Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Five Brands Take On Blogging

A blog is one of the best tools a company can use to connect with its customers. According to Dechay Watts, a blog gives your company a voice, creates a place to talk about your products and services, and it is a place to let your brand's personality shine. I took a close look at five different blogs to see how the brands are engaging with consumers, in the hopes that I could learn a couple things that I could use to improve my own blog. Here's what I found!

1. Express - EXPLife

The clothing store Express maintains a professional blog that's purpose is to inform young adult's about the latest fashion trends, and to showcase the brand's clothing. One thing that really stands out about EXPLife is how the site goes beyond push marketing, and really focuses on entertaining its intended audience. In a post about campus fashion you can listen to a popular Ke$ha song, there is a link for an app that puts your pictures into a collage, and there is a recipe for jungle juice (right). EXPLife goes beyond trying to sell their products, and posts things that are relevant to young adults. The targeted content on EXPLife reflects that Express is a brand for trendy, young adults.

Express marketers drive traffic to their blog by posting new content regularly. If there's always something new to see or read, people will continuously checkin with your blog. EXPLife also provides buttons that link to the brand's Facebook page, Twitter account, YouTube channel, Pinterest, Instagram and RSS feed, and there is a sidebar displaying the brand's latest tweets and Instagram posts. These social media links allow readers to connect with the brand and share the brand on multiple platforms, which magnifies the brand's reach and drives traffic to the blog. At the bottom of every EXPLife post, you have the option of liking the story on Facebook, tweeting the story, or sharing it on Google Plus. These share buttons, the links to social media networks and publishing content on a regular basis are the aspects that make EXPLife successful.

It would benefit Express to place its social media buttons higher on the blog, because that is the most viewed and clicked area. While some of the links were near the top, I had to scroll to the bottom of the page to find links to the brand's Pinterest and Instagram accounts.

Because EXPLife is a blog for a retail store, there are no advertisements on the blog. It wouldn't make sense to display clothing ads for any of Express' competitors! If the brand was going to add advertisements, they might consider showing advertisements for brands that they work with. On the blog there are video segments that Express does with GQ. Since the two brands are already working together, EXPLife could have advertisements for the magazine.

2. Style Me Pretty 

Style Me Pretty is a group blog where brides can submit photos and short stories from their wedding day. The purpose of the blog is to inspire brides and the blog does that not only through the gorgeous pictures, but through links to the best vendors and tutorials for DIY projects. One feature that makes Style Me Pretty unique is that it's tailored for brides based on their location (left). If I were searching for a wedding planner, I wouldn't have to go through hundreds of different profiles for wedding planners all over the world, I could go directly to wedding planners in Columbus, Ohio or Jacksonville, Florida, etc.  The blog is convenient for brides to use.

Style Me Pretty posts pictures of weddings of every size, style and budget (below). If you're looking for inspiration for fall weddings, DIY weddings, or beautiful weddings on a budget, you can find it on Style Me Pretty. The fact that the blog is all-encompassing reflects on the brand. The brand is for every bride, not just brides with large budgets. This policy to include everyone makes the brand seem more welcoming.

One of the reasons many brides visit Style Me Pretty is because the blog appears at the top of many popular search engines. When you type "wedding blog" into Google, Bing and Yahoo, Style Me Pretty is the first, first and third result, respectively. The higher a blog is on a search engine, the more traffic that blog will receive. Style Me Pretty also uses a lot of images on their page, which engage more people.

Several other factors that contribute to Style Me Pretty's success are links to the brand's social media networks displayed prominently at the top of the blog, share buttons at the end of each post, and new content being posted several times a day. Style Me Pretty is also successful because the brand posts original content. One of the guidelines for submitting your photos and stories on the blog is that your pictures can't be posted on any other site. Style Me Pretty is the only place viewers get to see the content, so that is going to attract more viewers because they won't be able to find the content anywhere else.

If I were to change one thing about Style Me Pretty, I would condense some of the pictures posts. Images draw the audience in, but it takes a long time to scroll through 30 pictures in order to get to the next post. People don't have a long attention span, so your content needs to be concise or your audience will only see one post.

Style Me Pretty has a sidebar for advertisements. The advertisements are actually helpful for blog visitors because they contain products that relate to weddings such as invitations, jewelry and wedding gowns.

3. Kodak - 1000 Words

1000 Words is a professional blog where Kodak employees can share their experiences with photography. The purpose of the blog is to inform audiences about photography news and Kodak products, and to entertain them with photography features.

One aspect that makes 1000 Words unique is every week the blog interviews a different professional photographer. The photographer explains his/her techniques and the products they use, and then you get to view the different pictures that they have shot. It gives a full-circle view on the photography as opposed to just showing pictures or trying to sell a product. Because the blog features professional photographers who use Kodak products, the brand is reflected very professionally.

Kodak drives traffic to 1000 Words through an integrated marketing communication strategy. The blog contains links to the brand's Facebook, Twitter, an RSS feed, and there is a link to sign up for company emails. The more people that are exposed the blog, the more traffic the blog will generate.

Based off of the criteria that we learned in this week's lecture, 1000 Words is successful because it connects with its target audience on several different platforms and they create original content. However, 1000 Words could be more successful if there were share buttons at the end of every post, and if content was posted more frequently. I think the blog could also use more images. As discussed above, images draw readers in, and the blog is about photography, so it would make sense to have more photographs.

1000 Words does not have any ads. If Kodak wanted to add advertisement, they could advertise different photographers or advertisements related to scrapbook because these both tie into the products they sell.

4. ESPN - College Football Nation

College Football Nation is a news blog that informs fans about the latest news and developments in college football. There are several aspects that make College Football Nation a unique blog. There is a tab where fans can choose their favorite team (right), and they'll only get stories regarding that team. I can choose to only read Ohio State stories, that way I never have to read about Michigan! There's also a tab where you send all of your college football questions to representatives from each conference (bottom right). The fact that the blog is catered to each user, makes users feel special and keeps them coming back to the blog.

ESPN's brand is all about being the leader in sport's news. That message is reflected throughout College Football Nation. Not only does the blog have a constant flow of sport stories, there is also a link to ESPN radio, links to several different college football blogs and outlets where fans can join in conversations about college football. Anything related to college football can be found on College Football Nation.

College Football Nation receives a lot of traffic from topping search engines. If you type "college football blog" into Google, College Football Nation is the top result. Another area where College Football Nation is getting a lot of traffic from is ESPN's website. The blog is easy to find from ESPN's main page (below).

College Football Nation is successful because it constantly posts original content so readers are always coming back for new updates and content. Each post has share buttons so readers can easily post the story to various social media sites and the story's reach can be magnified.

One thing that College Football Nation could do differently would be to condense long stories. If viewers could see the first several paragraphs, they could click onto the story if they wanted to read the whole thing. With audiences' short attention spans, they may leave the site if they have to take a lot of time scrolling through long stories that don't interest them.

There are only a couple advertisements on College Football Nation. If the blog wanted to expand advertising they could consider advertisements for televisions, cable companies or grocery brands that serve game day foods. Each of these advertisements are important to college football fans.

5. Recipe Girl

Recipe Girl is a recreational blog written by Lori Lange. The purpose of the blog is to inform readers about thousands of different recipes. An element that makes Recipe Girl stand out is how much Lange wants to work with readers. There is a page on her blog dedicated to working with readers on recipe development projects, being an ambassador to your products, and doing product reviews. Lange is forming real relationships with her readers, which helps make Recipe Girl more successful.

The idea that Lange cares about her audience is reflected throughout Recipe Girl. Not only is the blog a host for different recipes, but about once a week, Lange posts "stuff I've gotta share and you've gotta read" (right). These posts go beyond sharing recipes. Lange shares new clothing brands that she's discovered, great recipe books and asks readers to help her decide between two different kitchen appliances. She goes beyond push marketing, and cares about what her readers think and want. The blog reflects that readers can trust the brand.

Recipe Girl garners traffic through social media marketing. Displayed prominently at the top of the blog are social buttons so readers are able to connect with Recipe Girl on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google Plus, Instagram and RSS feeds. These social buttons, plus a button that allows readers to easily subscribe to the blog, help make the blog successful. In order to be more successful, there could be social share buttons at the end of each post. Who would want to share a recipe peach and raspberry pie bars with all of there friends?

There are an abundance of advertisements on Recipe Girl. There doesn't seem to be any theme to the advertisements, so the blog could consider advertising for kitchen appliances, department stores that sell appliances and food chains because those are more relevant to the blog's content.

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