Micro ISV Blogging: What and When?

Last week, I started this mini-series on Micro ISV blogging with Why? I put forward the reasons I think Micro ISV founders can benefit from blogging, along with a few reasons not to start a blog.

This week, I decided to try to tackle the "what and when" of Micro ISV blogging. I wouldn’t go so far as to say you need to have a strategy when you start a blog, but sooner or later you will need to think about what you’re doing.

So I don’t need a strategy?

Actually, it’s probably a good idea to have one, but I didn’t, so I don’t want to be a hypocrite.

I don’t want to put you off blogging about your Micro ISV by making it sound like a chore you need to have a strategy for. I would probably have never got started if I thought I had to know what I was doing from day one.

But, the truth is, you and your readers will probably feel more comfortable with your blog once you know what you’re going to be writing about, and roughly how often.

What should I write?

To decide what to write, you need to answer a much more important question: who’s going to read it?

It’s easy to figure out who you want reading your blog: your entire target market. That’s not really the answer you’re looking for though, you need to know who is actually going to want to read what you have to say. Be realistic, but don’t let that cramp your ambition. If you really think you can regularly write content that will appeal to your target customer, go for it, and give it your all. Just remember it won’t be easy, be prepared for a long haul, and stick at it.

On the other hand, if you’ve decided that you probably aren’t going to build a viral blog that will take your market by storm, the chances are you’ll either be writing for existing customers, or peers. Peers could be other developers, other small businesses, or other Micro ISVs. It’s also possible that you’ll be writing a little bit for everyone.

Going for the viral mother load

I don’t have a lot to say about viral blogging, but I do have a few tips you might want to try. Firstly, if it’s just a thinly veiled marketing tool for your product, it’s not going to work; you have to want to engage with your audience first, and sell to them second (if at all). This means you will have to be as objective as you can, and respect the intelligence of your readers... no matter how smart you think you are, they will see through your attempts to subversively market your product. You will benefit from the relationship through goodwill, exposure, and eventually increased sales; give it time. Also, these rules don’t completely change over time; if you start out objective and spend time building up an influential readership, you could still blow it all with cheap plugs.

I wish you the best of luck. If you want to read more, Seth Godin has a great free ebook about blogs and their audiences: Who’s there?

Writing for customers

If your customers are reading your blog, it’s a great opportunity to tell them about product updates or new features. You can also use your blog to teach them how to get more out of your products, either by showcasing a particular feature, or telling them what other customers are doing. You can announce new products, tell them about re-organizations, explain strategies... it’s a great medium to keep them informed.

On the other hand, customers probably aren’t interested in hearing your rants on technology, or about how your cat is sick. And, while some might appreciate the honesty, most customers would probably be turned off by any doubts, negativity, or indecision on your blog.

Writing for peers

Think about the things you have the most to say about, there might be a particular aspect of your job or a specific technology that you want to focus on. The great thing about the internet is that there will be readers out there no matter how niche you decide to go. Just remember that there will be some crossover traffic, potential customers will land on your blog; ie, if it’s becoming an extreme development blog, give your customers a couple of easy links to find out more about you, or to get back to your products.

So, what should I write?

Now you’ve thought about who will read your blog, you probably already know what you should be writing. I can’t give you much specific help. If you’re really struggling to think about what you should be writing, you’ve probably picked the audience you want, rather than picking one you actually think you have something to say to.

How often? Does it matter?

Although you don’t have to be obsessive about your blogging schedule, it is helpful to put some thought into how often you will be posting. Try to think about what kind of schedule you can commit to, and try not to give your readers vastly misleading expectations. In other words, if you’re only going to post once or twice a month, it’s probably not a good idea to start out by posting several times a day. I’m speaking more as a reader here, I like to know what to expect from the blogs I follow.

One of the biggest benefits to the blogger of this is that once you know roughly how often you want to blog, you can start to fit it into your schedule. Keeping up a blog and thinking of post ideas is a big commitment, so quantifying it will help you plan your time.

What next?

Try writing a "What kind of blog is this?" post. Think of it as a statement of intent, not a rulebook. You probably won’t get it right at first, the ideal formula for your blog will evolve over time, so don’t limit yourself to your initial intentions.

If you do start a blog, don’t put too much pressure on yourself, and don’t get disheartened if it doesn’t live up to your expectations. Try to enjoy the experience and learn from it as you go.