1/15/2014— Kelsey Breseman
The value of a company blog
Keeping a blog takes up a fair amount of time, and it’s not always top of the list when you’re worried about shipping a project. However, I think it’s worth the effort, and here’s why:
Furthering the mission
Blogging is a particularly useful tool for us in this regard because part of our mission is to help web developers enter the hardware space and start hardware companies. As people with primarily web development backgrounds starting a hardware company, by blogging about what we’re doing and challenges we face, we’re directly furthering that aspect of what we, as a company, are trying to accomplish.
When people talk about companies, they often forget that the company is comprised of people. There are only six of us, and each of us has a different perspective, writing style, and set of interests. The blog gives us a place to speak to the public as individuals, humanizing the company and making us more approachable. A post from Eric looks different from a post by Jon, even on largely the same topic. Reading the blog, you can learn that Jia watches Adventure Time and Tim likes to throw things at her. That’s a really cool thing about startups: we’re not faceless. If you order something, we’ll smile. If you write a mean tweet about us, we’ll see it. If you email firstname.lastname@example.org, we’ll read it and get back to you. We’re people; we want you to like us, and we want to know what you think we could do better. Keeping a blog helps us show that to you.
When you’re heads-down shipping product, it can be really hard to poke your head up and look at the big picture. Writing is an excellent tool for reflection. Our blogging schedule is about once every two weeks per person, so every two weeks or so, we have to think deeply enough about something company-relevant to express a written opinion or account.
Keeping to this post schedule can be challenging, but I’ve found that when I sit down with a teammate to help them figure out what to write, something worthwhile surfaces pretty quickly: “Well, I’ve been working on PCBs a lot.” “We haven’t really talked about our open source mission; most open source companies do.” “I’ve been getting a lot of emails about power management from people.” What are you doing? What are you thinking about? It doesn’t have to be deep, but you should probably have thought about something in the last two weeks.
Since we regularly post updates to our blog, we can go back and look at what we were thinking or doing at specific points in time. By reading back through the blog, we can look again at why we were excited about the logo we picked, how we were feeling halfway through our crowdfunding campaign, and watch our ideas evolve over time.
It’s important to communicate regularly with your audience. We email our backers every two weeks with updates so they know how their product is coming along. However, our audience is larger than just our backers, and we try to post to our blog more often than that, and with more varied content. This lets potential customers, investors, our parents, etc. know what our company has been up to recently, just by checking our website.
Plus, if you don’t keep a consistent presence online (we barely blogged in December), your Klout score drops like a stone:
Each post drives traffic, as well. Our pageviews spike for an hour or two after every blog post. Every single blog post we’ve published has had engagement on Twitter (sparking new Twitter followers), and gotten Facebook likes. We only use company Tumblr for the blog (it’s not listed on our contact page or anything) and we’re up to 169 Tumblr followers, with new likes, reblogs, and tumblr follows nearly every day. And occasionally, people even email us because they had something to say about something we put on the blog. That’s worth a lot.
How we keep the blog
Editor in chief: I make the blog post schedule. I remind people when their blog posts are coming due, discuss ideas for new posts with them, go over their writing for proofreading and clarity, publish to the blog, and spread the link out to social media. I think it’s a good idea to have one person in charge of all this because it means someone has read all the posts, knows how long it’s been since the last one, and publishes consistently.
Team editing: I do the first pass of edits, but the author typically also sends out the google doc link to the rest of the team for fact- and am-I-missing-something checks. This way everybody on the team knows what has been said to the public.
Publishing: I publish our blog to our company’s Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and Pinterest. We get some click-throughs from each of these, but depending on the post, Twitter and Facebook pretty much always get the most traction. Tumblr’s reblogs, however, continue to generate traffic even weeks or months later.
Our blog is now six months old! Here are some nostalgia-links.
- Our first post
- All of our blog posts, collected on Pinterest (don’t laugh; the dynamic grid makes it really easy to find old posts. I do it for press, too.)
- My favorite posts:
- A Candid Conversation with Jialiya Huang, in which I interview Jia about what it means to her to start a company/this company
- Jon’s 8 Tips for Jumpstarting a Hardware Startup
- The Making of the Ambient Module, Jia’s illustrated account of how a module is made
- Debugging the RFID Module, in which Eric explains electrical engineering (as usual)
- Feminism and Tech: The Reluctant Programmer, in which I discuss some complexities of being a woman in this field
- Testing Hardware, in which Jia shows off test rigs for manufacturers to QA our modules
Thanks for reading! As always, please keep in touch.