Blogging Is Like Oxygen

This morning, I came across a couple blog posts today on the topic of having a blog (yes, very meta):

Reading these made me take a step back and reflect on the 500 Startups Blog, as well as other corporate blogs I managed while I was at Google and YouTube. Everyone seems to include a blog and/or Twitter account as part of a big launch checklist. After the big announcement, more often than not these two properties start to gather cob webs because blogging and tweeting aren’t considered high priority. To me, this is a huge mistake. If you’ve neglected your blog, either make time for it or hire someone to be its editor-in-chief and give it the attention it deserves. If you don’t have a blog, get one and start writing.

Corporate blogs accomplish one or more of the following goals. In no particular order:

  1. Be the source of company news & announcements – product launches, events, etc.
  2. Demonstrate thought leadership – a fancy way to say that the blog will produce unique content relevant for the company’s customers. This might be tips, best practices, case studies, yada yada.
  3. Be a channel through which the company positions itself and shows its culture… i.e. some personality!!
  4. Become its own micro-community. Oftentimes blogs are made that much more valuable because of the active community and commenting that happens with each post.

For 500 Startups, all of these goals apply to us – especially #3. Being open and transparent is very important to us, and our blog will help us stay true to that. The type of fodder we tend to post about includes the latest news with 500 Startups, share the immense amount of experience and tips possessed in the minds of our mentors and startups, cool things our startups are doing, the evolution of the 500 Startups work space, and much more. While we want to show the world what we’re all about, I think a more important goal here is that our blog content actually be helpful to people and not just marketing fluff.

I’ll close with a few specific tips I’ve found to be useful when running a blog. There are a ton of things I could list, but I’ll keep it short and tangible:

  • Create a blog pipeline that shows upcoming posts, when they’re scheduled to go out, and current status. I like to do this with Google Spreadsheets and/or Google Calendar, but whatever tool(s) you prefer is fine. Just as long as you have some sort of schedule.
  • Post at minimum 3xs/week.  If you’re up for the challenge, then try to post every day.
  • Establish topics what you will/will not post on your blog. This is good to do from the beginning, before your blog is live. It helps give a sense of purpose for what you want to use your blog for and how it’s going to help your company. It’ll also help you curate content.
  • Designate an editor-in-chief. Have one person who owns the blog. It is critical to have someone serve as the editor-in-chief and manage the schedule, curate blog post topics, edit for style/tone/grammar, and grow readership.
  • Syndication is king! Make sure your blog RSS works, your posts have “Tweet This” and Facebook “like” buttons and other sharing mechanisms, have a email subscription feature, etc.
  • Don’t be a robot. If people comment on your blog, respond back to them. This goes for Twitter too.
  • DON’T BE BORING. There are TONS of blogs out there. You’re competing for people’s attention. Step out of your comfort zone and don’t be afraid to shake things up.  I wrote the first version of our official mentor announcement. It had all the right content, but it was pretty dry and standard. Dave said, “Let’s do SUPERHEROES!!” I thought he was crazy. But it was perfect. (It also gave me a chance to sneak in some Big Bang Theory references… did you catch them??). The best part was when mentors started tweeting out their superhero alter egos.

And with that, I’m off to find myself some lunch! Would love to hear your own blogging tips – post a comment or @-reply me.

Never miss a beat

  • Dave McClure

    Christine: you effin rock.

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  • Dan Tyre

    The other reason to blog is to drive leads. If you write your blog articles with your prospects in mind AND you put a call to action on the blog you can generate more leads for your product.

  • Ian

    do you think there is a point where it is just no longer worthwhile to invest the time? for instance, what if you’ve been blogging 3x per week for a year and no one cares? Have you had instances at 500startups where users just wanted to use the product and they didn’t give a damn about the personalities behind it? I think of Google immediately. I just want to search and move on, not read a blog by the devs.


  • Christine Tsai

    IMO your blog is only worthwhile to invest time if you have readers. It can be a chicken-and-egg problem (e.g. you need to write good content to attract readers… you need readers in order to justify spending time writing good content). I think it depends on the product & company too. I have yet to run into that problem w/ 500 Startups, but I have seen blogs launched for Google products without much thought. It prob isn’t necessary to have a blog for EVERY single product.

    I’m sure there are some users/customers who just care to use a product and don’t care about the blog. It just goes back to what you’re using your blog for – is it just for product updates? Or something more? At first glance, Zappos customers might think “Why would I want to read a blog from Zappos.” However, Zappos has done a great job fostering community and developing a strong brand around their company culture. I don’t go to Zappos’ blog to read about sales/deals. I read it to learn more about their culture & Tony Hsieh’s insights.

  • rvivek

    Why haven’t you replied to any of the comments? ;)