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Blog Critique: OPENXTRA Blog

A bit of a different blog to critique this time. Unlike my other blog critiques this is a blog attached to a network management product e-commerce store. Anyone with a corporate blog of any variety will likely be familiar with the challenges involved.

The OPENXTRA Blog was launched in November 2006 judging from the archives. There is a fair amount of news content and some posts with a modicum of insight into the inner workings of the company. Network management is a well-geeky topic so there is not the lack of web-savvy holding back this audience that you might find in, say, a knitting blog. On the other hand it is a corporate blog with a busy audience of intelligent people, you can’t just phone it in and expect a ton of visitors.

First Impressions

  • Yellow-orange and grey, pleasant if a little plain, legible and clear
  • All text, all the time
  • Tag line: “Manage. Monitor. Test” – what does that mean? Where am I and what can I do here?
  • Posts are informative, light on content but not always light hearted, published weekly?
  • Mostly newsy, a little press-release stylee?
  • Articles have authors but who are these people?
  • Not clear who the blog is aimed at or what the benefit is from reading?

My Advice

  • Humanize – Add some warmth in the form of personality, photography, and tone
  • Identify – Where is the empathy? You need a general about, plus a page or paragraph for each author. Who are you, what do you do, what do you look like, how can you be contacted, etc. People want to know people, not faceless businesses. And let’s hear from these people rather than the corporate “media channel”. Introduce yourself, if you want friends then learn to be friendly
  • Not Us, Them! – go through your content and for every “I”, “We”, “Us”, “OPENXTRA”, “Our”, put a pound in a tin. It’s not about you it’s about them, your prospects and customers.
  • WIIFM – What’s in it for me, why should I care, why should I read your blog and not something else? What have you got that nobody else has? What does “Manage. Monitor. Test” mean?
  • Comments – How do you get conversation? Speak informally about stuff that will interest your audience. Ask questions. Don’t make the mistake though of believing if you get no comments that nobody is interested, sometimes people just don’t comment but still enjoy and see the value.
  • Sell – People visiting e-commerce sites expect occasionally to be told about new products but it is not enough to just say “here are the facts”, make it interesting, show the benefits, enthuse, ask yourself “why is this news?” – it is not news just because you are stocking it, bring the stuff to life!
  • Tell stories. Paint pictures – I read your blog and I am still non the wiser what your company is like. I’m sure it’s not a bunch of drones in beige dilbert cubes, prove it! Tell us about things that happen, regail us  with what goes on, how you help people, interesting anecdotes, you don’t have to break confidences, just open up.
  • Reach out – Break out of your bubble, link out, comment, interview, spread your tentacles out to the web and people will follow back.
  • Promotion + Subscription + Rewards = Sticky – You are in a perfect position to offer some killer content and offers. The subject matter is perfect, there must be a million things you can write about networks and your products, and you surely must be able to give away vouchers or deals. Advertise your RSS, make it easy to sign up via email, reward subscription. Add your URL to every email sent out, and promote your Good Stuff everywhere it can be seen.

Corporate blogs are hard, no question about it. The rewards are there for those who put in the effort, consider their audience and have the courage to do what is necessary. People like dealing with people and are basically distracted and selfish, keep this in mind and you will build a real asset to your business.

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Comments

  1. Thanks Chris for taking the time to review our blog. You are certainly right about corporate blogs they are way harder than personal blogs.

    But, I think a “working” company blog really sings. So we will persevere, refine and hopefully eventually a “voice” will emerge. It is a lot more difficult than having a “voice” on a personal blog.

    The opportunity is there though…and that’s what will keep us going. It is a lot harder to think of what you wish to achieve than actually deliver it in HTML.

    Thanks again Chris, much appreciated!

  2. Thanks Chris for taking the time to review our blog. You are certainly right about corporate blogs they are way harder than personal blogs.

    But, I think a “working” company blog really sings. So we will persevere, refine and hopefully eventually a “voice” will emerge. It is a lot more difficult than having a “voice” on a personal blog.

    The opportunity is there though…and that’s what will keep us going. It is a lot harder to think of what you wish to achieve than actually deliver it in HTML.

    Thanks again Chris, much appreciated!

  3. Good luck with it and I will keep an eye on your progress ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Good luck with it and I will keep an eye on your progress ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Wow, interesting and thorough critique, where do I sign up to have a blog critiqued? I’d love to see FreelanceSwitch.com get the going over!

    On the subject of the critique itself I agree particularly with humanize. A lot of blogs out there don’t immediately tell me who the person IS and I find I am much more likely to forget those than ones like chrisg.com for example which is really memorable. Of course the content may still win me over but it just makes it that much harder for that to happen…

  6. Wow, interesting and thorough critique, where do I sign up to have a blog critiqued? I’d love to see FreelanceSwitch.com get the going over!

    On the subject of the critique itself I agree particularly with humanize. A lot of blogs out there don’t immediately tell me who the person IS and I find I am much more likely to forget those than ones like chrisg.com for example which is really memorable. Of course the content may still win me over but it just makes it that much harder for that to happen…

  7. I am loving what you are doing with freelanceswitch, particularly the design, but before I do any more free critiques I am going to have to get through the 30 or so already on my list :S Look out for the next round!

  8. I am loving what you are doing with freelanceswitch, particularly the design, but before I do any more free critiques I am going to have to get through the 30 or so already on my list :S Look out for the next round!

  9. No worries, i’ll keep my eyes peeled ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. No worries, i’ll keep my eyes peeled ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Fabulous insight. It’s soo hard to see the trees when you’re in the middle of the forest!

    An outside objective eye is truly priceless. Can’t wait to see the 30 or so you still have to get around to reviewing!

  12. Fabulous insight. It’s soo hard to see the trees when you’re in the middle of the forest!

    An outside objective eye is truly priceless. Can’t wait to see the 30 or so you still have to get around to reviewing!

  13. Thanks, when I started I wasn’t sure how much value people other than the reviewed blogger would find ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. Thanks, when I started I wasn’t sure how much value people other than the reviewed blogger would find ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. Value? Absolutely! Every critique you do for another blog is a truckload of insight for the rest of us, Chris. It’s great that you take the time to do this, and to do it so thoroughly and succinctly.

  16. Value? Absolutely! Every critique you do for another blog is a truckload of insight for the rest of us, Chris. It’s great that you take the time to do this, and to do it so thoroughly and succinctly.