Q How can we make our blog an integrated part of our social media strategy? We would like to have blog readers become customers without compromising the integrity of our posts.
A For starters, let's consider the objectives for your blog.
The ultimate goal is usually sales, with either blog readers becoming new customers as you indicate, or past customers becoming repeat customers. But the real question is how your blog can help nudge customers toward purchasing. In other words, what intermediate steps can your blog accomplish that will make people more likely to purchase from you?
Blogs can be used to announce new products (for example: "Just in -- vintage Ferragamo heels'') or support past products ("new looks for that little black dress''), but the content needs to be both fresh and relevant so people will want to read your blog on a regular basis and, incidentally, receive repeated nudges.
Another objective your blog can serve is listening to your customers, provided you make it easy for them to comment on your posts. You should also monitor other blogs, especially those that relate to your brand or products. By listening, you can learn what's on customers' minds so that you can better respond to their needs and interests, which in turn keeps your content relevant.
Listening can also be used to adjust your merchandise mix, website usability, or other factors that can encourage readers to become regular customers.
The key is to find a balance between providing value to both your company and your customers. When you achieve that balance, integrity is rarely an issue. For more on blogs and other social media, I recommend the book "Groundswell" by Li and Bernoff of Forrester Research.
LISA J. ABENDROTH, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF MARKETING, UNIVERSITY OF ST. THOMAS OPUS COLLEGE OF BUSINESS