Spolsky on Company Blogs

by Jin, 03-03-10 // 3 comments

Joel Spolsky is ending his blog Joel on Software:

These days, it seems like just about every start-up founder has a blog, and 99 percent of these bloggers are doing it wrong. The problem? They make the blog about themselves, filling it with posts announcing new hires, touting new products, and sharing pictures from the company picnic. That’s lovely, darling — I’m sure your mom cares. Too bad nobody else does. Most company blogs have almost no readers, no traffic, and no impact on sales. Over time, the updates become few and far between (especially if responsibility for the blog is shared among several staff members), and the whole thing ceases to become an important source of leads or traffic.


So, what’s the formula for a blog that actually generates leads, sales, and business success? I didn’t even understand it myself until last year at the Business of Software conference, when one of the speakers, a well-known game developer and author named Kathy Sierra, blew me away with an incredibly simple idea that explains why my blog successfully promoted my company while so many other blogging founders foundered.

To really work, Sierra observed, an entrepreneur’s blog has to be about something bigger than his or her company and his or her product. This sounds simple, but it isn’t. It takes real discipline to not talk about yourself and your company. Blogging as a medium seems so personal, and often it is. But when you’re using a blog to promote a business, that blog can’t be about you, Sierra said. It has to be about your readers, who will, it’s hoped, become your customers. It has to be about making them awesome.

This really makes sense. I don’t read too many company blogs for the reason Joel stated. I just simply I do not have enough interest. I read only for two reasons: to be entertained or informed.

The few company blogs I do read, match exactly what Kathy described: they blog about something bigger than themselves. See Panic and Mint.


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Dmitry 03-03-10

I like what Jason Fried of 37signals says on the topic. He compares company blogging to chefs and cook books. Famous chefs write cook books where they teach you how to cook their great dishes. Even though you can get all this information for a low price, they’ll still sell you their branded equipment which you’ll need to cook the dishes, you’ll watch their shows and you may even visit their restaurant. Company blogs should be like cook books: you should teach your audience something and provide products that help them achieve whatever it is you’re writing about. Sell by teaching.

Jin 03-03-10

@Dmitry, I remember reading that and enjoyed the analogy. I think smart companies like those hide advertising so well. They are aware that people may have knee jerk reaction to blunt Ads, so instead they offer people something value at low cost or free. It’s a win-win situation.

Steven Clark 03-04-10

Totally agree… and its a hard sell to tell a passionate eager manager that he can’t just keep selling on the new blog with never ending sales pitches… because who the hell reads that rubbish anyway. Actually I’ve mainly had this conversation with restaurants, its one of my secret flames – the wasted opportunities that restaurants are missing here is incredible. Use the blog / website to value-add and offer up real value propositions to people.