On Topic: Blogging for business

Michael Chevy Castranova
Michael Chevy Castranova

A? newspaper publisher for whom I used to work — an otherwise very smart guy who’d hired me in the first place, after all — seemed to think of computers and software like desks and chairs.

“We paid a lot of money for this stuff just a couple years ago — are they broken?” the publisher would demand, a strain in his voice and, often, crumpled invoices in his clenched hands.

Time has caught up with that perspective when it comes to technology.

And here comes Ann Handley to tell us we need to keep smack up to date if we want to not only grow our business but also to hold onto the customers we have.

Digital star Handley is co-author of the social-media book, “Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, eBooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business” (John Wiley & Sons, 2012). She’s also among the clutch of speakers slated for Oct. 17 and 18 at the Coralville Marriott Hotel & Conference Center, as part of the Social Brand Forum. (FusionFarm, part of SourceMedia Group, The Gazette’s parent company, will be a co-sponsor of that event.)

“It’s not a burden, it’s an opportunity,” Handley insisted when we spoke by phone a couple weeks ago. She was talking about what she believes is the necessity for companies today to use social media to promote their line of business.

“There used to be only a couple ways to reach customers,” she said — “buy advertising, then beg … newspapers to write about you, or hire a PR firm to beg newspapers to write about you.”

Now, Handley noted, there is a third way: You can be your own publisher.

“The Internet is a great flattener,” she contended.

In her book and her posts for, among other sites, Handley makes the case for “being very intentional in your marketing.”

And marketing is really what she and other social-media-istas are talking about — getting your message to where your customers — current and potential — are spending time. (When they’re not reading the newspaper, of course, which, hey, lots of people still do.)

“It doesn’t have to be a 24-hour job, and you don’t have to be on all those things,” Handley said. A company can choose among maintaining a blog, tweeting, developing webinars or podcasts, being on Facebook ….

“It’s not so scary. It’s a way to get to know your customers, and to get them to know you,” she added.

She admitted that business-to-business companies haven’t adopted social media as widely as their business-to-consumer cousins.

“It’s a huge opportunity for b2b,” she said, and she and co-author C.C. Chapman devoted a full chapter to the subject in their book.

Is the cheery, personality-driven world of Twitter really the place for b2b commerce, I asked.

Handley replied that some of her favorite tweets come from FMW Fasteners, a Houston, Texas-based distributor. The company’s slogan: “Spreading joy — one nut and bolt at a time.”

I can’t speak to the quality of FMV’s fasteners. But Handley’s right: We get the message.You can register for the Social Brand Forum at 

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