provides. She feels the personal touch is very important for her business – both online and for direct contact. While the blog articles provide a behind the scenes view of her business she also provides an unusual twist on the theme. Customers can send photos of a room (via email or twitter) and get interior design advice by phone and email. The importance of seeing the products is not forgotten either as she sends samples via the post.
It’s not yet clear how useful Twitter will prove as a long term business tool for GarrenDenny Lane Interiors. While it provides direct contact to customers (especially home users outside of normal business hours) Lorna is aware how some users seem to be addicted to it. The majority of her customer contact is via the blog, email or phone calls. Currently she monitors activity on Twitter but only occasionally “tweets”. While also using Google Adwords, Online Directories, LinkedIn and Facebook to promote the business, Lorna says the blog is the focus of her activities. She does admit to being new to Twitter and has not ‘worked’ it properly yet.
One of the major issues for businesses is which metrics can they use to measure the success of a business blog. The IIA Business Blogger Survey found that the top ways that Irish businesses measure the success of their blogging activities include receiving positive feedback from customers and being referred to positively in other, more traditional, media. On both these counts Lorna has been successful with her blog but says she still has a lot more she wishes to achieve. Specifically she says she needs to write articles with a higher focus on potential search engine optimisation.
Her success rate so far has been excellent – she says 30-40% of her business has come via her blogging activities. Her blog has helped her gain customers(*) and make sales in the UK and in the US as well as Ireland. The exchange rate has meant that sales to the UK have drastically reduced but she says the export sales she gets are related to the blog. Lorna also guest writes for an American blog and sends a monthly newsletter that helps remind her customers of her online presence.
With house hunters and home decorators becoming increasingly Internet savvy it’s important for businesses like Garrendenny Lane to not just have an online presence but to be available for their customers and to give them direct access to real people. Lorna is leading the way in showing what a small business can achieve.
(*) How does Lorna know she is gaining customers via the Blog? At this point one might expect details of Google Analytics accounts, cookies and other tracking mechanisms but Lorna uses the most reliable method of all – She talks to her customers. When a customer contacts her with queries – she makes a point of asking them how they found her.
Thanks to Emmet Ryan of Villa81 who made this video which sums up the launch yesterday of “Join the Conversation: The Guide to Blogging for Business“.
I am delighted that the IIA Social Media Working Group are launching “Join the Conversation: The Guide to Blogging for Business” today. Being a member of the working group (and we are all volunteers) I know how much work went into the guide and all the agonizing that was done over the tiniest details . I hope you find it useful and inspiring. However the whole group would love if you could share your thoughts and feedback in the comments here or via twitter, by email, by skype; whichever is your preferred medium!
I have prepared a social media press release for those of you who might like some background information on the guide and those involved. This includes links to media, images, content and a Delicious page with all manner of related content. It might be worth grabbing a feed for this as I will add to it as more content appears online. I hope you find this a useful way of sharing information and I would love any feedback you have on this approach.
A big thank you as well to IIA Member Company Vermillion Design who developed the design of the Guide. It is designed to work best on screen but can be printed also.
Further to yesterday’s post about business blogging in Ireland Damien Mulley and I recently participated in Enterprise Ireland eBusiness Unit — Podcast: Blogging for Business where we discuss many aspects of business blogging from basic terminology right up to examples of business blogs. You can listen right in the browser or subscribe to the complete series.
More salubrious company for the IIA blog in the longlist of the Irish Blog Awards. Do you know, while I’m thrilled that the IIA is featuring, I am even more thrilled that so many members of the IIA are listed amongst these business blogs too. The IIA is all about the business of the internet and business on the internet so it’s great to see so many members getting this kind of recognition. Congrats to all longlisted in this category and in all the others too!
Best Blog of a Business – Sponsored by RedCardinal.ie
- Keith Bohanna
- IIA Blog
- Puddle Ducks
- Icecream Ireland
- Krishna De
- Sabrina Dent
- Peter Donegan Landscaping
- Robin Blandford
- Curious Wines
- Worldwide Cycles
- eWrite Cork
- Fortify Your Oasis
- Brian Honan Consulting
- Blacknight Blog
- Niceday Designs
- Brightspark Consulting
- Nononsense Blog
And what illustrious company in the business blogs category in the Irish Blog Awards! We’re also delighted to see so many of our members being nominated for their business and, indeed, personal blogs. A nomination for an award shows that somebody sat down and chose you over all the other blogs they could have chosen for that category so it’s kudos no matter how the shortlists turn out. So a big thanks to whoever nominated us. It is a great reflection on us and all our guest bloggers.
You can see the entire list of nominations here. Do put some time aside before clicking on that link as you will find yourself being amazed, inspired and riveted to all that is going on in the Irish Blogosphere.
At the beginning of December the IIA Social Media Working Group invited interested parties to join them in person or remotely in order to workshop their draft guide to business blogging. A very interesting session ensued with plenty of input from those in the room which you can hear on this three part podcast.
You can also subscribe in iTunes to the IIA podcast and receive any future podcasts from us.
We also had input from others via Twitter which caused me no end of half-brained responses. You can actually hear me saying “Ye wha?” as I try to respond to a tweet and a real live person at the same time. Nice. If we ever do this kind of workshop again I have a different plan for the live tweeting.
Much thanks for Brendan Hughes for chairing this event, Krishna De for facilitating the session and editing the podcast and to all those who participated. Input is still welcomed on the draft guide so please feel free to add your comments.
The IIA Social Media Working Group are reworking the draft of their recently shared Guide to Business Blogging after the recent workshop (3 part podcast now available and well worth a listen). One area that we felt needed some attention was the case studies and we this in mind we are inviting all to participate by completing the following questionnaire with a view to be included as a case study. This survey takes about ten minutes to complete and the working group would really appreciate your input.