Tips for Running a Team Blog

Cross posted on Michele Martin’s The Bamboo Project blog.

Michele asked if I was willing to share some tips for keeping my team engaged or things I am learning from starting up a team blog. She thought these would be helpful for people to get a feel of what things are like in the trenches. I have been sharing some of the progress in my own blog, but I felt this will be a good opportunity to consolidate learning from my experience.
To start with, let me share that it isn’t easy. A week or so back when I was exchanging emails with Michele, I was feeling good about the team blog. However last week there was not a single post on the blog and suddenly I wasn’t feeling as good. When I started the blog, I had mentally prepared myself for the 1% rule of Internet content creation. However one week of inactivity did sadden me. So if you are planning to start a team blog, my first tip would be that you stay motivated and not let a period of inactivity disappoint you.

When starting a team blog, identify the objectives and goals of the blog.

  • What problem you are trying to solve and for whom?
  • Who will be the content creators and who will be readers?
  • What content is important for them?
The audience is the most important part of your team blog. A team blog is not your personal rant so it is critical that you identify what will draw an audience to read and to contribute.

At the outset, identify specific people who will contribute to the team blog with their posts. I initially identified the people who I felt could contribute. A few more were suggested by this group. When anyone accepted the invitation to be a contributing author to the blog, I sent them a welcome mail with a list of topics that they could write on. And I had a few posts when I launched the blog. This gives the authors a framework to start contributing.
Many of the authors had never blogged before so providing a framework was very useful. I also spoke personally to a many authors encouraging them to start blogging about their experiences. I told them that they could start by commenting on the posts if they were more comfortable than writing their own post.

I spent a fair amount of time initially adding widgets and features that the audience could relate to. Our blog roll included blogs from the team and other people from the industry that the audience recognized. These still get the most outgoing hits on the blog. I also added features that will keep the main page of the site updated without much intervention from me.
  • A widget to display an RSS feed about industry news provided a window to what was happening in other companies.
  • In my Google Reader, I shared the posts that I felt would be relevant to the team, and then provided an RSS feed as Recommended Articles on the blog. This keeps the content on the blog updated without actually changing the blog itself.
  • I added a Recent Comments widget to display recent comments in various posts on the main page. This also helps keep site updated with new content on the main page without any my intervention.
  • I added Ratings widget by Outbrain and encouraged the readers to rate the posts. I always feel readers are more likely to rate posts than comment on them. The ratings widget also allows you to display the most popular post on the blog.
I found that labels help in categorizing the content on the blog. While the authors can add labels when they post, I manage the labels to ensure that the number of labels remain usable.

Another feature I have started is eCube Ponder, which is similar to the Big Question on the Learning Circuits blog. I have also just started a Poll on eCube.

I blatantly find opportunities to promote the team blog. I send out personal email updates about new posts and features on eCube. I have added a link to the eCube blog on the employee portal within the firewall. This has added more traffic to the blog.

I also had/have a few features that didn’t quite attract the collaboration I was expecting. The Flickr group to add common pictures seemed like a cool thing but didn’t find many takers. I have also added a free chat/guest book widget from Shoutmix but I haven’t had comments from anyone other than me and one more team member. It didn’t quite have the impact that I was hoping it would, though I still think it is a cool widget. I have also started an eCube group on Facebook. In spite of a link on the blog, I don’t yet have any members from the team that eCube was aimed at. I don’t know yet how I will actually use it. Perhaps if there are enough members, I could use it to send them updates about events.
Future plans for the eCube team blog? Well, I am looking at rotating responsibility for managing the team blog, perhaps holding virtual and physical events around the eCube banner, more widgets, more polls, more ponder questions. However as I get sucked into a new job role, it seems like a distant dream. Which is why finding someone from the team to run the blog and related events would be good. And going back to constantly motivating myself…